14-year-old Anushka Panda was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease infamous for snatching away a person’s physical strength, affecting motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, thus affecting the ability to walk, eat, or even breathe at times.
But fighting all odds, this young girl decided she wouldn’t let her wheelchair define her capabilities.
A student of Suncity School, Gurgaon, Anushka Panda topped the CBSE 2018 class 10 exam with a whopping 489 marks out of 500 and 97.8% in the differently-abled category.
She has scored 95 in English, 99 in History, 99 in Mathematics, 98 in Science and another 99 in Social Sciences, respectively.
Anushka also happens to share the top rank with another student, Sanya Gandhi, from Uttam School, Ghaziabad.
She is the only child of Anup Kumar Panda, Vice-President of a German MNC, Siegwerk Limited, and Archana Panda, Lead Auditor for Social Accountability Accreditation Services, a US-based accreditation company.
An ardent chess lover and a trained classical singer, Anushka aspires to become a Computer Science Engineer and study at IIT.
One step closer to fulfilling the dream, she has chosen Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Economics for further studies from the same school.
But this road to success for Anushka was not easy. In fact, it was marred by similar struggles that hundreds of differently-abled persons face.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the topper says, “As a child born with a physical disability, I have faced lots of harassment in my day-to-day life from public places to my areas of education. Though I faced a lot of harassment, I always keep my self-esteem high to achieve success, whatever difficulties may come with life.”
She adds, “I am thrilled finding my hard work has paid off. It is really a big moment for me. I was really nervous before the results.”
Anushka maintained consistency in her board exam preparation from day one. She would study for two to three hours daily, dedicating half an hour to each subject because she wears a spinal brace. It makes it difficult for her to sit for long hours to study. So she would have to lie down at equal intervals.
She thanked her school for the relentless support.
She told the publication, “Since I am a special child, my school ensured that I was provided with a special infrastructure to write my examination.”
Anushka was provided with a special bench. Despite the additional facilities, she would never use the extra time she would be given to finish the exam.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times her father said, “She would always finish her exam in two-and-a-half hours. She did not want to be recognised as a special category child, and as part of her preparations, she would solve sample papers in two-and-a-half hours.”
Lauding the girl’s achievement, the School Principal Ms Rupa Chakravarty told NDTV, “We, at Suncity School, are very proud of Anushka. The focus that she possesses is rare to find in other children. She is determined and does not allow any obstacle to overpower her. She is very focused, and her benchmarks are very high. She is an inspiration for all of us. What she has achieved, many other students would not be able to achieve with all the elements.”
Her father added, “I am proud of my daughter. Her excellent performance in the board examination is a testimony to her determination and perseverance.”
Of the 16 lakh students who received their class 10 results, Prakhar Mittal from Delhi Public School, Gurgaon; Rimzhim Agarwal from RK Public School, Bijnor; Nandini Garg from Scottish International School, Shamli; and Sreelakshmi G from Bhavan’s Vidyalaya, Cochin, topped scoring 499 out of 500.
According to an India Today report, the total number of differently-abled students who scored above 90 was 135, whereas those above 95 included 21.
We wish Anushka the very best and hope her story inspires many more students to never give up in the face of any difficulty!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)