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Bindi Bottoms
Neelam Dubey Other, Kolkata

"There I was, about to enter the recording room, my hands and feet cold and my body filled with an adrenaline rush. In that small, glass-packed, soundproof studio, just a minute before my show started, I heard that inner voice. It said, ‘People lose their dreams because they don’t dare to follow them.’ I was relieved . I had dared.

I used all the “saam dam dand bhedh” to do that job, although I didn’t get my father’s or brother’s consent. The excitement was beyond imagination and it did not let me concentrate on their disagreement and anger. My voice was going to become the voice of the city. A woman could speak and people would listen and love it.

Like any other young, energetic girl of my age, I was fascinated with the notion of being able to feel it. In the 1980s, though, freedom wasn’t that easy. There were certain conventions that every woman was supposed to follow in our middle-class society. As an 18 year old Neelam, I had no inkling that I was going to defy many of those norms.

From taking my father’s scooter to attend college lectures to speaking my mind in front of anyone and everyone, I did it all that was still a taboo for a woman. To be very frank I enjoyed every bit of it. People would call me a rebel and say that my father should arrange my marriage to tame me. I still don’t know why I did not panic even when I could see my friends’ dreams fall apart. I was of the belief that no matter what, nothing could take the dreams that I had been harboring for years. When I found out about my impending marriage, I felt almost totally shattered.

However, I still hadn’t lost my spark, which I had guarded fiercely. I told myself, ‘Neelam , you are going to get married in a few months. You may not be able to fight it, but you can’t lose your dreams either.’ I just wanted to give myself that one chance to be productive, something that probably my friends didn’t get . As a graduate, I thought I’d take up any good job but not sit idle. Then All India Radio happened and my voice helped me live my dream of independence.”


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