All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Her name was Jyoti. They named her after the bright sun in the early morning, the color of henna on your hands. She loved all things beautiful. When she was scrubbing the cold marble floor, she would look up at the light shining through the cathedral style windows, letting the rays dance on her long, lustrous black hair, creating intricate patterns. When she stood up to lay the fallen flower in its proper place, she would linger for only a second, smelling the sweet fragrance of jasmine. At rare moments, when she allowed herself a moment of repose, she would look up at the sky, and her eyes would sparkle in the sun. She was careful though, because if she looked up too long, they would call, “Das!”, which meant slave, in their screeching voice, and they would add to her chores, calling her lazy.
When the sun was at its highest, she would mash the green coconuts with the weighty grinder for their chutney, her adept fingers knowing just the right consistency. She would rather have danced in the sun all day long, swirling in the brilliance of life, but she could not entertain the beauty of the world. Life had not been kind to her. They, her masters, were ever present in her life, the sole and driving force of her unhappiness. They were actually related to her by blood. But she was not their family in this life. She was reduced to less than a servant, even though she was just a child of eleven years. They only sent her to school so she could read and write letters for them, and do arithmetic so as not to be cheated when she went to buy vegetables.
Every day she went to school, but did not learn much. Learning was difficult for she was ridiculed and made fun of by the other children. One day, while she had been sitting quietly beside the washed out, brick wall during break, several of her classmates approached her, hemming her in.
Dil, the leader, spoke first, “Why are you here?” He paused, waiting for answer.
She stared at him with unblinking eyes. When he realized he wasn´t going to get an answer, he took a step closer, towering over the girl. “Why are you here?”
Again she did not answer. She let him keep talking, succumbing to the inevitable, letting events play out as they always did.
“You don’t belong here. You’ve never belonged here. Why do you even come? How do you even have the money?”
She blinked, her face sullen.
"You know you’re not from our caste. We live with our real parents. Why were you even born? Your parents are now criminals and outcasts just like you are. Your mother is a sinner, and your father is just as bad. What does that make you?"
Again she did not move.
"Go now! Get away from us! You are an abomination!"
She shuddered suddenly. She could not stand their tormentation any longer. Day after day this went on- sometimethis cycle had to stop. She had always been afraid to move because then the semi-circle would trap her in another part of the school yard. If she ran away, she would get in trouble from her teacher, and worst, her masters. But what if... she just left?
On impulse, she darted to the end the schoolyard, and out the gate. As she turned around and looked behind her, the boys seemed stunned that she had dared defied their dominion over the school yard.
They did not run after her. Instead, they shouted after her, but she had closed her ears from their words.
She had felt the wet tears flood her eyes. A cool breeze blew, causing the small black birds to float on the air current, further up into the sky. Smells of exquisite cardamom and cloves hovered about the marketplace, and voices mingled, the women haggling and the men talking politics.
Joyti rushed by, not stopping to meander through the aisles, smell the fresh marigolds, and wishfully finger the fancy clothes. Instead, she went to the park at the edge of marketplace. She sat down under a tree, buried her head in her knees, and cried.
She wondered if she could go home- no, she could not. They would yell at her, or worse, beat her. They would tell her that she was no good, that she was not even supposed to be alive, that she was a mistake. They would tell her she should be happy that she had a roof over her head.
But what she didn’t understand was why she had to suffer because of her mother’s mistake. It wasn’t her fault that her mother had left the family and ran into debt, and decided to give herself away. Why, why did she have to suffer the consequences? Her mother was not even here anymore, practically dead to them. Why did they act like she had existed?
She sighed and put her head on her knees, in a huddled position. Her mind swirled with confusion and frustration. There was so much she did not understand. She wiped her eyes and opened them. When she was younger, everything seemed simpler. But now she wanted more.
She gazed out at the park. She saw the small toddlers walking hand and hand with their grandmothers. She looked longingly at a few street children playing with a torn up ball. They were gloriously free, running and frolicking in the fresh air. She noticed the children beggars in a corner talking. Some had arms, legs and eyes missing, burnt off by their slave masters so as to bring the most money. It was horrible to look at- the uneven holes in her bodies. The first time she had seen a beggar it was a little boy with two gaping holes right where his eyes had been and she had screamed. Now, she was more used to seeing them. She looked at the little beggars intently. She looked into their eyes. She was expecting to see sadness, but instead… she saw joy. She saw a light so powerful, so bright that light itself seemed to radiate and reflect off in beams of gladness. Again, she felt confusion, but this time she did not feel the despair of confusion. She wondered if she too could have light in her eyes. Maybe she could.
Maybe she could.
She wiped her eyes again, turned, and went back to school.
They could not harm her. They could not turn off her light.