It was during 1985 summer holidays, right after my tenth standard exams. There was plenty of time and there was nothing much to do. After talking to a few friends, I decided to learn how to type from a nearby institute. At the institute there were about a dozen Remington typewriters. People can sign up for an hourly session during the weekdays. It was to cost Rs 30/month. I was assured that I can learn how to type and even appear for a “lower” test within two months. I was excited. All I had to do was get my dad’s approval….
Last Monday (July 25, 2016), I visited ASM College for Women in Warangal. I will get back my story a little later. I was invited by Mr. Lakshinarayana Kesari, founder of Ratnamala Kesari Memorial Trust (RKMT), with whom I am working with a school in Nelapogula. Last year vocational courses in tailoring and beautician work were started at the ASM college under the aegis of RKMT. This year computer skills training was added to the list. Mr Ananth Vootkur and his wife Mrs. Kanya Vootkur are members of this trust who are actively working with various initiatives taken up by RKMT. Mrs. Kanya Vootkur is leading this initiative.
ASM College is a government aided college that has a very well organized set up. Last year students were charged some nominal fee for these vocational courses. This year all the courses are being offered free of cost. RKMT is now sponsoring these courses. It has committed itself to support these courses for the next ten years. To take full advantage of this external support, the college took some proactive steps and made it mandatory for the students to take up computer skills class. The classes are organized for three months leading to a diploma in computer applications. All the students from all the classes will be covered within the academic year in various batches. This is a boon for all the students. They will acquire the knowledge of computer applications such as MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint. The diploma they earn will help them in their career paths. I have perused through the course material for the tailoring, beautician and computer courses. These courses have decent content and are very well organized and they have all the necessary infrastructure needed to run these courses.
I was invited to the college to speak to the students during the inaugural function. I was given 20 minutes. I spoke to them about various things that would interest them in their life after they step out of their college. My talk, I think and I was told, was well received. Two girls approached me and mentioned to me that they were inspired by my speech and requested if they can take a snap with me. I agreed with a glee of say cheese kind!
I will now get back to what my dad said. To my utter surprise my dad said NO. His argument was simple – “I don’t want you to consider a typist or a clerical job as a career option”. My excitement was flattened in a matter of seconds. All I needed is to know how to type. It did not matter to me whether that would be a career option or not. Fortunately I did not give up. I begged and borrowed from a few sources to pay Rs. 30 for the first month. The crisis about the next month fee was to be handled next month, but that crisis did not surface. Within a month I learnt the basics from asdf/;lkj, qwert/poiuy to ,mnb/zxcv. I was able to type upper and lower case a to z and all the numbers. I learnt enough to be able to type without pecking on the keyboard with the index finger. To this day, that was the single most efficiency vocation that I ever mastered. It was extremely useful during my days of programming and it is still useful when I write on my blog – I just have to focus on what I want to write and not how I type it in. As is the wont of the universe to conspire for or against us all the time, some 25 years later when my dad wanted the manuscript of his autobiography typed up, I typed that all by myself within a few days. He was mighty pleased. I type his personal communication to his doctors and friends. So far I did not find enough reason to rub the past on him!
Even to this day, there is a certain disdain among the parents about vocational courses. Learning something outside the curriculum is considered a waste of time. Schools and colleges do not help students learn some of the essential life skills such as basic electric work, plumbing, stitching and others. Tailoring as a profession is fairly profitable. Beauticians are much sought after. It is much more fulfilling to have either or both of these areas as a hobby. There are many other areas such as cooking, quilting, ceramics, painting, origami, gardening, and craft that pay rich dividends in one’s life, be it as a profession or as a simple interest. That is how a wholesome and integrated life is built.
Nowadays whatever people learn, in addition to what is in the syllabus, is purely because of the parents insistence or the current fad or both! I feel terrible that I have not acquired any of these skills, except typing, during my school or college days. I used to think that changing a light bulb requires a professional. I used to get nightmares about assembling a bed, repairing a leaky water tap, or replacing a flat tyre. Not anymore!
God bless ASM college, one of the rare colleges, that organizes these vocational courses as part of the classroom instruction. May their tribe grow in large numbers!