Jagprasad Gond, 45 years old, is father of five – three girls and two boys. As his name indicates he is a tribal and he has accepted to be at the ultimate bottom of the society. What else has Indian society to offer to its tribals? Jagprasad started labouring from an early age onward – actually all that he can remember is being a labourer. He has never seen a school from the inside and he will remain illiterate for the rest of his life. Yet, he still knows a lot. But these are all things which aren’t taught at school. He understands what trust and respect mean. He treats everyone with humility and empathy. And he knows that education is the only way to uplift his family. Therefore he does everything he can to provide his children a decent education. Even though he could not do much for his two eldest daughters, he cares a lot for the three youngsters. His youngest daughter and the two sons are among the brightest in their classes and in the village.
The most important lesson he gave to all his kids, and it comes deep down from his heart, are his values. This is something they won’t learn at school. Arun, his eldest son, a 15-year-old, has already become THE changemaker for the new generation in the village. In his recent interview with Eku Wand, professor for Media Design/Multimedia at the Braunschweig University of Art, Germany, he shows all his empathy. He talks about how the elder kids don’t engage with the younger ones and are indifferent to learn and help.
During my visits to Janwaar I stayed a couple of times at Arun’s homestay. And there was this one thing I’ve always heard Jagprasad say: “I’m illiterate and I know all I can do is to work as a day-labourer. But my kids should have the opportunity to live a better life. Please do help them!” I’ve the feeling that deep inside he feels that his kids have surpassed him and he is somehow obsolete for them.
During my last visit I realised – even though the three kids are dedicated and hardworking – they are terribly weak in basic math. Surprisingly this doesn’t hold true for their father – without any formal training he calculates quickly and accurately! He had learnt it during all those years while he was working as a labour – it was very essential for him to calculate the amount of money he earned from his work. That is quite unusual and therefore important to mention – rarely any labour develops this skill. All too often day-labourers in rural India are getting cheated at payday because of their inability to calculate. The kids knew that their father was good in mathematics, but watching him answering my questions much faster than themselves left them in awe.
It was interesting to see how the conversation changed after this.
The kids have always been proud of their father, but today they were enthusiastically expressing it by telling similar stories from the past. The father kept answering and smiling in content.
His kids could still learn something from him.