If Anisha Ani Benedict boasts of an array of academic achievements at the age of 26, each of them is a result of intense hard work that has helped the youngster from a fisher family rise from a modest socio-economic background in Thiruvananthapuram district.
As the daughter of a man who earns the daily bread for his poor household by venturing into the sea, Anisha has in her kitty a pile of records of multifaceted excellence. She has an international licence in scuba diving, holds an MSc in marine biology, and is a scholar of the Darwin initiative under the British government grants scheme that strives to protect biodiversity. Besides, Anisha has published several research papers in journals of national and global repute.
Eight years ago, the domestic scene showed no scope of Anisha rising to such heights. On completion of her class 12 studies, the girl's father Ani Benedict suggested she went for a job and earned money for their family in Valiyathura. At this, Anisha enrolled herself with a state government project to prepare a 'People's Biodiversity Register.' The year-long assignment gifted her with a twin benefit: she earned money for higher education and her love for marine creatures doubled.
Three years later, she graduated in botany and biotechnology with distinction. She gave an entrance test for post-graduation and got herself eligible to do MSc under the Pondicherry University at its centre in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
There, she trained in scuba diving and secured an international licence in the underwater exercise using a breathing apparatus. All the same, she wrote research papers in her subject of study and got them published in science journals across continents. In 2016, Anisha secured a Darwin scholarship. This year in April, she was a delegate at a G7 summit on marine pollution, held in Britain.
Today, Anisha aims to do a PhD in marine archaeology. Looking for an educational loan as part of it, she approached a bank, which sought from her a document that showed the family owned a house that provided access to four-wheelers. All that the household had was a flat in Muttathara that the state government had given under a scheme for fishermen. Even that came after Ani Benedict had surrendered the modest property he had owned by the sea in this district of south Kerala. The key of the flat was all they had.
Her studies under the Pondicherry University deprived Anisha of any academic advantages the Kerala government would offer to students of the state. Two years have passed after she completed her MSc, but no scholarship or similar schemes have come to her aid despite running from pillar to post. Promises do keep coming, but only if one among them actually realises can Anisha do her doctoral studies. She is hopeful.
The expenditure for Anisha's studies meant that the family couldn't provide a good education to her younger sister. She got married recently.
"Fisher communities do have a lot of bright students aspiring for high academic studies," says Anisha. "It's because circumstances aren't conducive that most of them fail to achieve it."