Asia Society presents
No. What is your society in prison. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series is the noted author around the world winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. We have talked about India a number of times on this series because India presented such a wealth of interest. It has a culture which I think is second to none. It has a fascination in its architecture and in its countryside in its scenery. And I don't think one can ever talk enough about the country. We never discuss it I think from the point of view which we are engaging in on this particular programme and that is to talk about what is being done to help illiteracy. Every country has a
certain amount of it in a country as tremendous as India and naturally there is a little bit more. But this is not being left out and there are people who are working hard to raise it. And two of those great women are guests on our program one from India one an American who has made India I suppose her second home. And they are missing the honorable member of the British the Indian parliament and there has been a governor a chief minister of the state literacy house is located. Our literacy house is a remarkable institution which was founded by Mrs Welty who is our other guest and she is also president of a world education Incorporated which is located in New York City. These two women can or much about what happens to people. They both have the intelligence and the foresight to do something about it. And I am honored
to welcome you both to this program. I'd like to begin with this is because in our country there are not too many women in Congress or parliament in your country there are about 16. We have about 60 members in our father. We have two Houses of Parliament. You know a large number of members are in the Lower House which is the elected House. In the lower house about 10 or 12 in the upper house and you have a sense any discrimination against you because you are a woman and politics has been harder for you than for a man to succeed. Really. Yes I know both. I should say no in the sense that we have been in our freedom struggle women were in the freedom struggle in really large numbers. Therefore when the country we can cream women automatically got the right to vote and all of the political rights. Nothing stands in our way. In that sense that
stops us from working. But sometimes they are our friends our men friends who do not wish to see women come forward in their life. Keep in mind that happens once in a while. But on the whole I will say that women in this country have received good opportunities to come forward mainly because they did in full measure their work during the freedom struggle. Well certainly it's one of the few countries in the world where there has been a women a woman prime minister as there is now the other one being Israel and Iran and a one time stand on issues. She still has not yet but at least she was and let's remember she was there. Now Mrs. Fisher How does one pay such a big step forward is you dead to be born here or taught in China to have traveled all around the world and to finally have settled one's heart and soul and body in India. What what brought that about. You know we're an easy step to take because I lived in India
in the days when there were great men and great women who were striving in the freedom movement that Mrs. Kripalani has spoken out. And that's why women are so ready for post in India the political posts of course. But I also know Sarah Jane and I do and the great people who were directing along with people like Mr. and Mrs. Kripalani both of them are in the freedom movement and from Gandhi as I went back alone in 1939. I saw him from time to time and 6:56 the last time I saw him. He said Sister he always called me sister. You must come back to India. You're a long time but you love India your whole time logged India and understood India and now you must come back. But don't go to all those cities. Our cities have everything
they have running water they have electricity they have good roads they have schools they have medical colleges they have hospitals they have asylums they have museums they have everything. I might add that they have cinema houses also which are peeled every night. They make more cinemas in Bombay than they do in Hollywood. Understanding is right. You know I've heard that and millions love and there's not two of them you only have to go into a city like Prince and at night and the streets are filled with young men standing in line ready to go into the next play on this in the cinema houses is tremendous. So with that directive I went back to America came back I'm in America now sometimes I can't remember whether I'm in the year in Asia or America because both seem like very much my home. I'm completely at home in Asia and especially in India.
