The story of Rupa Yadav of Rajasthan who was married when she was only eight and had the freedom to study and choose a career of her choice (medicine), proves that India indeed is changing for good.
Child marriage in some areas of rural Rajasthan is an established custom and people find nothing wrong in it. Since decades many civil society groups have been working hard to curb the practice as well as promoting the laws and now are seeing changes in the perception of the people. Rupa Yadav of Jaipur’s Kareri village was married when she was only eight-year-old and her husband Shankar Lal was 12. At the time of the marriage she was in Class III. But unlike sad narratives of other child marriages, hers is a story of grit. Rupa did not have to give up her studies nor was she confined to the four walls of the house. She continued her schooling at her parent’s place till she appeared her Class X board and studied even after she moved into her in-laws house. Today, she is 21 and all set to join a medical college. Rupa has cleared the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) making her family, teachers and the entire neighbourhood of this nondescript village proud.
Rupa’s story is an example for parents, in-laws and husbands who undermine a woman’s potential. Rupa had the urge and her in-laws and husband believed in her. She scored 84 per cent in her Class X Board and even people in the neighbourhood felt she should continue her studies. Since there was no school in her village to study after Class X, her family willingly sent her to a private school away from the village. After her Class XII, she joined college for a B.sc degree and sat for the All-India Pre- Medical Test (AIPMT). She got a rank (all India rank of 23,000) but couldn’t qualify for a seat in a good medical college.
Someone said she should be sent to Kota for medical coaching. Rupa’s parents and in-laws are farmers with hardly any money to spend on higher education. But her elder brother-in-law and husband decided to send her to Kota for coaching while they drove auto-rickshaws to fund her studies. After the first year at Kota, she still did not manage to get a seat in a good college though she cleared the 2016 NEET . While people in the village said she should be brought back to the village, her husband was not at all eager to curb her dreams. Seeing her interest, the coaching centre where she studied, waived off her fees by 75 per cent and that helped her stay back for another year. Rupa did not demoralise them. She managed to clear the NEET (all India rank of 2,612) this year and is getting ready to be enrolled in a government medical college i of Rajasthan. The coaching centre has now announced a monthly scholarship for Rupa for four years of her MBBS studies.
A few years from now, Rupa will become a doctor making all those who supported her swollen with pride. But she has already become a social media hero; an inspiration for girls and their families living in the hinterlands of the country and with hardly any means to achieve their dreams. Years of efforts made by the governments and civil society groups in changing the mindset of the people in Rajasthan seems to have borne some fruit. India indeed is changing. If every woman with potential has family support and a strong will to accomplish their dreams, success cannot be far behind.