Vanisha Pathak of Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal scored 100 in her English, Sanskrit, Science and Social Science Class X CBSE exams, and 97 in Mathematics – an incredible achievement for any student, but a particularly superb one for a 16-year-old girl who lost her parents to COVID-19 in May.
Two months ago, with the exams around the corner, her entire world plunged into darkness – her parents died in hospital within days of each other.
A once bustling and cheerful household was shattered. Suddenly, it was just she and Vivan, her 10-year-old brother. She realised she was the only family her brother had.
“(The memory of) my parents obviously kept me motivated and will motivate me throughout my life (but) he (the brother) is the biggest source of motivation right now… I am all he has and that keeps me going. I need to do something,” Ms Pathak told NDTV.
“The last thing my mother said to me was ‘just believe in yourself… we will back soon’. The last words of my father were ‘beta, himmat rakhna‘ (stay strong, my child),” she added.
Ms Pathak’s father – Jeetendra Kumar Pathak – was a financial advisor, and her mother, Dr Seema Pathak – was a teacher at a government school.
The last time she saw them alive was when they left for hospital, together.
And then came the awful news. Ms Pathak had to will herself to go from grief to acceptance, and from acceptance to concentrating on her studies.
“My father wanted to see me in IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) or crack the UPSC and serve the nation. His dream is my dream now,” she said.
Now she lets words flow in place of her tears, funneling her angst and sadness into a poem – “I’ll be a strong girl, daddy, without you…” – excerpts of which are given below.
“With a heavy heart, I bid you goodbye
For you left me all alone to cry.
Now every tear fetches a memory of yours,
But I hold it back and don’t let it flow…
… won’t let pain overpower me,
and I’ll stand tall.
… I’ll be the reason for your pride,
with a hope to see you again someday
when we all, with no worries, will make hay…”
Pathak and her brother now live with their maternal uncle – Dr Ashok Kumar, a professor at a Bhopal college – and aunt, Dr Bhavna Sharma, who describe her as a “fighter”.