I was a carefree person, the kind who just drifts with the flow of life. I was not a serious person to begin with. As I said, I was like kite that flows the way the wind flows. The reason was simple; my parents gave me all the necessary things one needs. It wasn’t a life one can call grand but it wasn’t in my nature to ask for too much for I had everything a simple minded person would want. I lived in a locality where people of the same economic stature lived. Nobody can look and tell that from all the simplicity and was wide spread in our area, somewhere evil lurked. It was in the dark mindsets of people. People who seemed to live a simple life here might have different set of thoughts beneath that layer. That layer came off only with time; especially when you didn’t want to see truth as naked as that.
Kalpana was my best friend and I was hers. She felt I understood her. She was not as laid back as me. She had dreams and why wouldn’t she? She had all the means to achieve them, at least as far as she was concerned. A gifted brain for sure. She could solve Mathematics problems at the speed of light. Or so I thought. Given that I would just manage to pass the exams. Her dream was to study more. Her parents were happy with her scores and would just laugh it off when she said she wanted to do research like “Einstein”. As she grew older, her mother would emphasize she do the house work and studies were her priority. At first she rebelled, but at the end when both her parents believed that it was house work that would help her later and somewhere she couldn’t see them sad, she did it. She learnt to cook, clean and run a house. But she would always be in a hurry for her heart was in her books. When girls were shown the dreams of a handsome husband her dream was a blackboard and some quiet with her books. This continued till standard 10. She had scored maximum marks. My parents distributed sweets for I Passed and so did hers but when asked what next, they believed the occasion was she had finished her education.
That day and for the next three days to come, she cried endlessly. I was terrified to see her in that state and despite of her parents saying no, I filled her form for the school in the next city (as ours didn’t have Science stream). She got selected of course, before anyone else did. She pleaded with her parents, they didn’t listen. Only when our headmaster did, they relented thinking it was still time till she turns 18. So they let her study. She was extra cautious now. Always thinking not just about her studies in which she continued to excel but how would she fight the tsunami ahead. I saw her one day fatigued, and realized she had been skipping meals to save money. When forced she blurted she had to run away from home as her parents had already started searching for a groom and they wouldn’t let her go and study to live her dreams.
I was angry at first for she never shared her plans and fear all these days, but then upon thinking through it that day I realized she needed help. We were still young and a girl can’t be sent out like that. So I told my cool parents about the situation. I knew for sure they would love a daughter like her, who would study without being told, as I had to be forced for it. They handled the matter with care while I started saving on my pocket money, for my friend needed it most. I made her have two meals so that she could study better. As standard twelve ended and again she scored the max, her home had a set of sweets not for her success but for the fact that her marriage was fixed. Something had to be done. My parents visited them but these minds that now started to showcase their true colors just would listen. The matter then reached a level where they locked her up and would not allow us to talk to her. Everyone who tried, their effort went down the drain, in a month’s time the wedding took place. We weren’t invited and I just saw her bid goodbye to me teary eyed as I stood at the end of her lane from where they departed. I went to another city that year, away from all of it. Only one day to wake up to a phone call from my crying mother that Kalpana had been burnt alive. They say it was the cooking gas cylinder, but it was a murder in broad daylight. I decided that day that all this we read about in news papers and think it happened to someone, not learning or realizing how much it can happen to us.
I therefore decided that it’s not children but parents who need to be educated and so I started doing that. Today we are a group of people, young and old who conduct sessions for parents and children teaching them the importance of education. I am not a laid back care free person any more. I didn’t have the time in my job bust still I religiously give my time 8 hours a week to this group. Save a life today by educating people. Be the change. We do not want daughters burnt every day. We are looking for a space for our center now via https://housing.com/, that will give new lives to people like Kalpana and their parents; also make the existing ones better.
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