Life in a middle class family teaches one to value not just money but also dreams. It was the same for me.
“Yes….people….that’s me….Rhea. Small town girl with a fancy name. I’m even told that I got lucky to be christened Rhea by an aunt visiting from the United States else I may have carried my great grandmother’s name, Leelavati!!”
I grew up seeing my parents sweat the days out. The day dawned to the hustle bustle of kitchen. The tingle-tangle, bang-slam of utensils as Mom readied Tiffin boxes. Both my parents worked at clerical positions in a Bokaro office. As I began dreaming and making wish lists, this hustle bustle seemed like chaos. A perfect example of complacency where meeting needs was satisfaction enough. I was definite I would be a misfit.
“Mom, what did you want to be when you grew up?” was a common question that bounced off the walls of our house.
The answers came, but pretty much, drab and dull.
“The fact that we were able to get an education was achievement enough for us” “Hey…girl, don’t fly too high. Come back to the ground. There isn’t much we women can do” followed shortly.
“Dis…gus…ting…. Maa……can you ever, ever say something that kindles the spark in me.” I stomped heavily and slammed the rickety door shut.
There was no point trying to make a point to Dad either. The two of them would connivingly come up with an excuse to persuade me to cede my dream of moving to Delhi, living in a hostel and pursuing a management degree. I had to do it now or else I would be stuck in this city for the rest of my life like every other female born here. It sure was time to swim against the tide and make my way to the shore!
Thus began the preparation. First was to be able to write the entrance exam. Thank God for the creative streak in me for it helped set the ball rolling. Pretexts presented went from… “It’s compulsory for all students to apply” to “the Exam form is being distributed free of cost.”
There was gratitude for the neighbourhood ‘Aunties’, whose generous gifts of Rs. 21 during ‘Kanjak Pooja’, were pivotal in alleviating the secret savings to a princely sum of Rs. 1500 over the years. The grace of God came along with the money presumably, because I cleared the exam with flying colours. The happier news was that having secured a position in the top ten, I was also able to bag a scholarship for partially funding the degree.
As I was swimming against the tide, the strokes had to keep changing. Till now, it was the lazy butterfly stroke, which had to be elevated to the aggressive freestyle to make sure I got my way past the patriarchal chains and social stigmatization. I stood my fort that evening though behind my back the sweaty palms entwining and fidgeting were my actual state of mind.
“Mummy and Daddy, I have an announcement to make after dinner. Can you both come to my room?”
“What is this drama Rhea?” “Say what you have to right here. We have a long day ahead tomorrow as there is an audit in the office”, screamed Mummy as she cleared the utensils in the kitchen.
“Ohhhh…how I hate this. Time for the child is always a waste of time for them”, I blurted angrily. But no point losing patience when the shore was getting closer.
So, putting on my best behavior and in the most polite tone I approached Dad, “Please, it will only be five minutes. I wouldn’t have bothered you but I need undivided attention from both of you.”
Dad nodded and I stood facing them in the room. Having rehearsed the script infinite times, it just flowed, smoothly.
“Well….I have cleared the entrance exam for a management degree in Delhi, with a scholarship. College begins next month. Since I’m a scholarship awardee I only pay fifty percent of the admission fee” “So….Mummy and Dad, I need your blessings and help in packing and moving.” I went on without a pause as if scared to await a reaction from them.
When I did stop, there was silence…….and then began the protests, “You have lost your mind. You aren’t allowed to visit the neighbouring market, Delhi is out of question.” Beyond that everything was a blur. I had made up my mind and there was not looking back, I kept repeating.
Taking control of emotions, I announced, “There is no choice here. I have to go. It has never happened before and that is why I want it to happen. It is hope for me and many other girls who want to follow their dreams.”
Before I knew, Dad stood up, hugged me, placed his hand on my head and said, “She is right. It is time to break the shackles and fly” “Go, live your dream.”
That night as I packed and prepared for the journey ahead I couldn’t help exclaim…..the shore is here ☺
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