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Lack of means, but no lack of will
Anand Bhisey in Nagpur |
July 02, 2004 08:35 IST
Last Updated: July 02, 2004 12:47 IST
This is a saga of a poor family's grit, determination and sacrifice to fulfil their child's dream. A dream that many may have, but not everyone can realise. The dream of entering the 'noble profession' of medicine.
Vaishali Ramesh Wankhede, a resident of the Kachipura slums in Ramdaspeth area of Nagpur city, dreams of becoming a doctor. And she has just cleared the first step on the way to fulfilling her dream.
Vaishali surmounted abject poverty to achieve what most people would have considered impossible – passing the Pre-Medical Test. And she did not just scrape through, but came out with flying colours, scoring 84 per cent.
A score of 84 per cent may not seem much in this age of super-scores nearing a perfect 100, but Vaishali's background makes her achievement truly extraordinary.
Vaishali's mother Maya is a domestic help. Her father Ramesh used to pull a rickshaw, but had to give up the job owing to poor health. Her elder brother Mukesh works as a driver, while the younger Dinesh has a wayside cycle repair shop.
The family lives in a cramped cubbyhole of a house that is barely 15 feet by 10 feet even by a generous estimate. There is barely enough room for a couple of individuals, leave alone an entire family.
The house is divided into two sections by a low wall; one half serves as the kitchen and the other as the general living area, which has a bed, a table, and a cupboard jostling for space. Asked where she studied, Vaishali replies, matter-of-factly, "Here, on the bed."
It is surprising that the girl could find the time and the inclination to pore over her books in such a setting. This was possible only because of the sacrifices of her family. Her mother took on extra work while brothers Mukesh and Dinesh both quit school so that Vaishali's education could continue. In a social milieu where even basic education for a girl, leave alone higher education, is last on the family to-do list, and where children start working from a young age, sometimes even before they enter their teens, these sacrifices are truly extraordinary.
Significantly, Vaishali scored 73 per cent at the Secondary School Certificate examination and 81 per cent at the Higher Secondary Certificate examination, that too without the aid of private coaching classes, which she obviously could not afford. Her determination to become a doctor by fuelled by constant motivation from her parents. Although she did not have access to expert coaching, Professor H C Kaliwale of Guru Guidance, a private coaching class, helped her by giving her books and allowing her to use his library.
Vaishali climbed one step by clearing the PMT exam, but a bigger hurdle loomed – arranging for the money to finance her medical education.
But here destiny seems to have intervened. Legislator Devendra Fadnavis and corporator Sandeep Joshi, in whose constituency Vaishali's house is located, have promised her all help. Besides, several non-resident Indians have expressed their willingness to send her money after learning of her success via the Internet.
Another concern is to get into a college of her choice. She wants to join the Government Medical College in Nagpur, but her family thinks that it could be touch-and-go with a rank of 44 on the merit list for the reserved category and 99th in the open category. "The second choice is Yavatmal [about 150km from Nagpur], so that we can visit her whenever we want," says her brother Mukesh. "It would not be very convenient to have her studying in a college in a distant place."
The family is quite flustered by the sudden media attention, with a constant stream of journalists at the Wankhedes'. Ever since Vaishali's story was published in the local press, she has not had a moment's respite, having to repeat it over and over again, especially for television correspondents, who all seem to want 'exclusive sound bites'! And in an area where crowds usually gather only when something unpleasant happens, neighbours gawk at this tumult, wondering what the fuss is all about.
Photograph: Ajit Singh Bhalla