August 03,2022

A story of brilliance

Kolukhedi. This village is about 2 hours away from Bhopal, located beside the upper lake. A total of 64 families live in the village, out of which 59 of them belong to the bedia community. Despite its location, the village is quite underdeveloped. During Monsoon, roads are flooded very often resulting in children being irregular in their schools. For adolescent girls, this situation is especially difficult due to inaccessibility of toilets. Given the situation, attaining higher education is a far away dream for many of the children of the village. But 18 years old Kusum (changed name) is not ready to give up her dreams. Instead she is more than enthusiastic about it. When she was in class 7, her family started to find it financially hard to support her education. They asked help from Samvedna to continue her education as their eldest daughter was already a Pankh student.


Soon, with the help of Samvedna, she was sent to Bhopal to study further by her family. She scored a whopping 85% in class 10th and 12th. And now, she is pursuing BA.LLB. in Rajiv Gandhi College in Bhopal. She is one of the 18 students associated with Samvedna’s Lakshya Program this year. This sounds exemplary, but her story has more layers than it appears.


When asked about her journey she explained in detail about her struggles in the village, in the new city when she was merely 11-12 years old and finally she talked extensively about her dreams and the current state of the educational system.


“Jab unhe padhana hi nahi hota, to wo ye naukari kar kyon rahe hain? Ham sab kuch apne aap se kaise padh sakte hain? (when they can’t teach, why are they doing this job? How can we study everything on our own?)”, she said in a disappointing tone. She is one of the only 10 students in her class who managed to clear exams. In that context, her questions are not limited to her individual aspirations, she is worried for her batchmates as well. She is able to understand but can not cope with the fact that these situations often lead to growing absenteeism in college students. Anyhow, she proudly declared that she always attends her classes even if she is the only one who does so. But she felt hesitant to talk about the caste discrimination she faces in her college.


“Ye kaise Pass ho sakti hai? Ye bhi fail hai. (How is she able to pass? She also failed)” People often say this to her in her college. She seemed so tired and worn out to further this discussion. This is understandable as caste based discrimination is everyday affair for people belong to Bedia community. When something becomes normalised and happens casually, you accept the situation grudgingly. After a minute of silence, she started to talk about her family.


“Bada bhai kahta hai ki tumse to kuch nahi hoga. Sirf padhte rahna tum, paise kamana kab shuru karogi? (Elder brother says you would not be able to do anything. You only keep studying, when will you start earning?)” Talking about her elder brother, she gave several hints that she was under enormous pressure to perform well in her studies. But soon she started to talk about how her family is so supportive of her endeavour and how she feels motivated to do something good in her life. Though she admitted that her family doesn't extend support to her elder sister in the same capacity. But we will talk about her sister’s journey in a different article.


“Ab to ghar nahi, yahi Bhopal jyada achha lagta hai. Gaanv ka mahol hi thik nahi hai. (Now, I don’t like being at home. I like it better here in Bhopal. The village’s atmosphere is not good.)” This was rather obvious. In the village, every other family has some distant relatives involved in sex work. Due to this, even those families who are not engaged in sex work, take it as potential alternative to boost their economic condition. This impacts the mental health of young girls, who want to study further but their families pressurise them to enter the market.


Though she is only 18, she is aware of the mental health implications of the situations she and her sister are living in. “Etne pressure me kaise koi achha result layega? Ek to sab log Arts ko easy samjhte hain. Par aisa hai nahi. Hamara subject bhi kafi tough hai. (How can anyone give good results under so much pressure? Then, almost all people think art subjects are easy. But this is not true. Our subjects are tough as well.)” Then, she moved ahead with her queries and asked for guidance to study properly for her course. She dreams of becoming a practising lawyer one day and she doesn’t want to be left behind. She surely won’t be. Samvedna will make sure of it. Her brilliance is not limited to her academic achievements only, it comes from her ability to think critically and stand for something she believes in. 


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