Having just arrived at the Santa Cruz airport from home, I had to take an auto rickshaw back to IIT. And so I did. I got the first shock when he did recognize IIT. I did repeat it many times, even referred to Powai and Hiranandani. But the guy looked confident, though I wasn’t. But still I ventured.
On the way was a huge traffic jam and that’s where our conversation began. He just casually mentioned that I was lucky to be in a college and studying. I was surprised, even perplexed to hear that. So I asked why he thought so. That’s when he told me that he too liked to study but he could not continue his studies. And so I asked him about his background. He was from a small village in Jamui, near Deoghar, in Bihar (forget the geography; it is a regulation town in Bihar.). Father was a poor farmer, having not much land of own, now too old to work real hard and earn all of them their daily bread, had four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. The sisters have to wed off, the brothers brought up. No regular income to wend of worries. Believe me this is a common place in India, Bihar at least. I was getting saddened by his plight, so I asked his name.
Mahesh somehow did manage to complete his 10th standard. That too, with his own earning (I did not have the courage to ask how, the image just scared me) and while telling this his voice almost became overcome with a feeling of sadness mixed with achievement. He said that had his father supported him, he would have managed his living as well as studies. And I am pretty sure he had tears in his eyes when he told me this.
But then the siblings were growing up, demands increasing, and father growing old. He had to discontinue his education purely to support his family. He stayed in his village for two years but without much avail. And that’s when a friend of him brought him to Mumbai. And what he did for an earning is already known to you I guess.
I asked him if he liked studying. He did say yes but the conviction in his voice did make me believe so. That’s when I decided to cheer him up or try to talk him into giving another shot to studies. I suggested night schools, night colleges and other government initiatives. I explained the advantages that he would have if he did so. If he studied, he could get a proper job and would not be a daily wage worker anymore. He would have a better life and would provide a better life to his family and children. I did not know what all to say and what not, but I did try my best. I could not persuade him, neither order him, just give directions.
I was lost in my thoughts when we entered IIT. And he blurted out “It is so lovely place. I like this place a lot.” And the shocks were not over yet. He told me that once he had come here and loved the place so much, he parked his rickshaw and roamed around in the campus for the whole day. It was then that I realized, things which we get easily we take them for granted but those things mean so much to others and bring so much joy to them. My ride was about to end. So I decided to sign off with few last words.
“A man is the master of his own destiny. And no one else is.”
And it applies equally to me as to him.