Swapnali Deshmukh first shifted to Mumbai in 2012, right after completing her Class XII. Swapnali is from Roha, a small town in the Konkan coast of Maharashtra, where she lives with her family. She moved out of her town to train as an optometrist at the Laxmi College of Optometry in Navi Mumbai.
“I was always interested in the medical field,” Swapnali says, so a course in Optometry seemed like a natural choice. Even though she comes from straitened circumstances, her family encouraged her to continue her studies after high school.
“We are four sisters, and it wasn’t possible for me to afford my education. But my father encouraged me a lot, he wanted me to go for higher education. My elder sister also helped me a lot,” she says.
With the steady support of her family, Swapnali started her course in earnest and was among the top students in her class. When she enrolled in her course, however, there were a few difficulties at home. “There were other basic expenditure, hostel and canteen fees… after adjusting all this it wasn’t possible for me to pay the fees.”
Contemplating applying for an education loan at a bank, she found that the interest rates were prohibitive. When Swapnali approached the authorities at the college and explained the situation to them, they were more than understanding. They arranged for an education loan through Rang De so that she could pay her fees.
Speaking on the phone, Swapnali tells us, “If I am to be honest, if I hadn’t gotten a loan from Rang De at a low-interest rate, I wouldn’t have been able to manage my studies. After Rang De provided a loan, I started my studies. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have started.”
Life in Mumbai
It has been two years since Swapnali graduated from college. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Optometry, she immediately started work at the Laxmi College, where she studied. She recently shifted jobs, but her new work place in Mazgaon, near the dockyards in Mumbai, requires her to travel a minimum of one and half hours each day. That’s at least three hours spent on the road.
Swapnali’s work day at the office begins at nine and goes on until seven in the evening. At the clinic, her duties include attending to the patients, finding out the required power for their glasses and prepping the patients for a surgical procedure. It is usually after nine at night when she comes returns to her flat in Panvel, which she shares with her colleagues. Despite the breathless schedule she follows, Swapnali doesn’t complain.
There are plenty of opportunities for optical optometry in Navi Mumbai, according to Swapnali but she wants to learn more. “I wanted some experience in clinical optometry, which is why I agreed to take up the job. For a clinical fellowship, you usually have to travel to Hyderabad or Chennai; that is something I cannot afford right now. I am also satisfied with the pay here,” she says.
In April 2018, Swapnali successfully repaid the loan that she had taken as a student. She had started a part of the repayment during her internship in the final year of college and now she has completely cleared her education loan.
Swapnali’s repayment of her education loan is also a momentous occassion for us here at Rang De.
Providing higher education loans is a huge risk. The loan amounts were larger than we usually disburse; the loans are provided to students without a history of dealing in finances. We have also had out share of defaults in these loans: students who couldn’t repay the amount because of adverse circumstances.
In such a situation, a heartwarming success story like Swapnali’s is truly inspiring. To be sure, Swapnali still has a long path ahead of her. Sometime in the future, she plans on shifting back home, to Roha. For now, she is content. “Life is fast here in Mumbai,” she says.
For our bit, we are glad for the small part we played in her journey.
Swapnali Deshmukh was a student of the Laxmi College of Optometry in Mumbai. She is one of hundreds of students who have received a higher education loan from Rang De.