Sarita Mali: The girl with an iron will

From selling flowers on Mumbai streets to securing a Ph.D. seat at UCLA, Sarita’s journey is an inspiration.

Sarita Mali

This young girl, despite all odds, took charge of her destiny and proved through her hard work and dedication that even a street vendor can aspire to pursue a Ph.D. in the USA.

Sarita with JNU’s Vice Chancellor Prof Santishree Pandit
Sarita with JNU’s Vice Chancellor Prof Santishree Pandit
(© Official JNU Twitter)

After a long, hot sunny day, Sarita would return home exhausted after urging commuters to purchase tiny bouquets and flower garlands. This 12-year-old girl had no choice and alongside school had to pitch in and help in the family business to enhance the family income, especially during festivals. This was her daily routine for most of her educational life. Nevertheless, her circumstances did not dampen her spirit to learn and progress academically. She developed a love for Hindi literature and did not give in to external factors but continued with a will of iron to fulfil her dream of obtaining a good education. Little did she know that the vigour and fortitude she possessed would not only lead her to the completion of her education but also influence her to excel, and finally place her in a prestigious institution in the United States to work towards her doctorate.

Since it was impossible for her to afford an education, she pursued her M.A. and M.Phil. through Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a public-funded university, and will submit her Ph.D. in Hindi literature this July to the Indian Language Centre at JNU itself. There was a stroke of luck that played a part here, as Sarita managed to secure the last OBC seat at her entrance test at JNU. She attributes her acceptance at the University of California (UCLA), Santa Barbara, to JNU, and firmly believes that her future brightened up as soon as she was accepted at JNU.

Sarita’s parents
Sarita’s parents

Not only has Sarita been an inspiration to children and youth but also her family, as her siblings have understood the value of good education. Her elder sister has earned an M.A. degree and both her brothers are attempting competitive exams. In order to fund themselves, they are engaged in providing tuitions to meet their financial requirements just like Sarita. Despite the odds, Sarita’s father has always strongly supported her and encouraged her to study further.

Sarita’s vision is to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by street children in their attempt to obtain a decent education, especially the financial aspect. She rightly believes that education for street children should be free. Thus, those who have the desire to build up their skills and knowledge will have a system in place to develop themselves at no cost, thereby providing a fair opportunity to all. Education is a need of all and should be provided to benefit every citizen. This in turn will pave the way for the process of broadening everyone’s perspective, skills, and opportunities, leading our nation towards a radiant future.

Marina D’Abreo worked in the banking and insurance industry for 10 years. She has had training in Montessori, and child psychology with NHCA.

Marina D'Abreo

Marina D’Abreo worked in the banking and insurance industry for 10 years. She has had training in Montessori, and child psychology with NHCA.