Dreams do Come True by Lakshmi Vijaykumar

Dreams do Come True. Yes, they do, if you see the dreams with your eyes wide open.

DREAM BIG – is what the latest movie, Kanaa, which essentially is about an under-privileged girl who makes it big in a sport that is still male dominated in our country advocates to its viewers. So, when a huge batch of PUTHRI scholars walked into the theatre to watch the movie, Kanaa, it seemed another picnic for them. Little they knew what they would see on the silver screen is exactly a replica of what experience in their daily lives.

Kousi or the lead character in the movie is normal little girl like many of the PUTHRI scholars. On witnessing her father weep at India’s loss in a game of cricket, she makes a promise to herself that she would bring the smile back on her father’s face. Which essentially means winning a cup for India in a game of cricket. This in a society where women education and empowerment are still a stigma. Lest we speak of women excelling in sports.

Well, its not that we haven’t had films showcasing under-privileged girls making it big in the field of sports. Dangal (Hindi), for instance, had a daughter battling against all odds to fulfil her father’s dream of winning the country a Gold in Olympics. Similarly, the Shahrukh Khan-starrer, Chak De India, had a team girls from diverse backgrounds uniting to win Gold in a game of Hockey.  

What makes Kanaa stand out among the various films based on women’s sports is that the lead character isn’t forced or coerced into the game. Instead, this dream or the “Kanaa” is of the main character Kousi whose only aim is to make her father smile for which she is determined to excel in Cricket. So she learns the trick of the game by being a silent spectator to a bunch of boys playing the game in an open ground.

Essentially, the movie Kanaa and its protagonist Kousi are backed by the three pillars that PUTHRI is built upon – Mentoring, Career Coaching and Role Model. It is this structure and method, PUTHRI scholars are not only guided to be intentional in their careers, but also coach them with other important life-skills such as nutrition, hygiene, finances, self-defense, digital acumen, health and even entrepreneurship while transforming them to take on their professional journeys.

Just as PUTHRI scholars, Kousi’s life is met with a life-changing coach and mentor in Sivakarthikeyan who not only motivates her to “win her dream”, but also guides and coaches her on the sport for her to excel.

The PUTHRI scholars who watched the special screening of the movie Kanaa at one of the multiplexes in Chennai were able to relate and actually see their lives on a playback in the screens. Much like Kousi, most of the PUTHRI girls have undergone suppression and have been subjected to issues around poverty and eventually they drop out of their education impending their intention in pursuing white collar jobs. “I did not know that I had the ability to take up a full time job in a big company as a professional till I met the role model at the PUTHRI coaching interventions”, said an excited PUTHRI scholar who is keen on becoming a teacher in order to give it back to her Alma meter.

It is needless to say that many of the girls were walking into a multiplex for the first time in their lives. They were in as much in awe of the movie as they were of the cinema theatre. For many, it was a moment of truth in their lives to see their stories come alive on silver screen. Kousi, a village dweller is subjected to face a lot of hurdles including her mother who does not believe in girls’ education, leave alone pursuing a sports as a career.

The fact that the intentionality has to build within an individual for others (including parents) to follow your path of passion is further reiterated by the lead character’s mother who urges Kousi to retry her attempt in getting the Team India squad. Interestingly, her mother who has been a rebel in her own way while she stayed upright in the choice of her life-partner goes on to say, “Aasai patta mattum poradhu. Adam pidikka theiryanum”, which essentially means it isn’t enough for someone to desire something, but should be able to display the stubbornness towards the desire.

The movie is much of a winning debut not only for the filmmakers, but also to all those who are associated with PUTHRI – scholars, mentors and trainers. The hundreds of Kousis or the PUTHRI scholars are from a place where ‘ambition’ is a dirty word. Yet, these Kousis go on to achieve what they desire while being accompanied by cheer leaders, mentors and role models – capturing the essence of PUTHRI!

Girls’ Empowerment! A Call to Action by Lakshmi Vijaykumar

As a young child, I often envied my brother being able to play in the park nearby irrespective of the clock ticking away to darkness in the evening, with his friends. While I always had a Cinderella time (not till midnight, of course) up to 6 pm or when the sun sets – whichever was early — and I was supposed to be seen sitting in my room and not seen kicking a football or a hitting a ball to a six!

When I got into my teens, hoping for more freedom of play, matters got worst. My Cinderella time was further brought down by an hour and sometimes it even got extended to days!!!

Now, when I look around myself, I feel not much has changed. Matters have gone worst, with parents (including myself) unable to let their kids play anywhere outside the confines of their homes without the fear of safety. Yes, gadgets have taken over our lives leaving our children to spend more time on LCD screens. Gone are the days when children enjoyed the hot sun or danced in the rains. Well, that’s a different subject and we will talk about it in a different article.

Coming back to what the modern day society has to offer to our kids, if the urban India is clouded with fears of safety and other related issues, families from the under privileged communities even dread sending their girls to school. Those who are courageous enough to break barriers and send their girls to education, often drop out of the schools early leaving their journey of empowerment midway.

Given that educating girls is certainly one of the methods of breaking the cycles of poverty, there are a few easy ways that we as a society on the whole can make a difference in the lives of all those thousands of young Puthris waiting to be empowered and get on to the world stage.

Facilitate schools to provide basic hygiene in schools

Most schools that cater to the under-privileged communities lack basic hygiene and sanitation facilities in their premises. All schools must be able to provide clean drinking water and neat toilets for the parents to feel safe while sending their little angels to the school.

Be the Voice of God

In the lesser privileged communities, it is noted that while women in families are forthcoming to educate their daughters, their voices somewhere get lost amid strong patriarchal set ups. As a result, girls who are intentional about their learning and acquiring knowledge. Provide those women and their younger ones the vocal cord they need. Use your voice to enable girls to break barriers and come out of their shackles.

Help a new mom

A large number of young girls from the rural community drop out of schools the day their moms give birth to second ones. It would be a great idea for you to extend a hand in some form to a new mom. Offer them cloth diapers, blankets, drinking water, soap, and other essential items to those who are in utmost need. This will prevent infant deaths, ensure healthier child and mom. And, in cases where the woman is mothering an older one as well, such enablers will lessen their mental load which will further facilitate smooth functioning in their households and therefore not build restrictions on the older kids.

 Support women/girls in crisis

The other common reason where girls drop out of schools that is prevalent is a family crisis. This could be lack of resources, commuting woes, domestic violence, child trafficking, child marriage, so on and so forth. Equip the schools with skilled staff that creates the much-needed awareness among them. Conduct small time programs in your community to educate and mentor the women folk on dealing with crisis. Most important, give them the emotional support that they need.

Show them you care

Like they say, charity begins at home; similarly empowering begins at home. For any message that you want to convey to the society that you live in, it is imperative that you live the message yourself. Display the sensitivity towards your staff at work, home and even those that you might and might not meet regularly. Tell them how much you appreciate their work.

It is seen in modern societies that a mix of interventions creates a foundation for a positive environment, change certain institutional norms. On this day, when we celebrate pleasures and joys of childhood, let’s pledge to be the enablers for girls’ education and empowerment.