Mumbai, July 2: The call comes from Padgha, near Bhiwandi, recently in the news for being the alleged hub of the conspiracy behind the killer blast in a local train in Mulund.
But the caller is a young person who wants advice on what to do about higher studies, now that his results are out.
The phone doesn’t stop ringing.
As Mubarak Kapdi fights the deluge of anxious questions, the room outside his office at his counselling centre also fills up.
A girl in an expensive green burqa sits in a corner, toying with the latest guide to TOEFL, the English language test that a student must clear to get admission in American universities.
These days, it is particularly crowded as the state higher secondary results are just out. But otherwise, too, the 44-year-old man of a stocky built hardly has a moment of leisure from the second he steps into the office of his national educational movement.
Kapdi, who founded this to counsel students and advocate modern education among his Muslim community, especially among girls, does not believe that every educated girl needs to work as she can bring fulfilment within the family and be a better mother to her children.
But his liberal conservative ideology, despite its limitations, seems to work. He has counselled more than eight lakh students, a significant number of them girls.
“I wish I could do this full time,” says Kapdi, who looks after his ad agency in the morning and runs the counselling centre in the evening.
Addressing the girl in the burqa, he brings out a writing pad. On a new page that has a carbon paper beneath, he writes down the various streams open before her now and the professional courses she can take up later. He keeps his own copy of the guideline and calls for the next student.
It is not as if the courses are not known, but someone needs to spell them out. Kapdi does that, holding out the best kind of hope, that of a better life.
The workload increases after the board examination results each year.
After the state secondary results are out in June, Kapdi addresses a gathering of 2,000-odd students in Mumbai — he says he has delivered almost 800 lectures since he started in 1984 — then sets out on a lecture tour of Maharashtra, going to remote villages where he takes care to talk to the girls’ families.
Sometimes he has to trick them into letting their daughters study.
“I tell them that there’s no harm in getting their daughters educated. They tell me that once the daughter is educated, they won’t be able to find a groom good enough for her. I tell them marriages are made in heaven. And, God forbid, if anything happens to the groom, and your daughter is educated, she will be able to look after herself.”
Kapdi has to resort to the same logic with urban parents sometimes.
“One gentleman walked into my room with his daughter saying that there was no point trying to convince him, as he would not let his daughter go to college. I told him that there would be great advantages if she went to college. She would be able to teach her children herself, and save on tuition fees for private coaching. And look, how much they cost nowadays. The father finally agreed,” Kapdi says.
“Then, there are parents who tell me that what is the point of educating the daughter when she will marry and spend her earnings in the other family. I tell them that she may not work at all. The point of education is not a job, but becoming a better individual.”
For Kapdi, the turning point came on December 6, 1992 — the day the Babri Masjid was demolished.
“On that day, we realised that there was no one in the bureaucracy and the government to speak for us. We needed our own IPS officers, IAS officers, engineers and doctors. The betterment of our community would come through higher education alone,” he says.
“Religious education is a must, too, as it lays the foundation for moral character and imparts value education. But to get on in the world, one needs modern education.”
There are moments when Kapdi feels he has not been all that successful.
In the villages, the girls, even after their parents are prodded, generally study only up to Class X. There is also criticism from within the community, which, he says, wants results fast but is ready to raise a hue and cry over any lapse. Then there are the boys, talking about whom he despairs.
“The boys are so far behind in our community. Girls are hardworking, sincere and keep to themselves. It’s a pity they are stopped in their education so often. But the boys will hang around nukkads (slums), watch TV and get into faltoo jhamela (needless problems). Ladke majnoo ban jate hai (boys turn Romeos).
“That’s also because we pamper them so much. We think they are going to be the bread-earner, so let’s treat them that way. But it spoils them. They don’t learn anything,” Kapdi says.
“I tell them that they are the first tyre of a vehicle, the women are the second. They have to be more responsible, for the onus of earning is on them.”
Some may not agree with him there, but Kapdi is unstoppable.
“I can really go on,” he says with a smile. “A lecture of mine lasts for five hours. Once, I spoke for eight-and-a-half hours at a stretch.”