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It is often hard to defy set notions and follow your heart. Mahroosh Banday shares her journey from Kashmir to Stephens in New Delhi

 Stephens-in-New-DelhiGoing into flashback, being the 7th topper of state in the Science stream, meant that I had to prove my worth by qualifying ‘The CET’, fulfilling everyone’s expectations. Relatives who flood my house with sweets, Bekirkhaanis and money did not come without the ‘Now CET’ expression.

I was told again and again, “The profession of doctors is so noble” (I don’t know why others aren’t). But I had (and still do) this tendency of not giving up easily. I had made up my mind. I knew what to do.

I, by nature am exploratory. It was my dream to explore people (from past and from present), variety, and places. I loved to read, which in return connected things revolving around me to a deeper understanding; I planned to take up history for my own self rather than being ‘BIG’.

My Dad, however, gave me an incomparable support, no doubt that he was quite apprehensive about this decision at first. My relatives suggested him not to send me to Delhi as Delhi University (presumably) was not a good option for a ‘Kashmiri Girl’, the atmosphere being (highly) Westernized, and how places like Aligarh may prove to be better? I being stubborn did not like the ‘established morality’ revolving around a girl, but since I have a good Daddy, I had his support.

Qualifying the interview of Stephens was a dream, I admit that somewhere in my heart, I had this fear of going to Delhi, important to mention that the Dec 16th case had happened a few months back, but me, my decision was set, I was up for it. I had to let go of my fears.

Finding the place perfect to what I had dreamt, I knew it was altogether different. I was in a multi-cultured space where I could hear languages, from Malyalam to Bengali, Assamese to Hindi, Urdu to Kashmiri. Where I could taste the blends of Northern and Southern Cuisine, where I would find different ideas tossing across the tables of the Dining halls, where I find people not only with different colors, creeds and religions but with different ideas and opinions on life, not forgetting to mention atheists and agnostics who had a different set of beliefs. It then seemed to me like a perfect blend of spices. This was something I had once dreamt of, and now I was a part of it.

One thing that amazed as well as depressed me was that the people from mainland India have cultivated in them other flairs which easily distinguish to an area apart from academics. These people have mastered over things like music, debates, sports, classical dance which in itself are forms of art.

It amazed me as to what kind of language is it, in itself. To be honest we here don’t have opportunities as such, parents here are more concerned about their children getting 9 pointers rather than exploring other genres of life. But we have a tendency to struggle and try to keep ourselves up in league with the others. I wanted to grab as many opportunities and found myself a part of the Social Service League, the gender cell, Bazm – e – Adab (where I realized the worth of Urdu literature) which is active throughout the year covering a vast array of ideas and works.

Being a Kashmiri didn’t ever limit my opportunities. People there did not judge my place of origin or religion. But within me as a Girl “Yes”, the idea of morality is totally different comparing the two places. The idea of Good Girl in our society is sometimes taken as a hindrance for the Empowerment of Women. A great clash of ideas occur when you analyze what you have been taught and the new ideas that surface out.

I am happy that I did not follow the band wagon; our society does not only need doctors and engineers but people who would rather work for different fields, from literature to astronomical physics. This requires one’s own brain, originality, not induced and forced interests.

When asked by people that I could have pursued History in Kashmir, I answer  them that they don’t have an honors course here. Course options are limited and the most important thing, the ‘culture of studying’ is missing. I had joined a college here initially where to my utmost dismay I found authorities focusing more on who wore Kajal to who has got a Cell phone. I personally believe we as mature adults should have this kind of choice and liberty.

No doubt we may find gems in our society but we need to buff them up for the greater good. Our focus should shift to broader aspects rather than narrow ones.

Big events happen when you choose to do small things making it something of a complicated yet a simple system. These small things should be a symbol of change for one’s self and the society.

We need to look ahead of time; we need to work for liberation.

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