17-year-old Rutuja Bhoite has so many reasons to celebrate, chief among them being that she is the first in her family to have secured admission into the United World’s College (UWC) in Thailand on a full-time scholarship. What makes Rutuja’s achievement remarkable is that she is the daughter of an auto rickshaw driver from Pune.
According to a report published in the IndianWomenBlog, Rutuja says, “I’m going with a feeling of pride,” she said. “I’ve worked hard, done the best I could with the tasks given to me. So this is a token of gratitude I’m giving myself.”
In May 2013, she participated in a Teach For India (TFI) Broadway-style musical – Maya. Up until then, Rutuja was a shy and reserved girl who kept to herself. According to the blog, “Everything changed after Maya came into my life. My journey to being an extrovert started there,” she said. “I learned the values of courage, compassion, and wisdom. I learned to open up, mingle with new people.” Her understanding about education changed, and the “pressure to score high marks stopped making sense.”
A student of Pune Municipal Corporation’s Sant Gadge Maharaj English Medium School until class 9, she moved to Avasara Academy near Pune.
With a family income of about Rs 10,000, Rutuja’s parents, Nanda and Arun, are beyond thrilled. Rutuja’s story is truly inspirational for many others who wish to move ahead and break free of stereotypes that often restrict us. Her mother, Nanda, used to run a beauty parlour from home but a constant backache led to her shutting it down. On many occasions, the couple sells vegetables to supplement the income that Arun brings home.
According to a report published in The Hindu, “She’s going so far away,” says Nanda, with a catch in her voice. “I’ve seen her struggle with leukoderma; the treatment was painful. But she never stopped studying, come what may.”
Leukoderma is a condition caused by partial or total skin pigmentation, resulting in white patches across the skin. Dermatological disorders of this kind have a rather telling impact on the psychological and social presence of a person. For Rutuja it was no different; there were many moments where she was unsure of herself and succumbed to self-pity and doubt. However, her ambitions and perseverance always kept her going.
Nanda says that she was so committed to her academics that she would teach children in their neighbourhood on weekends, at no cost. She says, “I have always wanted for her to not feel less than anyone else. There was a time when people saw her differently, but not any more.”
If something is holding you back, then do read this and take inspiration from Rutuja’s story.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)