Dr Surya Bali ran away from home, did odds and ends. But he never waivered in his goal to become a doctor and ended up becoming much more than a physician.
Surya Bali is the first person in his family to complete matriculation.Belonging to Gond tribal community, Surya went on to become the first doctor in Bairili Gaon, an obscure village at Jaunpur, UP.
This is his heart-wrenching story.
Festivals like Holi, Diwali exuded hope in the eyes of Surya’s family to earn a bit more. “In the midst of celebration, I used to carry a thali plate around the village for food,” says Surya Bali, son of bonded labourers.
This slavery bothered his father, who got frustrated and fled the village.
Until he came back from exile, the family survived on the mother’s meagre income for a whole decade.She served as a maid to upper caste families — cooked food, moped floors and drew water from well.
He attended the Kanarval School, a primary school in his village. Although primary education was free, buying books was tough. “I used to pluck berries, gooseberries, fruits, and exchange it for books from city dwellers,” he shares.
What was worse was the perpetual taunts of some of his teachers like “You should do what your parents are doing,” “What are you going to achieve by studying?” etc.
Surya never gave up. “Every insult goaded me to prove them wrong,” he asserts
“I realised early that only education can change the condition of my family,” he said.
Tired of abuses of Panditji (Priest), the owner of his primary school, he shifted to a middle school in Sarsi, faraway from his village. “I walked 11 kilometres to school barefoot. The villagers laughed at me. For them it was insane to walk so far to study.
How did Surya manage middle school tuition fee and books?. Post school, he filled his time repairing cycle puncture. He was an absentee during monsoons — “I had just two sets of clothes. Heavy rains spoiled my dress.”
He was on cloud nine when he achieved first rank in class 8. The first flush of success only kindled the fire in him.
What made him turn doctor today? He was only 7 when his younger brother died of medical negligence. He can’t erase the memory of his helpless mother longing for medical treatment.
After a series of misadventures, he gave a call to his brother only to find that he has put together a sum of Rs. 3000 for his admissions.
Unfortunately, that money turned out to be inadequate. It just about paid for the coaching centre fee.
When money ran out Surya almost gave up the dream of earning a medical degree to join a BSc course from Benares Hindu University.
But angels do exist. In his case, the kindly warden, impressed by his hard work extended support. He granted Surya free hostel facility and paid Rs. 500 for PMT form. He cracked it and got admission at Motilal Nehru Medical College, Allahabad.
His presence was again odd in the class. “I was an absolute misfit in the class. Most students made fun of my few ill fitting clothes which I wore repeatedly”, he says.
Financial back-up was getting thinner — he couldn’t call for help anymore. He was restless. So he decided to explore a long forgotten hidden talent. He could write. He used to write poems, short stories, and he could communicate. So to meet his expenses, he started writing poems and articles for newspapers, magazines.
He got a chance from All India Radio to present shows.And, of course, the money earned could help him barely meet expenses. So he borrowed from friends and spent long hours in the library.
Finally, he aced MBBS.
It was an unusual feeling when he got his MD stipend, a princely sum of Rs. 15,000. “It was the first time in my life I saw a bunch of notes “. But then life took a turn for the better.
He earned IFP fellowship to acquire Master’s in Health Management (MHM) at University of Florida
Currently, he is the faculty of the same college where students mocked him badly.