When she was in the 10th standard, she wanted to be an air hostess. Now she is in the 12th, and wants to be an IAS officer.
“Air hostesses have to bend their back for other people,” says Neeta Vaid, “but district magistrates make other people bend towards them.” For someone whose father is a driver and mother a sweeper, this back-bending business certifies honour, prestige and power. “If you become successful and commanding, no one will ask about your background,” Vaid says.
While no one in her relations has risen to such heights, Vaid is expected to make the breakthrough. Papa wants her to be an IAS officer and mummy thinks she can do it. The girl’s life now completely revolves around ‘Mission IAS’. She has grown so obsessed with “my father’s dream” that her favourite teacher is not her favourite merely because she teaches well, but also because her husband happens to be an IAS officer.
All sacrifices seem to be worth it. Reading may not always be fun but if that cracks the code, so be it. “I don’t read for enjoyment but for gaining knowledge,” she says. “I regularly read the Time magazine.” Since this weekly American magazine is priced at Rs 100, Vaid has to go to a library, which is a 5-minute walk away from home, and she ends up spending around three hours there everyday.
Indeed, her every hour is carefully scheduled. There seems to be no carefree moment. When out, she is either at the school or in the library. If at home, she’s most probably watching NDTV 24/7. “So that I can learn to speak English better.” To her, it is important how people talk and carry themselves. That’s why Vaid, who will turn 18 this April, doesn’t plan to vote for Mayawati, the self-proclaimed leader of her people, in the coming Lok Sabha elections. “I’m put off by her way of dressing and especially the way she talks,” Vaid says. “Mayawati just doesn’t have it.”
Instead she is most likely to cast the first vote of her life to Rahul Gandhi. “When you look at him, you think he can do something for young people like us,” she observes, “while if Mayawati becomes the prime minister, we would most likely have Delhi invaded by cows and buffaloes from the countryside.”
There is another reason why Mayawati must count out Vaid from her scheme of things. “Mayawati just talks Dalit, Dalit, Dalit and that reduces us to being just that,” she says, “but hello, we are also Hindus, we are also Indians.”