Earlier this year, 26-year-old Rupa Yadav secured good marks in her MBBS final examination. What makes her story special is that she was a child bride, married off at the young age of eight years. And while she was attending her pre-final exam, nobody knew that this young girl had just given birth and was also nurturing her newborn!
Rupa, who hails from a small village Kariri in Rajasthan, was married when she was just eight years old. Her paternal uncle had promised her father-in-law that Rupa and her elder sister Rukma would be married to both their sons. Rupa could stay at her natal home till gauna – a ceremony when the child bride is sent to her husband’s home.
Since her childhood, Rupa had been a meritorious student. Her father Maaliram Yadav wanted to support her daughter’s higher education but was helpless because of his elder brother’s promise to Rupa’s father-in-law.
With her father’s consistent support and her hard work, Rupa managed to secure 86 per cent in her Class 10 examinations, making her parents and community proud.
“The entire village was shocked. Ours is a very small village, and no one had secured such good marks before. I started receiving awards, and my teachers would advise me to continue my education further. But, it was then the time for my gauna,” recalls Rupa.
Much against her father’s wishes, Rupa had to bid farewell. But her brother-in-law promised Maaliram that they will not let anything hinder Rupa’s education.
It takes a village to raise a person
When asked if the promise was kept, “Yes, they kept their promise. My in-laws took loans, worked day and night, ignored the taunts of society, but kept the promise they made to my father,” says Rupa.
After securing good marks in intermediate, her school encouraged Rupa to enrol in coaching classes to prepare for NEET examination. Impressed with her performance, the coaching institute decided to accept her for tuition without charging any fee. And along with this, Rupa also undertook admission to a Bachelor of Science.
In her first attempt, Yadav secured an All India Rank of 22,000 in NEET. Seeing her succeed in her career path while managing household chores and looking after the family, her in-laws encouraged her to get tuition for higher studies.
“So, after this, my in-laws decided to send me to Kota for tuition. People would taunt my in-laws that their decision to send me for higher education was wrong, but my family stood with me. We even faced a financial crunch, but my family took loans. My husband and jija ji (brother-in-law) worked extra hours so that I could study,” says Rupa.
But even after taking tuition in the first year of her stay in Kota, Yadav was unable to get a good medical college in Rajasthan. After three years of hard work, Yadav managed to get admission to Sardar Patel Medical College in Bikaner.
Yadav believes that she was fortunate enough to meet people who turned her hardships into beautiful moments. In college, she became friends with three girls who supported her throughout the five years of medical college. Even when her identity as a child bride was revealed and the college started raising questions about her past, her friends supported her and encouraged her to be proud as she managed to get through all challenges.
Although two years swept by without any hardship, Rupa faced yet another challenge when she came back home during the lockdown and became pregnant before her pre-final examination.
Balancing motherhood and career
Now, Rupa had to decide between two choices – motherhood or career. However, she decided to quit on neither.
Rupa’s daughter was just 25 days old when she had to appear for her pre-final examination. But her sister and her mother-in-law looked after her daughter, and Rupa was able to successfully secure good marks again.
“I had my final exam for surgery on the same day as my daughter’s first birthday. I finished a 3-hour paper in half the time, took a bus home and celebrated my daughter’s birthday,” she says.
Rupa’s result was announced on April 28 earlier this year, and she is now a certified doctor.
For now, Rupa says she is preparing for her post-graduation and aspires to open a hospital in her village. Her in-laws wish that her dreams come true, even if they have to sell their lands!
“I believe we can do whatever we want. So, don’t stop dreaming and never forget to fight for those dreams; make them come true,” adds Rupa as advice to every woman who finds their journey arduous.
Read the story in Hindi here.
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)