The picture says it all. I saw it in an article in the Sunday Express 'Eye' magazine.
The picture showed the corner of a desk. A small neat stack of books. An alarm clock. A kewpee style plastic doll. 5 photos – baby shots, faded pics of a holiday on a beach. A State Bank of India visiting card is jammed in too. An ugly plug point with the mandatory black cable snaking away. A small pen holder. Soap stone with inlaid ‘Taj Mahal’ kind of designs. Pens jostle with the flouresent yellow of sketch pens.
So far so normal. So far so small town.
But two things mark this corner of a desk from the sleepy town of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand from that of any other student desk.
First a picture. A dusky girl smiles out of it. Below in red letters – crowded together – it says ‘Justice for Malini Murmu.’
Malini Murmu. The tribal girl who hanged herself after 3 months of attending one of the best business schools in India. The papers are rife with stories about this young woman ending her life because of being publicly jilted by her boyfriend with this infamous Facebook update “Feeling super cool today. Dumped my new ex-girlfriend. Happy independence day.”
The ‘Justice for Malini’ picture speaks of a life cut short. A set of dreams abruptly ended.
The other thing is a list.
It’s the list of the dreams that the girl had.
A handwritten – mostly in capitals manifesto – where Malini spells out her hopes and aspirations.
“THINGS I WANT IN MY LIFE”
- an IIM tag
- a dream job
- a mammoth bank account
- a beautiful house
- my own car (BMW/Audi/Ferrari/Porsche)
- A guitar (and the perfect skill to play it)
- A financially independent life
- The perfect ‘diva’ avatar
- Flawless skin and hair
& the most important of all
- A life partner who make me feel ‘life’ couldn’t be better
(the perfect man for me)
The article in which I saw the picture of this list spends most of its time lamenting the ‘bright eager girl’ who was not here anymore.
What strikes me is the list itself. We have a generation who are aspirational. This is the young India of today. This kind of a list must be penned out and stuck up in thousands of study corners across our land. Its applauded. Greed is good. Move forward – dream big – don’t be satisfied with small stuff. Seek ‘better prospects.’
A newspaper article of a young business man quoted him with something to the effect of: “I read the Forbes list of richest men every night – as long as my name is not on it – I won’t be satisfied – and I go to sleep hungry for more.”
The more you look at Malini’s dream list – the sadder you feel. Starting with the ‘IIM tag’ – which she got – beating out thousands of others who wanted to get into the institute for a coveted MBA – almost every desire that Malini writes about can be commodified into rupees. And each and every wish on her list is solely around herself.
No mention of friends or family. No mention of society or country. Not a peep or a squeak about justice, truth, change. No whisper of immortality at all. All here and now – lots of toys and finally a boy. The ragged tragedy of Malini’s dream list is that amongst the sought-after riches is a spiritual poverty – her bucket list is finally pretty empty – stripped down to its basics all it contains is her.
Malini got the first point of her list – she joined 381 other students in her MBA batch at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. And it seems Malini thought she had the achieved the last point on her list too - ‘the perfect man for me’ – until he dumped her.
This is the acid test of our dreams. What happens when they don’t show up, or they start to melt? This is where just how brittle this girl’s dreams are – and along with her the dreams and aspirations of so many many other young men and women like Malini.
“Malini was an average student till about Class V” a teacher of hers is quoted as saying in the article“But after that she showed remarkable improvement. It was as if something possessed her” mused the teacher. Interesting that this man uses the word ‘possession.’
Remembering when Malini came back to thank him, this teacher says “That day I saw in her a confident, resolute girl who knew what she wanted.” Or did she really know what she wanted?
Be careful what you dream. You may just get it. And find how hollow your years have been in the pursuit of it.
A peasant carpenter, whose hands had shaped the universe, and whose knuckles still bore the calluses of shaping ploughs and door-frames told his motley crew that they should seek first the Kingdom – and all these things will be added.
I feel especially sad for Malini because I have met so many who have not followed their dreams in the way she wrote them down – and who are living full and rich lives that install pride in their children. We need to look no farther than my parents and Sheba’s parents to see lives well lived. Their lives have shaped ours – and they contributed to building the Kingdom whose foundations will not shake.