We feel real admiration when we see someone not just named after an idol but also emulating the spirit of that idol. This is exactly what Jhansi Rani Panda is doing; she was named after Rani Laxmi Bai and is living upto it. This 19 year old from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district drives an auto-rickshaw to meet her family’s financial expenses and pursues her higher education at the same time.
Poor financial condition forced her to take this decision a few months ago. Her father Ajay Kumar Panda, a bus driver, found it difficult to manage the six-member family with a meagre monthly income of Rs 6,000. The crisis threatened to disrupt Jhansi’s education. But refusing to relent under the pressure a determined Jhansi decided to take it as challenge and learned to drive auto in few months, a second hand auto given by her relatives. She drives nearly 20 km a day from 3 pm to 6 pm after college hours and earns around Rs. 200 per day.
There were initial protests but later on small city digested the fact that a girl drives auto well and got used to it. Jhansi says “I face a lot of teasing. Male counterparts pass comments every day, particularly when I cross any crowded place. But I am used to it now and the comments do not bother me any more”.
“We all nurse a dream of making it big in life. But financial constraints sometimes act as roadblocks in achieving our goals. There is no point in cribbing about financial constraints blocking our goal. It is better to take them head on and try to sort them out .The true test of character is to overcome adversity and pursue one’s dream. That’s why I took up the job of driving auto-rickshaw,” says Jhansi who aspires to become a Mathematics professor as it is her favourite subject since childhood.
As a token of appreciation, Chittaranjan Mohapatra, her land owner has stopped charging rent for the two rooms in his house where the family lives. And Arun Datta, one of Panda’s teachers in the college, has started giving her free tuition too.
When you are ready to do anything to achieve your dreams all the powers in the universe help you. Panda is really an inspiration and icon for the youth. No excuses should stop you from pursue your dreams. We salute Jhansi Rani Panda for her spirit and wish her all the best for her future.