A few months back, Manali Sherkane was on a mission to collect every morsel of information about the UK; she wanted to consume each tidbit about its weather, its people, and the culture. Securing admission at University College London (UCL) isn’t easy, but Manali had accomplished it. But to actually pursue the degree, getting a spot was a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. So she had worked hard to receive a government scholarship that would cover all her expenses – travel, tuition fee, living costs, and accommodation. The preparation had turned into a mini-research project. It was par for the course, given Manali’s penchant for research, which was cultivated in 2014 as a fellow on PUKAR’s Youth Fellowship Programme. Starting September, Manali was going to attend UCL’s Master’s Program in Clinical & Public Health Nutrition.
Except that she didn’t.
Call it a masterstroke of Murphy’s Law (which states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”), if you will. The rules of the scholarship scheme changed at the last minute, rendering Manali’s grant void. It was too late to apply for other schemes and private fundings. Processing the event meant unpacking her own feelings of dejection while packing up her excitement. It entailed days spent indoors toying with self-doubt, questioning fate and avoiding people who presented a possibility of asking the same question: why didn’t you go?
“I avoided social gatherings because everyone wanted to know what had gone wrong. I was upset. I had waited a year for this. I thought of it as blow to my career.”, Manali shares. At 22, she felt left behind in the ‘race’ – one where her friends had already completed their post-graduate education. She wondered if she had been too stubborn, trying to catch dreams that may have been beyond her reach.
It was her family’s support that helped her tide through. While giving her the space she needed, her parents and siblings wanted to make sure that when Manali got back on her feet, she wasn’t battling old demons. Manali says, “My mother helped me understand that there is no common race for all. I have my own journey.”. That realisation was a critical turning point for her.
The goal had been to strengthen her research skills, be it through university education or otherwise. Now Manali had closely followed the work of Dr. Shobha A Udipi, Professor & Head, University Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Department of P.G. Studies & Research In Home Science, S.N.D.T. Women’s University. Dr. Udipi was essentially a mentor who could satiate Manali’s hunger for learning. So she approached the professor-researcher and landed herself a research internship at Kasturbha Research Society Medical Research Centre (KHS – MRC).
“I am happy. Discovering this possibility means I will still fulfil my aim of learning research from experts this year”, she explains.
She still plans on applying to UCL next year but seems absolutely comfortable with the idea of that not working out. As a soft-spoken, keen learner, Manali has been an exemplary Youth Fellow, and then an alumni-mentor on the Youth Fellowship Programme. It is her determinedness, quiet resolve, and eagerness to learn that become her biggest strengths in the face of a storm.
“Education is what matters in the end. If I don’t have resources for university education, I will find ways to be resourceful. If there is no opportunity, I will create one. But I will not stop learning. I have realised that failing to receive a degree is not a failure, but failure to stop learning is.”, she concludes.
The programme is a masterclass in understanding the value of alternate education, and well, Manali has spoken like a true fellow. The show must go on.