While reading the morning paper found PT Usha’ photograph with her protégé. The sprint queen who came from a nondescript village and practiced on the beaches to miss the Olympics medal just by a whisker. Extreme hardwork, determination, training from her coach and most important of them all - encouragement from her family must have turned this Payyoli girl to a golden girl of India.
Her photo in the newspaper brought my thoughts to my parent’s neighbor whom I met in the summer gone by. This beautiful, tall girl all of 20 years ismother of two naughty kids aged 4 and 2. She was born to well to do farmers in a small village near Salem. When I first met her at my parents place, I could sense the maturity beyond her chronological age. Gradually, I started breaking the ice. During each conversation, I found she was not just beautiful and matured but knowledgeable too. She was very good with practical jobs like fixing wooden things, electrical wires, shelling tender coconuts, handling people, driving two and four wheeler etc.
When I questioned how she could do so many jobs. She told me she would help her parents in the farm before going to school and that she would help her mother carry 50 kgs of flowers on her two wheeler to the market.
During our course of meetings which happened pretty often due to frequent power cuts. The Frequent power cuts brought all the neighbors in our colony out and most of them came (across ages 2 to 74) to my parents compound to form a gossip session.
During those sessions, she would often tell us that she wanted to study further but her parents and grandparents would not allow her to continue. She was the best athlete of her school and she was asked to represent her school in district level javelin throw, shot put and running race. But her conservative parents refused to send her for any sport and later even to school. Her parents and grandmother instead of sending her to district level games decided to get her married to a known boy in their community. The marriage was for convenience to bring two distant families together. Resisting her parent’s wishes only made the girl purple since her father whipped her with neem canes she said. So midway through her tenth standard at the age of 14 she was married to a man 12 years her senior.
Through the way she spoke and her inquisitiveness, i could sense she wanted to live her dream. She wanted to be an athlete but, now she satisfies herself by playing badminton. Though she does not read or write English, she has the thirst to learn the language and attempts to speak. She wanted to learn so many things. Join courses especially those conducted by sewa kendras and more than anything, she has that fire in her to do something. But family commitments and discouragement withheld her dreams. Her husband is also sweet natured and a nice person but perhaps he felt that she was young and it was his way of shielding her from the world. He doesn’t want her to continue her studies. Whenever she broaches the topic, he tells her to get permission from her parents, which she says will never happen.
Whatever be their problem, I was only thinking there could be so many Karthikas in this world who are good at sports, studies etc.,who had many dreams and aspirations, but perhaps no encouragement. If only they were given encouragement, opportunities and infrastructure, perhaps they too would shine in the medals tally like the Payyoli girl . Who knows?
Often my thoughts are disturbed by this girl. I often think of her while I go about my work. She is the same girl whom I wrote about, who wants to admit her children in an International school. Perhaps she will realize her dreams through her children.
By the way, Where is Ilavazhagi?