Update as of 20 January 2010
They belong to very different cultural backgrounds, although they have more than one thing in common, the Bengali language they speak and the cruel fate that they spoke against and won! Yes, we are talking of Rekha, Sunita and Afsana who led commonplace lives until they turned 11 years old. And then societal pressure and vulnerability almost snuffed out their innocent childhood, when they were to be married; but the girls protested that they wanted to continue studying. Their defiance could have been crushed by over-zealous “protectors of culture”, but for the strong girls and their supportive families, they continued to study and not be burdened with domesticity that succeeds child-marriage. Rekha, Sunita and Afsana are not part of a TV serial cast, nor are they names from folk-tales of yore; they are girls living in present day West Bengal and will be felicitated at the Republic Day function early next week. These plucky eleven year olds may not grow up to be eminent doctors or engineers or professors, but will definitely mark a difference in the communities they live in. Unlike them, there still exist villages in modern India where parents who earn a measly 100 rupees a day, and have half a dozen mouths to feed, will spend all of it before half the day is over. Then they will either starve or hunt for scraps to meet any hungry requests and if nothing materializes, they often resort to borrowing money against some of their assets (in most cases it is their daughters). The daughters will be pawned off for marriage, against which they collect the required 11 rupees on which they will be levied gargantuan interest of upto 57 paise per day. These numbers may seem paltry to many, but just do the maths – it is over 1800% p.a.
The D Boyz started their day with 100 points in favour of the SENSEX, but somehow could not hold onto it. They lost all the money by 12 noon and thereafter had to keep looking around for some way to prop up the sagging SENSEX. They went to Banks to help them (most of them did, though one did not say Yes); they even used their metal bowls to seek alms (some aluminium company share prices moved up to help the SENSEX); but the oil spill did them in as they slipped and finally ended 11.57 points down at 17474.
Yes, we live in 2 Indias, one where children still fear social evils while striving to survive; while others live in palaces with hundreds of staff to help them with their everday chore; and one day they meet. Just for a few moments, when the Lady of the Palace tries to “emancipate” the women of the country and give little awards to the children. Then the children return to their villages and towns and go on with their lives, cherishing their moment in the sun atop caparisoned elephants and keep the newspaper cuttings of their stories and pictures in their little trunk boxes. Their battle is not yet won, they fight one everyday.
Today, I dedicate this piece to all the Rekhas, Sunitas and Afasanas of India. Salute to you.