“I Have a Dream” were the words with which Martin Luther King Jr. opened his iconic speech in 1963. Do these words resonate with every one of us? My answer is YES.

Vani, a bright little girl, would rise early in her village home to complete her household work and walk 5 km to reach her school on time. This was her routine; she would never miss her school, even on rainy days. After she passed her 7th grade and was waiting to start her 8th-grade classes, her world turned upside down.

On the day she attained puberty, her mother decided that it was time to get the girl married off. Being a girl child, she needed “protection” and a “secured life” under the care of a man, the mother felt. Before even realising that her dreams were fading quickly, that her life would never be the same, Vani got married. Before her 22nd birthday, she was a mother to four children.

Did she give in quickly? No, she cried for many weeks leading up to her wedding day. She cried even after her wedding day but her voice was unheard and her cries for help were ignored. She did have a dream that was now shattered. Stuck in an unhappy marriage, she was staring at a long road to nowhere.

Like Vani, there are millions of girls who are stopped short of their rightful access to a life of their choice. They all have dreams, their own paths to explore but their wings are clipped, by parents, life partners or children. For many of them, life halts in the face of this disappointment. They don’t dare to dream again but for some, dreaming on is not a matter of choice — they just have to do it because it’s their only way out. .

Poornima Krishna giving thumps up along with Snehan tailors

Poornima Krishna was a catalyst at kanthari and mentor to Anumuthu, in the 2017 batch. She visited Snehan, Puducherry, to meet and engage with people at the organisation. She spoke with women in Snehan for about two hours — the conversations were anchored in the importance of following dreams and the mental fortitude to tide over challenges to those dreams.

The women opened up about their personal lives with Poornima and shared with her the struggles that have defined their lives. Poornima said she was inspired by the manner in which these women were finding their way back to life, after years of abuse and hardships. She also motivated them to regain their long-lost joys and revisit their unfulfilled dreams.

We thank Poornima and her son, Mihir, for their time at Snehan and all the feedback and suggestions.

Poornima Krishna receiving token of appreciation from Snehan director Anumuthu