From a modest upbringing in Malkangiri district of Orissa to being selected as a co-pilot with a private airline, Anupriya Lakra has secured her place in the halls of fame by becoming the first female pilot from the state. Over the past few days, she has made headlines on account of being the first tribal woman from the maoist-affected region to acquire a commercial pilot license.

The extensive hours of hard work coupled with the support from her family has paid off for Anupriya and catapulted her into the limelight as a role model for girls across the country. However, her family continues to be weighed down by the burden of financial trouble and debt. Behind the story of Anupriya’s achievement lies the invisible struggle of a mother who has gone to extremes in order to ensure her daughter gets a quality education.

“We are very proud of her. Over here, we have faced a lot of difficulties… I did not have the capacity to educate her,” said Yashmin Lakra, Anupriya’s mother. A 10th pass who is now a housewife, Lakra states that she would be constantly consumed with worry about her children—two sons and one daughter, with Anupriya being the eldest. “For my children, I was their teacher, I was their everything,” she told The Citizen.

“I would keep asking for loans. Sometimes we wouldn't have enough to eat. Sometimes I would use the money to make the payments. The repayments for loans are continuing till date,” said Lakra. Since Anupriya’s education required a heavy investment, not much was left over for the education of her other children. Lakra stated that her family had not received any help from the government either.

Lakra’s eldest son has completed his BSc. and lives in Bhubaneswar. However, his dreams of pursuing an MBA remain unfounded. “He wanted to do his MBA but he couldn't. He finished his education with just his BSc. He did his BSc. here in Malkangiri. I couldn't afford to send him outside,” she said.

Anupriya’s father, Mariniyas Lakra is a constable with the Malkangiri police. Yashmin Lakra stated that he left the nuances of the children’s upbringing to her. “He is very proud of Anupriya. He is very innocent. He told Anupriya, you do what you are doing. I will give you whatever I am earning. Beyond that, he depends on me and leaves it on me,” she told The Citizen.

In her endeavour to give her children the very best, Lakra states she has received full support from her brothers and sister. Anupriya attended Dipti Convent School in Malkangiri before shifting to Jeevan Jyoti Convent School in Semiliguda. Since her family was unable to provide the fees for the hostel in Semiliguda, Anupriya’s uncles helped educate her by relocating her to Bhubaneswar where they rented a home for her.

Initially pursuing engineering, Anupriya shifted paths by joining the Government Aviation Training Institute (GATI). According to her mother, Anupriya worked extremely hard, often forgetting to eat or drink during her pilot training.

Speaking about her daughter’s childhood, Lakra stated that Anupriya was a “first-class student” who would prefer to remain quiet and at home. “Till date, she doesn’t talk much,” said Lakra. She says her daughter is well-respected by her peers. “Everyone respects her a lot seeing her talent, her nature, her innocence. Everybody is quite fond of her.”

While she is immensely proud of her daughter’s achievement, Lakra says she has not thought about the future yet. “We are still in a lot of difficulty. We are still debt-ridden, what do I think?... Other women also make me feel proud saying you are the only woman who could do this. We wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

While her pride knows no bounds, Lakra’s struggles continue unabated, a testament to a mother’s best wishes for her children.