“Shaini shalini”…the whole auditorium was echoing her name and the crowd of spectators was shouting out with its hand raised high.
“Oh! See how talented she is! She is a slum girl...
There was praise and astonishment in the voice and surprisingly it brought wetness in her eyes, she was very happy albeit but when these words met her ear drums, the produced a different sensation in her mind, she was there on the stage, she was the winner today, but in her mind she now plunged into the reminiscences of her past.
Shaliniiiiiiii……..a scream of her mother, and as soon as Shalini opened her eyes, she saw her mother’s furious face, frown and red in anger. It was 7 o’ clock and shalini was in the bed, so obviously late for her school. In hustle and bustle she got ready and finally left for school, she could see happiness in her mother’s eyes while sending her to the school.
Shalini was an inhabitant of “Kolar slum”, a place giving home to impoverished population of the city, a place where roads were the drains because the drains were all chocked of debris, they overflew leaving the water no way but to encroach in the territory of roads.
In that big slum, there was a small hovel providing shelter to a poor family, a family having five kids, four girls and one boy, and their parents. The patriarch of family was Arvind, a guy with strong built but addicted to smoking and heavy drinking, he used to own a barrow which not only carry the commodities of customers but also the burden of his family, it was the only source of income until Shanti, wife of Arvind, Started working as home maid in rich families of a nearby posh colony.
Time was flowing with its pace and with change of seasons, the kids were growing up, among them there was Shalini, number two when counted in descending order of age, whether it was the blessing of almighty or rich and harsh experiences of life, Shalini developed in her a sense of understanding, responsibility and determination, She was sharp minded and after sincere efforts of Shanti, finally Shalini was able to get registered in the nearby middle school.
She was not only good in studies but also had an inherent art of dance, she was a terrific dancer and without even being in any training class, she could dance to all beats leaving the viewers mesmerized.
She was having a tough time, she used go get up early in morning and help her mother in the odd jobs of the house, then with her siblings she goes to pick some “can be useful “commodity from the rag and tries to sell it to nearby “Kabariwala” to fetch some money, this money was small in amount but had huge importance for those kids, this was the source of their small happiness, sometimes in the form of candy, sometimes peanuts, sometimes sweet laddos of golu halwai, sometimes ride of giant wheel in nearby fair. After returning home, Shalini goes to school
The kids were in great poverty but they have developed a way to improvise the pertaining circumstances and have learned to smile in touch conditions.
Life was moving and Shalini was burgeoning and transforming into a young girl, good in studies and extra ordinary in dance. But life was perhaps planning to test her mettle by some more difficulties, her father, Arvind, was getting ill effects of drinking and smoking, making him weak, ill and feeble. He was now unable to go to work and sitting whole day in house, he used to drink and abuse all, spoiling the atmosphere and instilling hatred and fear in the hearts of his family members.
Shalini now couldn’t practice dance in house and she even doesn’t like to come to house as there were conflicts and fights between her parents which usually end in severe beating of her mother by her father, seeing all this the kids now remain scared and worried, situations were frustrating and this was the time when a Shalini decided to change the conditions by whatever possible means.
She explained these conditions to her teacher in school, Mrs. Malti Shah, a lady who was having a soft corner for Shalini due to her talent,
Mrs. Shah arranged a room in school where Shalini can study and practice dance, days went on and Shalini was excelling in both streams,
She was in tough situations but was striving hard, she never complained to anyone about her precarious circumstances, nor she accepted all those as her destiny, she faced them and was trying to change them.
“After the darkest hour of night, there comes the dawn”
And now it was the time for this Star to shine, there was a dance competition in the city, open for all irrespective of any age, class or creed. A platform where anyone can portray his/her talent, the event has its name as “Shining Star”, the best part of it was the reward of free training in dance academy of the city, a college of high repute among dance aficionados.
Shalini was told about this even by her teacher, Mrs. Shah,
“This is the time Shalini; you have to show the world what you have as inherent quality”
Monetary aids for reservation and dance props were provided by Mrs. Shah and Shalini was into the event qualifying the auditions.
One after another rounds, now the things were so cliché; Shalini climbs the stage and in few minutes leaves the audience mesmerized and astonished, and then huge applause in the auditorium and shouts all around, Shalini was now a new sensation, a budding star, a champion in making.
Local news papers and local channels were covering this each day, and seeing his daughter’s fame, Arvind was now feeling sorry for his behavior at home, he was repenting that he did nothing to support her but exacerbated the situations.
