| Iti. Picture by Aranya Sen
Calcutta, July 8: Remember Iti Baidya, a vegetable-seller’s daughter who lost her home — and books — in the 2000 flood but recovered to find a place in the top 10 in the 2001 Madhyamik examinations'
Two years later, she has again beaten the odds and bagged a rank high enough in the Joint Entrance Examination to fetch her a seat in Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, the state’s most sought-after institution for medical education.
Iti’s family, living in Ichhapur near Gaighata in North 24-Parganas, has just about managed to rebuild its home but that — and the tuition fees it pays for her siblings’ education — has run its meagre resources ragged.
With a monthly income of about Rs 1,000, the family has said it is not possible for it to help realise Iti’s dream of becoming a doctor when the monthly tuition fee at a medical college is Rs 1,000.
“We would have liked her to become a doctor,” Nimai Baidya, her father and one of the many who hawk vegetables at Ichhapur haat, says.
“But it seems she will have to satisfy herself studying something that is not going to require so much money,” adds Baidya, who has learnt that the total expense for the four-year course and her stay in Calcutta can touch Rs 1.5 lakh.
The family has tried — sometimes with and sometimes without success — to ensure that Iti’s four siblings get to pursue their studies. The brother immediately preceding her, Badal, is learning computers at Durgapur’s Regional Engineering College; two sisters (Nila and Ila) have done their graduation; but another sister (Shila) has had to leave her studies midway.
“It’s not within my means to do any more,” Baidya says.
The future had looked rosier when Iti ranked ninth in the 2001 Madhyamik exams. She saw the October 2000 deluge wash away her home and books but still scored 755 out of a total of 800.
The first among girls in that exam, Iti was called to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at his Writers’ Buildings office.
“It was the 12th of June,” Iti still remembers. “And he promised me that I would not have to pay for my studies if I moved to Calcutta to do my Higher Secondary course. But my family did not have the means to put me up in Calcutta.”
The state still paid her Rs 15,000 and she received some more assistance from a private institution, enough to see her through two years of study. Unexpected help came from A.K. Maiti, a doctor who read about her and coached her for JEE free of cost.
But now, after all that has reaped a very rich harvest, Iti feels she has reached the end of her education. “I always dreamt of becoming a doctor and serving the poor.”
She confesses she didn’t know it takes money to be able to serve the poor.