Pregnant schoolteacher who aspired to be self-dependent
- The family remembers Agrahari as a determined woman who sacrificed her joys to study and advance in life. They rue that her life ended before she could enjoy the perks of job – she didn’t even get to see her first salary because of payout delays by the education department.
On April 13, two days before she was to appear for duty in the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections, Kalyani Agrahari had a fierce altercation with her husband Deepak Chand. Agrahari, 26, was in the third trimester of her pregnancy and Chand wanted her to skip election duty. At the time, Covid was ravaging the countryside and deaths were surging across the state.
But Agrahari was worried that her government teaching position would be jeopardised if she didn’t show up for duty. She was one of 69,000 assistant teachers who were recruited four months ago. “It was her dream to be a teacher and she was afraid that skipping the election duty may affect her job. I was more concerned about her health considering her pregnancy and wanted her to skip the poll duty,” recalled Chand.
When Agrahari got the order to report as election officer at Pratappur polling station, the couple wrote to officials concerned, pleading exemption from duty on grounds of her pregnancy, but in vain. To save her job and fearing backlash from seniors, Agrahari sat behind her husband on his bike as he drove her to the polling station at Karanjakalan block, 35 kilometres away from their house in Patiala village in Kuthan block.
During the hour-long journey, they talked about their struggle and hopes of a better future.
Agrahari was the first born of four children in a farming family in Azamgarh district. Her father worked in the fields while her mother tended to household chores. Watching her parents struggle to make ends meet, Agrahari decided to get a job and dedicated herself to studies.
But after completing her college education, she quickly realised that jobs were hard to come by in the town. In 2018, when she told her parents that she wanted to pursue studies to become a teacher, the family wed her to Chand, an engineering graduate. Agrahari was only 23.
“My sister was not happy to get married so early. She wanted to become self depended and continued her efforts even after the marriage,” said Rani, her younger sister.
The couple moved to Delhi where Deepak worked in a private firm. After a few months, Agrahari persuaded Chand to send her to Prayagraj to continue her studies to become a teacher (D.El.Ed). “She lived alone studied hard and cleared the teachers exam in the first attempt,” said Chand.
When he was sent on extended leave during the lockdown last year, she asked him to return home in Jaunpur and start a business.
In September, Agrahari found she was pregnant. “We were so happy to get the news, her face beamed and I have never seen her smile as widely,” Chand said.
On their way to the polling station, the couple discussed possible names for their child — Divansh, if it was a boy; Khyati, if a girl. Agrahari was determined to ensure that her child get a better education than her and smiled as she thought of the future. Chand dropped her outside the polling station and left.
That was the last time he saw her smiling. By the time she returned home on April 15, she was very ill. “She fell ill just after returning from her poll duty. I took her to see nearby doctors, took some medication but her health continued to deteriorate,” said Chand.
In a few days, the colour had drained from her face. Relatives tried to admit her in a hospital in Jaunpur, 50 kilometres away from Varanasi . “We took her to every hospital in Jaunpur district hoping to get a bed for her but none of the hospitals had a vacant bed to admit her,” said Chand.
On April 24, they finally managed to secure a bed with oxygen support at L2 Covid Hospital, Jaunpur. But by then, Agrahari and her unborn child were both dead. A day later, on their third marriage anniversary, Chand lit Agrahari’s pyre.
The family remembers Agrahari as a determined woman who sacrificed her joys to study and advance in life. They rue that her life ended before she could enjoy the perks of job – she didn’t even get to see her first salary because of payout delays by the education department.
The state teachers’ union says Agrahari was one of 700-odd teachers who succumbed to Covid-19 after conducting the panchayat polls, a figure disputed by the state government. Nevertheless, the administration has assured Chand of compensation and a job. On May 24, a local education officer went to Chand’s home and told him that Agrahari’s pending salary of ₹196,527 had been deposited in her account. She was dead for two weeks