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Dr. Surya Lakshmi Chellapilla – For her human spirit is one of ability, perseverance and courage that no disability can steal away.

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For her, the ability is stronger than her disability. Her never-say-die-attitude has served as an undying inspiration and motivation for those who have to battle with disabilities. She is the epitome of power and has proved herself. She is a role model for many who wish to be successful in their chosen profession. Hello Vizag proud to share the story which is similar to the theme of International Womens’ Day – ‘Choose to Challenge’.

For her, punctuality is self-discipline and she gets ready to meet people on her given time with grace and humility. As you enter the chambers of Additional Divisional Railway Manager (ADRM), Waltair Division of East Coast Railway one will see a name board prefixed with Dr. But, make no mistake of thinking she is from the medical fraternity but she is the recipient of the degree in Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in history from Andhra University.

Hailing from Visakhapatnam, Dr. Surya Lakshmi Chellapilla was born in Chennai to Prof. C Somasundara Rao and Ratna Durga, a housewife. She was born with hemiplegia, a type of disease wherein one feels slight weakness — such as mild loss of strength — in a leg, arm, or face. It can also be paralysis on one side of the body. Surya Lakshmi and her parents did not let her disability deter her education and dreams.

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A brilliant student, she completed her schooling from Kotak Salesian School and college from A. S. Raja Mahila Junior College and B.V.K. Degree College. She continued to pursue her further studies and achieved Ph.D. in history (Thesis entitled “Zamindari Economy: Life in Bobbili (1803-1949) from the Andhra University. With her intellectual prowess, she cracked the Civil Services in her first attempt in the year 2000 and became Group A IRAS (Indian Railway Accounts Service) cadre officer and got posted in Waltair as a Junior Accounts Officer in the construction office.

“The idea of appearing for civil services came from my father, uncle & sister, Lavanya. Otherwise, I would have had to wait to pursue my career in teaching if I were not selected at the age of 28, which would be the first and last chance for appearing at the Civil Services exam,” she says with a smiling face.

“The seeds of knowing history were sown by my father’s sister to me during my infancy itself when I used to hear bedtime stories from her about the national leaders, about the Independence movement, and of social reformers like Raja Ram Mohun, who denounced Sati as barbaric and against the tenets of Hinduism and about Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, a prominent campaigner for Hindu widow remarriage”, she says.

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All this and more, Dr. Lakshmi says that it was the family- grandfather, father and her aunt- who played a prominent role in the development of a keen interest in academics. “With the inbuilt thirst for knowledge at an early age, I thought myself that I will achieve something more in my domain field of history”, she says boldly. “My parents had enormous trust in me and fully supported me in whatever I did because of their faith in me & their upbringing”, says Dr. Lakshmi.

Stating further Dr. Lakshmi says, “I used to solve all the sample questions papers of civil services which were regularly published in the Competition Success Review and Competition Master and other magazines. This boosted my morale and confidence to much higher levels and enabled me to crack the civil services in the first attempt without any outside coaching”

Before Dr. Lakshmi was posted as ADRM, WaltairDivison, she worked in various railway zones i.e., Southern Railway, Chennai and South Western Railway, Hubli. She had also worked in Bhubaneswar during its formative years in various capacities by bringing in streamlining in the work process and also improved efficiency by bringing digitalization in multiple arenas, like e-payment. With a strong appetite for higher studies, she was able to complete Post Graduate Programme in Public Policy Management from IIM Bangalore. After so much success, Dr. Lakshmi believes that the blessing of God is more important than an appreciation for her achievements. After all, she believed that learning was an end in itself.

Memorable Anecdote

Feeling like eating for Bread, Butter and Jam on a Sunday when the city was closed. The twist in the tale is that my dad, who overhears it, goes all the way to Golden Crown bakery, Maharanipeta & gets it from there.

My Write-Ups

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I have written a novel called “Apajayaalukaliginachote…” which not only won a prize but also got rave reviews. The fact that readership in Telugu is very low in comparison to English ones is a different matter. In nearly six years, forty-four of my stories have been published in various Telugu magazines, both print & online, apart from the novel. What I write about are the values I follow.

Attachment with Vizag

Words fail to express that. From mesmerizing beaches, green-capped hillocks sparkling blue-turquoise waters, the picturesque coastline to the unending horizon. And Kailasagiri hill which offers a panoramic sea view on the East Coast. Also, temples & the good human beings who inhabit the city.

Awards, Ranks and Distinctions

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Director General’s Gold Medal for Induction (2002) from the Railway Staff College, Vadodara (Probation)

Award of “Best Lady Probationer for 2002” from the Railway Staff College, Vadodara (Probation)

Silver Medal for securing 2nd rank in the Professional Training Course at the National Institute of Financial Management, Faridabad (Probation)

Message to Women

Choose to challenge the stereotypes, chart your own path to glory, let the spirit of empowered womanhood fly high. Hold your head high, o woman, for none can better you in multitasking. Face the consequences of your actions with courage and conviction. And never lower your head simply because the world around you wants you to be so.

Lastly, Dr. Lakshmi says you have to be truthful whatever you say. She has seen the world as most of us do, right from the time she was born. Despite living with hemiplegia, the 50 -year-old has never let it create a roadblock in her path to success.

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