“[Girls] know that education is their only path to self-sufficiency. It is their only chance to shape their own fate rather than having the limits of their lives dictated to them by others.”-Michelle Obama
Someone asked me yesterday,”What is the best advice I have ever received?” and I said,”It wasn’t really advice but just something my mom said that has stayed with me forever. Ever since we were little, me and my sisters have often heard my mom say,”The only thing I can give you, which will truly stay with you, is education. Don’t focus on money because money comes and goes. Focus on education because no one can take that away from you. Besides once you have education money will follow.”
My mom strongly believes that education will give girls the confidence they need to stand up on their own, have their voice heard, make them strong and self reliant. It will give them the ability to think for themselves, analyze and make their own choices. My mom was one of the first few generations of young women that went to college when free education was made available to young women by the then Prime Minister to encourage them to go to college. My mom still remembers how excited she would be to hear about all the different classes her elder sister was taking and how she dreamed of following in her sisters foot steps and wanted to read more and do better than her sister.
But all her dreams were dashed when her parents decided to marry her at the age of 19. She cried, begged and pleaded with the elders in the family but nothing worked. She was told,”What is this madness about wanting to get an education. You are lucky you are getting married before your sister. Stop this nonsense and be a good girl.You need to focus on your future. It is time for you to have a family. That is what you should be doing because you are a girl. What else do you need?”. My grandma supported and fought for my mom but she didn’t win because women had no say in the family and according to the men women lacked the ability to know what was good for them. And so it was decided against the wishes of my mom and my grand ma that she was to marry my dad and settle down in a place far away from home, in a city that spoke a different language and had a different culture. At my moms wedding my grandma cried hard not only because her daughter was going far away but because she was crushed with guilt and disappointment for letting her down.
Lucky for my mom, my dad turned out to be a good guy. He couldn’t bear to see her cry and was devastated when he learnt about what happened. So although he would terribly miss her he sent her back to my grandma’s so she could pursue and finish school. He promised to write to her and come visit whenever he could but asked her to focus on her school work and not worry about a thing. So off she went to school …proud that she was one of the handful of young women who come back to school after marriage. But alas it wasn’t meant to be. She had my elder sister when her final exams were going on. Unfortunately she couldn’t take the test and so she did not graduate. But her dream stayed in her heart.
And she vowed that she would never let that happen to her daughter. As fate would have it she had 3 daughters and so her drive was even more stronger to make sure her daughters grew up to be educated, confident, independent and self reliant women who were not afraid to have their voices heard. As an adult I understand why she pushed us so hard. Education has truly saved my life. It has made me everything that my mom hoped it would and more. It gave me the courage to face and overcome many obstacles because in my heart I always heard my mom say”no one can take education from you”. It gave me strength and the quiet confidence that no matter what happens I am going to be okay.
It gave me the courage to walk away from an abusive relationship and start over again. It gave me the courage to choose to live abroad and pursue my dreams in a new place. It opened my eyes to a whole new world and many possibilities. It brought me opportunities even during one of the toughest recessions this country has faced and helped me keep my dream alive despite immigration hurdles. It helped me to reach out to women who survived abusive relationships and to homeless children and mentor them. I was able to stay in this country long enough to meet my wonderful husband and get a second chance at experiencing a loving and healthy relationship. It brought me recognition by being this years recipient of Women to Watch Award under the emerging leader category.It has made me who I am.And I am glad my mom is here to see this. Although my dad passed away when I was young I know he is beaming with pride as he watches over me.
As for my mom her daughters have not only fulfilled her dream but have soared beyond her wildest expectations as all her daughters have earned double masters, are successful in their professions, in leadership roles, recognized as talented and accomplished women all of them married to wonderful men who love and respect them, encourage and support them to scale new heights.
Thank you mom for being a great role model and making us who we are today. Thank you for giving us the greatest gift ever – the gift of education thereby permanently empowering us to believe in ourselves, to be who we are and to never stop soaring.
We love you very much.
Copyright Vani Murthy 2016