In a world where the pursuit of education often seems daunting, I stand here today, penning down my profound appreciation for the National Testing Agency (NTA) and its remarkable Senior Director, Dr. Sadhana Parashar. This expression of gratitude stems from a deeply personal journey of resilience and determination in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Hailing from the breathtaking valleys of Kashmir, my dreams of pursuing a career in anthropology seemed destined to remain unfulfilled due to the scarcity of anthropology programs in local colleges and universities. However, fueled by an unyielding spirit, I set my sights on the prestigious National Eligibility Test-Junior Research Fellowship (NET JRF) Exam. The year 2019 brought unforeseen challenges with the revocation of Article 370 and the subsequent scarcity of internet facilities in Kashmir. Cut off from vital information about the NET exam and university admissions, my aspirations seemed to hang in the balance. Amidst the chaos, an associate’s call alerted me to the availability of UGC-NET admit cards. With limited internet access, I embarked on a journey to the district administrative office in Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir, braving long queues to gain internet access. Finally, clutching my admit card, little did I know that this would be the first step in a rollercoaster of emotions. To my dismay, the examination center assigned to me was located an astonishing 600 kilometers away in Chandigarh, across the formidable Pir Panjal ranges. It might be because there was a mistake in filing an application form through a friend based in Delhi. Desperate for a solution, I reached out to the NTA, hoping for a change in the exam center. Although chances for such a change at the eleventh hour were slim, the NTA acknowledged my query and put forth an effort to assist me. Their response provided a glimmer of hope amidst a sea of discouragement. Seeking further assistance, I approached the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, hoping for support. Unfortunately, his response only added to my desolation and disbelief. I still remember his words – “Why can’t you go to Chandigarh and take the exam there? If it were your government job, you would have done whatever it takes.” Despite his refusal to assist, I refused to succumb to despair, driven by an unwavering determination and unwavering support from my family. In a society often bound by gender norms and patriarchal ideals, convincing my parents to allow me to undertake the demanding journey to Chandigarh posed yet another hurdle. However, fueled by a relentless pursuit of my dreams, I embarked on a physically and emotionally taxing expedition. Battling adverse weather conditions along the treacherous Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, I finally arrived in Chandigarh, just one day before the exam. Anxiously logging onto the NTA website, I found something unexpected and more worrying. My examination center had been changed back to Srinagar based on my request that I had made when I was in Srinagar. Overwhelmed by anxiety and numerous challenges, tears streamed down my face as I grappled with the hurdles I faced. In that moment of uncertainty, I refused to surrender to despair and sought assistance from every available avenue. I contacted the then Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, the Raj Bhawan and the Media, but nobody helped.
Recently, there have been criticisms from some people in J&K regarding the NTA. However, I feel compelled to inform them that regardless of whether a student makes a mistake while filling out application forms or encountering other challenges, the NTA consistently goes above and beyond to assist them. Its unwavering dedication to student-centered support is deserving of my utmost appreciation, which I express through this article.
Amidst discouraging responses, a ray of hope emerged when I connected with the remarkable Dr. Sadhana Parashar, the Senior Director of NTA. Overwhelmed with emotion, I wept on the telephone as I shared my predicament with her. Driven by her empathetic and compassionate nature, Dr. Parashar offered solace and presented a solution that restored my faith in the power of empathy and solidarity. Through Dr. Parashar’s intervention, arrangements were made for me to appear for the exam in Chandigarh. This act of kindness not only eased the logistical burdens but also rekindled my belief in the inherent goodness of people. It was a testament to the remarkable impact that individuals like Dr. Parashar can have when they go above and beyond their prescribed roles. My journey from Kashmir stands as a shining example of the power of determination and the invaluable role that empathy plays in our lives. Dr. Sadhana Parashar’s empathetic intervention serves as a reminder that, despite the challenges and adversities we face, there are individuals who strive to make a difference and uplift those around them. As I continue to pursue my dreams in the field of anthropology, I am fueled by the transformative experiences I have encountered along my journey. My story, intertwined with the compassion and support of Dr. Sadhana Parashar, serves as an inspiration to all who encounter obstacles in their pursuit of education and personal growth. It is a story of resilience, triumph, and the enduring power of empathy. In a world where empathy often feels like a scarce resource, Dr. Sadhana Parashar stands as a beacon of hope, a testament to the transformative potential of compassionate leadership. Her actions demonstrate that a single act of kindness can rewrite the narrative of someone’s life and inspire them to achieve greatness. In this ever-changing landscape, let us embrace empathy as a guiding principle and celebrate those who light the way for others. Although the path I traveled was demanding, the magnitude of my gratitude is immeasurable. I am composing this article four years after the transformative experience to enlighten individuals about the remarkable empathy and support the NTA provides to students undertaking various exams. Recently, there have been criticisms from some people in J&K regarding the NTA. However, I feel compelled to inform them that regardless of whether a student makes a mistake while filling out application forms or encountering other challenges, the NTA consistently goes above and beyond to assist them. Its unwavering dedication to student-centered support is deserving of my utmost appreciation, which I express through this article. I extend my deepest appreciation to Dr. Sadhana Parashar and the National Testing Agency for their unwavering commitment to fairness, equal opportunities, and the transformative power of empathy
(The author is a doctorate in Anthropology is a freelancer. The views, opinions, facts, assumptions, presumptions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)