Mandi and Sarothi | Santal Shakti

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In Indian philosophy, "shakti" is a concept describing female strength and empowerment; it is an innate feminine energy running through everyone. This February, we had the honor of interviewing several Santal mothers of St. Xavier’s Gurap students, and as they told stories of old dreams lost and channeled into fierce love and support for their children, it became clear that these women represent the “shakti”, the strength, the beating heart at the center of the Santal community that protect and uplift the next generation.

We spoke to Mandi, mom of St. Xavier’s Gurap students Jamuna (grade 9), Lipika (grade 6), and Dipika (grade 4). Mandi challenges village norms to build a better future for her kids. Here is her story.

When Mandi was a child, she hoped for a good education and a good job. She didn’t obtain the job of her dreams, but still she feels lucky that she and her husband were able to get work in the postal department. (So this family is literate!)

Mandi wants something very different for her daughters. She wants them to have professions and to stand on their own. She wants to give her daughters complete freedom to pursue their dreams, so she tries to help them and encourage them in every way possible. Mandi wants her daughters to become good human beings, too!

Because she is a woman with these ideas, it does cause some problems in her village. She and her husband are ridiculed in the village for sending their children to private school and encouraging them to continue their education. Since her children are studying outside the village, she is taunted with envious comments—what do you think they will become? If the girls are at home visiting, and they use a Bengali or Hindi word, some will say they won’t use their mother tongue because it is not good enough for them.

Mandi doesn’t care what anyone says—she supports her children unconditionally, 100% of the time. She will always encourage them to be whatever they want to be!


We spoke to Sarothi, mom of St. Xavier’s Gurap students Rasmi (grade 7), and Marsal (grade 8). For Sarothi, education comes first. Here is her story.

When Sarothi was younger, she enjoyed school—she was a good student and she dreamed of becoming a policewoman. (Police officers are respected, and have easier access to things like driver’s licenses and passports, which are not readily accessible to everyone.) But there was a crisis in her family—someone was ill, and she had to stay home to help the family by working in the fields. That became her life.

But today, Sarothi is a Group D worker (custodian) at St Xavier’s Burdwan. She is so grateful for her steady job that can help her support her children and their dreams of education. She is willing to take extraordinary measures to ensure her children get a good education. All other wants and needs are secondary to education for her.

Sarothi’s hopes and dreams rest in her children’s futures. Her son wants to be a doctor and her daughter wants to be a teacher, and Sarothi is so happy that they are choosing professions where they can support the Santal people. She wants them to do well and stand on their own first, and then bring their services to isolated areas where they can help marginalized people (Santals). She feels they will be looked up to in these remote places and will be able to make a real impact by helping others!



5:30-8:30 PM


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