Jalandhar, January 13
A milk bottle, a rattle (called jhunjhuna in Punjabi and Hindi) and a teether are among the gifts that Ajmer Singh includes in a carefully wrapped package — one of the many he is going to distribute among various homes which have had newborn baby girls in his village this year.
A few years ago we celebrated the birth of 10 to 12 girls. Last year, it was seven to eight girls. This year it is five. Families know we will visit. They look forward to it. Gifting mothers with moongfali, revaris and gifts for girls is an annual tradition. We have 53 students in the school, of whom 30 are girls. Previously some girls were forced by their parents to leave studies when they turned 12.— Ajmer Singh
A similar package of goodies is also being wrapped at Rurka Kalan village by school master Boota Ram to give these away to newborn girls at his village.
In the 21st century when there are still homes where gloom prevails after the birth of a baby girl, several school teachers are changing things, celebrating the birth of girls and opening the way for their emancipation. The celebration of the birth of little girls in their village through annual “Dhiyan Di Lohri” events is marking a change both in society and education. Incidentally, the change has been led by several free thinking men.
“Only until a few years ago, women at Rurka Kalan used to wear only salwar-kameez, several homes felt sad over the birth of baby girls and schooling girls was still a radical idea. Things have changed now. Girls in pants and T-shirts stroll happily. That’s how much the village has changed. The football academy YFC and our school have both been instrumental in changing mindsets,” says Boota Ram, a teacher at Government Girls Primary School for Girls, Rurka Kalan.
While a Lohri function to celebrate the birth of 21 newborn baby girls was celebrated at Rurka Kalan on January 3, at Natthewal, Ajmer Singh, a teacher of the Government Primary School, Natthewal, went door to door in five village families to greet them on the birth of their girls on Lohri. Both the schools celebrate Dhiyan Di Lohri with aplomb every year.
Ajmer Singh says, “A few years ago we celebrated the birth of 10 to 12 girls. Last year it was seven to eight girls. This year it is five. Families know we will visit them. They look forward to it. Gifting mothers with moongfali, revaris and gifts for the girls is an annual tradition. We have 53 students in the school, of whom 30 are girls. Previously some girls were forced by their parents to leave studies when they turned 12 years.
We started visiting such families and persuaded them to keep educating them till Class XII. Now the difference is evident. Most families educate girls till the class they want. Acceptance of girls has increased. Gloom has turned into positivity.”
Rurka Kalan resident Boota Ram began distributing rewaris in the village after his own girl was born in 2012. Since 2013 onwards, he has been celebrating the birth of girls in his school too. In 2017, the school ushered in 51 girls in the block with Dhiyan Di Lohri.
This year, the birth of 21 girls was celebrated. Last year, the school also distributed Rs 5,000 cycles to five girl achievers from nearby schools. This time Boota Ram happily posed with mothers of the newborn girls.
The cultural event was itself a celebration of little boys and girls doing bhangra and giddha, dressed in traditional cultural attire. GPS Girls Rurka Kalan has 275 students, out of whom 170 are girls.
Both Boota Ram’s daughter and his colleague’s own children are students of the same school.
Boota says, “Asi tan kuriyan da shagun karna hi hunda. (We have to celebrate the girls’ birth). Be it 30, 40 or 50. Girls are gifted a package of baby suit, blanket, school bag, groundnuts and rewaris. Their mothers are also honoured. Our girls also played in the state championship bagging bronze in kho kho and football. We go to people’s homes and welcome them for the event. Many private students are leaving those schools and coming to our government school. They feel it is better.”
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