Twenty three-year-old Parvati Devi is no ordinary woman. Belonging to a remote village in Rajasthan's Chittorgarh district, she goes hand-in-hand with her six-year-old son to school -- to study.
Setting an example for almost 1.2 million dropouts in the state, Parvati joined school along with her son Ramesh last month during the recently-launched drive of the state government to connect each child with education.
"Some teachers from the government school in our village, Marmi, came to my house and said I should send my son to school," Parvati told IANS.
"I had never thought that education is important for my son and believed that he would also join our ancestral work of farming," she said.
But the teachers invited her to visit the village school once -- which she did. "I got to know from the staff how education can change a person's life. I felt ashamed that I myself was a dropout," Parvati said.
She not only decided to send Ramesh to school regularly but also vowed to pursue studies herself till at least graduation.
"I discussed the idea with my family members," she said.
"Initially they were reluctant, thinking about what other villagers would say as most women here prefer to remain indoors. But after persuasion they agreed and gave me the permission. I was so happy," a jubilant Parvati said.
The school staff was unsure over which class she should join at her age.
"She really wished to join the school. Due to her age, she was inducted in Class 8 directly," said Government Girls Upper Primary School principal Vandana Vijayvargiya. The school shares a compound with Parvati's son's school.
"She was earlier educated till Class 2. She has promised that she would catch up soon," Vijayvargiya added.
The all-girl school, which is up to Class 8, has a strength of over 110 students.
"In the past month, Parvati has kept her promise and is taking studies very seriously," the principal said.
Parvati's father Kishan Lal is extremely happy over her daughter's decision to get educated.
"She had dropped out of school after primary education as we thought she should be more adept at household work. Parvati has proved us wrong," he said.
Parvati seems to have inspired other families also in this small village of the district, 300 km from Jaipur.
Fellow villager Ram Kishore said many women in the village were thinking of going to school and pursue studies after the bold step taken by Parvati.
The Rajasthan government had started a massive drive across the state from July 1 to bring over a million school dropouts aged between 6 and 14 years back to classrooms.
The government directed that each government principal and teacher be given a target of bringing back students who have dropped out. Targets were based on the ratio of dropout children and government teachers in each school.
(Anil Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com)