2011 Personal Statements – A Thalli of HopeMarch 28, 2011
A Thalli of Hope
The scene is so clear in my mind that I can almost see it before my eyes. My mother is crouching on the cold floor; my father is hovering over her. His hands are on the chain around her neck that had tied around her neck long ago, the day he took her as his wife. My mother is crying. “Please leave me. This is the last thing that I have left,” she begs, but he doesn’t listen. My younger sister and I watch from the doorway as our father gives a forceful yank and then beads in the chain go flying all around the sorrowful figure of my mother. Like a hungry animal searching for food, she falls upon the floor and starts gathering the scattered black beads which are lying all around her. Tears are falling down her cheeks, as we rush to her side, crying, “Ma.” Seeing her collecting the lost beads, we join in, our small palms gathering as much as they could hold.
The whole time we can hear her saying, “This was the last precious possession that I had. And he stole even that from me. What do I have left?” I looked at her bare neck and realized what she was weeping about. The desperation for money had forced him to steal from his own wife what women in an Indian society treasure the most – the thalli, (the thread tied around a woman’s neck by her husband during the marital ceremony) which symbolizes marriage between a man and a woman. Her thalli, which had a small pendent made of gold, was what had attracted him. Only death of a woman’s husband could force her to remove the thalli, which is as sacred to her as her faith in a God. But having her own husband remove it from her neck was equal to saying, “I no longer consider you as my wife.” My father left us weeping in each other’s arms, not so much for the loss of the gold, but in the knowledge that our lives were dictated by a man who treated us as no better than the dust on his bare feet.
But it didn’t remain like that forever. At the age of four, I was selected to study at Shanti Bhavan; a school that was founded by Dr. George for children from socially and economically deprived backgrounds. Coming to Shanti Bhavan has been the gateway for the change in my life, as well as my family’s life. My mother and sister have pinned their hope on me and have grown to believe that hope does exist, even in a world as dark as theirs, after witnessing the miracle that Shanti Bhavan has brought to my and the rest of my peers’ lives at Shanti Bhavan. If an illiterate, poor village girl can talk about eradicating poverty, then surely there is behind each hardship a new meaning to existence.
My plan for my future took shape after a two week workshop that my classmates and I attended in eighth grade which was conducted by four students from the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. While working on a business project of our own as part of the program, my team and I found a microfinance company called ‘UTTR- Urban to the Rural’. Our project was focused on bringing about the boons of urbanization to the rural communities that lack even in the basic necessities of a decent living. This activity in which I had to budget the company’s finances and set priorities, gave rise to my ambition to become a businesswoman. Besides just understanding finance, I was also moved by the mission of our project, which was to provide a better standard of living for the rural communities that are deprived of the benefits of globalization and urbanization. Ever since, the forces of business cycles and the activities of the business world have always interested me.
Besides academics, I enjoy reading books, listening to a mixture of classical and western music and interacting with volunteers from all around the world. These volunteers only remind me of my own need to give back to society and be of service in those areas where there is a need. I am moved by their unconditional hard work, commitment and dedication, and their desire to be a part of a mission they believe in. They inspire me to be the change “you wish to see in the world.” I grew up with friends and adults from different backgrounds, different religions and different languages; but all of us have one thing in common – the ability to accept each other’s differences.
As the time will soon be arriving for me to step out of the gates of Shanti Bhavan in order to make my stand in the world, thoughts of my future continue to play in my mind. I plan to finish my further studies at one of the prestigious colleges in Bangalore, get my MBA, and make my way towards building a successful career.
Today, as my mind views the film of my life in slow motion, I cannot but feel blessed for having been fortunate to have had the chance to attend a good school, a privilege that other girls from villages are deprived of, speak through a voice of my own, and aspire for both personal and professional success. Shanti Bhavan has not only given me a new life, a stronger hope, and a greater meaning to existence, but also a new identity. I feel proud to call myself the “light of hope” for my family and those who look up to me that I will never succumb to darkness. And to my mother’s question, “What do I have left?” I say with pride, “A star,” as my name ‘Tara’ means in the language of Hindi. I won’t let my mother’s dignity be snatched from her as her thalli once was.
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Meet the rest of the Shanti Bhavan Class of 2011.