A child prodigy's giant leap
At 13, she has joined as a student for a post-graduate course. She may be studying about things that cannot be seen through naked eyes but her achievement is there for everyone to see without the help of a microscope.
At an age when she should be playing with her friends at the school, 13-year-old Sushma Verma, the daughter of a poor daily wage labourer in Uttar Pradesh, has been rubbing shoulders with girls almost twice her age exploring the mysterious world of micro-organisms. Sushma has been enrolled in the M Sc programme in microbiology at Lucknow University this year.
Considered to be the youngest graduate in the country, Sushma has now become a symbol of admiration and inspiration for girls and boys at the varsity. Sushma had cleared high school, when she was only seven and passed the intermediate examination (12th standard) at the age of nine. She was barely 12 when she completed her graduation. She had also taken the pre-medical test, when she was barely 10 years old.
Sushma’s name appears in the Limca Book of Records as she passed 10th standard at seven, the youngest to achieve the feat. And she also made it to the merit list of students given admission in a course at the varsity. Although the varsity had granted her admission in the course, the family of the child prodigy was not in a position to pay the required fee. Her father Tej Bahadur is a daily wage earner and hardly can support family’s needs.
The child prodigy had to endure a lot of difficulties to achieve success at a tender age. “We had to face many difficulties… my parents had to make a lot of sacrifice to ensure that my studies were not discontinued,” she says.
It was almost déjà vu for her when her name figured in the list of candidates selected for micro-biology course in Lucknow University. She did not know how to mobilise Rs 25,000 fee for the first semester. Left with no alternative, her father had to do something, which he had not done all these years to ensure her education. He had to sell his ancestral land, for which he had sentimental attachment, to raise money.
“Somehow, I managed to mobilise money for the first semester. I had no idea as to how I would mobilise Rs 75,000 fee for the remaining three semesters,” Tej Bahadur Verma said.
He did not want his daughter’s dreams to go up in smoke because of his financial position. “I will sell whatever I have but will not let money come in the way of achieving her dreams,” he emphatically said. Verma said that he did not want his children to work as labourers. He may not have studied but certainly knows the importance of education in this age.
Sushma’s brother Shailendra Verma had also cleared the high school at the age of seven. He went on to become a graduate in computer applications from Lucknow University when he was only 14. He is currently pursuing M.Sc in computers in Bangalore.
Now, the lines of worries on Verma’s face have slowly started disappearing. With reports appearing in media, help is literally pouring in. Various institutions and voluntary organisations have come forward to extend her financial assistance to study not only in the Lucknow University but also elsewhere, if she desires to pursue higher studies.
From leading NGOs to noted Bollywood figures like Javed Akhtar have promised help. Varsity proctor Prof Manoj Dixit said that Akhtar had conveyed to him his desire to help the child prodigy through his acquaintances in the city. A Microsoft employee in the US Rafat Sarosh has offered to help Sushma.
Although she was satisfied with her achievement, she knows she has a long way to go and she is thankful to the Almighty for having given her the quality of learning. After completing her post graduation, Sushma intends to pursue doctoral studies in the same field. The girl has beaten all odds to pursue her dream.
The child prodigy, however, craves for a better atmosphere and neighbourhood. But she also knows that all her dreams may not be fulfilled. Although it was not uncommon for Sushma to be studying with peers who were older than her, there was some nervousness when she went to the college. Other students were very curious to know about her.
Sushma was a bit nervous in the beginning but now has adjusted to her new surroundings. After all, she has always had peers twice her age--right from the tenth standard to graduation.
Though Sushma may not find it unusual to sit with people much older than her, teachers admit that they had never taught a child at the master’s course.
But they are equally enthusiastic.
“We will make sure that she gets all the encouragement…we will provide her all the opportunity so that she makes use of her talent,” says Prof A K Sharma, a senior faculty at the zoology department.
The varsity administration might waive fee and accommodate her in hostel. Her father thinks that she is too young to take care of herself and wants that her family should be allowed to stay inside the campus. Officials have promised to take up the matter with the authorities concerned.