It was a rainy evening, a little girl in school uniform, fully wet and drenched, walked into my office. She wanted my help to do a short film on ‘child abuse’. She was pursuing her 12th std at DAV Gopalapuram in Chennai. She would meet me and my colleagues for couple of weeks. She wore only school uniforms when she came to meet us.
Preethie went on to become the Horlicks Wiz kid that year.
She lost her mother in a freakish accident. Her father had deserted them many years earlier.
It was six years ago.
She could not join BITS Pilani after securing admission because her uncle who was now her care-taker refused for whimsical reasons. Using her mother’s savings she joined BE at Shastra University in Tanjore. She was a topper in academics and an excellent dancer but her uncle repeatedly threatened her to throw her out of his house if she continued dancing. He continued being emotionally abusive and unreasonable.
Preethie kept in touch with me through the troubled years. I was her mentor.
One day her uncle in a fit of mindless anger assaulted her. She was shattered. She had reached her breaking point and moved out of his house. She was only nineteen then.
What astonishes me till date is that Preethie has never even once cried or had a breakdown during her conversations with me. She always came across as a playful, optimistic, free-spirited and independent girl. We met regularly. She continued to drop into our office, joined us at office parties, did movie marathons, enjoyed pop corn and pizza. And discussed life sometimes.
“Can I call you dad?” she asked me a few years back.
I said yes.
After graduation she joined the marketing team of the much successful start-up, Freshdesk after turning down offers from TCS, Cognizant and Accenture.
I met her recently and gifted her the book “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new as viewed by a young girl.
“Do you miss your mom? Do you envy your friends whose parents are supportive of their dreams?” I asked her.
“Sometimes, but before I get psyched and pulled into a whirlpool of self-pity, I hit the gym and pump up the volume,” and she laughed out loud.