|Photo courtesy: Birbal Sharma|
Just before sunrise the kitchen chimney is smoking,she quickly guts the watery tea in her tin cup and heads for the stream.Thankfully the cooking is taken care of.In summers the water bit is fun,while filling her two pots she often slips her feet in the fresh cool gurgling bubbles of the stream and also splashes some on her face,but in this season the water is so cold that even the pots are difficult to handle after a while.
On her way back she can see the boys heading for the primary school,carefree and naughty and the girls taking the cattle out or fetching firewood.Her mind wanders to the tangy chutney she had saved from her share of previous night's dinner,oh how she would love to have it with a crisp roti and another cup of tea !
But brunch as usual is hurried, the utensils have to be washed for the next meal before the men return from the fields and the cattle has to be attended to.
Long ago when she had gone to school for a few days she had learned about cities where there are cars and buses,taps for hot and cold water and no cattle or fields to attend to.Their teacher had told them that in cities girls also drive cars,go to schools and work in offices and factories.She had only seen one city lady-Indira Gandhi,whose picture hung on the wall of the headmaster's office.
In the evening as she brings back the grazing cattle home every day and carries the stock of firewood for the night she halts in front of the door of the village headman, some folk song is playing on his TV.She begins to hum along and tap her feet,but just after a few seconds the jagged edges of the rope holding the wood begin to cut into her shoulders and she moves on.
Dinner is the usual ,a small helping of buttermilk and rice.The utensils have to be done again,before she finally gets to lie next to her mother in their shared blanket.
Another winter day is over in Radha's life and she closes her eyes to dream about a world where 8 years old girls like her,went to schools. She wanted to be there where grandmothers and other elders did not believe that girls are a curse upon their parents like she and her three younger sisters were.She dreamt of a new dress,shoes,enough rice and buttermilk to eat.She often had dreams about going to school,driving a car,reading thick books and dancing on folk songs.She dreamt till it was a couple of hours to dawn and Radha woke up again to begin another day.
No celebration of womanhood,motherhood,equality or freedom is true or justified till we have little girls like Radha working and getting the basic amenities of life only in their dreams.
This post is part of a contest CELEBRATING GIRLS,CELEBRATING WOMEN