And, then came the night, a night preceding the final day of competition, Shalini was seeing the her parents talking in the room, but to her surprise they were actually talking and not fighting, she couldn’t remember after how many months she was seeing that scene.
She noticed that there was some wetness in the eyes of her father, and her mother was consoling him.
In the morning, Shalini was getting prepared in hustle and bustle; she burned few incense sticks in front of the idol of lord Ganesh, offered two laddos and requested for his blessings, she was standing with hand folds and eyes closed, after her silent conversation with lord Ganesh, she turned and saw two legs, she raised her face and was surprised to see her father there, there were tears in his eyes, she could say nothing but put his hand on her head and uttered “ God bless you, May you taste the success”.
Shalini plunged into tears and hugged her father; she was feeling as if she has won the title of “Shining Star”.
Arvind asked her to leave quickly and promised her to come to see the finals today,
Shalini was on cloud nine and rushed out of house, took her bicycle and paddled as fast as she could.
She was traveling on the clouds in her heart.
She reached the venue, went into the auditorium where her teacher was waiting for her, seeing Shalini there, the reporters rushed to her to ask her questions, Shalini was in a great hurry to tell her teacher what happened in the morning, so she didn’t reply to any of them, but a question from someone made her struck for a moment,
“Being a slum girl, how do you feel to have this glory and fame?”
“Being a slum girl”, was it praise or a comment, and was it deliberate sarcasm?
She was having thoughts in her mind, but since there was less time left, she came out of the world of thoughts into the pragmatic world. She told her teacher about the morning incident concisely, Mrs. Shah smiled, so as Shalini.
Shalini rushed into the changing room, dressed up, took the props and now she was waiting for her turn, a moment for which she actually waited for years, a moment which can bring her family together, a moment which can usher a way of bright future for her.
“And after this tremendous performance, now it is the time for our last finalist, Shalini, the wonder girl”
A Shivering she felt in her, her feet were stumbling, the distance of stage from changing room now suddenly changed into miles,
Mrs. Shah noticed that, she came and hugged Shalini, and in her ear murmured, “Do it for you, do it for you father, he is watching you, he is in the audience”
Shalini saw her father, sitting silently, staring the stage and now she felt as if there was no one in the auditorium but his father only, she went on stage, greeted him with a bow, and started flying on the beats, the body was responding to the rhythm so nicely that it was creating a magical effect, in her dance she portrayed her story, her struggles and her victory.
A dance which can be witnessed only by lucky ones, audience was on its feet and clapping without a break. Few had smile on face, few had tears and few were mesmerized and couldn’t respond in expressions, they were standing still.
Shalini left the stage and went in the changing room, now it was the result time.
After formalities and few types of filler, the anchor finally announced the names of runner ups, there was huge shout and clapping
Then came the moment of the day, the winner’s name was about to be revealed, thought it was not a surprise now but all were waiting to hear that name, and then came the voice
“And the “Shining star” of this year is, the wonder girl, Shalini”
“Shaini shalin”…the whole auditorium was echoing her name and the crowd of spectators was shouting out with its hand raised high.
“See she is a slum girl”
Again that word, Shalini was too happy in this moment, her father was crying out of happiness and she was eager to reach him, to show him the trophy, and to hug him.
But in a corner of her mind, one other thought was also there, “Slum girl”
Why is she being seen in such aspect, why is there the term “slum girl”
No one from the audience was there to help her when she was struggling, no one actually even bothered about her, not any one will bother in future about kids like her, then how can they say those terms.
She was in a plight but she did all the effort and came out of it, she never beseeched anyone for help, she was in a slum but had her own life, she was not complaining about it. So why people are now looking at her with a feeling of pity and grant, she doesn’t need anybody’s help, she knows how to fight the difficulties and how to overcome them.
She was then asked to speak something about her journey and about the victory.
Shaini grabbed the microphone, and then the words came out of her mouth as
I am a girl, a normal girl,
A girl with dreams
A girl with normal wishes
Though I reside in slum, dense, impervious to sun’s ray
Though I face plights each night and day
But I never complain, I try hard
I smile with my siblings, play in my yard
I dance to the rhythm of dreams
To let me be free of fetters, to live freely
I am a girl, a normal girl
I don’t want to be known as a slum girl
I don’t want to be seen with pity
I don’t want any sort of grant
I will try and succeed of my own
All you can do is to wish for me
And I will fly high, you all can see
I am in the ocean of plights, like a shining pearl