The coach had personally come to her house to request her parents, followed by the principal of her school, for the same.
The education board was ready to sponsor her education via sports quota and more importantly she would represent India in Olympics.
She was the best athlete they had but her parents thought she would be better off at her husband's place. All she wanted was to see her photo in the newspaper.
Her picture did publish in the newspaper but she didnâ€™t live to see thatâ€¦ â€œNewlywed burnt to death by husband for dowry.â€.
My birth wasnâ€™t celebrated I am told.
My life isnâ€™t celebrated, I know.
I wasnâ€™t given goals, just roles.
Role of a dutiful sister, an obedient daughter;
but mostly that of a mute subservient doll
I wasnâ€™t free.
I wasnâ€™t cared for.
I had to escape.
I learnt to run.
I ran. I ran away from the invisible cage.
Where I found my salvation; my freedom
I kept running.
From one net to another
From a net of suffocation; To a net of connections.
Keep running, never stop. You are a runner too.
"Fire on the mountain! Run, run, run!"
This History period is so boring! The kindergarten kids outside seem to be having an extended sports period.
"Run, run, run!"
And, I'm running at full pelt.
"Pay attention in class! Why are you smiling?"
I'm running. In my mind. In my uniform. To catch a flight. To go to America, and live with Perry Aunty-Sundar Chacha. So that I can choose my favourite subjects in school, and reject History.
"Bina! What's wrong? What are you thinking?"
"Nothing, Sir... Thinking of America and, revolution..."
"And, imagining the immediate causes!".
Raja ran. He was caught. Today he couldn't manage to pull off the facade of a girl. Every day it became heavier for him to play the role of someone else from the other gender. Feminist groups had won a long battle by managing to flip the scenario. Education was now only for girls. For many like Raja it was the beginning of a long battle.
Back to square one..
"Call the gatekeeper. How could this girl enter the school without an identity card, every day for one year and no one ever noticed. It's fishy."
"You are right sir. I have confiscated her bag for further checking. I am sure she was here with a motive to steal."
The gatekeeper smiled to himself as he watched the girl in uniform run.
"What a thief! And they think she was here to steal money and things."
Priya ran to the school ground, frightened for Ammu.
She had forgotten to pick up 3 year old Ammu from school.
After tuition, she had reached home, Amma had called out, "Did you pick up Ammu?"
Shocked, she ran to school.
The school was dark and ominous, running all over she kept calling out for Ammu.
Then she noticed a tiny speck of light across the playground.
Running fast, she reached the watchman's hut.
Peering in the window, she saw Ammu eating biscuit, under the indulgent eyes of the watchman.
Priya knocked on the door..
What happened to her?
She was fearless, she was a fighter
Why did puberty change her?
Why did it steal her smile?
Left her with the pain of dealing with mood swings
Every once in a while
Why did it change her?
She was unabashed before
Now she dreads the gore
Can she never be agile?
Can she never play?
Fearful of that a red blot
May stain her today?
Why did puberty strike her?
Strike her so bad
She forgot to be proud of being a girl
She forgot how it felt to be glad
A small hut. Limited availability of resources. A big 'little' sister of an 8 year old brother. Shouldered responsibilities with a lion's share. Yet denied respect. Craved for education. Even more for volleyball. No means to practice. Yet, pursuing the dream of representing India in tournaments intensified even more. Her heart refused to surrender, ignited a fire of passion. Her legs decided to break the shackles. The sports master at school saw her burning desire. Decided to give wings to her dream. Tears of joy, gleam in her eyes. The feeling of liberation soared high in her sky. .
Sanaya came rushing over to the tennis court. Her diminutive stature, is what put her off, from playing all this while. This time around the coast was clear, she and her friend got together, for a casual match.
Both played with vigor, she put those derides behind her. Unnoticed by her, a guy was passing by. Thwack, resounded the blow, when she happened to slap his face with the racket.
It's quite silly of her to be engrossed in playing, that she failed to notice him, crossing her path.
Only a sorry escaped her lips..
The dream was recurring. "Take me with you", said the girl in school dress. All I would wonder was where did she want to go? But who had the time for such petty things. I had immersed myself in work and was living something which I called an ideal life .I had chosen this. The life where being happy was not a choice. But I was taught to "be a good girl , concentrate on books, get a good job" and yet I would always find time to wonder, what if I had run away with Aakash that day..
She was running home. Mixed emotions playing in the background. New clothes and jewelry are not letting smile leave her face but idea of leaving school and family are making her eyes wet.
Its Suniti's last day at school. Not because she finished her studies but because family thinks marrying her at a tender age will cost them less.
What if she clears board exams. They'll need to find suitable match. More education, more dowry.
Whoever said education will eradicate evils of society perhaps never visited this part of country. .
