Dr Roshan Jawwad’s immediate priority is to contribute to her family’s meagre income; she also wants to build a hospital in UP’s Azamgarh, her hometown.
Mumbai: Daughter of a vegetable seller in Mumbai’s western suburb of Jogeshwari, Roshan Jawwad wanted to become a paramedic to contribute to her family’s meagre income. But as ‘luck’ would have it, she has completed her MBBS course scoring a first class and is soon going to start her MD in pathology at KEM College in the city.
And she has achieved all this despite the accident in 2008 — Roshan got pushed out of an overcrowded suburban train and lost both her legs.
“When I fell out of the train, I had a feeling that I have lost one knee, but thought that the other knee had just suffered injuries. Once in the hospital, I was devastated to learn that I am going to lose both my legs,” Roshan, now 25, told ThePrint.
“It felt like life was over. Those who came to see me also expressed concern about things like how will I get married, how I will only become a burden on my parents etc,” she said.
Her mother counselled her and it was her doctor, Sanjay Kantharia, who gave her the inspiration to not just move on after her accident, but aim higher and become the first doctor in the family, Roshan said.
“I remember his words. He said: ignore what people are saying now. Ten years later when you would have achieved something great, they will all eat their words,” she said.
A bright student
Roshan, the third of four siblings, was always bright at academics. She scored 92.15 per cent in her Class X board exams and cleared the state medical entrance test with flying colours. But her journey to being a doctor was far from easy, not because of her intellect or physical disability, but because she had to fight set rules and regulations and force a change.
Roshan was initially denied admission to the MBBS course. As per rules, students with up to 70 per cent disability can study to be a doctor and in Roshan’s case, it was 88 per cent disability. But, determined to not let this be an impediment to her ambitions, the young girl knocked on the doors of the Bombay High Court.
“Their argument was that MBBS is both mentally and physically stressful. Students have to rush for classes from one building to another, climb long flights of stairs, stand for hours and so on,” said Roshan.
“But Chief Justice Mohit Shah said if I can come to court so many times to fight my case, there is no reason why I should not be able to attend classes in college,” she recalled.
When she started studying MBBS at KEM College in central Mumbai in August 2011, Roshan for a bit feared that all the others who dissuaded her might have been right. “Initially, it really was difficult to shuttle between classes. The elevator was not always available,” Roshan said.
“Moreover, the course started in June, while due to my court case I could join only in August so I was already stressed over coping with the missed lectures. But all my teachers and fellow students were very helpful and soon I got used to the grind,” she added.
Fighting the odds
She initially tried commuting from her house in Jogeshwari to her college in Parel, a good 20 km away, daily, but within three months got a hostel accommodation close by. Roshan said once she got used to the obvious difficulties, she never felt her handicap come in the way of her course.
There was just one aspect of her MBBS course when she would be slightly frustrated — when it came to removing her shoes before stepping into the outpatient department.
“I obviously could not remove my shoes, so I had to pack my prosthetics every time we had to go inside the operation theatre. But besides that, I was quite alright,” Roshan said.
She finished her MBBS in 2016, and had to put up a fight once again to secure admission for an MD course. This time, however, BJP parliamentarian Kirit Somaiya took up her cause. “He met the Union health minister and got the norms modified to do away with the maximum limit in the handicapped category,” Roshan said.
Plans to work for the poor
Roshan bounced back within three months of her accident and gave her Class XI examination at Bandra’s Anjuman-i-Islam college without wasting a year. She didn’t have her prosthetic legs until her Class XII exams got over. She would travel to her college in a wheelchair and her mother would carry her up three floors to the examination hall in her arms.
“I cannot put into words what my parents, especially my mother, has done for me,” Roshan said.
Her father is now 79 and her mother 50 years old. While two of her siblings are already working, her immediate priority is to join them in becoming a breadwinner for the family. Her youngest sister is doing a course in textiles.
She fondly recalls how Congress MLA Amin Patel came forward and offered financial assistance for her MBBS studies.
“I have seen the kind of hardships that people coming from my type of financial background have to face. I want to work as a doctor for such people,” Roshan said.
Her ultimate dream is to build a hospital in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh where her family comes from. She hasn’t been there in the past 10 years, but from what her parents tell her, the village lacks proper healthcare facilities, she said.
For now, she is looking forward to starting her MD course, and is hoping to switch to radiology, which she prefers to pathology. It will take another three years to complete her postgraduation.
“My most important learning from life has been that — never stop looking for that ray of hope,” Roshan said. “And the most significant gift from life has been that I am actually able to inspire people to do so.”