I’d read about her in print and heard about her work through some friends who had joined her mission. I’d met her couple of times in a span of two years. Each time her conviction, fortitude and relentless trudge to reach people forgotten in the peripheries, had struck me. The BBC, New York Times, to name a few had covered her mission and yet she is oblivious to the spotlight. It is welcome as long as it helps her mission to shield the hunted. She was once the hunted but she turned the tide and now fights back the hunters.
Birubala Rabha, a deceivingly frail looking woman was once ostracized in her remote village in the Goalpara district of Assam. She was branded a witch for harbouring a mentally challenged son and later for her husband falling ill. She saw years of struggle, dogged determination and singular mission to rescue more victims like her, she now has a state programme in Assam named after her, Mission Birubala, to fight the evils of witch hunting. As a young girl she was married off before she could finish her schooling. When the blind superstitions of villagers spurred by witch doctors and quacks, attacked her and her family, she realized the diabolical enormity of such beliefs.
Today she travels to villages, with her team of supporters to make the villagers aware of the futility of such practices. She advocates visiting the nearest doctor or primary health center in case of illness instead of the village witch doctor. In many cases of witch hunting in villages across the state, where hapless victims count their days and in many cases killed, Birubala works relentlessly to rescue them.
There are lessons to be learnt from the wisdom of this woman of steel, especially for today’s women.
- It is all very well to say when the going gets tough the tough get going but the first step is to question the system that throws such challenges in the garb of tradition. If it harms an individual, does not let him or her breathe freely and exercise the choices, then it’s time to rethink on their relevance.
- Once a path has been chosen that lends meaning to life or makes one’s time on this earth worthwhile, then following it must become a religion.
- Passion and conviction are the two aids that will propel one to take challenges head on. Listen to yourself. If the core of your being believes in an idea, it is worthwhile to give it a shot - conviction in one’s belief and the passion to follow it through all the dejections and heartaches. Carving one’s journey has never been easy. And the easy path has never been acknowledged.
Being a woman and straddling the many roles that are rolled in, comes with its own baggage. To be aware of the self as an individual, and work towards the growth of that individual is a challenge. And for this it is essential to keep the above lessons in mind.