Being forced to support her family’s meagre income with a job at an early age has not stopped 19-year-old Vaishnavi Kathelkar from pursuing her dreams and ambitions.
The long hours and exhausting travel do not stop Vaishnavi from dreaming. She earns to support her mother, and at the same time, studies to become a police officer.
Vaishnavi Kathelkar is 19 years old. She is in the final year of graduation and wants to pursue post-graduation afterward.
She belongs to Chinchala village in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. There are six members in her family. She has an elder sister, who is preparing for Civil Services, and two younger ones in Class X and XII. Her father worked as a mason until he met with an accident that took away his ability to work. Her mother is an LIC agent, and makes ₹3,000 per month.
Vaishnavi and her family live with their uncles and cousins in a six-room house. Each family lives in one room. They share a kitchen and bathrooms, but do not share expenses. “When father met with an accident, none of my uncles came forward to help us out with money,” Vaishnavi points out.
Despite the financial pressure, Vaishnavi claims they never thought of dropping out. “Both my sister and I are good in studies. Our parents have always encouraged us to pursue our career aspirations. But when father met with the accident, both of us decided to take turns to support our mother. We were confident about balancing education with a job,” she shares.
A year ago, she and her sister were introduced to Magic Bus by Youth Mentor Yogita Satpute. The latter was convinced that both the sisters could be great role models for girls in her community. “Unlike other communities, people in Chinchala are aware of the importance of education. Parents encourage their children to go to school. What they do not understand is that schooling is only one part of education. Life skills are as important as the lessons children learn in school. It helps a child negotiate and make the most of different situations,” Yogita explains.
Vaishnavi agrees, “The training for Community Youth Leader was an eye-opener for both of us. We did not know how important it was to learn essential life skills like negotiation. We had never had the scope to think beyond books and school. The curriculum is refreshing. We enjoyed every minute of interacting with the children.”
Her father’s accident compelled Vaishnavi to look out for work. “Yogita di told me about Magic Bus’ Livelihoods Centre. I thought it was a good idea to get some guidance on planning my career. I learned skills to help me face interviews, and also improved upon my language skills,” she says.
Vaishnavi took up a job at the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) as a Punching Operator. Her working hours start from 11 AM and continue up to 5 PM. She earns ₹3,500 per month which goes to running the family. “I would go to college at 7 in the morning and attend practical classes till 10.30 AM. I would then rush to office, work till 5 PM, and reach home at 7 in the evening. On some days, I am too tired to even have my dinner,” she shares.
The long hours and exhausting travel do not stop her from dreaming. “I wanted to be an Army Officer, but that couldn’t happen. Now, I want to join the police. I find tough physical activity exciting,” she signs off.
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