We have seen it before. The story of Bajrangi Bhaijaan mirror that of a young deaf-mute Indian woman who accidentally crossed the border when she was a kid and was stranded in Pakistan for 13 years. Well, guess what! We have another story from a brilliant movie—Nil Battey Sannata—repeat itself in real life.

Age is never a bar when it comes to learning something new and for 30-year-old Malad resident Panchsheela Nikhalje, it’s more challenging than others since she has to strike a balance between work and raising children. Panchsheela is appearing for Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Board examination with her daughter Nikita Nikalje (15).

Panchsheela, who works as a maid in Malad’s posh societies, decided to study three years after she realised that she has to pass Class 5 at least to bag a government job—also, her kids needed home study and she couldn’t afford any tuition. Her husband Kishor died in an accident when she was three months pregnant with their third child; after that, she decided to take responsibility of her children—two daughters and a son—on her own.

She enrolled herself along with four-five other ladies of her neighbourhood in Panchsheela Night School—a facility offered by the Board for students who appear for exam after a gap.

“I told them that night school is for us and we should go to study because most of us are drop out,” said Panchsheela. “So we all agreed and started going together after work. We all are maids in different households. If I get free time, I used to attend; if I couldn’t, I didn’t attend school.”

Panchsheela is special in the way she took charge of her family and for appearing in the exam alongside her daughter. Fighting all odds, Panchsheela raised her three children in a small hut in Ambujwadi’s slums. She wants to go forward and hence, decided to study.

Panchsheela remembers: “There was a household where owner’s daughter—her name was Mehak—used to teach me numerical in English till 100; and if I made any mistake, she used to scold. Since then, I decided to study and I always had interest in study but she encouraged me a lot.”

She has high aspirations for her daughter but most of all, she wants her to study. “I want her to study and I will do how much I can,” she notes. “I have attempted… I don’t know what will happen but everyone should study in their life. No one should be stopped from studying.”

Her eldest daughter Nikita’s dream is to become a teacher. She sits by her mother’s side, clears her doubt so that both of them get good marks in SSC exam. She mentions that her mom’s favourite subject is Marathi. She remembers how one lady, for whom she works, taught her English before the exam and regrets that she had limited time for lesson; otherwise, she could do better.

Meanwhile, Panchsheela has taken leave from work despite being denied from the household owners where she works. Without caring much, she went ahead and took a decision to appear for the examination. She has fought all odds and she knows that in future too, her path isn’t going to be easy, but she keeps on keeping on.

Panchsheela hasn’t just done it for herself but with this bold step, she also gave encouragement to other women to step up and continue studying irrespective of the problems galore.

InUth salutes her resolve and wishes her good luck for the exam.