And so I arranged to go back so that support myself and see and feel my way. It wasn't an easy thing exactly to do but yet I knew there was something to be done. Because the villages had been elected it was Gandhi who brought the attention of his own countryman to the villages of India who needed everything and he started and explained to me at great length his ideas of basic education which were to begin with literacy. But to end in economic development and pull development of the health the body the mind the soul and freedom of the Spirit so that it was it was a directive that I believed in and it was a country that I would be happy to live in. But I think it's remarkable that you were stablished literacy house in 1953 which point you were 70. Q our audience can
see you and if I could say you know they would think I wasn't telling the truth. Mrs Well Bucky Fisher is 90 years old. She doesn't look more than 60 which is 60 and so when most people retire and take it easy at 72 she desired to bring about this extraordinary development. I don't know one of your to do. I would get it by trial and error and one doesn't say go to. I'm going to establish this thing. They will work it out because it was a new kind of thing. Well now what. So how did you happen to choose this particular stellar spot. Yeah that's a very interesting story because I had a number of choices. I was called by telegram to come to Allahabad. You see as Mrs. Kripalani Perhaps you didn't know that Mrs. Kripalani was a member of the constituent conceptual assembly which meant that she and her fellow members wrote the Constitution of India
and it was not accepted until 1950. Then there were rumors as to how this constitution was going to take its root in the rural part of the country. And there was a rather remarkable man Mr. T. MR I ask a day who try to go into the villages and start what he was calling a community development right after this constitution had been written. But of course the people of the villages couldn't read the constitution but he wanted to help them to understand the new movements in India that were really created. So I was called to Allahabad where five hundred villages were to be the first experiment in this community development and it was a marvelous opportunity. I didn't realize it perhaps at that moment that it was a tremendous opportunity to be in the first
experiment. So they wanted me to come and train the first. What did they call him chief social education officers. These were distinguished men and women. Fourteen men and three women who had come from different parts of India. Some of them college presidents small college presidents some of them persons of high schools some of them had to institute all kinds of interesting and highly educated and willing to plan a course for the villages of India. So we became a part of it I rendered a half of Mongol and punished and put three strips of matting on the verandah and there the is a very fine gentleman and the three women forty men and three women sat. The floor. Well that sounds like a good beginning. My informal but now literacy House has expanded so that it's one of the centers of the world
both for its methods of teaching. You train others and others come there to be trying and I thought perhaps I asked Mrs. Kripalani whether the province of Lucknow I believe is in the province of the people. Thank you very much. It is located in which part of India is in the middle of India. Is there less illiteracy in that particular volunteer. We have less of it. You do have a rather backward in education in that state. Yes and would you say that the methods that are that have been developed in the U.S. House are spread throughout India. Or is it pretty much confined to this province. It is now spread throughout India. The good work that they have done is they have evolved a new method of method of teaching new implements to teach. They use puppets they have new textbooks they have all kinds of charts. They have trained teachers who will go and spread literacy in the villages. There are various workshops so they have
created a lot of new thinking in adult literacy and they have published a large number of books which are used as textbooks for the new literate and large number of books which have teachers to teach. As I told you the puppets are a very good method of teaching. In India there is a long tradition of puppets and the villagers are very avidly come forward to see a puppet show. So through the puppet show Mrs. Fisher has been giving them all kinds of ideas ideas about family planning for instance ideas about ideas about health how to run a proper home how to conduct themselves in a new democracy how to vote etc. all these things are pop to them. Through through a puppet show. So I think some of the methods that she has invented at the center has a great deal of potentiality and it can go to all parts of the country I don't know whether it has gone to
all parts of the country I think she'll be able to tell you better. But as for the day she's concerned I consider this to be one of the best centers in the state and a real initiative has been taken and new fields have been opened. You just physically although briefly describe literacy House what does it contain a number of areas I would be happy to. Yeah because I think it's very difficult to picture it if you haven't actually seen it. We have a campus it's really a campus of 20 acres now. And the entrance is on a very good road we call it the old camper road bridge leads from one city to another leads now to count for a great industrial city. But we're outside the city limits because I tried to buy property right among the villagers but of course you know the way cities creep up they're creeping up on us and so we're but at least we have the 20 acres there.
Inside as we walk into the gate. There is a circle to raise the flag a flag raising a circle. Stand about on the great day. Public day in January and the freedom day in August 15. And there we raised the flag and sing the national anthem. Then beyond that there is a house of prayer. Because as Gandhi did we also have the prayer for all people of all religions. We walk in with take off our shoes we walk in and we have a little living water because nothing lives on earth without water. And it's the gift of God to all of us. So Muslims Hindus Christians see giants. Everyone comes into that little building in the morning staff and students and workman. We walk in with our shoes off at the door and
sit on the floor. And there we repeat some of the great truths from all of the great. Religions of India. And then walk out and begin our day's work outside. There is an administration building which winds around one side and makes open air theatre. So we have allowed a stage and we have brick seats running a prominent side to the other covered with cement so we now have a puppet show a drama a lecture a great mass meeting a seminar we can hold anything in an open air theater. Sometimes we cover it with a tent but not usually. Do your teachers go outside to the village. Hardly and the people just don't necessarily come to the really never bring an illiterate to the village just to teach him. We couldn't afford to do that and he couldn't afford to leave all of the teachers I had to be from the village
and to our training our place and go back to the villages. But from that time gradually as the years have gone by and we've been at it 16 years now we have gone into all parts of India. This year more teachers were trained outside the campus. We went to Ras. They went to rap or went to bend them gol in Mysore many parts of India Punjab Arianna and Marshall many of the other states have had our teachers there and they've gone into the diamond districts that you've heard about so much Bihar and Western Pradesh and there we've trained hundreds of teachers so they're carrying on with the teachers that we have trained and opened up their centers as not exactly like ours but using our materials using our method and using the plans we have for libraries because you see if you teach a person to
read. And say now we can read the primer for the premier as we call it in America. The Premier and the first reader. So William. Oh no we don't. We never leave them alone. Books. I understand that some of your people travel around with 10 cases filled with books in the middle. Oh yeah here and there. I like that. The practical and even picturesque way in which you operate the resentment you try every method possible this whole thing is grown up by trial and error. We didn't know how that would work but we tried this and we tried that. I began seeing in the first few months that we must write books they can't read the books in the see the Sanskrit background of the classics is a difficult language. Everest's But these languages many of them are based on the Sanskrit way of saying things in the grammar but Hindi is more simple and the the Village People need to have books written in their own simple Hindi.
