2011 Personal Statements – Risen from the AshesApril 18, 2011
Risen from the Ashes
Tears trickled out of my distraught eyes, frightened and saddened as I was. The wind blew ash all around choking my breath, as our shack went up in flame. My sobs reflected my family’s despair as the treacherous fire destroyed our home, all belongings, clothing and cattle. Wrought with fear of what would happen to our lives, I leaned on my mother’s gaunt shoulders and intertwined my fingers with my father’s. Trapped now in deep destitution, we stood helplessly and watched the fire die along with our hopes Though an accident, this fire remained an unforgiving incident for years to come, as my family struggled to survive with nothing left that could be called our own.
Being born in poverty, my parents weren’t endowed with any land to cultivate, nor did they receive any respect or help from society. Social discrimination and poverty drove our family to a remote village called Mariyapura, located in the outskirts of Bangalore. Priests and nuns were involved with families trying to offer strength with faith, but rape, murder, theft and alcoholism were the axioms in the community. Illiteracy and our socially and economically ruptured status inhibited our ability to earn a livelihood except from the production of crude alcohol. The little we earned was used to clear our debts and feed the family. By the end of each day, we were left to loiter about on the streets of the village, searching for food. As the children in the family grew, labor and field work complemented our alcohol business. Fortunately, farming on the little plot we owned brought in enough money to build a mud house thatched with coconut leaves, and with cow dung smeared on the floor in the abandoned part of our village.
My siblings and I were completely paralyzed by our economically deprived situation. Irregular finances and my father’s illness due to kidney stones put a full stop to the possibility of any education. My elder sister Jyothi was sent to work in an incense stick factory where she earned a daily income of Rs.20. Prakash, my elder brother, was sent to work in the field as a laborer. Sigeon, my younger sister, spent her days playing in the mud under the hot sun.
At the age of three, my duties included grazing cattle, clearing cow dung, selling vegetables, and washing vessels. But, just like the healing of a fresh wound, I was rescued by a charitable organization –The George Foundation. Seeking to provide the opportunity of a free education and a chance to succeed in life, this organization had founded ‘Shanti Bhavan’. My arrival at Shanti Bhavan as a four year old was the most memorable event of my life.
As the blue jeep of the Foundation came to a halt, I clutched on to my mother. Though worn out by fatigue, she guided me out with prayers on her lips, a smile on her face, and diminishing desperation in her eyes. Embarrassment and shame took hold of me as I walked in bare feet toward a small crowd of well-dressed strange people. My eyes caught their eyes and smiles, and I felt reassured.
For the first time in my life, I was away from my family, but I felt secure and comfortable, clothed, fed, and bathed. I was taught to brush my teeth with a toothbrush, wear shoes, use the toilet, read, write and speak in English and play with toys. Hope replaced my desperation, as I was nurtured from an illiterate four year old to now an educated, capable seventeen year old. Those strangers and my new friends at Shanti Bhavan have now become a soldered part of me through these past 14 years of my life.
Though I was once among the unheard voices in India, today I stand as a young radiant star, with a virtuous personality, moulded from the love and passion I have received these years. I have found my zeal for sports, especially soccer, and interest in science, learning new things, dancing and singing. To materialize my goals into reality, I have chosen the science stream and strive to achieve a Master’s in Biotechnology, Microbiology and Chemistry in college. Moreover, I chose to pursue science because I possess great interest in the production of medicines and the effect they have on people. As a side profession, I hope to play soccer, because I want to prove that women are also physically capable of enjoying a good game.
I am the first to be educated in my entire family, and I bear the responsibility of bringing about happiness by improving our economic status. On the eve of the tragic fire, we felt desperate. Yet, the adage of ‘being lost is close to being found’ rings in my head. Sixteen years later, I am going to college.
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Meet the rest of the Shanti Bhavan Class of 2011.