“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, 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 Pallar (dalit/untouchable) community in Sattur, Tamil Nadu, she wasn’t sure if she’d be allowed to dream big.
Having been a part of children’s collective meetings during her school days in Anaikulam village in Tirunelveli district, where lived till she completed middle school, Ranjini was aware of her rights and opportunities and she felt that she could still achieve her dreams. Even when her family moved to the neighboring town of Sattur, this drove Ranjini.
An excellent student in school, she kept at her dream and worked hard, eventually topping her school. As the first one in her family to have the opportunity to go to college, she 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 realized that I need to make this happen.” She contacted the HREPC community organizer and caught the attention of the HREPC project holder, Bharathan.
Bharathan is a trusted leader within the people in the village. He spoke to the parents and convinced them, making them realize how this choice could potentially change the course of their daughter’s and their life. His project also arranged for counseling on higher education for Ranjini and her peers.
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.
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.