Finding Myself.

If I were to describe ‘me’ 2 years ago, it would be a traveler lost in a dessert and surrounded by dunes of low self-esteem. I would get extremely good marks, yet, just like any other girl I saw myself walking towards this cycle of life that has been passed on for ages.

School – 12th grade – Marriage – Family – Kids – Death

I had a lot of questions for my teachers, mother and my relatives but they always remained locked within the bars of respect, faith and discipline. This was ‘my’ world but whenever I would peep out of my window, I would see 16 years old girls getting married, being beaten up by their so called life partners who think marriage is a deal and nothing more.

I was preparing myself mentally and emotionally to tolerate all this because I was aware I had to live in the same kind of world. I would be embarrassed to tell people that I live in the narrowest lanes of the most infamous slum area called Lohiyanagar and then one small decision started to change everything.

I was doing well academically, but God blessed me with another talent called ‘Acting’. I would act out different problems in our society in various school programs and this became my only way to express my caged thoughts and emotions. Luckily, this was noticed by one of the Teach For India Fellows, Ahona didi, who took me to audition for the ‘Maya’. Without much knowledge of what it meant or what it is about, I agreed.

DSCN5860

At that very moment, while stepping outside of my house, my uncle and cousins disapprovingly said ‘Don’t go! This is not the time for all this. Remember that you are a girl’.

At this juncture, I mustered the courage, silently listened to my heart and took that step which has got me so far. With ‘Maya’ my life changed, new paths ushered and the magic of love was unraveled.

Rehearsals at Institute - Kill a Dragon

Whether it was learning to help each other or giving random hugs on the streets that didn’t cost us anything but was worth a lot for others or understanding he values of courage, compassion and wisdom and the influence of head, heart and hand in our lives. Maya was a life changing experience through which I learnt that there is so much to learn and so much more to give, receive and change. Every single class became a priceless gift that gave me laughter, joy, love, a reason to reflect and moment to cherish and share.

Suddenly, all unanswered questions seemed to be rising with courage against the conventional irrational beliefs and everything changed.

My dreams, my hopes, my religion, my address, my family and my purpose.

We would sing a song, discuss values, play games and learn new words; all at the same time without realizing it was actually the integration of academics, values and mindsets, exposure and access.

Kids singing at old age home in Mahalaxmi

My dreams before: To get married and have a happy family and to be a promising home maker.  Today I dream of bringing back joy and laughter to the young girls and women trapped in the brothels.

My hope was to never go on the wrong path. My hope today is that every girl breaks the glass ceiling that is limiting them and to breath I freedom.

My address was limited to a small slum called Lohiyanagar and today I feel the entire Earth is my home and every single human being is a part of my family and I belong to religion called Humanity.

My purpose was to keep my family happy and today I want to give, I want to live for others, unconditionally.

This article is written by Priyanka Patil – a 10th standard student of Epiphany English Medium School in Pune, who was a part of the Maya Musical.

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