Young woman broke taboos, swallowed insults in her PhD pursuit

Young woman broke taboos, swallowed insults in her PhD pursuit

Sachu Aysha so desperately wanted a PhD that she was prepared even to cancel a wedding arranged for her. With her dream, Sachu travelled to the Calicut University campus from her native place, where educating girls after plus-two was considered sacrilege.

However, her bold move breaking the conventions was not taken lightly by the local community and many family members, who considered her a blemish. As a result, she had to face regular insults from them, making Sachu consider even abandoning her dream to pursue research.

But even amidst such challenges, Sachu did not waver. Her determination to achieve her goal was so intense that she finally overcame all hurdles. Posting a picture with her parents on Facebook, Sachu has written an elaborate account of her struggles and victory.

“It is for the first time that I am posing for such a photo. I was, in fact, waiting for this day all my life. PhD was my dream. I have sacrificed and suffered so much to achieve it. Even a wedding that had been arranged for me was cancelled for the purpose. When I travelled to Calicut University campus leaving my wedding plans, I was virtually running away from my native place,” says Sachu.

When a girl decides that she does not prefer marriage to pursue her studies, she becomes an anathema to villagers and most family members, points out Sachu. “Everyone at our place said that there was no use educating girls after plus-two. According to them, girls should be married off as soon as possible and could pursue higher studies after their wedding if they wished,” she says.

It was not easy to break such rigid traditions, Sachu adds.

Though she joined her research programme, Sachu was initially not at all certain that she would complete it. “On several occasions, I was on the verge of abandoning my studies, but it was the support offered by my mother that helped me achieve my dream,” she reveals.

“When should I come and watch you being awarded with the doctorate?” her mother regularly asked Sachu. These words were the biggest inspiration for the youngster.

“Everybody used to blame mother for supporting me. It was she who had to listen to all the criticism in this regard,” points out Sachu.

Her father was a strict person but he too considered that his daughter earning a PhD was a matter of pride. This also proved to be a motivation for Sachu.

“No wonder, the first page of my thesis is dedicated to my parents,” she says proudly.

Earlier, Sachu’s parents never allowed her to venture beyond Kozhikode. However, they did not object when she had to travel to other states as part of her research work. “That showed how eager they were about my studies. Moreover, my parents never compelled me regarding another wedding. They also kept quiet when neighbours and others in the family ridiculed them. My parents sincerely wanted me to earn the doctorate,” explains Sachu.

Now Sachu is pleased to have achieved her goal. But she is happier over the change it has brought about in her parents. “Many people had told my mother and father that they were making a mistake educating me. But my parents tell all these people that supporting me in studies was indeed the right decision. That my parents can hold their heads high among all those who once humiliated and isolated them is the biggest achievement,” says the young woman.

Life on campus

A series of agitations took place on the Calicut University campus when Sachu was doing research there. They included ‘day-and-night’ stir, White Rose II strike and 156-day hunger strike, among others. “I took part in many of these strikes. In fact, I was suspended for five months as part of the hunger strike. At that time, I was in a dilemma. I could neither go home nor stay at the hostel. I had nowhere to go and there was a threat of the suspension turning into a dismissal. It was a very difficult experience. But I somehow weathered the storm thanks to the support of organization that I was part of and my comrades,” remembers Sachu.

While pursuing research, the University Hostel was her home. “I couldn’t go home during Onam, Vishu, Ramzan and other occasions owing to several reasons. I spent all these holidays at the hostel. Even when the hostel was closed, I stayed here alone with special permission. That made the staff at the mess and the hostel matrons my favourite people,” says the brave lady.

Insults aplenty

Sachu still vividly recalls all the humiliating incidents she had to face. “A large number of people insulted me. Some said that I could study as much as I liked because I was not pretty. Others said that they had used the notice from the tuition centre in which my photo appeared to clean the excrement of their kids. Still others laughed hearing such comments,” she recalls.

Sachu, a little girl then, ran to a corner and cried all alone hearing all these vicious insinuations. But that also made her more determined than ever to succeed.

“The time that I spent on research was a trial by fire. It was a struggle for my existence that I was bent on winning overcoming all the obstacles that came my way and the setbacks I had to face,” says the young woman.

Sachu concludes her post by thanking everyone. That includes not only the people who supported, encouraged and praised her but also those who insulted, criticized and refused to help even when she pleaded before them. “A special thanks to Julie and Sanyo for the sari they gifted me for wearing on this occasion,” she says.

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