Mei sat inside the tent, observing her grandfather Xiang from a distance, with sadness. Her grandfather was a healer and Mei had grown up observing, learning from him. Many times, she had even assisted him. The science of healing had always fascinated Mei. It had slowly grown into a passion. She too wanted to be a healer just like him. Only one thing stood in Mei’s way. Her being born as a woman and not a man, that too, in the 18th century. Her own tribe, refused to get treated by a woman. Mei felt frustrated and suffocated.
Mei got up to finish her cooking. Her future appeared bleak. She has no desire to get married. But what choice did she have ? Her cooking done, Mei started to work with the herbs, the thing she loved the most. She knew all about various herbs, their healing qualities, the exact proportions, like the back of her hand. Oh! If only she could carry on and take over from her grandfather. She could sense his fatigue each night and it pained her heart. She felt helpless.
Now, they were all living in a transit camp, far away from their land, and illness was rife. Xiang was growing old and as much as he wished to carry on working, healing others, he felt himself tiring easily, unable to keep up. He loved Mei dearly and hated it when he saw her looking so sad.
He was proud of her quick alert mind and eagerness to learn. As much as he would have loved to give her wings, he was bound by the norms of society.
That night, as Mei lay sleeping, Xiang sat gazing at her. He was her only living family .His heart broke at the thought of leaving her alone, to fend for herself. Suddenly an idea started to take shape in his mind. His mind was made up. He would ensure that Mei got to follow her life’s desire.
Next morning, Mei looked at herself in the mirror. A stranger looked back at her, dressed up as a boy. Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath, her mind made up.
She turned around, looked at her grandfather fondly and said “I am ready.”
“Are you sure? You will need to forego all the desires you may ever feel as a woman. You will require lot of courage” said Xiang.
“I know grandfather. This is what I want to do more than anything else” replied Mei.
Xiang went outside, announcing to his tribe “My new apprentice is here.”
Mei walked towards the exit of the tent, calm and composed.
The door of the tent opened and she stepped out barely recognizable in her new avatar.
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