Shibori had made up her mind to leave. All this was getting too much for her. What is the use of staying in a place that was not for girls of her background? There was no use pleading before the student council or the dean of the college. She expected some respect and a congenial atmosphere at the college, if not equal status there.
The next day, she absent-mindedly sat through Mrs. Bhat’s economics lecture. Maybe this is the last time I would be seeing you, ma’am. She sat like a stone.
‘Come, Shibori’, her only friend Arpita chirped which made Shibori realize that she was indeed made of flesh and blood. As she got up to go, her hand inadvertently touched a paper under her seat. It read ‘DON’T LEAVE!’ in big letters.
Tears flowed unchecked. She quickly folded the paper and kept it in her backpack.
Was this a joke? Who dared to write this? Surely someone had got wind of her plans. Was it Arpita?
She was in no mood to find out. She ran back to her hostel room to pack her stuff. A notification popped up on her phone confirming her seat on the Rajdhani Express to Kolkata the next day. She could take a train to Guwahati from there.
As she sat by the window in her room that evening watching the rays of the sun reluctantly fade into oblivion, her thoughts flew back to the time she had set foot at NMC College, Delhi a year ago. She took out the paper from her backpack. She would have laughed out loud if she had gotten hold of this paper then and thrown it somewhere.
She had come here to give wings to her dreams. She had finished her secondary education in Shillong and wanted to pursue a degree in economics at the prestigious NMC College in Delhi.
Her decision had met with considerable opposition from the Bhoi tribals. Most of the girls did not pursue higher education in their tribe. They were financially and socially backward and were rarely counselled in this regard. Lack of amenities and positive reinforcement forced girls to drop out after high school if they ever went to one. They either settled down into family life or went to cities to take up some meagrely paid job.
But Santo, her father supported her.
‘Though our children belong to us, we must not curtail their longing for life, neither should we force our thoughts on them. Like a seagull that flies out of its nest in search of new horizons, our children can do the same’, he said.
Maybe, some good Samaritan wanted her to remind her of her conviction and purpose of joining NMC by sticking that chit under her seat. Why should she give in to the bullies in her college? Why should their words ‘Tribal’ or ‘Chini’ affect her so much? When her father could face the opposition of an entire community and support her, could she not support herself? Does a seagull not face the risks of flying out alone?
Shibori stuck the paper on the wall of her hostel room. Sometimes two words are enough to teach one lesson worth a lifetime.
Bhoi Tribe- A tribe in North-East India particularly in the ‘seven sisters’ states.
Chini- A word sarcastically used to refer to Chinese.
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