Bharathi Sake: When the Agricultural Fields of Andhra Yielded a PhD Scholar

The Mooknayak presents the inspiring story of a young tribal woman who deftly balanced the roles of a mother, wife, and farm worker to earn the distinguished title of Dr. before her name.
Bharathi Sake
Bharathi Sake

On August 23rd, as Chandrayaan 3 made contact with the moon's surface, social media buzzed with excitement over this historic achievement. Amidst the jubilation, images of women scientists from ISRO, integral to the mission's success, circulated across platforms. The discussions celebrated these women, who, while being mothers and homemakers, shattered stereotypes and exhibited unwavering dedication in their contributions. This event spotlighted the rising trend of scientific education and research among women.

Undertaking research isn't a pursuit embraced by everyone, mainly due to the substantial time commitment it demands. Scientific research, in particular, necessitates rigorous study. Nonetheless, many women in the heartland of India stand as exemplars of unyielding determination and passion.

A Spirit that Triumphs Against All Odds

In an era where the gross enrolment ratio in higher education stands at 27.4%, Sake Bharathi's completion of her PhD is all the more remarkable. Her accomplishment shines brighter when considering that she is a mother engaged in field labour to supplement her family's income. Her husband is also a wage earner. Hailing from Nagulaguddam village in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district, she works on agricultural lands and recently earned her PhD in Chemistry from Krishna Devaraya University.

Bharathi's childhood was marked by adversity. Born into a destitute family, her mother worked while her father battled alcoholism. Raised by her maternal grandfather, she was educated up to the twelfth grade. However, she was married soon after. Despite facing financial constraints and becoming a mother within a few years of marriage, she remained steadfast in her pursuit of education. To fund her studies, as her husband's income couldn't cover both family expenses and education, she took up agricultural work. Remarkably, her husband, also her maternal uncle, had failed the tenth grade four times, but he supported her decision to pursue higher education.

Sacrifices That Yielded Returns

Bharathi completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in chemistry from SSBN Degree and PG College, Anantapur. Her journey was far from easy; she adhered to a disciplined routine, waking up at 4:30 AM to finish household chores by 6:30 AM before commuting to college. The college was nearly 40 kilometers away, necessitating several miles of walking to catch a bus. During financially challenging times, she would temporarily pause her studies to work as a farm labourer. Alongside her postgraduate studies, she managed to pursue a B.Ed degree, requiring her to secure permission from the college.

Maternal Grandfather: The Motivation

Speaking to The Mooknayak, she recounted, "Originally, I intended to study only up to 12th grade. However, my grandfather insisted that to be a role model, I should pursue education till its pinnacle, a Ph.D." Explaining her choice of chemistry, she said, "Everyone thinks that Chemistry is a hard subject, but my Grandfather motivated me to pursue a difficult subject, so that I subvert the notion that it is a difficult subject".

Aided by Supportive Faculty

Impressed by her tireless dedication and enthusiasm for learning, her teachers motivated her to pursue higher education. With their guidance, she enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Sri Krishna Devaraj University. Reflecting on her experience, she shared, "I had received scholarships until the postgraduate level, but it wasn't extended to Ph.D. The university's faculty provided invaluable support; one professor offered financial assistance for research-related expenses."

Having successfully earned her Ph.D., Bharathi has applied for Assistant Professor positions at various universities. Beyond her academic achievements, she has become a role model not only for women but for all individuals striving against adversity.

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