Lakshmi chirped her way into our home. For an Eleven year old, she’s much wiser. For example, she can bargain better than a 21-year-old, me. So, I love to listen to her talk, tell us a few stories about her day and more. She’s a free spirit, hopping around the house and stealing some side glances of the TV. This makes my heart curve into a ball, she knows too well, too young. Lakshmi is the younger sister of our maid.
Radhika complains to us about how Lakshmi keeps on bugging her at home. We laugh. A free bird can’t be caged, obviously, she’ll create trouble. We ask Lakshmi if she wants to see something special on the TV and she refuses. It was 11 a.m. and Lakshmi was sitting in a corner, fascinated by our cat. It was 11 a.m. and Lakshmi was not in school. When inquired, she replies “I left it when I was 8.” She counts her age on her fingers and looks confused. I notice that and ask her “When does your birthday come?” “On Ashtmi. I was born in Navratras,” “Oh, that’s why you are called Lakshmi. That’s great. What was the date?” “I was born in the Navratras, in winters” is all that she and her sister knows.
When asked if she would like to join the school again, she coyly shifts between the curtains. “Daddy, won’t allow” comes the answer. Imagine! Deprived of a choice to say either a yes or no. Still, on the brighter side, her brother studies in a good school. She talks keenly about him, “he can even operate Daddy’s new phone.” “Can you?” “I can play games by clicking on the arrow button.”
We told her how fun schools are nowadays and how good it would feel to learn new things and make new friends. “Schools even have TVs.” Her eyes brighten up. “He won’t give money”. I told her how new schemes have almost made everything, specially for a girl child to ensure enrolment in them and assured her to not worry about the money. “What if I talk to your father and make him understand?” She looks bewildered, or maybe frightened by the possibilities of the consequences. “He will say yes to you, but no to me.” “I know that you want to study. What if I teach you?” She looks happy. “I will let you ask your dad first, if he won’t allow, I’ll ask him. Is that okay?” She tests the water and agrees. The next day, I never saw her the next day or the next. Or ever.
Speculate, daddy had enough money to buy a new phone, her younger brother can understand the words of the games. Here, my little girl didn’t even have a birthdate. Or choices. Allowance and the idea of allowing-not-allowing. What a shame. SHAME.