She knew it was late, even though she had won the volleyball tournament, now what was waiting for her was her life tournament. With her school dress still on she went running to her home hoping they wouldn't have come. She was about to enter when she saw extra footwear, they were early. She slowly went to back door and changed to saree and got ready . She knew everything will be lost after this day. She was ready now to meet the guy for an arranged marriage. .
For her little mind, it was an ocassion to convey her feelings. She had put in a lot of efforts in crafting a special piece for her cherished mate. Her best efforts to chase him down were unsuccessful that day. He had eluded her. "Not today, not forever!", he had said, before running away.
As she watched their daughter play catch, her thoughts went back to that Rakshabandhan day. A smile crossed her lips. He had always known..
All eyes on her, she examined the ground with her left foot, stretched her shoulder joints and glance at the opposition player who was buried under the instructions of coach.
A rail of thoughts started playing in her head, â€œItâ€™s not some gilli-danda which you play across the lane. Its badminton, complicated game, needs proper footwork, balance of mind...And time. No, I canâ€™t select an outsider...â€
She watched the whole game behind the wires that day. A petal of dream unfolded in her gleaming eyes. She had not left with any choice but becoming another Eklavya.
A shooting star across the sea,
a vision of ecstasy!
Dream all whilst you can,
while they clip your wings
shouting, "Hey obey schoolâ€™s rules"
I laugh and run away to scream,
All that I can still do inside my mind,
While I shut my eyes to the eternal childhoodâ€™s dream.
I have seen thy tears, Behold I will heal thee!
Have faith, dive deeper inside.
Baring myself, thereâ€™s none to hide.
Sun shining o'er my face,
Trees casting greener shadows,
Over meadows far and low.
Run away, hear they blow
Sirens here, that shatter the eternal childhoodâ€™s dream!
â€œDonâ€™t stop yetâ€, she told herself, â€œkeep running.â€
She had lost count of how many miles had been covered.
She had come far away from everything. From people. From chaos.
She didnâ€™t know if she was tired. She knew she couldnâ€™t go back.
Even at the cost of losing everything, she ran.
She had no clue if she would succeed.
Yet, she kept running. Forward.
â€œYouâ€™re dead if you stopâ€, a voice told her.
She knew she would eventually get to where she belonged.
She kept running. She had nothing to lose..
The taunts got worse each day. It corroded her soul. For no rhyme or reason they picked on her; only because she was an outsider. She tried to ignore the insults hurled at her; hoping that they would tire and stop one day. Today they had picked on her Bapu, her idol; her ideal. Her God! They had crossed the boundary. She started to run. And as she ran, she felt liberated. She knew what she had to do. She too must cross the boundary..
The twilight gave the throw ball court a mysterious look. She smiled as her thoughts winged back. She had a nickname too those days - Ganga ground ball. Once the ball was in her hands, her â€˜throwâ€™ was to the ground. No one could catch it. She was the star, in every feat, every sport. How she yearned to scale new heights, conquer the world!
A girl tapping a ball wandered on to the court. Slowly Ganga wheeled herself back. Cancer had chained her body not her ambition. She looked up at the name board â€“ â€œGanga Sports Academyâ€.
Carried on the safest shoulders, she goes to playground every weekend with her father.
Her head moves like pendulum as she watches volleyball match.
"Push", "kick", "hit it" kind of shouts keep striking her ears.
The sweating men, legs moving on horse-power speed, flowing muddy air.
Just a volleyball strikes nearby & she comes out of past.
Time has crossed the boundaries of childhood & reached adulthood.
She runs as her father comes & hugs him.
Everybody around wonders & ignores this mental girl giving hug to An Invisible..
Tomorrow is a big day for Sunaina. She was too excited to sleep. She had worked hard, practiced day and night to be part of National Volley Ball Team. She knew the opponents were good. She had to play for the glory of her Team.
She ran out to the court in sheer happiness and danced around it. Coach sir called her his Star Player. She would be the star of India. Seeing her elation, sir warned her about winning / losing being part of the game.
But nothing would dampen her spirit. She will strive to win..
The leering faces of the owners of the not-too-distant footsteps galvanized her to run even faster and eventually escaping them. She couldn't thank her legs enough for carrying her through. Her legs, the reason for her disqualification from the school racing team. Apparently, they were too weak and spindly. She needed them to be strong. After all they were hers. She made them run everyday, across the school field, away from all eyes. Now, she knows that,life had been watching her, waiting for the right time to reward her with the opportunity of walking tall!.
She had always known she was different. Today's encounter was a proof of it. She had been handed a ticket stub and told, "You know the way to the platform".
"But I don't have a passport to travel abroad", she had countered.
"There are many portals to the station. The right pole your folks use to dry nets at your premise opens up to one", the catlike woman had said before disappearing.
"Why on earth would you run into a pole?"
"Daydreaming about one of your fantasy books again, were you?".