“The path from dreams to reality does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get onto it and perseverance to follow it” -Kalpana Chawla
When Muthumanoranjini read about Kalpana Chawla as part of her English curriculum in Grade 11, she was in awe of the fact that a small town girl from her very own country was able to reach for the stars and get there too!
But she could still see some stark differences in her and Kalpana Chawla. For someone who is part of the Arunthathiyar community, she was constantly being told by society that her community was meant to do only one thing – manual scavenging. In an attempt to break free from it, her parents, with the support of CRY supported Human Rights Education and Protection Council (HREPC), found alternative professions.
Yet, as the first person in her family to go to school, Ranjini felt that she had her world at her feet. An excellent student in school, Ranjini kept at her dream and worked hard, eventually topping her school and presented the idea of studying aeronautical engineering to her parents.
Unfortunately, her parents felt that it was a male-dominated profession and didn’t agree to send her for the course. When asked what she did then she says, “At first I cried. A lot. Then I realised that I need to make this happen.” She spoke at her children’s collective and caught the attention of the HREPC project holder, Bharathan.
Having played a major role in changing quality of life of the Arunthathiyar community, Bharathan is a trusted leader within the people in the village. He spoke to the parents and convinced them, making them realise how this choice could potentially change the course of their daughter’s and their life.
Today, Ranjini’s parents are her staunchest supporters and she’s pursuing her second year in aeronautical engineering, having secured first rank in her first year.
When asked what her future plans are, she replies without batting an eyelid; she’s going to do her post-graduation from Hindustan Aviation Academy in Bangalore and become an astronaut like Kalpana Chawla.
For someone whose family for generations, including her parents, manually cleaned human waste from dry latrines and sewers, Ranjini has come a long way and is definitely aiming for the sky. And we have no doubt that she’s going to get there and beyond!
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