“Why do they want to let the children to study?” says Payal, her dark brown eyes perplexed.
“Especially girls…?” Mayvis adds hesitantly — the addition to Payal’s statement that makes all four girls nod in mutual questioning. Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mayvis are recording a message for their Holt sponsors. And this, their biggest question, marks a drastic shift in tone.
Just five minutes ago they sat upstairs in their classroom — proudly performing an American pop song in front of their classmates. Their friend group, all between the ages of 11 and 13, calls themselves the “Planet Chicks.” They like to talk on the school bus, dance and sing, and encourage one another to do the right thing.
They are happy, carefree girls. But, as their biggest question lets on, they know things could be drastically different. The conversation becomes serious.
“They don’t like girls. They only like boys.”Sanjana
“They don’t like girls,” Sanjana says. “They only like boys.”
“People in the village,” Payal clarifies.
These girls all come from families that have migrated from the villages to the booming, southern city of Bengaluru. The villages they speak of are actually cities of several hundred thousand people, where people still adhere more strictly to the rules of traditional patriarchal society. Where they come from, it is common to educate boys, but not educate girls. Where they come from, young girls get married.
This is an excerpt from a longer story that originally appeared on the Holt Stories blog in July 2018.