Rani lived in a small village named Ramkini. Born to a family of four, she is only four now. She has a little, younger brother of one year too. She can speak in small sentences, run small chores, sway her brother in her arms and sing beautiful songs in her native language.
If you ask her: who do you love?
She would promptly answer: Ek- Baba, Do- Ma, Teen-Sitadi, Char- Golu bhaiya, Paanch- Mein or Chhey- Chiklu. So innocent of her.
If you ask her: Oh, you love yourself too?
She would simply reply: If I don’t love myself, then how will I love Chiklu. He comes after me, na.
Her father Ramadin is a poor farmer, who earns enough to feed six mouths, but probably half-empty stomachs. His wife, Laxmi helps him in the fields and does the rest of the household work. Their eldest daughter, Sita is twenty years old. She tries to help both her parents, but she also does handicrafts work in a factory nearby. Starving for a day is not as much a tension to Ramadin and Laxmi as thinking about Sita’s marriage and her safety.
Next to Sita, is Golu, who goes to the Govt. school in the village. Ramadin still could not afford to send Rani to school, but he promised her that soon she would join her brother in the school uniform, but Ramadin just did not know how.
Among all things, Rani loved doing one thing especially. She loved running from her house to the fields, carrying food for Baba. The entire field would be able to hear her giggles and song when she approached the field. And, everybody loved it. She would sit with all the farmers and sing songs. It was like a soothing spell to everybody in the scorching heat. She was blessed by each and everyone. Then, she would run back home.
Rani would say: I run like the wind and nobody can stop me.
Well, things change and so does time. The family was happy, though they had meager means to live. But, one day, the unexpected happened. News spread like a bonfire that Sita had eloped with a fellow worker, Kashi from the factory. She left a note that she loved him and they both will live a happy life.
Ramadin and Laxmi were dumbstruck with the news and did not know how to react. They did not know whether to be happy that he had one less mouth to feed or be sad that, (the possibilities are endless).
All, Rani could understand was that Sitadidi has run away and she kept wondering why running is considered such a bad thing by everybody. People talked about it for a few days, ridiculed the family, Laxmi wept, Ramadin was silent, Golu was indifferent and gradually the story faded away.
Though, Rani missed her elder sister, but she thought she must have run to a beautiful place.
Bad luck was not ready to leave the family so easily. A month later, Ramadin was called to the local Panchayat. He was confused. He was informed that this was regarding his son, Golu. What he came to know was shameful and painful!
Golu had run away, stealing money from the school safe. He was rusticated from the school and authorities asked Ramadin to find him and the money. If he fails to return the money, they will have Golu arrested by the police.
Ramadin cursed himself and Laxmi wept. They did not know where to find Golu.
Again, Rani could not understand why running was a bad thing. Why is everyone angry and sad that Sitadidi and Golu bhaiya had run away?
She runs every day to the fields and back, but nobody scold her, then why them.
Rani went to Laxmi and asked: Ma, what is so wrong about running? Why is everybody unhappy that Sitadidi and Golu bhaiya ran away?
Laxmi had nothing to explain, she just turned away with a blank look. How could to possibly explain the sorrows of life to a four-year old.
Golu returned in a two days. What he got a good beating from Ramadin, a slap and a hug from Laxmi, a punishment from the Panchayat and a bad name among his friends. He would not make them understand that all he wanted to the new plastic car, he saw in the Mela in the neighboring village. But, someone duped him of the money and he never got the car. Ramadin had to pay from his savings to return the money to the school. His dreams to enroll Rani in the school came to a standstill. All his savings are gone.
Rani asked Golu that why everybody is scolding him because he ran. Golu could not possibly answer such a tough question from a simple mind.
Two months later, the school arranged for a sports day. News spread as students were invited along with their families to attend the event. It was going to be big because a renowned sports coach was going come for the first time to monitor the event. Also, the local minister would be coming to felicitate the winners and participants. It was a big day in Ramkini, which otherwise had a dull, day-to-day life.
News reached far and wide, including Rani’s ears. She could not understand much about the event, but she knew it had to do with something about running. And, she knew she had to go and see.
