a dream on hold

The story of the young girl fighting for her life has touched many deep chords in me. And that for many reasons. First her spirit for survival. Even the doctors are amazed at her desire to survive. But that is not all. I heard an account of the visit made by the Lok Sabha speaker to the her family. In her mellifluous and somewhat haunting drone, Ms Kumar told the moving story of this young woman. She comes from a poor family. Her mother is illiterate. The father sold the only piece of land they possessed to fulfill their daughter's  dream: to be a doctor. A rare occurrence in a country where parents bend themselves backwards for their sons; one that is so much more touching as they have two sons. Ms Kumar was impressed by the dignity displayed by this couple in the wake of such pain. There was no anger. Just  composed acceptance and the plea that this should not happen to any other girl.

I have witnessed this dignity time and again in humble families and have been moved. The wisdom displayed by those we often do not even look at, is more than humbling. I can only salute such individuals. I can also understand why this young girl is fighting all adversities with rare courage. You see she is fulfilling a dream that has been made possible by the sacrifice and unconditional love of her parents. It is too precious to give up.

This young woman is very akin to the young girls I have been caring for ever since the project began. Young girls who have dreams. Young girls who have the passion to fulfill their dreams. I remember Babli when she first came to us. She had a congenital heart problem that needed surgery. One could see her heart beating furiously as she spoke. The very first words she said to me was that she wanted to be a 'police'. That was her dream. I did not have the heart to tell her that even if she got operated she would not be able to be a 'police'. I simply told her to hold on to her dream. Babli was operated upon and today studies in a boarding school. She may not become a 'police' but I know she will succeed in fulfilling her dream. One will simply have to revisit it a little.

Today there is a young woman battling for life, battling for her dream! A woman who wants to honour the sacrifice of her parents. For the moment her dream is on hold. I pray to all the Gods in heaven to heal her and give her the chance to fulfill her dream as her spirit is intact. I hope God will hear this prayer.

She has to live.

But there is another aspect of this terrible tragedy that has kept me awake at night. I saw a grainy picture of 4 of the perpetrators and my heart missed a beat. These boys too are just like the boys I have seen in the past years. Second generation migrants living in slums and having their own set of aspirations no matter how skewed. Kids who grow up on the street as this city only opens school gates for them after 1pm. Boys who spend their mornings hanging around the corner and probably whistling at girls passing by. Kids who grow up listening to bad lyrics of Bollywood films that often denigrate women. Kids who have no mentor. Kids who cannot process the reality they live in and that is made of conflicting images: the tradition of the family and the uber modern urban reality they face. Kids who see their fathers drinking and are quick to emulate them. Kids who see their fathers beating their moms and believe that is the right thing to do. Kids who have costly wants that no one fulfills and so they come up with their own ways. How easy it is then to go wrong.

These are the kind of children that come to project why before they go to school. We have been mentoring and guiding them to the best of our ability but this week's incident has made my blood run cold as it proves how much these children need and makes us that much more responsible.

Everyone is talking of what should be done to ensure that such horror is never repeated. Authorities are talking of banning tinted windows, increasing patrolling etc. But the real challenge is to change attitudes and teach our young lads to respect women. Moreover it is crucial to give them quality education that allows them to grow in an enabling environment and not cramp them into classrooms with brutal and insensitive teachers. That is what the State must do. It is appalling that India's capital city does cannot provide proper schooling to its children. All children need love, understanding, compassion and guidance. That is the only way we can bring about the change we all seek.