“I did not get a chance to study. So, you should study well and reach heights." It was these words of grit from a mother that pushed a young girl to dream big. Hailing from Villangadu in Kozhikode district of Kerala, Joshna is today a qualified Ayurveda doctor, the first from her tribal village.
Her mother, Usha, is a daily wage worker who'd been abandoned by her husband. Despite having three children to look after, Usha was insistent on giving Joshna an education. When she was a young girl, Usha too had craved to go to school. However, the financial situation of her family put an end to her dreams. But though money was tight in her current circumstances, too, Usha was determined not to let history repeat.
Joshna tells TNM that her mother's encouragement gave her the energy to study well despite their financial circumstances. When Joshna studied in lower primary and upper primary classes, she walked a total of 14 kilometres a day to reach the school and get back home, because of the lack of transport facilities to the settlement.
After upper primary, she moved to Kozhikode, where the tribal department admitted her in a government school for high school education. Usually, tribal students study in boarding schools that are meant for them. However, Joshna got the chance to study in a mixed school, which was attended by students from all walks of life. It helped her to understand the world outside the tribal settlement, she says.
She wanted to become a doctor from her schooldays because she observed the lack of medical assistance in her settlement.
“There are no doctors in our area. So, I dreamt of becoming a doctor,” she says.
The turning point came after the Plus Two examination. While she was preparing for the medical entrance examination in her house, a few police officers visited her village as part of the Janamaithri programme (a community-centred policing initiative). CPOs Kunhu Mol and KP Suresh Babu were in the team. They brought public attention to Joshna's plight. The police also helped her in the preparation for her exam.
In 2014, she got admission in the BAMS course (Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery) in MVR Memorial Ayurveda College, and recently completed it. After finishing her mandatory one year internship, Joshna plans to pursue a Master's in Ayurveda.
However, she feels the keen need to pay back to society. Whenever she comes home in the holidays, she teaches the children near her house. Around 20 children from various classes are mentored by Joshna.
“I teach them and ask them about their dreams. And I also guide them to reach their dreams,” she says.