Echoes of stillborn histories

What can we learn from this documentary, ’The Death of Merit’?

Bal Mukund Bharti was determined to become a doctor. And his teachers were also very determined: ‘you’ll never pass MBBS’, they told him.

Bal Mukund didn’t give up, nor did his family. Father, mother, married sister, uncle, aunt– they were all determined to support him in his ardent journey, which was steadily converted into an uphill struggle by AIIMS, to become a doctor. They scraped, pooled together whatever meagre resources they could to send him to AIIMS.

Uncle says they invested everything they earned in his education. Sister who made only 2,500 rupees a month helped whenever father, who worked in a job which sometimes made him wait 3 long months for wages, couldn’t. It wasn’t a small dream; if realized, it could have become a source of hope and pride for many more people outside the immediate family.

As Bal Mukund’s proud father says, ‘he was the first one from our community to become a doctor in fifty years!’. Bal Mukund’s intelligence and superior scholastic record instilled that kind of confidence in the family, stoked such high hopes.

Imagine: the first doctor from a community in fifty years, or in two millennia, possibly. Also imagine Rakesh Sharma or Kalpana Chawla, people of the ‘wrong’ race, being told by the Russians or the Americans: ‘you’ll never go into space’.

But AIIMS was determined it would see Bal Mukund only as a ‘harijan’, as a person from the ‘wrong’ caste. Imagine history being snuffed out in the womb. That shouldn’t be very difficult to imagine if you step two years back into history and think of Senthil Kumar of the University of Hyderabad.

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