What does a cash prize of Rs 2000 from the NCERT mean?

It was sometime in the year 2002, Anand had come across a notification by NCERT in THE HINDU about the “All India Competition for Teachers and Teacher Educators - lnnovative Practices and Experiments in School Education and Teacher Education”. Those were the days when IT was still a distant dream for him hailing from a lower middle class family. Being unaware of what a website address means and how to write an email, he had no choice except to write a letter to the NCERT requesting for the Information Booklet to be sent to him by post. He received the required information booklet within ten days with Indian Postal Service serving people at their best. Out of excitement, he started going through the information and had to slow down at one point which said that the total number of awards is hundred. Out of these seventy are for teachers and the remaining for teacher educators. Again in these seventy for teachers there are categories such as Elementary School, Middle School, Secondary School etc., Immediately the first question which came to his mind is whether or not he should go for it. He could not decide what to do at that moment but the idea continued to remain at the back of his mind. One day when he opened the booklet, he realized that only three days were left if he wishes to participate. With no second thought, he started working on it and the challenge before him is to write a paper with all details about the innovative practice as per the NCERT guidelines. It was not just one but three handwritten original copies had to be submitted and he still remembers the way he had to exert both his mind and body throughout the night. However, finally on the next day he could dispatch the documents to RIE, Mysore. After that he never thought about the paper again and one day in April’2003, he received a letter from NCERT which says:

Even today whenever he reads this letter it appears as a miracle for him because till then he never thought about his potential which could get his work such recognition at the National Level. The next step is to make preparations to participate in the National Seminar. But he could not make it to go to Delhi. Why?

1. Was it because he could not afford to buy a ticket from Visakhapatnam to Delhi?

2. Was it because he did not have a pair of decent clothes which he could carry with him for the National Seminar?

3. Was it because of his failure to retain a copy of the paper submitted even though he remembered each and every line of what was written?

An answer YES to the first two questions is sufficient enough for us to understand what his condition was and one might feel why he could not seek financial assistance from someone to make it possible to attend the Seminar. Yes he could have done it but already being in a state where more than 50% of his earnings (Rs 6000/- in 2003) being used to clear already existing debts, forced him not to go for any further loans. He did not share about this with anyone and had to remain quiet on this matter because the more he thought ….. the more he was frustrated. not knowing whom to blame for this state of affairs in his life. He knew very well that he is losing a great opportunity of being in the midst of more than hundred intellectuals from across the country gathering at one place to share their innovative ideas. As usual, time being the best healer for wounds both physical and psychological……..he moved ahead with his routine. Again in May’2003, he received one more letter from NCERT which says:

No language can describe how he felt at that moment. He received the award money exactly at such a time when there has been a severe financial crisis at home. He did not even have a bank account in his name till then and came to know for the first time that an account in his name is required for the DD to get clearance. Immediately he did what is required, deposited the DD and addressed the crisis. He is grateful to the eternal for having faith in his abilities and to all those who are directly involved in this endeavour. Now after more than fifteen years, he felt the need to analyze the experience and the way it added strength to him as an individual in general and as a teacher in particular. Every such rewarding moment in his life is short –lived but with a long lasting effect. More than any material gains they always turned out to be a test to evaluate the strength of his character.

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