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Food for Thought by Meeta Chaitanya: Parvati’s story

Meeta Chaitanya
Columnist for The Times of India

Breaking barriers: Parvati’s story

For Parvati, being an outsider was not a matter of choice.

A 12-year-old girl studying in a Harijan Hindi School in Guwahati, by definition, she and others of her ilk are outsiders in a caste-based social system that is a nagging remainder, and reminder of a most menacing social custom.

Shredded though it may be – the caste system persists in irregular form and fashion uniformly across the nation. Parvati lives with her mother and two sisters on the peripheries of one such. Her mother, originally from Bihar, has raised the girls single-handedly by working as a domestic helper for the most part. Parvati’s father does not stay with them. Her elder sister, 15 years of age, does not go to school so she can support her mother and augment the family income.

She too works as a domestic aide alongside her mother.

Parvati’s mother, who was unable to save one of her girls from the real deprivation – lack of literacy - is determined to make a difference to the lives of the younger children. She wants her two other daughters to go to school because she rightly believes that education will help them break barriers and succeed in life. The fact that they get mid-day meals at school is of great relief to her. Parvati, who like the other children at school finds her lunch to be hot, delicious and fulfilling, aspires to become a police officer. Seeing how her mother has been grappling with shackles, she wants to set the house in order for those that abandon their families, the way her father did.

Buoyed by agnized education, actually, for Parvati being a distinct outsider in a social system that is as preposterous as it is unjust may not be a matter of choice, but it will become a matter of pride.

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