I have never met Rajani S. Anand, but I am indebted to her. The year was 2004 and it was the second year of my college. I had spent the previous academic year waiting in the lobbies of various banks hoping to tear down the wall that was shielding from me the future I was hoping for myself and my family. From nationalized banks to private banks, from M.L.A’s office to college management, I had knocked almost on all the doors to secure an education loan to pursue my education. But for an entire year, I only heard the doors slammed hard on my face. After a couple of months, I was not allowed to attend my classes until I paid the course fee in full. I was sent to come home from college. I spent two weeks at home watching my dreams fade into the distance. Fortunately for me, I was the daughter of a strong-willed father who would walk any mile to secure his daughter’s future. He moved the sky and the earth and did successfully manage to pay for my first year of college. However the emotional turmoil that we went through is not something I would wish for anyone. When the second year began, we were out of our wits and means and I needed a miracle to continue my education. My miracle did arrive but not until Rajani sacrificed her life for it.
Rajani’s story was no different than mine and I know what she must have gone through before deciding to jump off from the top of a building to end her life. She was too young to be dead and she clearly did not deserve to die. The only consolation about this whole tragedy was that her death was not in vain. The news of her death triggered a policy change in sanctioning education loans. Two days after her death, the then Finance Minister P.Chidambaram declared that banks must provide education loans to all eligible students admitted to select courses in recognized educational institutions without asking for a third-party surety or a collateral security. “All that we need is the signature of the student and one of (his/her) parents to get the loan,” he said. That order from the Union government changed the lives of a lot of young people and mine was one of those. Rajani did not live to see her dreams come true, but the decision that followed her death continues to secure a better future for people who would have never heard of her or would ever hear of her.
Anitha’s might not be the same story as Rajani’s but the struggle is no different. Their fights against the odds, the trauma and the tragedy that ensued are all the same. One might say suicide is not the answer to such troubles. I agree and I am not approving of suicide either but I would not hold it against them either. I had been there and I have known how it feels to stand at the brink of the world and watch your last string of hope being brutally severed. It takes an unfathomable amount of courage to keep fighting at such desperate times and not everyone is lucky enough to find it within them. As much as I wish that both Rajani and Anitha had had the strength to go on, I detest the fact that lives had to be sacrificed before voices are heard. With also due respect to the grand court of justice and its wise men, how fair is it to have a common entrance for higher education while we have not ensured equality in the quality of education for all at school level? These girls only asked for what was rightfully theirs. Such losses are tragic because they only indicate a loss of faith in the very democratic system. At junctures like these, words fail me and I can only invoke the mighty Tagore to speak for me.
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
I pray Anitha finds her peace and I sincerely hope this tragic loss steers the nation towards a constructive conversation on our system of education.