Resource Person: Prof. YB Satyanarayana
Venue: School Premises
"My Father Baliah”
"My Father Baliah”, a book written in 2011 by Prof. YB Satyanarayana was literally unknown to Tamilians until it was featured in the Rajinikanth starrer “Kabaali”. In the opening scene, Rajinikanth is seen reading this book in jail. I must confess that I had not heard about this book before. Though I did not like the movie, I wanted to see what was there in the book. I am glad that the time I spent reading the book has been rewarding. As school students, you are often told how education is important and why you should spend as much time as possible to focus on your studies. You are also told that you should take your studies seriously. Many times you will wonder why old people make such a fuss about studies. After all, everyone gets a job and a salary. The reality is more complex than this. For some people, a decent education is the difference between a dignified life and a life in hell like condition. Many of us are privileged in that our parents have a decent monthly income, both our parents are educated and we are put in a good school. But even today there are many unfortunate children whose parents are not literate and they have very li_ le income. Some of them do not go to schools and even if they go to a school, the facilities in the school are not up to the mark. Many do not pass their high school and are condemned to manual work, rest of their lives. They remain poor. This in turn affects their children in the same way. The only hope for these people to come out of poverty is getting a decent education, get a Government job at the least and then climb slowly out of poverty. “My Father Baliah” is one such story where the author Satyanarayana talks about his great grandfather Narasiah, a dalit who had to endure extreme hardship and how his successive generations go on to get good education. Satyanarayana’s father Baliah is also uneducated but he is very clear that each of his sons should get the best education possible in their time. He is lucky that his father gets a job in Railways and he too gets a job in Railways. He cannot educate his fi rst son, but ensures that every son therea_ er is sent to a school. Managing a large family in his meagre salary is diffi cult for him. Everyone advises him to pull some of his sons out of school and to send them for jobs. Baliah refuses. In the end, four of his sons take up academics, get not just undergraduate degrees but go beyond that and all end up as professors and principals of educational institutions. Being a dalit, they are all discriminated against. They are kept at a distance. Other students make fun of them. But in author Satyanarayana’s matter of- fact writing, you do not see any hatred against anyone. He acknowledges the help he has received from others. In particular, his school headmaster calls him one day and tells him to change his name from Satiah to Satyanarayana before the school final exam. Reason is, the name Satiah clearly marks him as a dalit. By changing the name, the ‘caste mark’ is removed from the name and the headmaster hopes this will help his star student to escape the cruelty of casteism. Even now, dalits face extreme discrimination in our country. For them, this book off ers some hopes. Single-minded focus on education alone is the way to come out of social backwardness. The book offers many things for a student: how does one prepare for the exam, how does one set goals and achieve the goals, what kind of support one needs from the parents, how to help one’s family members in time of need, how to handle discrimination, how to build self respect, how to fi ght and come up in the world and many more. It also teaches us what we should be doing to get the underprivileged uplifted.