I walked past the most poignant looking faces.
The narrow streets of the village that have learnt to clog many big dreams over the years led me to my way back home 20 years before.
A thatched hut… constructed with unburnt bricks and clay. The walls were slightly leaned and also wet due to the rains..
As I entered the house, I could see a group of people assembled in the foyer, making me anxious.
The headman was sitting in the only chair available in the house. My parents stood beside him. Varun and Samar’s parents stood in the left side of the foyer.
“Ha! Riya has come” the headman announced. Everyone acknowledged his words.
When they started a conversation, the door opened. Varun and Samar walked in.
“Is everything fine Samar? Is Varun ready to go?” his mom questioned Samar.
“Yes mom. He starts the journey around four in the morning tomorrow” replied Samar in a blank note.
His mom stroked Varun’s head and gave a gentle kiss on his forehead.
Varun was always quiet. But these days he hardly spoke. And it was understandable.
The village headman cleared his throat demanding everyone’s attention. “So today after a long time all of us have gathered here for something that we have all been longing for years. Never a person from our village has travelled to the capital unless he was an indentured or bonded labour. But today Varun is moving to the capital to get educated. I wish his new venture brings glory to him as well as the village.” He said proudly… not forgetting to extend his words
“While Varun goes to the capital to shed some light to this cursed village Riya will look after the kids here to get educated”. He finally concluded his speech.
Varun opened his mouth to speak “Thank you Kaka for your words. But still I think, you made a wrong decision by choosing me to go to the capital and making Riya stay here”.
When I tried to interrupt him, he signaled me to keep quiet and continued his speech.
“I may seem foolish or disrespectful. But believe me… an intelligent girl like Riya can achieve more than what I could.” Having said that he walked away.
Everyone seemed to contemplate what Varun had told. But at the end even he knew, it felt only to deaf ears.
Everybody left seeing one another.
In the night I was trotting across the weeds and tussock for no reason.
I heard Samar call me from the back
“Yes Samar” I said.
“Have you thought about what Varun said?” he asked in a serious note.
“Well…he is just nervous and underestimating himself ” I said blandly.
Samar’s look was enough to say how stupid my reply sounded.
“Riya you are the cleverest girl the village has ever seen. You tell me… just because someone belongs to a different gender or caste, is it okay to shun someone’s life long dream”. He asked me as I stood there helplessly
I remembered the beautiful verses from the Gita which mom would be quoting ever,
‘To die performing is no ill. But who seek other roads shall wander still’.
“Riya….listen to me. Opportunities dont come twice. Not atleast for people like us. So please Riya…. learn to follow your dream…., the rest will follow”.
I cried loudly.
Today … 20 years later….I am a human right activist…a motivational writer… a women of struggles ..a woman for downtrodden..etc.
Many of you may consider my stories inspiring, today. But if not for Samar and Varun that day…. I wouldn’t have reached where I am today.
Samar’s voice still continues to ring in my ears .”Follow your dreams Riya… the rest will follow.”
Motivation is a source of strength. For somebody it is words and for some others it’s actions.
And most of us need a mirror to just know what we are capable.
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