2011 Personal Statements – Hope Risen From FlameApril 25, 2011
Hope Risen From Flame
I was five when I faced my first enemy. I watched helplessly as the man, who called me, ‘son’, poured kerosene over my mother. My hatred for him rose up in angry flames like the ones eating away at my mother’s skin, as I tried to pull him away from her. But he was too strong for me. I watched as my elder sister and brother ran out of the house in search of help, while I stayed behind. It was my first naked confrontation with the existence of the brutality in human beings. Help came with my uncle, who quickly put out the flames with buckets of water. From then on, I considered myself fatherless.
My father, a prisoner to alcohol, ruled over my mother’s life, as well as that of her three children, with his tyranny. To many, it was a blessing in disguise when a horrid road accident released us of his dominance, but I was sad to lose him, despite the fact that he had hardly ever made me proud to be his son. Looking back to my childhood, my memory of the day my life changed is as clear as the burn scars on my mother’s hands and neck. As the blue jeep that brought me from my village to Shanti Bhavan halted on the barren ground of the school, I was unaware of the fact that a completely new chapter of my life was just beginning.
Shanti Bhavan, a school founded by Dr. George with the mission of providing the promise of a quality education and a better life for children from socially and economically deprived backgrounds, has been my opportunity to strive towards scaling new horizons. I stared with wide, curious eyes at the age of three at the sight of cots, toilets, toys and shoe racks with bewilderment as I had never seen these things before. My amazement at seeing these new objects made me unaware of my mother’s hand slipping slowly out of my own as she turned to leave.
Fourteen years have passed since the day I first stepped into Shanti Bhavan, barefoot and hungry for answers. Looking back now, I realize how fortunate I have been to receive a good education and grow up absorbing universal values like truth, honesty, respect and integrity — values that are constantly taught to me, as they are embedded in the mission of Shanti Bhavan.
Here, learning is not restricted to the four walls of a classroom. I am learning when quarrelling with my friends while playing soccer on the playground, when interacting with visitors who share stories of their lives and thoughts of sustaining career choices with us, and even while helping the younger children fix their bikes. Each day I am more convinced than before that every experience has a valuable lesson attached to it.
As the days draw nearer for me to step into the real world in order to attend college, I cannot overlook these past years of my life which have sculpted me into who I am today – a young, ambitious dreamer, a believer of universal values like equality, and a bold fighter. My classmates call me “an opportunist”, as I am always searching for chances to try new endeavors and I always try to make the most of little.
My plans for my future took form after two weeks of attending a workshop that was organized and conducted by four students from the Wharton University of Pennsylvania, when I was in the eighth grade. Being taught skills like public speaking, fulfilling deadlines, quick thinking and problem solving helped me inculcate these yard sticks into my everyday life. As much as I regretted that those two weeks were so short lived, I internally felt enlightened and enriched after all that I had learned during them. This was the starting point for my growing interest in building a career in the business world.
I dream of a future in which I will establish myself upon a strong foundation in the business world, reap the benefits of my career and, at the end of the day, reach out to the needy in the same manner that I was the beneficiary of another person’s desire to make this world a better place by eradicating poverty. I want to live by the saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” and reach out to help others.
Seeing my mother smile even in the midst of pain, seeing my siblings trying to make the most of the little life has given them and seeing the gleams in the eyes of the many poor children back in my village, I am left feeling thankful for having been selected among the millions of poor children in India to receive an education at Shanti Bhavan, a place where even the impossible can be achieved. Despite being the youngest in my family, I shoulder my family’s hope for escape from hardship and suffering. And yet, I do not fear that the weight of this realism will make me fall. It only makes me feel more driven towards making the dreams of my family, my school and mine a reality.
If you or a loved one would like to support one of our college students, please learn how you can donate to our college fund.
Meet the rest of the Shanti Bhavan Class of 2011.