Babra Wani writes about her classmate who hid the huge load she was carrying behind the laughter that would echo in the classroom. Read how she chased the goal of ensuring her family’s economic situation improved and succeeded

An old style of pulling a boat. Hundreds of families would remain busy in this style of pulling the major boats with tourists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It still exists albeit with a difference. In this photograph, clicked in Wullar lake, a young girl is shown helping her mother, reach their destination faster. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

On my first day of college in April 2016, I nervously took my seat in the new classroom, determined not to make any new friends due to a previous negative experience.

As I sat there, listening to a lengthy welcome speech from one of the lecturers, I noticed many students filling the room. Among them was a girl who made a grand entrance, laughing and chatting away. She looked at me, her smile radiant, and waved. Initially confused by her unfamiliar face, her warmth was undeniable, and I could not help but smile back. She sat down next to me, and it felt as though I had known her forever. This marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Sara, as she introduced herself, exuded an extroverted energy that resonated with my own personality. From that day forward, we became inseparable, experiencing numerous firsts together. From skipping class to venturing out without our parents, we did all the things friends typically do. Sara was the first friend I invited to my house, the first to accompany me everywhere, and even the first to teach me how to apply makeup.

Fake Smiles

Beneath the surface of our fun-filled story, however, there were moments of struggle and complexity. Sara, despite her diminutive stature and her tendency to wear black glasses, carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. She hailed from Qammarwari in Srinagar and later moved to another locality, not far away. As the eldest of three siblings, she assumed the role of a motherly figure, supporting her family financially. Her father worked as a vendor, while her mother stitched curtains to make ends meet.

While Sara’s life appeared joyful, it was far from easy. Since completing twelfth grade, she became the most hardworking girl I had ever encountered, taking on menial jobs and offering tutoring to sustain her lower-middle-class household. Yet, her hardships never manifested on her face. Sara possessed immense mental strength, never allowing her struggles to impede her progress. She excelled in her exams and performed admirably in all her endeavours.

Calm, Mature

When I met Sara, she was remarkably mature, responsible, and focused for her age. While I relished my carefree college life, she constantly worried about supporting her family and securing their future. While I idly scrolled through the internet, she diligently searched for job opportunities in newspaper advertisements, often requesting me to send her pictures of relevant ads. Sara’s determination remained unshaken by the distractions of college life and friends.

During the years I knew her, Sara displayed incredible resilience, sacrificing her own dreams, desires, and expectations for the well-being of her family. She tirelessly worked to provide a better life for her parents and younger siblings, ensuring they would not have to make the same sacrifices. Although she aspired to become a lawyer, circumstances forced her to prioritise financial stability. Sara’s unwavering dedication inspired awe in everyone who knew her.

I witnessed Sara’s struggles from 2016 to 2020, and when the world was gripped by the Covid19 pandemic, she found herself stranded in Delhi, with no contacts, no income, and minimal possessions in a room. After our graduation, she travelled to Delhi in search of employment and eventually succeeded. However, she endured a solitary existence there for nearly three months, all for the sake of supporting her family.

Selfless Soul

Sara’s story is one of selflessness, perseverance, and sacrifice. She faced numerous obstacles and relinquished her own dreams to ensure the well-being of her loved ones. I marvelled at her ability to navigate life’s challenges, from caring for her father after his accident during the 2019 turmoil to handling her mother’s injury and her own personal heartbreaks with grace and resilience. Sara’s unwavering hope and determination served as a guiding light, even during the darkest times.

While many individuals our age succumb to despair over trivial matters, Sara never lost hope. She knew that brighter days lay ahead, and despite enduring a life filled with struggles, where even having a proper meal was sometimes a luxury, she refused to give up. Although her circumstances have improved, and she now enjoys a more comfortable life, she still cannot pursue her own dreams.

Sara stands as an embodiment of strength, courage, and resilience. Her story serves as a powerful reminder that life is rife with challenges, but surrendering is never the answer. As we all grapple with our own struggles, Sara’s journey reminds us of the indomitable human spirit and the importance of persevering through adversity.

Post Script

Working as an analyst for a Delhi company, Sara is earning to feed her parents and ensure her three siblings are properly educated. She could not study beyond her graduation but she wants none of her siblings to go through the mill she has gone. For some time, she had to put in a lot of effort to shuttle between the place she lived and the office she worked in, the company granted her permission to work from home. Now she works and ensures the siblings take their studies seriously.

(Photographs used in this write-up are merely representational)


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