2011 Personal Statements – Never Again Shall I Hide From the World

February 7, 2011

2011 Personal Statements – Never Again Shall I Hide From the World

February 7, 2011

Never Again Shall I Hide From the World

Should a four-year-old child hide from a mentally ill close relative whose main goal is to cause harm? Should she have to break into her own house to retrieve the few things that she owns in the world? Should she have to constantly look out on the street in fear of someone? These were never choices for me but then, it was only so in my past.

My mother went against societal norms and married again, unfortunately to a man who was extremely cruel and possessive of her. As the years passed, I witnessed the physical fights between my mother and my stepfather, which often resulted in my mother being hurt badly. They broke up their relationship often, but she always went back to him. Each time she would tell me, “He is not going to live for long, let’s try to make his life better until then.” I knew that even if I fought with her, begged her, and pleaded with her, she wouldn’t take my advice. I had to drop the matter for sometime, until I knew that I had the power to change her life and my own.

Once I began attending Shanti Bhavan, we would have many discussions about diseases, and ways to protect ourselves from succumbing to them. Looking back, I don’t know how I couldn’t recognize what my stepfather was suffering from – HIV/AIDS. I remember the trips we used to make every other day to the hospital — a three-hour journey from our house. I remember the tablets and syrups that were lined up next to the window, the amount of which continued to grow as time passed. I remember people looking at us strangely as I held his hand and helped him walk, while he put his weight completely on my shoulder. I remember seeing more lesions every time I went to see him, as well as his increasing symptoms of tuberculosis and exhaustion. Only later did I realize that he had no chance of survival – he was diagnosed with advanced AIDS.

Last year, my mother contacted me one morning at Shanti Bhavan and said, “Our life is in danger. Your step-father is trying to kill us.” I was shocked. From then on, we were subjected to threatening phone calls and abusive messages. My mother had already gone into hiding from him, and when we suspected that my stepfather had discovered her new place of residence, she would move to another.

One day we decided to break into our own original home where he was staying, and get our belongings out. It was an extremely risky job, as my stepfather had his friends keep a look out for us. We managed to break the lock, enter and take our clothing, important documents and everything else we could find. It was a decision we made knowing that he would seek revenge and we would be in serious danger for a long time thereafter.

I never showed fear or cried even once, for I knew my mother depended on my strength. It was later in life, a few years after attending Shanti Bhavan, that I realized we were not alone. Once recently, when I was home for the holidays, my mother and I decided that I would return to Shanti Bhavan a day late to avoid him on the road. But before returning, my mother received a call from Shanti Bhavan. “We heard about your problems,” the voice said. “If you want, we could send a vehicle to pick up your daughter so that she would be safe.” This assured my mother. When I returned to school, I met with Dr. George, the founder, who gave me the courage and hope that everything would be okay. I went to the dormitory and cried tears of happiness. I felt safe at last. I had found my home.

Shanti Bhavan has not only been a school to me, it is where I grew up with values, morals, hopes and dreams. It is a place where I know goodness exists, where one can depend on another during bad times, where we accept each other no matter how different we are, and where we are taught to be ‘the best we can be’.

Not only did I find a home in Shanti Bhavan, but also the prospect for a bright future. Because of my education, I hold the power to transform my mother’s life. I took the business stream in 11th grade and found it extremely interesting. My favorite class is accounting, which, in spite of being tough, provides me with a challenge — something I find hard to resist. I haven’t yet decided whether I want to pursue financial management or technology management, but I know that whatever I choose, I will do my best.

I cannot differentiate myself from the other ‘outcast’ members of my society; other than the fact that I was given an opportunity to lead a better life, I find everyone equal. Now, people look at me with respect, acknowledging my presence in the world. Do I deserve to be here while other children in the country of my own economic class and “caste” are suffering? I don’t know, but by being the first one to be educated in my community, I am sure that one day, I will have the capacity to fulfill the obligation I feel to those who are less fortunate than me.

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Meet the rest of the Shanti Bhavan Class of 2011.

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