“Eagles inspire me a lot. When other birds search for shelter during rain, eagles fly above the clouds. When obstacles come my way, I overcome them with this thought.”
These are the words of Binesh Balan, a student from the Mavila tribe of Kolichal hamlet in Kasargod district. Extreme poverty, caste discrimination, and lack of exposure were some of the obstacles that Binesh had to face on his journey to the University of Sussex, UK.
And now that Binesh is finally where he dreamt to be, he shares his joy with TNM.
Earlier, TNM had reported on how his ambition was stuck in red tape.
Since then, Binesh has been pursuing his post-graduation at Sussex and come December, he will be presenting a paper on cultural anthropology at Oxford University.
Binesh with his classmates
He received the first portion of his National Overseas Scholarship three weeks ago. Though he had to struggle a lot to arrange money to go to the university, he says, many kind-hearted people helped him.
“Many of my friends arranged money for me. A woman who works in a bank sponsored the air tickets. Friends also helped me to arrange money to stay here. It was after all this that I got the scholarship amount three weeks ago. I can now clear some of my debts," he says happily.
The journey so far
Binesh joined Sussex University on July 31, 2017.
But it wasn't easy for him to make it to one of the top universities in the world. Binesh had been wanting to study abroad since 2014. He'd also secured admission in Sussex and was eligible to get a Rs 27 lakh scholarship from the state government.
“I spent months behind the officials to get my papers sanctioned for the scholarship. Finally, the papers were ready but they made a technical mistake and I couldn’t apply that year,” he recalls.
“The discrimination I faced from the officials at the Secretariat was unbearable. For them, my caste and colour were an issue. They all had this feeling, how can an ST category student go abroad and study? I even tried to get their sympathy as a last hope. But no one helped,” Binesh says.
Since he'd lost out once on the opportunity, Binesh did not want to miss another chance. However, the next year, he did not get the Kerala scholarship.
Then he applied for the National Overseas Scholarship in 2016 and acquired the same. He also secured admission in the prestigious London School of Economics. The scholarship amount was Rs 45 lakhs, but he had to bear the initial expenses since the money would be released at a later stage.
Again, Binesh approached the state government. Although some funds were sanctioned by minister AK Balan, it took a long time for the officials to release it.
Binesh with Minister AK Balan
“I would have reached London in 2014 if the officials at the Secretariat were a bit honest. They thought I was being proud when I asked about the status of my application. I wish I could have hidden my identity from them so they wouldn't have shown this much discrimination," Binesh added.
The state government finally released their fund of Rs 1.5 lakh in 2017. Further, Binesh’s friends collected money to meet his initial expenses to go to Sussex. “That's I how I reached here. I would like to stay back here and complete my PhD too after my PG,” Binesh says of his future plans.
Last month, when AK Balan, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes, visited London, he invited Binesh to meet him.
“He promised to help me. He also assured me that the state scholarships will be made easily available to the students of backward classes,” Binesh added.
“We should keep trying again and again. There will be many to pull us down but many others will be there to support. Caste system still exists in our society, but people from lower castes can rise up if they have the will power and an aim,” he says.
Edited by Sowmya Rajendran