Millennium Post

Beating bias

The unbelievable achievement is yet to sink into Devyani Sharma, 17, the all-India girl topper (third in overall category) for CBSE class 12th with 99 per cent marks. Ever since the results have come out, the celebrations have not stopped in her family. Days after the results, relatives and neighbours are still pouring in to congratulate the ‘intelligent and ambitious girl’ (as described by her school principal). Although she is on cloud nine and is enjoying her celebrity status but she says she also feels wary of high expectations that people have from her, now.

‘I was confident of scoring above 95 per cent marks but never imagined that I’ll top girls’ category with 99 percent. The expectations have grown, now. I hope I live up to their expectations and never let anyone down’, feels Devyani, who passed out from Rao Man Singh School in Najafgarh, a village made famous by willow maestro, also known as Nawab of Najafgarh, Virendra Sehwag.

Devyani hails from Chhawla village in Southwest Delhi, mostly known for the BSF camp located in the village. Just a few minutes’ drive from Dwarka, Asia’s largest sub-city, it’s a long, dusty and often-deserted road which leads to Chhawla, referred to as ‘in the outskirts of Delhi’ by popular media. 

Around 50 girls from Devyani’s school alone have scored over 90 per cent marks. The figure can easily reach to thousands if the whole region is taken into account. JK Arora, principal of Rao Man Singh School, is quite impressed by the brilliant performance of these girls in the region. ‘Devyani is an exceptional girl. She is ambitious and would fight even for one mark. She has set a high benchmark for her juniors. Even last year, a girl from our nearby village had topped in our school. This is a very positive sign’, said Arora.

The narrow alley of the village where a car would hardly fit in, presents a contrasting picture of the Delhi that we all know of. In the serene and peaceful village, with much less vehicular traffic, agriculture and dairy farming still being the main source of income for most of the villagers. Culture and traditional values are higher than anything else in this Jat-dominated region. 

Not long ago, there used to be very few people who would pass out of schools and then go on to study in colleges. But over the past years, says Devyani’s father Dr Shiv Kumar Sharma, himself an associate professor in Delhi University, the villagers have realised the importance of education.
‘There is not enough land left for agriculture now. Most of it has been lost as government had acquired them for developing urban colonies. Also, there’s not much rental income unlike in other urbanised villages of Delhi. Therefore, people here have realised that education can sail them through’, says Dr Sharma. The village, now, boasts of young lecturers, MBAs, doctors and engineers and surprisingly majority of them are girls. Sharma adds that his village is a perfect blend of culture, moral values and academic excellence. 
‘The common myth that education leads to loss of cultural and family values has been proven wrong. Mostly, people live in joint families here and even after getting a well-paid job they don’t migrate to cities anymore. They realise the 
importance of family’, explained Sharma who is the first university teacher in his village. He chose to live in a joint family despite being offered an official accommodation.

Sharma also adds that there are certain limitations of living in a village such as lack of proper infrastructure but if one is determined enough, it is quite possible to achieve success. ‘The infrastructure is not up to the mark, no doubt about that. There are no world-class schools to go to, no mentor to guide children, etc. But despite these odds, the determination and will power of the people bring them success’, he says.

The good thing is among this fresh generation of educated intellectuals emerging from rural or parts of ‘outskirts’ of Delhi, the girls have outnumbered and outshone the boys, dumping the misconception that girls should only indulge in doing household chores. The inspiration for most of them is Monica Rani, a woman from nearby Bijwasan village who became an IAS officer three years ago and brought laurels and hopes to hundreds of girls who wish to study beyond ‘permissible’ limits.

Mostly, girls in the villages rarely study beyond schools and even if they want to, they aren’t allowed to do so. However, the apprehension has vanished over the years and the region 
has witnessed a first generation of lady doctors, teachers, engineers and even civil servants. 
Parents, especially mothers, play an important role in encouraging their girls to study despite reservations from several quarters. Devyani’s mother Sudesh Rani, who is an MA, was the main source of inspiration for her daughter. A housewife by choice, she helped Devyani with subjects like maths and physics during her class 12 exams.

‘I chose to look after my family and didn’t take up any job. But I always wanted my daughter to excel in life in whatever she did. She has made us very proud and there are no restrictions on her’, said Sudesh holding out a handful of appointment letters from various government departments to show-off her talent.

Meanwhile, Devyani has already cleared JEE mains and is confused whether to go for IIT or degree course from Delhi University. 

An inspiration for her juniors, she wishes to become a civil servant in future. As Devyani makes her choice, let’s hope there are more such success stories from the ‘outskirts of Delhi,’ of which the national capital can be really proud of.
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