But with the great ideas don't you have books and teachers trained in the 14 major languages of India. We have had them and we are not just and they've been translated. We've we've had a grant recently and it's helped us to send men to translate books down in Mysore in the language as a Kanada and Teller go in alum and over in my drafts to Tamil and other languages and often Bengali and them from job and many of the languages have been there. But what has interested us this year is the number on how the buy out the. Libraries have spread. Not only have we had the ten different libraries that go on a bicycle and are put into the villages where there's a good night school because they have to have night schools. They can't come in the daytime they're out on their farms. They're out of work. So all of the classes are held at night and
I think people will be interested to know that we are aiming at a group of Indian people young people. Between the ages of 14 or 13 and 30 because they've never had the ability of a primary school they're proud they're greatly motivated. Fred learned to me. And their youth within seven years they're going to be voters because everyone in India lives everyone who is 21 years of age brought this not such nonsense as we have in this country you know in spots where even the educated can't vote. Well everybody can vote in India. Do people vote I mean there are some people in different Mrs. Kripalani and just don't use their prerogative. Most people who are indifferent people are the people who vote for the poor people are good they're going to go out. You mean the well-off people too busy being well-off. So I'm having a different
sophisticated sometimes I don't go to vote. Your superior who would vote. I did want to ask you about the educational system. Mrs. Kripalani what a group of people would find an education that is a university or higher education available to them is a question money or a question of talent. It's a question of money. Because it's not possible for everybody. Of course primary education is free in our country now. That is to say about 12 for all classes and 5 classes. It is according to our Constitution it is both compulsory and free. Yes but we have not been able to give them so many schools because we have and yet we have not got money enough to provide for many schools but if we provide for many schools then we will insist on the compulsory part of it. So far we
overlook it if they don't send the children to the school because we haven't got enough schools where the children can go. But I want it in ways that primary education should be compulsory and free. Now during my time when I was administering the government of the purple I met girls education up to high school free. So all the girls in that state whoever goes to the government school can study free school fees. But college education is rather expensive. According to last according to American standards providing to our standard is pretty expensive everybody can't afford. In the earlier years only girls and boys from well-to-do homes used to but now as education is expanding as more and more girls and boys are passing from their creation. They want to come to the universities. So they find some of the Village People find it very difficult to find expenses for university education. We have large number of scholarships also but they don't
cover all the needy children. But there are scholarships for those who are guaranteed who qualify for scholarships for medical students. Yes we can give them and not large number of scholars excuse me I wish we had more time for should we just have a moment or so left and I thought we might end by asking Mrs. Fisher how literacy house is supported. Frankly speaking where does all the money come from and I carry my begging bowl over to America every year. I may have some people on this who are listening like you if they would like to give $400 for a teacher to teach for the entire year or 600 dollars to build a house we have now have a farmers Institute and we're bringing powers and their wives and that would build a house for the farmer and his wife. So we have longed for for family planning. Last fourth for writers longs for it in the great libraries launched forth in the puppetry training and launched forth into many of the state of the Union of
India. And if people can spare a contribution they might address it to world education in operating world education inc. 6 6 7 Madison Avenue New York City 1 0 0 0 to 1 and every check is taxed. Well I think in your spare time you could be a good commercial announcer that was a marvelous promotion and I thank you both for being here and again it was a privilege to have women of your caliber at this microphone and you have been listening to Mrs. Kripalani. She is a member of the Indian parliament and Mrs. Fisher the founder of literacy house in the present day world education incorporated. This is Lee Graham saying goodbye and asking you to remember is always that the east is east and west is west. We do think the time has come for the twain to me. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham.
This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7. I make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents.
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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