But, her family was not invited as Golu was no longer in the school. But, they can always go and see the event. He requested ramadin and Laxmi, who were both disinterested in the event as they had larger problems to ponder upon.
Rani asked Golu, but he did not want to go because of shame as his old friends and teachers will be there and they would make fun of him.
Rani decided to go alone as she knew the venue. She put on her best clothes and when Laxmi left with Ramadin for the fields, Rani sneaked out of the house and ran towards the school ground.
She was overwhelmed to see such a huge crowd gathered there, the decoration, the tracks being marked and the shining trophies and prizes on the table. She was not sure what they were, but guessed they must be some reward like Baba would give her a sweet, if he did something good.
Rani made her way into the crowd and entered the school ground. She almost stepped on the white lines, when the Headmaster caught her.
He asked: Hey you, what are you doing here? The run is just about to start. You will ruin the tracks.
Rani asked: Run, who will run, when will they run, where will they run, can I run too?
The Headmaster was baffled with so many questions and said: No, you can’t run. Older children will run. You are just a little girl. And you don’t seem to belong to the school too. You have no uniform.
He almost dragged Rani out of the tracks, but she was not ready to move an inch and started to yell that she also wanted to run.
Meanwhile, Ramadin and Laxmi came back from the fields and found only Golu and Chiklu. Golu had no idea where Rani was. Ramadin and Laxmi went out to search for her, anticipating the worst (going by their luck.)
Someone on the way informed them that he saw Rani running towards the school ground. They hurriedly reached the venue.
Rani’s persistent screaming caught the attention of sports coach, Mr. Ajay Singh. He was well-known in reputed schools for his dedication and commitment to sports and teaching.
He came and asked the Headmaster about the commotion. After listening to the whole incident,
He bent down to Rani and asked: So, you want to run, but you are little girl? How will you compete with the big children? You can get hurt, you know that right?
Rani answered: Do don’t know me, Sir? I can run like the wind. I can leave everybody behind.
Looking at the sheer determination of the little girl, Mr. Ajay asked the Headmaster to allow Rani to compete. Reluctantly, the Headmaster agreed. He told Rani when to start and showed her the finish line.
Rani took her position with the rest of the participants. She was barefoot, but a heart full of determination and strength. Everybody was laughing at her, she also smiled back. Her parents caught her standing near the start line. By the time, they wanted to pull her back, the whistle blew and the race started.
Rani was confused with the bell and saw everybody running. She was all alone at the starting line. People laughed, she looked at Mr. Ajay, who gestured her to run.
When Rani started running, the tracks were no more. She could only see the lush, green fields all around with her father standing far with open arms for her. Truly, she ran like the wind, leaving everybody behind. People were in awe of the strength and power of those tiny little feet.
SHE RAN AND RAN, WAY PAST THE FINISH LINE. She could not see any white finish line, she just ran at her will. Today, she will run for her and her parents. No finish line could stop her, she ran for her DREAMS.
Ramadin was in tears and she heard her Baba saying, Run Rani, Run.
First time, her Baba was happy because of running. She felt overjoyed that her Baba asked her to run, while he was sad when Sitadidi and Golu Bhaiya ran away. This gave her more strength like never before.
She ran into Baba’s arms and he lifted her in the air like a winner. Mr. Ajay approached them and kissed Rani on her forehead. He had never seen a more determined ‘pair of feet’ before. She ran and make her Baba proud, wish Sitadidi and Golu bhaiya would have done the same, she thought.
After listening to everything, he asked Ramadin to enroll Rani into the school under the Sports Quota and he will take care of the expenses. He told him that he will coach Rani from now on.
Rani asked: Will I not get one of those shining things?
Everybody laughed. Mr. Ajay told her that she will get more than those shining things. She will shine herself one day.
Everything has a good and bad interpretation. Rani took the good side of running and today she proved her worth. Dreams and determination have no finish line. Your zeal and enthusiasm will always take you much beyond the finish line. Never stop at the finish line. You have reached that line means you have one more chance to start with a new determination. If you stop, your dreams might end too. EVERY FINISH LINE IS A NEW BEGINNING FOR THE NEXT RACE OF LIFE.
God knows, one day, Rani might become the next Olympic contender from India. Fingers crossed. 🙂
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