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“The only source of knowledge is experience.”
– Albert Einstein
It was a proud moment for Ratnagiri ophthalmic surgeon Dr. Radharani Patil when her 18-year-old daughter, Poorvaprabha Patil, became the youngest person to represent Asia-Pacific at the second Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN headquarters in New York on May 15 and 16 this year.
It’s been a long journey for this single mother. When Poorva was just 10 years old, her parents were divorced and Radharani got custody of both her kids. Poorva, who was brilliant for her age,started having troubles at school as soon as she entered her teens.
“A doctor in Mumbai did my IQ test when I was a child and I scored 145. My mother was told that sooner or later, I was not going to fit into any regular school,” says Poorva.
While talking to TBI, she recalls one of her most traumatic experiences in her first school.“It was a state board school and everything seemed super easy for me. While the teacher would explain the first paragraph, I would read and understand the entire chapter. I remember this one time in class 7 when we were taught about boiling point and freezing point and I asked the teacher what happens to mercury at boiling point. She just ignored me by saying that the answer will come later in the chapter and I must have patience. I told her that I have read the entire chapter and it was nowhere. That made her furious and I was asked to leave. And the rebel that I was, I never said sorry for what I felt was right.”
Slowly things started getting tougher for Poorva at school. She was punished for petty things like not making a pony tail, even though she had short hair. The teachers would pull up her skirt to check if she waswearing shorts under it and was onceeven asked to wear a slip under her uniform as, according to a teacher, her bra lines were visible.
Soon, Poorva stopped going to school. She was deeply hurt and de-motivated by the sudden change.
On the other hand, her mother had so many debts, she could not afford to take leave even for a single day. Despite this, she supported Poorva and started teaching her at home. Poorva would finish a week’s work in a day and learn graphic designing in an institute the rest of the time. She also finished the three-month course in just one month. So to spend the rest of her time,she would visit a nearby NGO that took care of stray animals. She also started spending more time with her mother by staying with her at her clinic. This also showed her the other side of her mother.
“My mother would waive off the fees of at least five to six patients in a day who could not afford the treatment. I haven’t seen a greater philanthropist than her, who kept working for society at a time when she had so many debts and two children to look after all alone. I could see the smile on the faces of the patients once they were cured. That was something no money couldbuy. That is where I decided on the mission of my life. I wanted to be a doctor just like my mother and work for the underprivileged,” says Poorva.
In a year’s time Poorva, regained her confidence and was ready to go to school again. But unfortunately there were only two schools in Ratnagiri and she could not get into both. Thus Poorva was sent to a residential school in Kolhapur, which got her life back on track. Poorva excelled in academics as well co-curricular activities at the CBSE school.
She started representing her school at various events and scored 95.2 % in class 10.
“I think all I needed was a little bit of motivation and acceptance for who I am, which I got in my new school,” she says.
Now, it was time to move on to achieve her career goals for which she went to Kota for coaching. However, Poorva had no clue that her struggles had not ended yet. She focused completely on her studies to get through the entrance exams. But as she had no time for her personal life,she slipped into depression. Poorva would have breakdowns and lost most of her friends in this phase. She was sad all the time and would get irritated at small things, but even with this, she scored 93% in class 12. However, she faced another hurdle when she scored really well in all the entrances to study abroad but couldn’t make it due to lack of funds.This hit Poorva hard — she did not come out of her house for 32 days.
“I realised I needed help when my brother did a small prank on me and I started beating him like crazy,” says Poorva.
Finally, Poorva went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with severe depression and anxiety. Poorva was put on medication to help her get out of depression. With tremendous love, trust and support from her near and dear ones Poorva passed this hurdle too and was on her way to recovery in less than half a year.
However, for her, the challenges did not seem to end here. Just days after she wrote the entrance exam for admissions into Kasturba Medical College, she was informed that it was void and the only way to bag a seat was with the National Eligibility and Entrance Test.
But life had made Poorva really strong till now and she finally made it into KMC.
Currently a second-semester student of MBBS, Poorvaprabha is a research intern with the Student Research Forum (KMC-SRF), member of the Volunteer Service Organization, member at Red-X, member of Cutting Edge, member of Bioethics committee, graphic designer at MTTN, head of graphic design at Scientia Medicina, executive committee member of Indo-German convention Of Lindau Alumni, and is also a member of KMC’s student council in Manipal.
She is also a core volunteer of Wildlife Survivors, which is a NGO working for protection and conservation of wildlife, operating in the coastal regions of Maharashtra. She has also taken up numerous projects and has been an active part of numerous NGOs and organizations that focus on issues like health and sanitation, hunger, poverty, child welfare, gender equality, wildlife conservation and climate change.
In May this year, Poorva was at the UN headquarters in New York making us all proud. According to her, she had unknowingly worked on nearly all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals at some point in time.
Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) supports, facilitates and monitors multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary commitments announced at various international sustainable development conferences.
You can contact Poorvaprabha Patil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: This article’s earlier title had stated that Poorva was a school dropout. This has been corrected.