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On the road to success

MALA ASHOK

As yet the youngest Rhodes scholar, Devi got there by sheer hard work...


What do Devi Sridhar and Bill Clinton have in common? Both are Rhodes Scholars. Devi is an American student, of Indian origin, who has set a record by becoming the youngest American student at age 18 to win this most prestigious of the world's scholarships.

From India, Prithviraj Datta and Tarunabh Khaitan have been selected for the Rhodes scholarship in 2004. This scholarship, worth approximately $30,000 for a period of two years, allows you to pursue a two-year course of study at the Oxford University. For further information log on to:

www.rhodesindia.com and www.rhodesscholarship-india.com

This, however, is not a story about the Rhodes scholarship — rather it is the story of Devi who has made a mark on the American academic scene with her achievement.

I interviewed Devi on the telephone, though it took many e-mails before we could connect as Devi was, in her own words, `working 24x7' (On call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.) The promptness with which she replied told me "here is a girl, who does not put off things."

This organisation and boundless energy came through `loud and clear' in her soft-spoken voice. She was obviously not just an extremely talented person — she plays the violin, speaks English, Tamil, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, excels in tennis, follows college football, wants to try soccer at Oxford (inspired by the movie "Bend it like Beckham") — but also a deeply caring and compassionate one.

In the true Indian tradition Devi mentions her mother Dr. Leela Sridhar as her role model. "It is just wonderful, how she balances her busy career as a paediatrician with her responsibilities as our mother, and guides me."

When Devi talks of her father, the late Dr. Kasi Sridhar, she says, "What can I say? Everything I am today, I owe to him." Her father, a Lung Cancer researcher, passed away at the age of 49. "His death inspired me to be like him. He was so good, so caring. He always put others before himself. I have now learnt to live each day to the fullest."

As for the teacher, Devi describes Donna E. Shalala, Dean of her University. "You know she served as President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services. I've worked with her on a few projects and she treats you as someone equal. Never looks down upon you, because you are a mere student."

When I spoke to her, Devi was working with Operation Enterprise, (OE)which is sponsored by the American Management Association. OE. selects Highly Motivated students, who set high personal goals, and are willing to work hard for success. They come from all over the world (Devi was herself a participant some years ago), meet in New York and brainstorm and plan their future. Devi says that at one time there were five students from India. (If this programme interests you, you could get more information at www.amanet.org/oe/ )

Devi talks passionately about her future plans. She is pursuing a Master's degree in Medical Anthropology, specifically Global Health.

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