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Friday, December 2, 2022

Sarita Mali’s inspiring journey from selling flowers on roads to PhD in US

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Sarita Mali grew up in a slum in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar. She is presently preparing to begin a PhD program at the University of California.

As a Class VI student, Sarita Mali used to accompany her father to sell flowers on Mumbai’s streets and even sprint after vehicles at traffic lights with bouquets in her hand to supplement the family’s meager daily revenue of roughly Rs 300 on a good day.

Mali is now a 28-year-old research fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University, with plans to earn a PhD at the University of California.

Mali, who was born and raised in a slum in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar, has broken down societal boundaries on several levels, and the native of Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur area has a terrible narrative to tell.

Mali says, “My upbringing was riddled with hardships, whether economic, psychological, or due to my gender. Even after overcoming obstacles, there were other ones, such as when I stated my desire to study Hindi literature and was asked why I wanted to fly all the way to Delhi to do so.”

Mali was fortunate to have a passionate supporter in her father.

Surprising, given that he was illiterate and had just lately learned to sign his name, according to his daughter.

Mali says, “My father, despite his lack of education, was the one who inspired me. He has witnessed upper caste folks attain success after acquiring an education in his area. That notion stayed with him. So, even though he hadn’t been able to attend school, he wanted to make his children study in order to avoid the hardships he had suffered in life.”

Mali attended a municipal school in Mumbai and, after completing Class X, began tutoring youngsters in her neighborhood.

She desired to make some money in order to fulfill her father’s demand that she continue her studies. She saved money and enrolled at KJ Somaiya College of Arts and Commerce. Her siblings — an elder sister and two brothers — were inspired by her and, like her, ran tuition courses to pay their education. The sister received her MA degree, while the brothers are currently preparing for competitive tests.

Even today, the simple parent cannot tell the difference between a graduate and a postgraduate. He just understands that being educated equates to having power.

“He instilled in us the empowerment that education provides,” Mali grinned.

While Mali has escaped the cycle of poverty, she becomes concerned when she sees street children following vehicles to offer a variety of goods.

Mali says, “I am overwhelmed every time I see youngsters on the streets. There must be a lot of people out there who can study and advance…The government should strongly advocate for free education and the establishment of new publicly supported colleges.”

Mali, who enrolled at JNU in 2014 for an MA in Hindi literature, said the university influenced her view on life.

“It would not have been feasible for me to study if there had not been a publicly sponsored university like JNU,” she explained.

Mali says it taught her that no matter what caste or class you come from, you can obtain the appropriate chance. She says, “It altered my thought process.”

Mali hopes to enter academics in the future to emphasize the plight of the marginalized.

Sarita Mali said, “I’d want to speak out in support of free education for street children. There must be rules in place that allow such students to study without financial constraints. The contribution of marginalized populations to nation-building must also be acknowledged.”

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