Sarita Mali, a girl from Mumbai, used to accompany her father to sell flowers on the streets and pavements of Mumbai. She even run after cars at traffic signals with bouquets in her hands to boost the family's daily income of ₹ 300. Today, the 28-year-old research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has made her family proud and is about to pursue a PhD programme at the University of California.
Sarita, whose native village is Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, was born and raised in a slum near Mumbai's Ghatkopar district. She has broken social barriers at various levels, and she has a painful story to recall. While narrating her life story to The Times of India, she said, "My childhood was filled with sufferings, be it economic, psychological or because of my gender. In our country, a dark-skinned girl from a particular section of society faces many additional challenges."
She further said that when she expressed her desire to study Hindi literature, she was bombarded with questions and was asked why she wanted to move to Delhi to study.
'JNU Shaped My Outlook On Life'
Mali's father supported her desires and ensured that she and her siblings did whatever they wanted. Even though he was not educated, he wanted his children to study and do great in life.
Mali studied in a municipal school in Mumbai, and after completing Class X, she started home tuition for the children in her locality. She did this because she wanted to earn money to get into a college. After saving enough money, she joined KJ Somaiya College of Arts and Commerce.
She joined JNU in 2014 and pursued MA in Hindi Literature. When asked about her experience at JNU, she said, "It would have been impossible for me to study there had there not been a public-funded university like JNU." She further stated that it made her realise that anyone can get the right opportunity no matter what caste or class they belong to and that being in JNU shaped her outlook on life.
She is now going to pursue a PhD programme at the prestigious University of California.