The face of the girl before me, was a change from what I used to see always- the smiling pretty girl was a far change from the tension filled, worrying face of this very same girl which was the usual picture in my mind. The problem with Nageshwari, now Dr.Nageshwari was that she is intelligent, hard working but born to a dalit father and a backward class mother. Both of them illiterate, lowly paid workers and poor to boot.
The first time I had met Nageshwari was a decade ago. She was my nephew Varun's classmate and had got a reasonable rank in the common entrance test for medicine conducted by the cell of the govt. specifically created for this purpose. The trouble with her was that this rank would get her admission to a free medical seat if she could be categorized as a scheduled caste candidate. Though she was one it was the matter of producing a certificate to that effect given by the Tahasildar, an officer of the revenue department of the govt. The official had refused to give her one- when she asked for it the answer was well I am not going to give you that, do whatever you like! Unless she could produce one within the stipulated time, her seat would be forfeited and it looked that was the exact intention of this official! It was the resentment that a dalit girl would become a doctor that raised the hackles of some of her 'upper caste' neighbors and they had colluded with some employees of the taluk office to sabotage her plans. Luckily for her, that was time when the then chief minister of Karnataka, S.M.Krishna had started a policy of e- governance. He had promised that any complaint emailed to him would get priority. So, I narrated the travails of this girl and the possibility of losing her future prospects if the certificate were not be received in time. The reply was immediate- he directed the deputy commissioner of the district to see that the certificate was issued immediately. It was done and Nageshwari got her medical seat at a college which was about 350kms from her home town. But, that was only round one!
Within a few months of joining she got another shock- there was a notice from the investigation cell of the backward classes officer asking her to report to them immediately. There was also the veiled threat that her admission would be canceled as she had produced a false caste certificate! The basis of this investigation was a complaint received from one person whose residential address was a few streets away from where her family resided! The investigating officer was however a honest person- he had investigated the same and submitted his report within a few days. But, neither Nageshwari nor her mother Jana Bai were allowed to see it. The threat was that her admission would be canceled any time! This sword of Damocles was hanging over her head for many, many months and each time she came to see me she would be tense and almost in tears. After a year a honest officer came to the post of the district backward class officer and she finally managed to get a copy of the investigation report! It held that she was a scheduled caste, her certificate was genuine and what was false was the complaint- the complainant was nonexistent! All the time she had been harassed by a complaint filed by a nonexistent person! This fact was never revealed to her just to keep her on tenterhooks! Though her travails were over those of her family continued!
The minions of the Taluk office told her that though her problems were over, her family would be taught a lesson and they were! By this time her brother Dileep Kumar had passed his higher secondary examination and had managed to get an engineering seat at the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka under the reserved category and he needed the certificate! As usual it was refused to him and another royal battle ensued. This however took a long time to resolve and though Dileep Kumar got the seat he was refused the scholarship due to his category. It must have really rankled the jealous upper caste neighbors that one dalit was becoming a doctor and the other an engineer! The fight from Dileep Kumar's caste certificate took a couple of years and it was finally resolved by a sympathetic Deputy commissioner who was himself a dalit, He personally summoned the responsible officials, threatened them with disciplinary action and the caste certificate was finally issued.
By this time Nageshwari had completed her degree and got employment too at a local hospital. Within a year of that there was a double disaster for the upper caste jealous neighbors- not only that Dileep Kumar completed his civil engineering degree and got a job but his younger brother Dinesh Kannan did well in his entrance examination for the engineering course and got a seat in another prestigious college for mechanical engineering and is now in the second year.
It is not that these neighbors can be free of avarice now. Their younger sister, Vidya Rani is now in the 12th year of schooling and is due to appear for entrance examinations this year for medicine and engineering. We hope that she too will do well and cause further heartburn to them! The youngest Sri Devi is now in Std X and I do wish that she too will go the way of her elder siblings and cause heart attacks than just heart burn!
So, this is story of Dr.Nageshwari MBBS who has triumphed against all odds, machinations of the upper castes, conspiracy of the bureaucracy and the callousness of the uncaring society. I salute her parents Kaliappan and Jana Bai who though are illiterate have got their children educated facing so much hardship. Hats off to Dr. Nageshwari her parents and her family.
President - Federation of Indian Rationalist
Managing trustee, Aid without religion trust