Akshara Stories : Ashwini

Posted By: Rise Team|Dated: August 16, 2013

I come from a family of a marginal farmer, below the poverty line, and where education is not a priority for economic as well as socio cultural reasons. I was part of the first Akshara batch in Mulshi Taluka. Nobody believed that the project would be successful or that we, the students, would be benefited in any way. I always thought of us as guinea pigs that were being experimented with.


I was in the 10th grade and wasn’t in the first choice for the Akshara initiative. The selectors thought I was faring well in the village school and did not need extra support. However, I pushed and almost bulldozed my way into the program, as for me, Akshara was a stepping stone for my unbridled ambition to rise in life – above my circumstances.

So started my story at Akshara, and the ensuing life at Mahindra United World College, (MUWCI) through Akshara. I found it very difficult to cope with the drastically different open culture and the language barrier I was exposed to on the MUWCI campus – from a village to interacting and living with children from over 40 nationalities. For us villagers, it was tough to understand the conversation around us and we felt confused many a times. However, compared to the other two participants in the program (my peers, Milind and Pramod), I made friends more easily. I think I became part of the MUWCI family smoothly.

Since this was the very first batch, academics was the main focus at Akshara. Most of us were not comfortable with English and that restricted our ability to share our knowledge of other subjects too. We had to work extra hard at every subject, yet we were not able to express our opinions on the topics. I think that this factor single-handedly was responsible for many of the students’ inability to perform well. But for me, my aspiration overpowered my frustration and disadvantaged position.

However, it was a positive experience and opened new horizons for me. I went on to successfully complete the IB diploma at MUWCI. Then I went off to Luther College, Canada for undergraduates. I had risen above my circumstances and was now a full and equal participant in all activities at Luther College. I have done a double major at Luther College. Had there not been Akshara, I would have studied only till 12th.

I hope I can be an example, not only for other Akshara students, but also for every girl in the Mulshi valley. At home, I have been able to successfully convince my parents that I have a lot to do in life and a future to look forward to, apart from just getting married and having kids. So now, unlike my other friends from my village, there is no pressure from my parents about me getting married. I have all the freedom to choose the time and the man I want to marry. There still is some pressure from relatives, but I think I can handle that. I want to concentrate on my career now. I want to make sure I reach a position in life that will help me extend the same help to my community that I got through Akshara.

But that is a dream and for now I am concentrating on me and my family. I insisted that my mother attend literacy classes and now she can read and write Marathi.  It is such a wonderful feeling to know that my mother can read and write today because of me.

When my brother got married, like the usual custom, my family was going to take a dowry from the bride’s family. I put my foot down and insisted on no dowry. This was a result of various discussions we had with Harsha Ma’am and the other Akshara teachers. They were always telling us to think about how we want our society to be and to make a difference in our own small ways. I also encouraged my sister-in-law to study. I made sure that my sister earned and continued to learn at the same time.

I know that at Akshara they call me a “stubborn kid”. But I think that is because I don’t want to live like a woman. I want to live like a human.

I hope my education at Luther College in Economics and Business Management will go a long way in helping me do this. Today, I am a Management Trainee at Deloitte. I want to work in the corporate sector in Human Resources. I love Human Resources as I would like to understand the women employees’ problems.

Thank you Akshara. Thank you MUWCI and above all, I thank myself for that stubborn aspiration to Rise in life irrespective of where my roots were!

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  • Christi Humstoe

    Amazing Story,

    It Inspired me a lot. I would also like to be a part of Akshara. Even though I am not fully aware what it actually means.

    I am working in Psd to html experts as an Manager. Please let me know if I can also help some one in any way

  • Pravin Shetty

    We have a 290 Acres farm in Dahanu.[Border of Maharashtra and Gujarat].
    Ours is a First Site recognized by MTDC as an Eco Agri Educational Tourism site.
    We teach Complete Organic Farming with Vermi Culture and Vermi Composting; Aquaponics; Pearl Farming with Rain water Harvesting; Bonsai and other Nursery; Apiary; Know your Pets; walk your Dog; Milk your Cow ;Grow and Pick your Veggies;
    Catch your Fish or Chucks and Barbecue;Pluck and Eat Fresh Fruits; We are also a Site for Security Guard Training Programme under Star Programme of Central Govt of India’s Pasara Act.we also do Pre-Police and Para Military training.We are soon developing Wellness center and our Corporate training Center..
    Our Belief is farmers need not be dependent on Rains or Fertilizers or Pesticides.
    Soon our Site will have High Adventurous activities too.
    We shall have Rope way from Mahalaxmi Temple to our farm and
    Sea Planes coming from Mumbai to Dahanu .
    I am the only Author who has a Published book on Rain water Harvesting and Pearl Culture and by Book is Sold in Amazon–Type Pravin Shetty’s Books.
    My Mobile No is +918390588113.After 19 Years in Melbourne have returned to give back to my Birth place a “SMALL TOWN DAHANU ROAD”.
    A visit to my farm is appreciated.
    We are looking for Partners with Ideas and Joint Venture Proposals
    We learn is our Motto.
    Prof. Pravin Shetty

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