“A little to the right…no, too much…slight left…slight right…perfect!”
The limits of my moderately-priced phone’s camera is tested as it tries to do justice to the innocence and charm radiating from its subject. When not smoothing out the crease on her kurta or adjusting her spectacles, this lanky 17-year-old beams into the lens, silently imploring me to release her from her misery.
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Meet Amisha Choubey.
Having traversed 2,000 km from her hometown in Bihar, she is currently pursuing a computer training course in an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Bangalore. Fresh out of high school, she hopes to break the mould of Bihar being a land of IAS-aspirants (only) by joining the ranks of the State cadre some day – dreams that has led her to take her first steps in this nondescript college.
“I am acutely aware that my passion may not be any more than that of the next aspirant you meet. But I don’t want to be reduced to a statistic – I will clear the civil services examination. That is a promise I made to myself.”
Flashback to sharing a modest house with an extended family, Amisha has bittersweet memories of her school time when days were punctuated by long walks to the bus stop through early morning fog and fending off “chhichore ladke” (worthless men) who would line up to eve-tease unsuspecting women.
Belonging to a family that couldn’t afford to make good education a priority, Amisha’s father – a small time farmer – left no stone unturned to ensure that she and her sister were enrolled in a decent school, predominantly reserved for ‘privileged’ male students in the neighbourhood. This resolve caught on with her who took up formal tuition lessons for weak students to fund her long commutes. All of ten back then, Amisha also spent her after-school hours pitching in to run a PCO machine close by. Trained on how to make calls and prepare the billing process, she was more than delighted to be able to supplement her meagre tuition income.
“Money has always been a delicate issue at home. Getting basic education is one thing, but aspiring for anything more that doesn’t guarantee immediate financial benefits is generally not encouraged. Drawing a salary has always been the primary motivation behind getting a job, and understandably so. Although I’ve seldom borrowed from my father after 10th grade, my father used to peddle his rickety cycle 8 km each way to drop me to school some days. I’m aiming for a scholarship this year at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) to study political science which will help me prepare for UPSC.”
However despite all this number-crunching, mathematics has been her nemesis since school. One would think a school-level academic blow would worry an IAS-aspirant, but Amisha has done her homework – the smart teenager knows that pruning the logical reasoning aspects of the subject would suffice – mastery, although desired, is not paramount to clearing the exams.
I take notes as she educates me on tips to crack one of the toughest competitive exams in the country. Her knowledge on the subject stuns me, especially since she’s never had a mentor or role model back in her village. What’s more, there was plenty of wisdom directed at her from all quarters about how it could be too ambitious for someone of her grounding and the challenges such an undertaking would entail.