“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Although a small quote made by Winston Churchill, this is a quote that I’ve always carried around in my heart. Not because I knew what it meant, but because I didn’t know what it meant until now. As children of immigrants brought up in a luxurious lifestyle, courage is a word that is simply defined by a teacher, symbolized in the novels studied, and applied as a characteristic of an ideal, perfect personality. Yet as we grow older and struggle to maintain our identity, the true meaning of courage becomes more nebulous and distant. Success becomes our goal and courage becomes a by-product of it. We aspire “to go to the best college and become the richest [respective profession] no matter what” and as a result, there's a group of us who achieved that and aren’t quite satisfied, and on the other hand, a group of people who failed to achieve that and are utterly disappointed. But perhaps none of these people know about the struggle someone is going through just to get to the position they are at. Through volunteering for VT Seva, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn about students like Uma Bharati, Jyothi, and countless others who studied in School for Tribals, which crafts copious opportunities for the less-fortunate based on their aptitude.
Many of these students come from tribal communities, or communities where, forget education, even basic necessities are things that they have been robbed of. Almost 90% of India’s tribal people live in incredibly remote areas, and by now it is a known fact that many doctors and hospital corporations are averse to serve in rural areas alone, signifying the numerous challenges involved for indigenous people to gain adequate healthcare and food. Ignored by society, potential victims of Naxals, deprived of basic human necessities, and plagued by malnutrition, one can only imagine how grim the future of these innocent children is.
Therefore, with this fore knowledge in mind, as I read about these children and the accomplishments they paved their way to, I was astonished. For example, Uma Bharati, the daughter of tribal parents, native to Mesalabhoomanna gudam, Kaddam mandal, Nirmal dist., Telangana, studied in Jeeyar Gurukulam at Allampalli, and worked her way to studying at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). While most of these students aspire to reach greater heights in their lives and go through so many hardships to grasp their dreams, their fellow mates (who do not attend the the school) struggle to earn a living, herding cattle and doing daily labor work. I felt overwhelmed. Despite being abandoned and harshly oppressed by society, all these kids, who are my exact age, get up every morning determined to learn, whatever the circumstances.
The amount of courage, resilience, and preservation needed to go on such a journey is fathomless, prodigious, and immeasurable. And on the other side of the globe, here we are, privileged enough to have an education that our parents worked so hard to give us, selfishly worrying about gaining more and becoming more. We don’t just aspire to be wealthy and well settled professionals, but we take for granted and don’t appreciate what’s right in front of us. What we have and they don’t have is the same thing- the ample latitude of opportunity. It’s not something we are unaware of; but it is something we aren’t well aware of. When asked what courage is, I can only point in the direction of these children. These children, who rise above the injustice they face.
These children, who aren’t scared of failing and aren’t dying to succeed, but simply desire the chance to try. No, Courage isn’t a by-product of success. Nor is it the path of success. It’s waking up everyday with the determination these children have, and it’s the patient diligence they face the world with. And if there is anything these valiant fellow students have taught me, it is that the journey is more important than the destination. And that is the true, raw definition of courage.
-Naimisha, Atlanta, GA