28-year-old Ummul Kher has seen more of the painful side of life than anyone would ever wish to. After being born with a fragile bones disorder, disowned by parents, and having to live every day of her life in a hand-to-mouth existence, Kher on Wednesday finally realised her dream when she cleared the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam with an all India rank of 420.
Originally from Rajasthan, Kher and her family moved to Delhi when she was in Class V. She studied at a charitable institution till Class VIII, but her parents refused to let her study further.
"My parents said you have now got more education than a girl should," she told Hindustan Times. Her family used to live in a slum area near Hazrat Nizamuddin, and her father worked as a street vendor.
But Kher's will to study was strong, and when she insisted on going to school, her family disowned her.
She then decided to live on her own, but could only afford a small juggi (hut) in a slum. She had to help children with their studies to support herself.
She told HT:
"I had started taking tuitions but living independently meant I had to earn more money. From few children the tuitions expanded to four batches — till 11 PM at night. These were mostly children from slum areas and I got between ₹50 to ₹100 from each student. I couldn't have expected more as these were children of labourers, iron smith, rickshaw-pullers etc."
After scoring 92% marks in Class XII, she got admission in Gargi College, Delhi. She made ends meet by teaching children. Later in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) she also cracked the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) under which she started getting ₹25,000 per month. She didn't need to support herself anymore.
Despite suffering from 16 fractures, eight surgeries, and even been confined to a wheel chair for a period, Kher is now determined to become an IAS officer.
When asked about whether she would now reconcile with her parents, who now live in Rajasthan, she told HT:
"I haven't called them yet, they don't know what civil services exams are... But I hope to visit them soon."
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