“ Okay class, what do you remember about Amelia Earhart”?
The students blankly stared at their teacher, so silent you could hear a pin drop.
I was so frustrated, I know the answer, we just talked about her yesterday! The first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, oh how lucky she was!
“ Class, I will ask once more, who was Amelia Earhart”?
I opened my mouth, I will tell sir who Amelia Earhart is, yes I know the answer!
“Sarina get up, if papa finds you sneakily listening to Tej’s class again, he will lock you in the house all day”
I slowly opened my eyes, my elder sister pushed me off my stool that I was standing on to listen to class.
“Mala di, I know who Amelia Earhart is, even Tej didn’t know, I need to tell Sir. If he knows how smart I am, he will convince papa to let me attend school”.
“ Sarina, mama wants you to clean the house and make food for Tej, let’s go home”
I respectfully called my sister Mala Di, which means sister, but she was never interested in the material I learned at school. During our walk home I told her all about Amelia Earhart, but she was not one bit intrigued, I don’t understand why.
Oh, let me introduce myself, I am Sarina. I am 9 years old and live in a small town in Nepal. It’s really nice in our town, lots of green trees, and you can see the mountains in a distance. I have a small family of 5 people- there is my papa, mama, Mala di who is 12 and Tej, my younger brother, who is 6 years old, and me. Our home is grey, made from cement with a yellow gate separating our home from the street made of stones. We have 3 rooms in our home, Mama and Papa sleep in one room, Tej has his own, and Mala di and I share a room. Mala di is getting married next month, so i’ll finally have my own room! The courtyard which is right by our gate is where guests come to drink tea and talk to papa, and there is small corner which is the outdoor kitchen where mama teaches Mala di and I how to cook different foods, it’s my least favorite place.
My day starts at 6am everyday, I wake up and make tea for Papa and Tej while Mala di makes them breakfast. Mama helps Tej get ready for school while Papa reads the newspaper. Papa and Tej leave at 8:30 to take Tej to school, and Mala di and I clean the house. I know class starts at 9, so when Mama and Mala di are talking marriage stuff, I sneak off to Tej’s school and find my secret stool to stand on and listen to class from the small window on the side, it’s at the perfect location because sir never sees me.
I started attending class with my stool a few years ago when Tej made a deal with me to let me do his class work so he could go play, how foolish he was to chose play over studies. I gladly took the offer, but I found that I needed to attend class in order to understand the homework. The next day, I found a stool outside the neighbor uncle’s gate, found the window which was part of Tej’s class, and have been attending class ever since. One day Papa found out that I had been doing Tej’s school work for him, and he took all the papers and told Mama to raise me like a woman. Since that day Papa watches Tej do his schoolwork everyday, so I don’t even get a chance to try helping.
I never understood why Tej was allowed to go to school and I wasn’t. I was much smarter and much more interested. Tej wanted to play all day, I wanted to learn but Papa always said that it’s too dangerous for a girl to go to school because no boy will marry me. I don’t want to be married, I want to be Amelia Earhart, or that one lady on TV, what’s her name? AH, Michelle Obama or Priyanka Chopra. I want to read books to little kids, listen to heartbeats of older people. I wanted to do something more than cook and clean all day, it’s so boring!
It was not always like this, Mala di got to go to school until she was 7 but everyone in the town told papa that no one would marry her if she was smarter than their sons, so that was the end of school for Mala di. I never got to go to school, sit in one of those wooden desks and wear those bright ribbons in my hair, oh how much fun it would be to tell sir who Amelia Earhart was and be placed in the front desk, it would be the best day of my life. I want to be a teacher, I want to be called Madame, I’ll never teach them how to cook or clean, but I’ll teach them mathematics, history, science, all those wonderful subjects. Those were my thoughts before sleeping everyday.
One day Papa came home with a bag from the local shop, “Sarina beta, look what I have for you”. I quickly ran to Papa, I could feel Tej was jealous that papa bought me something and not him. I opened the bag and it was a new sari? “ but Papa, I don’t know how to tie a sari. I asked for books”
“ Sarina, books are for boys, this sari will look very good on you. No one will say no to my beautiful daughter”
“Say no? Papa, what do you mean?”
“Sarina’s Ma, take her inside and have her wear her grandmother’s gold jewelry, the guests will be arriving soon”
I knew what was happening, this happened with Mala Di too. Papa was arranging my marriage without even asking me. I didn’t want to get married yet. I wanted to go to school, I wanted to be a teacher, I want to be more than ordinary. I don’t want to get married. These thoughts were going in my head as Ma put the black stuff on my eyes, and bright red lipstick on my lips. I looked so weird, I didn’t want this.
Ma gave me a hug, and I started crying,
“ Mama please, I don’t want to get married. I will stop going to Tej’s school, I will stop learning. I will stop dreaming of being a teacher, please Mama, please tell Papa I don’t want to get married.”
“ Sarina, you aren’t getting married tomorrow. Papa is finding you a nice boy then once that boy is done with school you will be married, this is a nice boy. He went to college, they say he works with computers. Sarina, you will be able to see a computer when you get married! They aren’t asking for much from us either. We don’t have to buy them a car they just ask that you know how to cook, clean, respect your elders, and they want us to buy him a gold watch. That is all. You are very fortunate that Papa found you such a nice family, just remember to act shy and respectful.”
I didn’t have much to say because Mama was on Papa’s side, like always. Mama made me cover my face and take tea out for the boy and his family, he looked weird. He was very skinny and tall with a full beard. His mom was very fat with short curly hair, I think the rings were stuck on her fingers because they seemed as she tried to take them off but couldn’t. His dad was short and skinny with glasses larger than his face, his head was bald too. I learned, that they lived across town, which meant I wouldn’t be able to attend class anymore with my stool, what would I do? How would I go to school now? They have to say no!
Oops? Perfect time to drop the cup of tea near his mother, now she will never say yes. She seemed like the boss of the family. I will not get married now, I will continue going to school!
I didn’t get to talk to anyone, Papa asked me to pick up the tea cups and return to Mama. After a few minutes they left with smiles on their faces, this was bad news.
“Sarina’s Ma, our job in finally done. Mala will be married next month, and they accepted Sarina into their family. She will be married off with Mala, we won’t have to double our expenses, one wedding for both our daughters!”
WHAT?! NEXT MONTH!? I DROPPED THE TEA CUP, HOW DID SHE NOT SAY NO?! We are learning about Mother Theresa next month, I can’t be married yet!!!
I am only 9 years old, I know how to cook, clean, and now will be married off to a man whom I don’t know and is much older than me. My new mother will be fat with rings stuck on her finger, and my father will have glasses larger than his face. Who knows, maybe my new husband will bring me books to read, or teach me how to use the computer. Or maybe I can read some of his old books to learn something, maybe getting married wouldn’t be so bad? Papa was handing out sweets to the entire street, this must be a good thing.
I don’t know how to feel because I have never seen Papa so happy and proud of me, this is what Papa wanted. This is how I am to make my parents proud, this was the purpose of my life. As a dutiful daughter, I shall oblige. Maybe in my next life I can go to school, learn about Mother Theresa, and become a teacher. Maybe I’ll know more than just the history of Amelia Earhart. If a woman could fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, then in some lifetime I can go to school. Just Maybe.
*** DISCLAIMER: All characters are fictional along with the plot; however, this story is a reality for many girls around the world***
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