Nikhil Deb, Ph.D.

Personal Statement

Picture a child born in a remote, highly disadvantaged rural area, a place deprived of basic human conditions we take for granted. He was a religious minority in a predominantly Muslim country. In fact, his Hindu village was surrounded by at least 20 Muslim communities, making it more than a day’s journey on foot to reach the nearest Hindu neighborhood. Such a position, however, was not without its value. On the contrary, the life of anomie and squalor led him to take on “double consciousness,” and, in turn, resilience

Our subject remained in this out-of-power outpost until he completed his first major public examination in the tenth grade. Most people in his rural village lived in “kaccha” houses made of bamboo, dried grass, and mud. And though he never regretted being born there, the opportunity for a meaningful education was all but non-existent. There was an elementary school near his village, which, having only one room for approximately 50 students from first to fifth grade, was in deplorable shape, to say the least. What about high school? The high school in his village fell just below a 99 percent drop-out rate. He had to trek a few miles back and forth in order to attend. And in the rainy season, if he missed boarding the engine boat, he remembers swimming across the murky river by his home just to make it to class. Studying had to be finished before sundown as there was no electricity and Kerosenes for lantern were in short supply. His father was a hand-to-mouth schoolteacher who struggled to feed his four children, and he heard that before he was born, his father used to sell betel leaf door to door to keep rice on the table. But somehow his father understood the importance of education, and he was determined to send his children to school. This is merely a fragment of his story. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s the story of me. It would be an understatement to say he’s just a first-generation college or student. Thank you.