“I’m going with a feeling of pride. I’ve worked hard, done the best I could with the tasks given to me. So this is a token of gratitude I’m giving myself.” says a 17-year-old Rutuja Bhoite, a daughter of an autorickshaw driver in Kondhwa, Pune, who has lived with leukoderma (loss of skin colour), who was once afraid to face people now has been accepted by the United World’s College (UWC), Thailand with the full-time scholarship. “I was always worried about being accepted,” she says. An intense and apprehensive student, her life changed when in May 2013 she was selected as the protagonist of Teach For India’s (TFI) Broadway-style musical Maya. “Everything changed after Maya came into my life. My journey to being an extrovert started there,” she said. “I learned the values of courage, compassion, and wisdom. I learned to open up, mingle with new people.” Her understanding about education changed and the “pressure to score high marks stopped making sense.” At the time of her training, Rutuja met a student who inspired her to follow her dreams who had completed her UWC course in Italy. As for her family, they are more than happy as they had never even dared to dream of being able to provide their children with higher education with their income of Rs. 10,000 per month. “She’s going so far away,” said Rutuja’s mother. “I’ve seen her struggle with leukoderma; the treatment was painful. But she never stopped studying, come what may. I have always wanted for her to not feel less than anyone else. There was a time when people saw her differently, but not anymore.” Rutuja’s father has only one wish for her daughter; “She should study as much as she wants. There’s always time for marriage!”
“During Maya, we always said, ‘Find your light’. It means, finds your potential. It means taking what you have learned, outside,” said Rutuja.