“You have to learn to behave as a grown-up now. Your marriage has been fixed and you can no longer play with those clay-toys of yours,” Rani’s mother said, looking unapprovingly at her daughter’s clay-smeared wet hands.
“But I don’t want to marry that man, maa! He is so old. Why do you want to send me away with him? Am I such a burden to you?” Nearly in tears, Rani asked. She had only wanted to play with her toys. She was after all a little girl, still in her early teens. She was also immensely gifted with the talent of making colourful clay-art that used to win her lot of appreciation in the village school.
“Intense practice will earn you lot of fame in the future, Rani,” her teacher had once said, admiring her work, "Hold on to your dreams!” Rani had once shared her dream of becoming a big clay-artist. “I’ll have a huge exhibition when I grow up, and people from all over the world will come to see my work,” she had said.
“Poor people like us have no choice. Your father owed him a huge sum which he couldn’t repay and left us all, with his sudden demise. You have three siblings after you, all girls!” her mother’s words brought her back to stark reality. “Besides, Shambhu will take good care of you. He is rich, he’ll even provide for your siblings. You have to forget all these and serve your future husband. It’s your only duty now!"
At a tender age of thirteen, Rani was a child-bride to 35 year old widower Shambhu. Often the untold story in many rural places in India, and elsewhere! Where little girls are made to give up their child-hood, their innocence, their dreams and their talents are left to rot.
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