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Assam girl’s London dream

- Teenager from tea estate to be torchbearer at Unicef event

Guwahati, June 24: Pinky Karmakar, a 17-year-old girl from Borborooah tea estate in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district, took off for London today. Her destination: the 2012 Olympics.

But unlike archer Jayanta Talukdar and boxer Shiva Thapa — the two athletes from the state who will represent India at the summer games — the Class XI student of Borborooah Girls’ High School will have a different honour.

She will be among the torchbearers from 20 countries at a relay in Nottinghamshire on June 28.

Unicef had selected her as the only representative from India under the organisation’s Sports for Development programme being implemented in Borborooah tea estate since 2009. But her tea community neighbours seemed quite confused about her reasons to travel so far away.

“She flew from here yesterday, stayed a night in Delhi and took a British Airways flight this morning. Before leaving from here, she lamented that nobody in our state was aware that (she was) going to London on such a high profile assignment. ‘But I will come back as a celebrity’ was the last thing she jokingly told me before leaving,” said Pinky’s elder sister, Arati Karmakar.

Pinky is the youngest among five daughters and a son of Rajen and Leela Karmakar who work as sub-staff and tea plucker respectively in the Borborooah tea estate, a garden of the Assam Company India Ltd.

“She has been working very sincerely for the Unicef programme since 2009. She has been instrumental in bringing back many a school dropouts through the Sports for Development programme and (so) she is rewarded. We are very proud of Pinky,” said the garden’s manager, Manjit Baruah.

Pinky, who hails from a family of social activists, including her mother who heads the garden’s mothers’ club that educates workers about family planning, also teaches women in an evening school, attended by about 25 women, including her mother, in the garden.

“Her visit to London was confirmed this month and the very first thing we were worried about was about the finances, though Unicef officials informed us that the cost would be borne by the organisation. Though she is not comfortable speaking English, we were informed there would be an interpreter attached to her and so communication will not be a problem,” Arati said, adding that the garden officials had raised Rs 10,000 for her attire and pocket expenses.

“The garden management came to our aid and the manager’s wife —Mandira Baruah — was kind enough to groom her like a mother throughout this period,” Arati said.

“I have groomed her in etiquette, manners, dressing and designed a few attires for her to wear in London. Her attires are designed in such a manner that our Assam Tea Company and Assam are highlighted using our company’s colours yellow and black,” Mandira told The Telegraph.