Sacrifice for Freedom
Sacrifice for Freedom
Have you ever felt that life is unfair? Well, if you haven't then you are definitely lying. Because every person, at least once in his/her lifetime does think that life is unfair to him or her. The same was the case with Vaishnavi. Sitting in the gaushala, milking her cows at 4.00 AM in the morning, Vaishnavi thought, `` Why is life so unfair to her?.
She had always wanted to study and wanted to learn new things. She had a passion for science and had a special knack for mending anything and everything. She wanted to explore the world and wanted to unravel the mysteries of the world. But, alas such dreams were only dreams to her. She always talked to her cows while she milked them. Her favorite amongst all was "Saheli".
Innocently she asked Saheli, "Saheli tell me why do I have to milk you at 4.00 AM while Anand bhaiya can wake up at 7 o'clock with ease. Why can't I go to school while he can? Why do I have to do all the household chores when he doesn't have to do anything?"
Saheli ( Her cow) mooed in response to her question as if understanding everything and agreeing with her plight.
Vaishnavi again became despondent and all these questions kept on and on in his mind In the background her Chachi called, " Vaishnavi what are you doing? It's already 5.00 AM, why haven't you milked the cows yet? It is time to make breakfast already. Come quickly and get going.
Vaishnavi, whose mind had been wandering in all these questions, was instantly alert and started milking the cows at an urgent speed. She was afraid that if she didn't complete her work on time, she would have to spend more time on all the chores and would not get to meet his good friend Kishan on his way from school.
Vaishnavi was only 14 and had to do everything in her house along with others. Her daily routine included milking the cows, making breakfast, making curd and butter from the milk, washing and drying clothes, and washing the utensils.
In the middle-class trading baniya family of Dehradun, they were a joint family of 10 people and other cousins and relatives stayed with them which amounted to around 15 to 20 people staying in the house at a time. It is not to be felt that every member didn't do their share of work, everyone did but the work was extensive as well as exhaustive. In their culture and society, the girls were not allowed to go to school, let alone study. It was prevalent that the girls were to be given only the basic education of numeracy and general reading to enable them to do "hisab" of the household items.
Vaishnavi was a curious child and had the urge to learn new things all the time. Her mother had died while giving birth to her and that had left her at the mercy of her stepmother and aunts. Although she was loved like their own children it could be easily felt that she was treated more like a slave than a daughter. They justified that everyone was doing work and she also had to do it. And since this was what she was taught, it became a norm and habit to her.
Although girls were not allowed to talk or even interact with boys at that time, the brothers of Vainavi were very good-natured and had a lot of friends. They brought their friends home and all played together.
There were a total of 10 children in their home but Vaishnavi was closelt to Kuwar Da who was like a guardian to them. He was the eldest at 20 and all the siblings used to call him Kuwar Da.
It was Kuwar Da's friend Kishan who used to come to their home to teach the boys. The girls of the house were not encouraged but also not restricted to talk to him. Vaishnavi with her curious streak always kept lingering around him in search of any morsel of information or knowledge she could gain.
Anand bhaiya was never interested in studying and doing the homework so he encouraged Kuwar Da to teach Vaishnavi so that he could get his own homework done by Vaishnavi.
Vaishnavi was not interested in cheating and thought that Anand Bhaiya should do his work himself, but also wanted to gain knowledge at any cost. Since she could not see any other way, she learned from Kuwar da and his friend Kishan. Soon, the interactions between Vaishnavi and Kishan used to be for hours discussing Indian history, about the different things happening in and around Dehradun, all the wars that were taking place, and about the prominent leaders such as Gandhiji and Nehru ji.
Kishan was the first one in her life who had told her about Gandhiji and his significance. Kishan said, " Do you know who Gandhiji is?"
Vaishnavi said, " Gandhiji? Is it is a cow or a buffalo?"
Kishan had laughed at her and said, " You are so silly, Gandhi ji is not a cow or a buffalo, he is the one who is doing satyagraha to help us gain azadi."
Vaishnavi replied, " Azadi? from whom? Why do you want Azadi?'"
Kishan was taken aback listening to her question but had tried to explain, " Azadi from the British rule. Have you seen the "Kaulagarh wali building"? You are not allowed to go there now because "Angrez" rules over it. We want freedom from them. This is our country and we want freedom so that we can live happily and independently."
Vaishnavi, " Yes, I can't go there but why should I go there? it is their building, they live there. We live here. We don't go there, they don't come here. Simple."
Kishan, ' It is not that simple, they are trying to suppress us and not giving us our rights. They don't want us to speak, to voice our opinions, we cannot write anything we want, we cannot read anything we want, there are restrictions on where we go or what we do. They capture us whenever they want and put us in jail. We want freedom so that we can be happy and free."
Vaishnavi, " But are you not happy now? I am happy."
Kishan felt exasperated with her, " Are you happy that you are not able to study like me?"
Vaishnavi frowned, " So you are saying that I will be able to study if the Angrez people go away?
Kishan was baffled and couldn't form a coherent answer. Then after thinking for a moment, he said, " Well maybe not right away but yes you will be able to study. We will have equal rights for both men and women and you will be able to do anything you want."
Vaishnavi was shocked and with her eyes as wide as saucers asked, " So you think I will be able to study like you? travel like you do? go to Delhi and participate in rallies?'
Kishan laughingly said, " Yes, that is why our freedom is so important. We have to get Purna Swaraj as said by Gandhiji and gain freedom for India."
Vaishnavi, " So why are the Angrez not giving us freedom?"
Kishan was again baffled as to how to answer her question so he said, " The Angrez came to India as East India Company and started as traders. They wanted to trade the rich spices and the muslin cloth we have in Bengal and Southern India. But they saw how India was politically and socially divided so they thought of taking advantage of the situation for their own good. First, they made a fort named St. George in Madras and then slowly began to expand their hold all over the country.
You have pet birds in a cage, don't you? You keep them, you give them food and also water but you don't let them out. Because you know if you let them out, they will fly away. Although you are giving them food and water, it doesn't justify our selfish need to keep them caged. You say that they don't know how to fly and if you let them out, they will be killed.
But who are you to decide that? If they are killed, then it's their choice to be killed, but we cannot restrict their freedom and cage them against their will.
In the same way, Britishers are caging us in our own country and they say if they let us go out of the age, we will kill each other because we are uncivilized. They say we don't know how to rule.
Vaishnavi asked, "But what if they are correct? I mean I don't know how to rule, do you know how to rule?"
Kishan was again taken aback by the little girl's questions. He had never thought about it that way. It led him to think in a different direction altogether. All the leaders of whom he used to listen to on the radio said, Hume angrezi hukumat se azadi chahiye but what will happen once we get independence?"
Who will rule our nation? Gandhiji ya Nehruji? Who will be the leader? Who will work under them? How will the governance work? Will India be divided into two nation. What will change? Will we be able to live with dignity?
These questions remained unanswered for Vaishnavi since Kishan had no answers to them himself. The next day, to find the answers to these questions he set out for Delhi to join the Civil disobedience movement launched by Gandhi Ji never to return again. In those times when there was no means of communication except letters, nothing came to be known of him. It was never found what happened to him, but it was rumored that he was killed in a police firing while protesting against British rule.
Vaishnavi, now an old married woman with grandkids of her own, still cherishes the memory of Kishan Bhaiya in her heart and feels proud to call him a true freedom fighter who sacrificed himself willingly for the nation.