(SUCCESS STORY) Breaking Barriers with Sheer Will Power - The Inspirational Story of Purana Sunthari (UPSC Topper AIR-286)
Her phones haven’t stopped ringing ever since the final results of UPSC Civil Services Examination 2019 were announced, but Purana Sunthari is still in disbelief. The 25-year old visually challenged Madurai resident has secured an all India rank of 286 in one of the toughest exams in the country. Having given this examination 5 years of her life, refusing to bow down to her disability, Purana’s story will inspire millions for years to come.
Former Team India Member, cricketer Md. Kaif Congratulating Miss Sunthari
Humble Beginnings and A Heartbreaking Turn
Purana is from a small family of four from the Madurai town of Tamil Nadu. A board topper in her school, she has always been academically brilliant. Hailing from a middle-class family, her father is a sales executive in the field of marketing, while her mother like millions of other women in the country, is a homemaker. Her little brother is also preparing for competitive examinations.
Purana started losing her vision at the age of 5. Soon enough, it was hard to make out shapes. She was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disorder by the doctors at Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai. Her right eye had been completely lost. In a last-ditch attempt to save some of her vision, the doctors performed a surgery on her left eye, but unfortunately, it was unsuccessful.
Purana was left blind in both her eyes. Such a blow at a delicate age couldn’t break her spirits as she continued on the path to success.
Miss Sunthari with Her Family
Education and Why Civil Services?
Purana was in standard 11 or 12 of KNPM Madurai Pillaimar Sangam Higher Secondary School when she was first introduced to the work District Collectors did and their contribution to society. She immediately knew that she wanted to be a part of the ranks. She believes even today that if more diverse people joined the forces, more inclusive the policies will be. However, she had no idea on how to achieve those dreams at that age. But this lack of guidance was soon rectified once she joined her Fatima College, Madurai with BA in English Literature.
Meet Visually Impaired Purana Sunthari Who Cleared UPSC
In college, she met friends and professors who introduced her to the Union Public Service Commission and the Civil Services Examinations it conducts every year in order to recruit the finest of the youth to the Indian bureaucracy. Her seniors introduced her to source material and previous year’s questions in their college library. Thus, began Purana’s journey towards her Civil Services goals.
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The Lows and Challenges
The first time Purana heard the Syllabus of UPSC Civil Services and found the array of source material online, she was on the verge of giving up. Despite the world becoming more and more inclusive, finding audio versions of books and current affair magazines is still next to impossible. This is when her friends introduced her to Non-Visual Desktop Access or NVDA software. This software takes Word or PDF files and reads them out to people who need audio assistance. There were still hurdles with making notes. But her friends and family were incredibly supportive. When she found herself at a loss with making notes of heavy books such as Laxmikanth, her friends shared their audio notes with her to support her through her preparation. Purana never forgets to credit her friends whenever asked about her success.
There were other hurdles too. Being from an economically middle-class background, she could not afford expensive reading material or coachings. Although the need for overpriced braille books had been taken care of by computer software and her generous company, the availability of coaching remained an issue. This was then solved when she found herself enrolled in Manidhanaeyam Free IAS Training Academy in Chennai. From there, she moved to the Tamil Nadu government’s own All India Civil Services Study Centre, also in Chennai. Even then, when expenses of living in Chennai got tough to acquire, her professors lent a helping hand. Purana says she has been extremely lucky to have been surrounded by so many kind people.
Message to Aspirants
“Yes, I can!” has been her mantra throughout this 5-year journey, Purana says. No matter how supportive your environment is, or how encouraging your friends and family, if you fail to reassure yourself, you will not succeed. If she could say just one thing to the aspirants, it would be to never lose faith in yourself.
The journey towards landing your Civil Services dream is going to be long and arduous. But it is your positive attitude, and confidence that you will achieve your goals is what will keep you on the right path.
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