This was a time when India had newly achieved freedom from the British and was looking for its very own leaders, representatives, and the legislative body. My mother and I were alone in our house. She was busy cooking, and I was happily playing outside when we heard a commotion at the other end of the street and rushed to see if everything was fine.

We saw men dressed as British butting their guns at each door in the village, mercilessly beating kids, women and aged alike, and plundering their houses.

The men of the village had been out to work, along with their cattle. When they returned and heard of the whole act, they were furious. They set out in search of these invaders.

I asked my father if we could seek the help of the administration and police. He replied bluntly: “We are the tribal people, police will not help us; we are an isolated part of this civilisation.” I wasn’t mature enough to understand the depth of the issue, but my mind had gone numb even then.

As I grew up, I became more interested in studies. I wanted to be a police officer. But that was never going to be easy. I knew I had to go an extra mile to convince my parents and the village committee. They were all sceptical about my dream; they viewed it as completely out of sync with our culture, rituals, living and livelihood.

I wanted to change the lives of my fellow tribesmen, who had been grappling with isolation for many years. I realised I would have to get away from everything and start anew. With little money, I quietly slipped out one day, leaving behind my home, my land, my everything.

I learnt a language more accepted as a social tongue during my early months away from home and enrolled at a training centre. I also worked part-time at a hotel to meet my expenses and education fees.

My disciplined dedication paid off and I managed to clear my National Defence Academy (NDA) exam in the very first attempt.

Someone has truly said: “Success comes to those who wish for it”.

I was the only person from my tribe to have made it to the Academy. For the first time, I felt proud of myself, my efforts, and my identity.

Here, I represented my people, the Gonds. Months and years passed before I visited my native place. And when I did, everyone embraced me whole-heartedly and felt proud of me. I had gathered courage to set an example for all the young Gond kids.

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