In Mumbai’s Govandi slum, where the poverty and illiteracy rate are high, an 18-year-old girl is challenging the stereotypical gender norms to achieve greatness.
According to a news report, Govandi’s Shivaji Nagar comprises 31% illiterate girls between the ages of 15-49. Residing in the same locality, Khan Rushda Praveen has cleared the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) to be admitted to a government-aided college to pursue her MBBS degree.
Rushda, who comes from humble beginnings of a one-room-kitchen house, went on to clearing her Class 10 board exams with 86% in 2017 from Shree Geeta Vidyalaya.
Unlike most of the girls her age whose education is stopped to get them married, Rushda was not asked to quit her studies. “I want all my three children to become something in life and be financially independent. I don’t want them to suffer like we did because of lack of education and money. My husband earns about Rs 25,000, which is just enough for us to survive. But we want our children to earn more so that they can improve their lifestyle and educate their children with ease,” says Rushda’s mother, Sayra Parveen. The 39-year-old studied till Class 11 before becoming a housewife while Rushda’s father, Nusrat Ali, studied only till Class 10 and now works as a mechanic.
Rushda went to Swami Vivekanand college, which was about 5 kilometres away from her house. Speaking about why she left coaching classes, she says, “I was sure that I could excel in my studies without coaching classes because I was studying hard and I had good lecturers.”
Hard work pays off
Rushda would wake up at 5 am to study, as her college started in the afternoon. After college, she would return home, freshen up and get back to studying. “I would study what I was taught in college. It helps in grasping the concept better and stores it in your mind for a longer time. It also gets done sooner as compared to revising any chapter after a couple of days,” adds the 18-year-old. She further adds, “I would study till about 2 am and then wake up at 5 am without anyone’s assistance.” Given her rigorous study routine, she went on to score 87% in her Class 12 board exams in 2019.
She then enrolled in coaching classes to prepare for NEET. Refusing to take a day’s break from her studies, she says, “I don’t like to wait for that one day of break. This wait and excitement for ‘a break day’ hampers your studies. It is better to study everyday. Of course, I would take about a few hours of a break once in a while.”
Rushda says that she would take breaks only for breakfast, lunch and dinner the entire day. “I would write poems and apply henna sometimes. Both are hobbies that I use to refresh my mind,” she adds. When asked how she managed to study hard in a room shared by everyone, she reveals, “All family members are supportive. Even my younger siblings are studious so we are studying most of the time. I would mostly spend most of my time in college studying. That is how I would manage my studies.”
Tips and tricks to ace NEET
Rushda attempted NEET in 2019 and also cleared the exam. However, she could not manage to find any seat in a government-aided college which is why she repeated the entrance test in 2020. “Initially, my parents suggested that I do some other course in medicine instead of MBBS, but I am interested in MBBS. I put my best foot forward to score well to get a seat in a government college for MBBS,” Rushda says.
While suggesting tips on how to prepare for NEET, she says, “Subjects that you find tough should be given more attention to score well in the NEET exam.” She also suggests studying from NCERT(National Council of Educational Research and Training) books before studying anything extra from other books in the market.
In her second attempt, she managed to score 597 out of 720 marks and got a seat in a government college in Nagpur. Speaking about getting into a government college she says, “Other than the fees being affordable, here, we have more scope of practicing, as government colleges have more patients and even have more cadavers then a regular hospital,” Rushda says. She is now waiting for the second list hoping to get admission in Mumbai-based government college.
Towards a better life
Rushda wants to specialise in neurology. She says, “Life gets easier if we are financially independent. Even after marriage, if both partners are earning, it avoids financial constraints. I want to build my own identity in life.”
Sayra chimes in with, “Both my husband and I are less educated because parents were not financially strong, which was also because of lack of education. We don’t want our children, irrespective of sons or daughters to suffer.”
Rushda’s mother further adds that she always tries to take care of household chores alone so that Rushda, being the eldest daughter, doesn’t have to worry about them and can focus on her studies. “My sacrifices and Rushda’s hard work have now paid off. We are hopeful that Rushda will study hard and become a better doctor to serve society. As soon as her college starts, I will not let her do anything other than studying,” says Sayra.
Rushda adds, “I have been encouraged by my relatives, as one of my cousins is an engineer and working with a renowned company. And I will be the first in my family to be a doctor.”
Through her academic achievements she has also received a private scholarship from Maharashtra’s Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik. “They will be taking care of my college fees for five years, no matter where I get admission. I am very thankful to them,” a grateful Rushda says.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)