Surprising Illiteracy of a competent Massage Therapist - 3 Dec 12

03 Dec 2012  Vrindavan, India

Category: Ashram

Our massage therapist Sumitra

Our massage therapist Sumitra

At the Ashram we have an employee, a woman called Sumitra. She is a massage therapist and has joined us in the past year, when we received more bookings and needed a second massage therapist to be able to run the Ayurveda yoga Holiday with the Ashram full of people. She is a wonderful woman and there is one thing that every visitor that meets her here would be surprised about: she is completely illiterate.

Obviously, as a massage therapist, being able to read and write is not one of the main criteria for employment. When she came to apply for a job, she did not bring her resume but that is nothing rare here in India. We had a talk and she told that she was married, had three children and that her work was necessary for the income of the family. In a ‘test session’, she convinced us that she has a strong hand and would do good massages.

As we have an Ashram and not a pure massage center, our therapists also help in the daily work and are just around when you need them aside of the massages. We got to know Sumitra a bit better in the following weeks and you could describe her as a happy, outspoken person who has enough experience in life to know what is going on where. She does not hesitate to take a task in her hands when she sees it in front of her. She seems resolute, sure about what she does and thus radiates authority and certainty.

You can imagine especially Ramona’s surprise when she found out that Sumitra could neither read nor write. When asked to sign the receipt of her paycheck, she gave back the pen and asked for the inkpad to place her thumbprint impression onto the paper. I have seen many illiterate people who don’t look impaired by their inability to read and write but for Ramona this was a big surprise. She knew that there is big illiteracy in our state and nearly every second person does not know the alphabet – Hindi or English – but the impression that this woman gives in every day’s life just does not fit with the image that one has in mind for an ‘illiterate person’.

Yashendu confirmed that Sumitra uses the massage oil by looking at the pictures and colours, training her mind to know which oil is which rather than reading the labels. She has a sharp mind and it works without any problem. It does not seem to disturb her that she is not able to read. She lives her life and is happy.

Of course you can simply accept this story as it is. A woman who cannot read or write can be happy and fine in her life, too. You can however also see how much this woman could have benefitted if she had just had the chance in her life to learn reading and writing! She is smart and clever, she knows how life goes and is curious about what happens in her surrounding – but she misses out on the news that are in the newspaper if she does not watch TV. She cannot dive into the world of books or even the internet. She depends on other people’s spoken explanations and tales to discover what is beyond her own world.

That is where we want to make a difference! With our school we want to give children a chance to see the world as it is, understanding the signs, letters and sentences at every corner, on every bottle, box, pen, product or book. It is good to know that we are active in making this change!

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Posted By Swami Balendu

Swami Balendu

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