“You know Dada, on that dark night, on such a pitch black dark path, and risky hilly path, which was not even a road, we were running away from our home, to save our lives. And that was the moment when I saw Mom tensed, and terrified, and I held her hands with my tiny little hands to give her strength. From that night, till date, I have been her strength, always,” Arpita smiled. Now let’s introduce her here to my readers. We met almost three years back, when she and her mother came to us for getting an education loan for her studies. We had a solid reason to propose the loan on Arpita’s behalf – she had golden marks throughout her career. She was a student who should be financed if the motto of education loan was to help a meritorious student. My team leader Lopadi and I talked with our higher authorities for the file, and at last, they approved of our requests.
She went to Meerut for her studies after that, but she never forgot me. Before going, she tied a Rakhi on my hand, and after that, she made it a point to come to Silchar during the Rakhi day. All these years, I have got my special Rakhi without a miss. This year also, she came to my office, along with Aunty, and tied Rakhi on my hand. I took the blessings of Aunty, and told her about my engagement and promotion. She was genuinely happy. She told me, “Your sister is doing well, Baba. We stay in a small house, but she has filled up almost one whole wall of that house with her awards, prizes and shields. Your sister is a national level winner now.” I felt so proud of her at that moment. Aunty said, “She’s taken it up as an issue not to let you down, not to let us down, ever.”
After they were gone, I was discussing her to my “some-one-special”. I told her about Arpita, and instantly after knowing about her, she said, “Why don’t you make her one of your Faces? She’s just perfect for that. People should learn from her how to live with the head held high like that.” The idea clicked my mind also, and I contacted Arpita immediately. Arpita always followed my album, as she said, and when I asked her for an interview, she readily said “Yes” to me. So, today we met at Nahaz, and I brought out my camera from my bag. “Ok then” I started, “It’s been more than three years now, that we met each other. Still, today is the first time we are talking to each other like this. How was your journey?”
Arpita smiled, and started, “Bhaiya, I want to go back to my childhood. You need to know a little more about me and my upbringing.” “Ok, as you wish,” I started clicking her, and she continued, “My Dad was a real rich person, and we had this huge property at Arunachal. My elder brother and I were born amidst luxury and lavishness. But things took a really bad turn as soon as my dad expired. There was a time, when we were informed that some people were planning to kill mom and us. Dada was at our Mamu’s home then, and mom and I were alone in our house, when we came to know that our house was being watched from outside. They had planned to put the whole house on fire on that night, with us inside it. Mom collected the Rs 5-6000 cash she had in hand, took a small bag, and we immediately left the house by the backyard door. I can never forget that night in my life. We were running through the jungle, the mother and the daughter, not knowing where to go, and how to save ourselves.”
She said, “We managed to reach up to Guwahati somehow. There was a family who was close to us, from Karimganj. When mom asked for their help, they told mom to send me to them. So, Dada was at Mamu’s home, I came to Karimganj, and Maa went to Deoghar. She was a devotee of Satsanga, and she knew that she will find some real help from Deoghar. So, all three of us got scattered in this way. I came to stay with that family in Karimganj, in a totally different environment. At first, they behaved so nicely with me, in front of Mom. But then, when mom was gone, they started using me in all the domestic works like cleaning the rooms, washing the utensils, making the beds, and many other things. I was only a 10 years old child then, and I had lived like a princess till then- I had never done any of those works at home. Mom used to call me once in a week from Deoghar, and I decided not to complain to her about that. So I always replied that I was doing very fine in Karimganj. I never complained about my helplessness, the injuries that I got, and I did all those works given to me calmly. Mom came to meet me after one and half months. One lady cook of that house narrated everything to mom. She asked mom to take me away from there, and she also told mom that the house owner had arranged my marriage with a 28/29 years old guy, even without asking my mom! Mom took me out from there immediately, and we came to Silchar.”
I have stopped clicking already, and was listening to her, holding my breath. She was saying, “Mom came to Satsanga of Silchar, and they provided necessary help to us. We took a room on rent, and then, my mother, who was a queen of such a huge property at Arunachal, and who had actually lived a very wealthy life till the death of her husband, had to go out and asked the job of a domestic help in a house. Pathetic life we had at that moment. Dada also came to Silchar, and once again we all three were together, but, we had to sleep without any food at home on many nights. Mom tried for my admission in different schools, but as we were totally new to this town, no school was allowing me to join it. At last, the Principal of Oriental School told mom that he would take one test. If I could pass that, he would allow me to join the school. I gave the exam, and he was so pleased that he announced full scholarship for class IX and X to me, only we needed to pay half of the yearly tuition fees for class VIII. So, like that, I started reading once again.”
“After that I passed HSLC, and then HS from Hemangini College and you already know my marks. I knew that mom could not afford my tuitions and all, and so, I started giving private tuitions to some little kids, as soon as I joined my school in class VIII. I bore all my own expenses out of those tuition fees which I got. Mom did more than what she could, for me, and for Dada. But I made it a point that I would not ask for anything to her, I would earn it myself.” She took a pause. I was looking at her face only. “Is this my little Sister Arpita?” I thought in my mind, “I always knew she was a fighter. But I never imagined such a life she lived!” Arpita said, “You know Dada, I knew that I could manage up to HS with those tuition fees and all, but after HS, I thought it would be a stop for me. To study under a big university it needs more money, and we had nothing. That was the time when I met you.” She was smiling.
“Even after going to Meerut, I have not stopped my fight for a single day. I am a McMillan national level talent hunt winner, arranged by South Wales, Australia, and again a national level champion in RIO +21 IYWC Programme for Desertification now, and I was the student ambassador for my University. The entire state knows me by this time, and yes, awards, shields, recognitions are coming like rains.
I pass most of them here, to our house. I want mom to see them whenever she gets upset and to feel strong. I am still managing my own expenses on my own. After the exams, when most of the students rush back to home for one or two months, I stay back at the hostel. I go out and meet different publishers. I solve the answer papers for suggestion books prepared by them. They pay me 500 bucks per solved answer paper. I work day and night, save that money, and utilize it for the rest of the semester days.”
I felt like hugging her tight at that moment. This is a sister I am having! Any brother like me would die for a sister of her personality, of her strength, of her life style. Life had given her challenges like anything, and she fought back. She’s this little girl, thin, and short, and very calm, -nobody can ever imagine the fire she has within herself. I felt proud that I fought for her with my higher authorities, I felt proud that I had her Rakhi on my hand every year, I felt proud that God has given me a chance to do an interview on her. It’s a larger than the life story for me, it’s an awakening kind of thing, for all of us. A girl, and her story of winning spirit, and unimaginable strength, it was just like, “Help me with 5 Rupees, I shall return it back as 500. Support me this much, and I shall make you proud like you have felt never before.” Long live Arpita, God bless you, my sister.❞
Story By – Rajarshi Bhattacharjee
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