Thursday, April 19, 2012

Farewell, Dhairya Lakshmi!

It is only the dream that keeps one going.  The fuel that propels the vehicle of life is but dreams only.  Dreams make it possible to camouflage the past, endure the present and look to the future.  Dreams nurture hope and faith. Dreams are what we all we live for.

But what if the dream is shattered some day?  Of what purpose can life be, if the dream of your life is blown to smithereens? Preachers constantly din into our ears that it is only the current, the present moment that is available in full to us, which has to be savoured at any cost.  The past is but a vast expanse of sand the foot prints on which we cannot alter.  And the future a mere mirage, largely illusory.  "Live in the present", they preach.  But live for what??  Is not the very purpose of living  in the present to chase the dreams of the future?

She also had a dream to chase.  As her father, a poor farmer from rural Tamil Nadu, also had.    With a heart full of hopes and eyes full of dreams, she descended on Madras. The cruel city!  Not, her fault though, since, Madras beckoned her.  With 1102 out of 1200 in Plus 2, Madras is the natural destination.  Breezed through the counselling and interview sessions to get admission to College of Engineering, Guindy!  The hallowed portals of the temple of engineering studies in Madras.

The claustrophobic city intimidated her;  she did not flinch.  The hep urban crowd heckled her; she did not cower.  With single minded devotion, she finished her first semester in Civil Engineering. She had a point to prove.  After all, not many gave her a chance.  A village bumpkin in Anna University?  Fat chance!  No one in her village had even ventured anywhere beyond SSLC, what to speak of a college degree? A 92% score in class XII notwithstanding?

And here she was, in one of the top technology schools in the country, rubbing shoulders with the city-bred! Having been taught in Tamil Medium till class X, she was initially confronted by the enormity of the language burden.  She did manage passable English but that skill held its own only within a 5 km. radius around K.V.Palayam, her home,  she realised, two weeks before her suicide.  It had a slim chance of holding its own against the high-street convent lingo.  She still grit her teeth and valiantly strode on.  Chasing her dreams, enduring the pain of life, not living in the present, but for the future! The future, four years hence!  The future of a civil engineer from K.V.Palayam. A  future that was never to be!

The first semester was not bad though.  She did manage a decent 80%.  She was not chicken-hearted, for sure. Any one in the college would vouch for that.  Especially her room mates.  And she knew what struggle is all about.  As did Manivannan who knew what struggle, especially for adolescents from the mofussil, is all about.  She respected Manivannan.  Both from the same village, having spent their childhood in rural environs far removed from Madras, both grew up on a staple of MGR films  and both having experienced fate suddenly throwing them into the cauldron of life in a metropolis.  Into an environs where they felt alien.  Into an ambience  where inability to speak in fluent English was laughed at.  Into a culture which ordained that speaking in one's mother-tongue was taboo-if that tongue is different from the Queen's English!

But she did not give up at first.  She saw what she and others of her ilk are up against.  And she decided to fight.  She and Manivannan formed 'Siruthuli'- the 'small drop'.  An initiative that could relate to other students hailing from small villages, all from the'Tamil Medium', a small effort in infusing self-belief among them that they too can compete with the Holy Angels and Padma Seshadris of the city.  Most in the group were poor, even by the condescending standards of our learned economists.  They were, but poor in the economic strata but not in mental faculties. They were poor in understanding what 'aerodynamics' was, but were proficient in what made rockets and planes fly.  They were poor in comprehending the term 'calculus' but knew what 'nunkanitham' was.

But why Manivannan had to die?  That too of suicide?  Did he not realise that his act would break her?  Why did he not endure life till his 'Siruthuli' became 'peruvellam'?  She could endure the derisive comments.  She could endure the sleights, She could endure life itself - till Manivannan was alive. But she could not endure it any more after Manivannan hung himself. She thought she should follow suit; And that's what she did after attending two hours of morning lectures on the 18th of April, 2012. The reason she proferred in her suicide note was "inability to cope with studies". The actual reason being "inability to cope with anything un-English"!

The Kotturpuram Police are still investigating the case registered as 'unnatural death'.  Coming to think of it, nothing about it is unnatural.  What else can be expected from an 'ugly duckling' from Villupuram in the English-infested women's hostel of Guindy Engineering College? What else can be expected from a village belle, bereft of any English speaking skills, lost in the madness called Chennai? It's only natural that she bid adieu! It's only fair!  As Sakthivel, the grief-stricken father would concur.  As countless other Sakthivels, fathers of such 'Siruthulis' would concur. The tragedy of 'Siruthulis' who could not make that  last lap of the Peruvellam marathon..

P.S. 1 Yes, the Page 3 story of today's 'The Hindu' is behind this.

P.S.2  The irony of it all, the girl went by the name 'Dhairya Lakshmi', the Goddess of courage.