Answer: (Jarawa in Andaman, Lepcha in Sikkim,Jaunsari in Uttarakhand, Kondh in Orissa,
Bodo in Assam, Khasi in Meghalaya, Gond in Madhya Pradesh, Gaddi in Himachal Pradesh,
Rabari in Gujarat, Bhil in Rajasthan)
Kamla had stopped dreaming a long time ago. But when she saw her unexpired passport, she decided to do something she had never done before
Himadri Seth, AIS Saket, X
Life is a like a book- we are the main characters of our own stories. But do we get to choose the genre of our own story? Yes, if we want to. Just like Kamla. Her story began with her own genre. A short-haired girl, with spunk in her eyes. Active participant in sports and debates, Kamla had a life of her own. She had big dreams, something not commonly found in a young girl at a time when women were just expected to marry and cook. Kamla dreamt of travelling the world and achieving something that the world would remember her for.
As Kamla grew older, life hit her with a curveball and she had to return to the reality of a world created by the society. However, she met them with resilience, moving ahead in life with marriage, two children and one granddaughter. Even though Kamla felt satisfied with a life well lived, she had never really gotten over her aspirations. She did not want to die with a sense of incompleteness.
70 year old Kamla was sitting on a rocking chair, reminiscing her childhood memories when suddenly someone shook her up from her reverie. “Nani! Guess what just happened?” yelled Sonia, her young granddaughter as she ran into her room. “Well, I can tell it’s good news but you will have to tell me the rest, dear,” said Kamla, wondering what might have gotten her usually calm granddaughter so excited. “We are going on a trip to Europe!” exclaimed Sonia. Kamla froze. Was her dream finally coming true? “That ….that’s amazing!” she finally whispered. Unable to contain her joy, she hugged Sonia tightly.
“Yes it is! But I will miss you, Nani” chirped the little girl, oblivious to her grandmother’s happiness. “What?” Kamla thought out aloud. All her enthusiasm drained away. “Oh mommy says you won’t be able to travel so much at this age,” Sonia dropped the bombshell. Of course she could not go. She was too old anyway to be travelling. Kamla chided herself for being stupid enough to believe that she would be able to go with them. At the age of 70, all she would do was spoil their trip with her knee pain and incessant coughing. She smiled and said, “Mom is right and I will miss you too!” Hugging her grandmother tightly, Sonia sprinted away, leaving Kamla with her thoughts.
Kamla sighed. She convinced herself she was happy for her family. Why shouldn’t she be? Her children were going out of the country for the first time, fulfilling the dreams she had once seen. But deep inside, her heart and soul felt lonely and dejected. Next day, at the breakfast table, Kamla’s daughter Megha shared their plans with her. Kamla forced herself to smile. “Mom, I’m sorry we are not taking you, but it is for your own good,” her daughter said, looking genuinely sorry. But even she couldn’t be blamed; she was just thinking practically. And Kamla never revealed her desire to travel the world. How would she? She hadn’t discussed her dreams with anyone after her marriage. Not even with her deceased husband. Her dream had been buried at the back of her mind.
“We are going to give our visa applications. We’ll be back by evening,” said Megha. Kamla observed she was carrying four passports. “I think you have my passport too,” said Kamla. “Oh yes! They were kept together so it just came out by mistake,” said her daughter, handing her the passport. Kamla closed the door and sighed. Here she was, all alone again. Just like many other times. On any other day, she would probably read a book or watch television, but not today. Random thoughts kept swirling her mind. She just sat on the sofa, staring blankly at the passport in her hand when it suddenly dawned on her. Her passport had not expired. She could go on a world trip by herself!
All those years, her mind had known that she would never really get the chance to actually go somewhere, but in the battle between hope and sensibility, hope always won. She was meant to do this. She did not care what the consequences would be but she could not let her hesitation conquer her today. Suddenly, she felt like a 10 year old.
She immediately checked how much money she had in her savings account. It seemed enough. With newfound confidence, she went to the local travel agent. With his help, she checked the ticket and hotel prices. The trip was expensive but she could afford it. She wondered why she did not think about going alone before. Maybe the ‘sanskaars’ she grew up with made her feel obliged to include her family in everything she did, but Kamla had realised by now that some things just had to be done alone.
Kamla kept her big secret to herself, but couldn’t hide her happiness from her family, as even they couldn’t help but notice her chirpiness. Finally, the day of the trip arrived. As soon as her family left, Kamla quickly packed her things. Her trip was smaller, so she could come back before them. Kamla smiled to herself. She felt like an adventurer going on a mission. Though it was what she had wanted all her life, it was a very big step. No one knew about this venture of hers, she was all alone. This little doubt stayed with her till the next day, as she made her way to the airport. The fact she was going on her first solo trip dawned on her when she sat in the plane. She felt nervous and anxious. The numerous plane crashes she had seen on television flashed before her eyes. She should’ve told her family about her trip. But there was no going back now.
As the airplane took off, suddenly all her worries turned into excitement. “I’m flying! It’s flying!” she shouted out loud. She lowered her head in embarrassment as everyone around started staring at her, but she was surprised to see that most of them were actually giving her warm smiles. This was not so bad, she thought as she began her world tour.
The next ten days passed in a blur. She went from place to place, visiting London, Scotland, Paris and other countries she had only seen in travel shows. Not once did she feel tired or old. People were helpful wherever she went. Enjoying the wonderful cuisine and finest architecture of the world, Kamla felt as if she was in paradise. She traveled like a tourist, with a camera strapped to her waist, and a bag slung over her shoulders.
The last leg of the trip was Switzerland. Kamla spent the day clicking the picturesque Mt Titlis and playing with snow. She stayed out till after dark that day, and sat in a park, taking in the nature around her. She looked up at the sky and absorbed the beauty of the shining gazillion stars above her. Such a clear dark sky, she thought. The last time she saw such a sky was when she was a child, lying down in the fields with her friends and just staring at the stars, talking about how one day they would be superheroes. Some dreams, she thought, are meant to remain dreams, for if they were to turn into reality, we would lose the pleasure we get from dreaming them. She lay down in the park and drifted into an amazing world of dreams.
Her body was found by joggers the next morning. The police traced her family with the help of her passport found in her bag, and informed them. They were in shock. They could not comprehend how Kamla had reached Europe, all by herself. They cremated her in Switzerland. They felt she might have had few more dreams to fulfill, just like her secret world trip. But anyone who saw the serenity on her face could have said that she might have spent most of her life feeling incomplete, but in death, she was complete.