“Revathy! Go to the vegetable shop and get me quarter Kg of Onion”, my mom yelled from the kitchen. We lived in a small house which had just a kitchen other than a hall that exactly fits us when we lie down. I was sitting with my school book, trying to prepare for the exam that was fast approaching. “I’ll go after I complete this querstion ma” I said.
She came out punching the mud floor hard enough to create footprints on it. She pulled my book and put two one rupee coins in my palm. She hit me on my head saying “Cooking is the most important thing for a girl. Give more priority to the onion that can help your food taste better than the books that are fit for nothing.Now without a word, get up and go.”
Tears flooded my eyes and I didn’t want my mom to see me crying. I’m sure she’d scold me for that too. I wouldn’t blame her as she hadn’t tasted words from books ever before, she hadn’t enjoyed the feel of learning something new, something about the world around, something about our own body. I took the book from the floor, closed it properly and kept it in my cupboard. The word “cupboard” might have made you wonder as to how we could afford one. I made this with the bricks I collected from a construction site closeby covering the four sides like a box and a cardboard thrown on the street to cover the top.
I went to the vegetable shop and asked the seller for onions. It cost me just Rs.1.50 and he returned me 50paise. I held it tight in my palm in a way nobody can see it. I came back home and put the 50 paise in a self-maid piggy bank without my mother’s knowledge. I gave her the onion and came back to my position with the book. I continued studying till it was 6:30 pm.
“Mom I am going out to malathi’s house.” I said and ran to the corner of the street. I kept the book a safe place and started playing with the kids of the neighbourhood. The sun started departing with a humble orangish bye and the moon showed up in the yellowish cloud. The street lights were turned on and I asked all the kids to go home. They usually obey. I sat in the pavement seperation under the streetlight and started studying for the exam.
Suddenly, there came a red colour car that stopped in front of me. Asha the girl of the family for which my mom works as a maid got down. She was also of my own age but was rich unlike me. She was wearing a trendy t.shirt and a 3/4th jean. She wore matching accessories all in blue. I immediately looked at what I was wearing. I was wearing a torn, faded skirt with a white shirt that had turned yellow due to it’s over use. All that I wore was hers when it was new. She looked at me with a “what a dirty creature” look and got into the house. Within few minutes her room, which had a window facing the road I was sitting in, got lit up. The blaring English songs played in some system, not even seen by me, disturbed my studying. I looked at the street lamp that always pampered me when I had something to study in the nights and said “Even electricity is meant for the rich.”
I couldn’t study more with that disturbing song so I decided to take a nap on the street. I lay down but I couldn’t sleep with that loud background. I again looked at my tall bright friend and said “Even sleep is meant for the rich?”
I heard asha’s mom calling her for dinner. I had to fast that day just like the other days. We ate only once a day that too in the afternoon. We rarely get something to eat in the nights. Asha switched off the music and put off the lights. I was happy for the first time that evening. I started my preparation with the same zeal as before. I went back home very late and did not tell mom that I was studying. She didn’t want me to study as she thought that might create problems with my marriage. I came as silently as a cat and slept. Our doors don’t have lock as we had nothing that a robber can rob from us.
The next morning I got ready to go to school. I had good books and uniform as an aunty in the neighbourhood sponsored me all that I needed for my school. I checked my savings and it had two rupees in all; all 50 paise coins. My only happiness other than going to school was the petty shop on my way to school. I used to buy a two rupee candy once a week. I didn’t know if there was a bigger luxury or pleasure in the world and I didn’t want to know too. Asha used to cross that street in her car the same time. She would purposely stop in the shopping complex opposite to the shop and buy costly icecreams. I never felt bad. I was content with what I had. She wouldn’t stop with it, she would come near me and tell me “cheapo” and get into her car. I used to ask Mala aunty who sold me the candies everytime “Is money the only criteria that creates discrimination among mankind? I might not be rich but im sure one day I will become rich too, not with my father’s money but with my own, unlike her.”
Today when I drive down the same street all these memories flash through my mind. I stopped at the same shop, Thank God! It was still there. Mala aunty was still there with her beautiful face hidden behind wrinkles. I asked if she has a two rupee candy. She said in a complaining tone “Which world are you in? Candy for 2 rupees?” She gave out a frustrated look. I again asked “Mala aunty Candy for two rupees”. She recognized me.She kept her hand on her fourhead to see me clearly. She immediately came out and tried hugging me. She came very close but stopped there and reluctantly moved back. I immediately hugged her and said “I might have a car, look rich but I am always your two-rupee-candy Revathy” Asha came out of her house with a kid sitting on her hip. I went to her and pinched the cheek of the kid and asked what his name was. Ash asked “Ashley, Ashley is the name. Who are you?” I said “I am Revathy, your maid Banu’s daughter.” She was stunned. She did not expect me the way I was. She asked me where I worked and I told her I was the MD India of ‘BuzzieBees’. She said that her husband worked there in the Chennai branch as GM. She called me in for a coffee but I smiled and came back to my car. I drove back to the airport.
My mom understood that education can kill poverty and girls are not just marriage dolls. That is why I am here, where I am, today. There are a lot of unaware parents out in the country. When will they wake up?