As she graduated from the University of Oxford with a master’s degree in Comparative Social Politics, Juhi Koré took to LinkedIn to write a note on her late maternal grandfather.
In the post, which has since gone viral, she narrated his own struggles with attaining education, and how his hard work paved the path for her to succeed and realise her dream.
Juhi said that her grandfather, who belonged to a lower-caste family in Maharashtra, had to fight for his right to study throughout his childhood.
“In 1947, the year India was declared a free and independent country, not every citizen was allowed to live a free and independent life,” she wrote.
“Despite being a school-aged boy, [my grandfather’s] family did not want him to attend school for two primary reasons — as the eldest of four, he needed to work on a farm so his family could earn enough food; and his parents were afraid of how he might be treated by the students and teachers alike.”
Regardless, Juhi’s grandfather made a deal with his parents that he would work on the farm from 3 am so he could make it to school for the second half of the morning. Unfortunately, even after walking for nearly 1.5 hours every day, without even a good pair of shoes to wear, the young boy was not allowed to sit inside the classroom.
“Yet, he persevered,” Juhi noted.
“Since his farm work didn’t pay in money, only food, he would borrow old books from older similarly “outcast” (scheduled caste) students and study under the village’s only lamp post late into the night. Despite all the bullying from his upper caste peers, discrimination from his upper caste teachers, and not being allowed to sit inside the classroom, his determination and resolve led to him not simply passing his exams, but outranking all his classmates,” she recalled.
It was her grandfather’s principal who recognised the young student’s potential, and paid for his schooling and living expenses in the big city of Bombay (Mumbai).
Here, Juhi’s grandfather learned English and pursued a law degree while working full-time as a cleaner in a government building to make ends meet. “Many years later, [he] attained his master’s while working (in that same building) as a high-level government official,” she said.
“I’m so proud of that boy, my maternal grandfather, for instilling the importance of education in me, as I proudly announce: I have graduated with my master’s from the University of Oxford!” shared Juhi.
She recalls that the day was accepted to the university, she called her grandfather. “Every vegetable seller and corner shop worker in his neighbourhood had heard the news.”
Unfortunately, Juhi lost her grandfather over a year ago. “We weren’t able to realise our shared dream of him attending my Oxford graduation ceremony in person. But I know he was watching over me fondly,” she added.
Juhi celebrated her grandfather for turning “his reality of not being allowed to sit inside the classroom to having a granddaughter walk through the halls of the best university in the world”.
Read her heartfelt tribute to her grandfather here.
Edited by Divya Sethu