On 16th February this year, I won the presidency of the Oxford Student Union in the highest turn-out ever. I also went on to become the first Indian woman to hold that office. It was historic in every sense. But what followed was an exceptional amount of hate-mail and ad-hominem attacks based on my past.
Social media posts from when I was a teenager were dug up and twisted by an angry woke mob to build a narrative that completely vilified and cancelled me. In the witch-hunt that ensued, even my parents were not spared. Their faith was dissected in the most abhorrent way. Unable to take the wave of targeted attacks, I returned to India and was hospitalised. On the final day that I was in the hospital, my father told me that the key was to ‘never give up’.
So, I stopped wallowing in the ocean of self-pity, packed my bags, and returned to Oxford. I walked back and reclaimed my life. I built back, one day at a time. Kept my head high and self-respect intact. I pushed through paperwork after paperwork to find ways to right the wrong. The good fight is never easy or quick. But the key was to ‘never give up’. The investigation was excruciating and there were many times that I came very close to giving up. But have you heard of the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared
– Tupac Shakur
If there is an analogy, I can draw for what this has felt like, then it is like the rose that grew from concrete and learned to breathe fresh air. That is what the conclusion of the investigation feels like. If anything, it has only made me more resilient and perseverant. ‘To never give up’, to always stand up for oneself and to speak the truth even if you are the only person doing so. This is not the end. You will always find me standing up for roses growing through cracks in concrete, for issues white-washed by propaganda and self-serving people, and for dharma. See you around the corner.
(Rashmi Samant is a Master’s candidate and former president-elect at Oxford University)