He ran away from home to become a successful doctor
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Dr Surya Bali ran away from home, did odds and ends. But he never waivered in his goal to become a doctor and ended up becoming much more than a physician.
Surya Bali is the first person in his family to complete matriculation.
Belonging to Gond tribal community, Surya went on to become the first doctor in Bairili Gaon, an obscure village at Jaunpur, UP.
Alongside teaching, he focused on full-fledged research to improve quality and reduction in the cost of health care.
Today, he serves social and economically deperived sections of society.
His thoughts were well-received by all -- he got National Memorial Award by AIIMS for best research and was chosen as 'Who is Who in World' for the year 2010.
This is his heart-wrenching story.
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Image: Surya (middle) with classmates at University of Florida
'I used to carry a thali (plate) around the village for food'
Festivals like Holi, Diwali exuded hope in the eyes of Surya's family to earn a bit more.
"In the midst of celebration, I used to carry a thali (plate) around the village for food," says Surya Bali, son of bonded labourers.
This slavery bothered his father, who got frustrated and fled the village.
Until he came back from exile, the family survived on the mother's meagre income for a whole decade.
She served as a maid to upper caste families -- cooked food, moped floors and drew water from well.
Image: Image for representation purpose only
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
I realised early that only education can change the condition of my family
He attended the Kanarval School, a primary school in his village.
Although primary education was free, buying books was tough.
"I used to pluck berries, gooseberries, fruits, and exchange it for books from city dwellers," he shares.
What was worse was the perpetual taunts of some of his teachers like "You should do what your parents are doing," "What are you going to achieve by studying?" etc.
Surya never gave up.
"Every insult goaded me to prove them wrong," he asserts.
"I realised early that only education can change the condition of my family," he said.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'I had just two sets of clothes'
Tired of abuses of Panditji (Priest), the owner of his primary school, he shifted to a middle school in Sarsi, faraway from his village.
"I walked 11 kilometres to school barefoot. The villagers laughed at me. For them it was insane to walk so far to study."
How did Surya manage middle school tuition fee and books?
Post school, he filled his time repairing cycle puncture.
He was an absentee during monsoons -- "I had just two sets of clothes. Heavy rains spoiled my dress."
He was on cloud nine when he achieved first rank in class 8. The first flush of success only kindled the fire in him.
Image: Image for representation purpose only
Photographs: Rediff Archives
A kindly warden, impressed by his hard work extended support
What made him turn doctor today?
He was only 7 when his younger brother died of medical negligence.
He can't erase the memory of his helpless mother longing for medical treatment.
After 10+2, he ran pillar to post to finance his education. All doors were closed!
This rebellious 17-year-old ran away from village.
After a series of misadventures, he gave a call to his brother only to find that he has put together a sum of Rs. 3000 for his admissions.
Unfortunately, that money turned out to be inadequate. It just about paid for the coaching centre fee.
When money ran out Surya almost gave up the dream of earning a medical degree to join a BSc course from Benares Hindu University.
But angels do exist. In his case, the kindly warden, impressed by his hard work extended support.
He granted Surya free hostel facility and paid Rs. 500 for PMT form. He cracked it and got admission at Motilal Nehru Medical College, Allahabad.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier
'Most students made fun of my few ill fitting clothes which I wore repeatedly'
His presence was again odd in the class.
"I was an absolute misfit in the class. Most students made fun of my few ill fitting clothes which I wore repeatedly", he says.
Financial back-up was getting thinner -- he couldn't call for help anymore. He was restless. So he decided to explore a long forgotten hidden talent.
He could write. He used to write poems, short stories, and he could communicate.
So to meet his expenses, he started writing poems and articles for newspapers, magazines.
He got a chance from All India Radio to present shows.
And, of course, the money earned could help him barely meet expenses. So he borrowed from friends and spent long hours in the library.
Finally, he aced MBBS.
It was an unusual feeling when he got his MD stipend, a princly sum of Rs. 15,000.
"It was the first time in my life I saw a bunch of notes ." But then life took a turn for the better.
He earned IFP fellowship to acquire Master's in Health Management (MHM) at University of Florida.
Image: Surya Bali flanked by his parents
'I plan to build good health care centres in future'
Surya has a very critical view about his dream profession.
"It should be totally service-based without any intention of minting money. But I hardly see any doctors think about the community."
He started his own NGO called Global Health Development Mission. He translated scientific writings of diseases in local languages (Bhojpuri, Awadhi), composed songs, poems on diseases like Cholera, AIDS.
He strongly feels, "If you tell public something through music -- they will not only learn but will enjoy."
Currently, he is the faculty of the same college where students mocked him badly.
He does treat the needy patients from his village at his medical college-cum-hospital.
"My village still lacks proper facilities. I plan to build good health care centres in future," he concludes.
Image: Dr Bali examinining a child in the slums