Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where the mind is without fear

Anjali got up early as she always did. She could only complete all her work if she got up that early. She had to help her mother around her small, very small flat. And above all she wanted to go to the bathroom before there was the long line. Her flat was part of many in a big building. The owner had sublet all the rooms as flats for dwelling as tenants. The twenty such flats shared 4 bathrooms and toilets. 2 of each designated for ladies only. Still there was a long line and as a growing girl Anjali hated having to use the common bathroom facility.
Anjali’s father had left her mother when she had still not entered the world. By now even she had reconciled herself to the fact that her father would never return. Anjali and her mother had lived with her grandmother till she too had passed away leaving the two of them orphans.
Anjali’s mother had always worked as a maid in houses as had her grandmother too. As long as Anjali had lived with her grandmother she had been sheltered from the real world and had been able to go to the local school without much to worry about. Anjali’s mother was adamant that she go to school and then on to college so that she would atleast have a better life than her mother and grandmother. For this reason Anjali’s mother worked more than she could so as to save money for Anjali’s studies. Since her grandmother had died , there had been too many changes to her life.
For one thing they had to move and the only housing they could afford was this kind of apartment. Now Anjali even hated to wake up dreading the bathroom sharing. As if that was not enough , she hated the loud jeers that the boys sent up on her way to school. 
Anjali did not want to go to school anymore. 
She hated having to getup so early and finishing with the bathrooms earlier than having to. She absolutely hated walking to school especially when sometimes there was a tear in her clothing and the boys teased her more and she felt humiliated at her birth.
She did not want to tell her mother about it because she knew it would first sadden her mother and also her mother worked so hard she could go to school. It would truly break her mother’s heart if she complained about these trivial things.
Still Anjali could not get it out of her mind. She thought to herself that she would be better off working like a servant maid along side her mother. Once her mind clutched on this idea there seemed no way back. Her brain started to compute how much she would make each month and even she could tell that they would be more comfortable once two incomes came in instead of one.
That evening when her mother came home and they both finished eating their meager food, Anjali talked to her mother about her thoughts that morning and her reasoning behind quitting school. After she finished talking there was total silence for a long time.
Anjali kept looking at her mother who seemed to have frozen in time. Anjali knew she had made a big mistake in thinking along those lines of quitting school.
After what seemed an eternity , but a few minutes, her mother spoke in a quiet and firm voice. “Anjali , when I was pregnant with you , your father left us for a younger and better looking girl. Everyone wanted me to have an abortion. And throughout my pregnancy everyone wanted me to give you up for adoption. Tell what had I done wrong to deserve that criticism and loathing from others. I was not the one who abandoned marriage nor did I give up on my commitment and responsibility. But somehow I became everyone’s target. I decided to carry my pregnancy full term and refused to give my baby up for adoption. I vowed to myself that I would bring up my child the best way I can and make her live a better life than mine” and she paused.
Anjali looked at her mother throw eyes overflowing with tears and heart overwhelmed by love. Now for the first time she could see the determination in the eyes, the set of the mouth and firmness surrounding the jawline.
Anjali opened her mouth to say sorry but no words came out. Her heart had chilled at the realization of what another human being had gone through, her own flesh and blood. Beside that her problems appeared puny. Her mother reached out and took Anjali’s hands in hers.
“My dear, who said life was going to be easy. Its not. You don’t have to look far for an example. However what is needed is a resolve to withstand everything life throws your way. I regret I did not have the facility to study. So I am working this way, at least it’s a honest living. You need to resolve to study and go further in life because of your education. That is all I can give you. The rest is upto you.
When I was growing up my mother used to sing Subramania Bharathi’s songs and poems. She taught me the meaning of all the songs. He was my idol and guru in my mind. I vowed I would live my life the way he dreamed his “Pudumai Penn “ ( loosely translated means new age girl or modern girl) to be.
My life has taken many setbacks and so I am in this spot today. Still all is not lost for me as I have you the most precious and blessing that has happened to me ever.”
Saying this her mother got up and went to the almirah and fetched a book. It was the poems of Subramania Bharathi. That evening was spent for Anjali listening to the voice of her mother repeated the verses of “Achamillai Achamillai Achamenbadhu Illaiye” ( translated it means There is no fear ..)
And also the Poem about the Resolute mind….
Resolute mind I seek
Refined words I seek
Considerate thoughts I seek
Coveted things to be mine I seek
Dreams that turn real I seek
And turn real soon I seek
Wealth and happiness I seek
Fame in this world I seek
Clarity of vision I seek
Determination in work I seek
Women's liberation I seek
Protection of the creator I seek…..
Anjali just sat and heard all these lines and felt a wave of confidence and strength washing through her. Now she had no doubts about anything. Her path seemed to be very clear. She hugged her mother and felt the love of her mother giving additional support.
Thinking along these lines Anjali went to school the next day. She did not mind that she had to share a bathroom. She did not mind she had to get up early. She walked to school with her head held high. On the way when anyone troubled her, she repeated the lines from the Bharathiyar Song Achamillai Achamillai (fear not , fear not). 
As soon as she entered the school compound she felt totally at peace. All her worries vanished. She loved to learn and loved to be with the other children. It being a government school she knew there were many poor kids like her there. But she was probably the only one who had a passion for learning and wanted to strive and do her best.
That day in school her teacher assigned her class a project work. Each student was assigned a literary author on whom research was to be done. Anjali was assigned Subramania Bharati. She loved him and his poems so she felt she was in heaven at being handed this project. She planned to do her writing that evening and finish the project earlier than needed.
The more Anjali read about Bharati , the more she realized what a great soul he had been and her troubles seemed pittance compared to his.
Bharati had lost his mother at the age of 5 and his father at the age of 16. He had taken part in the freedom fight and had even be exiled. These facts brought tears to Anjali’s eyes and she knew how better she should learn to face her life and its set of problems including the bathroom. Now that she thought of it she felt fortunate she had atleast one with four walls which provided the essential cover for the growing up girl.
As she grew up she was fortunate to read about a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore on 
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free…. “ 
She felt lucky to have read these poems by these great poets and thereby be inspired by them.
That was apparently a huge turning point in her life. Anjali then went with government scholarship to complete her medical degree and later when she got married she was gifted A collectors edition of Subramania Bharathi’s works by her mother. Seeing her Anjali standing as a very well educated bride , her mother realized her dreams that day. 
And Anjali was grateful to God for interceding in the form of the poets words to give her courage and hope and make her live her life to her full potential and helped her realize her dreams in a magnificient scale.

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