With her face adorned with a smile and eyes brimming with positivity, Neena entered the living room of her grandparents’ house to greet us with tea and snacks. Then she quietly took her place in a vacant plastic chair in the room. The sparsely decorated living room had a garlanded picture of Neena’s father who was recently martyred.
“Neena is waiting for her college to begin, she will be studying Commerce”, her mother, who was seated in the middle of the room, told us proudly. At only 13 years old, Neena has already cleared her 10th board exams with flying colours. “She passed her 10th from a school in the village, but now she will study in the town and stay with her grandparents“, her mother, who takes her children’s studies very seriously, informed us.

She understands the importance of being educated, as being uneducated herself she had to face many difficulties. “I don’t want my children to face the same problems I had in life. Their father was also involved in their education“, she said, reminiscing about her husband who was martyred in 2017 in Chattisgarh.

Neena, the only daughter in the family, was very dear to her father. She remarked how he never missed celebrating Chhat Puja, the main festival of their community, with the family. “It was a very happy time for me as the family was complete. He used to take me to the festival mela and treat the family to restaurant food”, she said, adding that he bought her many toys and gifts on the occasion. It is still unfathomable for Neena that she will never get to celebrate the festival with her father again.

Instead, she honours her father by doing well in school. She is very happy that she could score a first division in her 10th exams and to continue her performance she has taken tuitions for various subjects like Economics, Business Studies, and Entrepreneurship etc. Her favourite subject is Mathematics. Neena aims to be a Probationary Officer in a bank and is pulling out all stops to achieve her goal.

But she could not have done well in her exams without her mother’s support. The news of her husband’s martyrdom shattered her, but she did not give up on her responsibility towards her children. The strong woman took care of the daily needs of her children and encouraged them to study. Even though Neena was very sad after hearing about her father, it was her mother who emotionally supported her. The decision to send her away to the town for her higher education is yet another display of her mother’s strength of character. “Schools in the village are not up to the mark and I want my daughter to have all the opportunities to a successful life. Her father would have wanted that as well”, her mother said with a broad smile.

In a community where daughters are seen as a burden, it was heartening to see Neena’s mother support her towards an independent and successful life. We are sure that Neena will achieve her dreams!