The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scent of bloom late in Bihar

Patna, July 13: This “little blossom in the dust” was not born to bloom unseen, yet her parents did not have the faintest inkling.

Nor did Rina Kumari tell them when she came calling from faraway Scotland a month ago.

So when The Telegraph today broke the news in the Sunderpur colony for leprosy patients that one of their own was now a pharmacy graduate from Britain’s University of Sunderland, her old parents were a picture of joy.

For 50-something Jetta Sahani, the missing toes on his left foot no longer mattered.

Nor did it hurt that he had been ostracised and driven out of Bhikkanpur-Pipri in Bihar’s Raxaul till Father Christudas took him in at the Little Flower Leprosy Mission in 1981.

“We would like her to get back, get married and settle down here, serving at our Little Flower family. Baba’s work should go on.

“But we won’t force her. She is an educated girl now and she knows what is best,” said Sahani, beaming with pride but resigned his little lady would now be the mistress of her own future.

When Rina, 26, came home on a holiday last month, she was hardly “the unstoppable force of nature” she’s known as back at university. She stayed cooped up at home for five days, mixed little, then moved to her sister Lalita’s in Patna and stayed put for the remaining 25 days.

“She looked pretty and spoke pure English. She talked to her parents and others at the colony in perfect Bhojpuri. She has grown a lot, there is an English touch to her, but her roots are still strong,” said Father Christudas.

Rina, who used to call her family at a local phone booth once in two months, even brought along gifts for them: a golden ring for one of her sisters, saris for mother Prabhavati and dhotis for her father from Raxaul.

But some neighbours felt a little left out and a trifle offended at her “foreign” ways. A neighbour, Jauhar Ali, was not pleased she had landed wearing a skirt. Others were put off because she mixed only selectively.

Her former headmaster --- she matriculated from St Teresa Mission School at Bettiah --- Ravindra Singh was, however, thrilled. “She touched my feet and shook hands with me and almost jumped with cheer,” he said.

Although Rina was okay with the rice and chapatis her mother cooked, she would go a little easy on spicy food. Most of the time, she would boil vegetables for herself or have them stir-fried.

None in her family was quite sure what her future plans were, although she told The Daily Telegraph her ambition was to get into medical school.

Eldest sister Meena said: “She wants to work for two years to support our youngest sister Santoshi who is studying nursing at Ambikapur in Madhya Pradesh. Then she will study medicine and become a doctor.”

Rina was spotted by Lady Patsy Puttnam, wife of Lord David Puttnam, the chancellor of the University of Sunderland, when she had come to the Sunderpur colony on a tour of community projects with a friend in 1994. She carried Rina back as an “adopted” daughter and sponsored her studies.

She was admitted to one of Britain’s finest public schools, Gordonstoun in northeast Scotland --- alma mater to Prince Charles --- for the two-year intermediate course, where she excelled.

Patsy and David then sent her back to India for higher studies. But Patna Women’s College insisted she would have to repeat the Bihar Board intermediate to be eligible for admission to the BSc course.

“Against her wishes, Rina was put there and forced to study the same thing again. So she gave up and returned to us,” said Father Christudas.

David and Patsy then called her back to Scotland, where Father Christudas’s “little blossom in the dust” finally flowered.

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