out to horizons
Poverty failed to stop them. These young achievers stood out in
the crowd, braved all obstacles and yet made their mark. RITUSMITA
BISWAS talks to some of them to know their story.
Madhavi Baidya never saw her father. He died in
an accident before she was born. Thrown out of her husband’s
place, Madhavi’s mother Sonali Baidya fled to Kolkata from her
ancestral home in the city suburbs. Her aunt, who after being
widowed in an early age stayed in one of the slums of Kolkata and
worked as a domestic maid, gave Sonali shelter. A class V pass
out, Sonali had no other option but to work as a domestic maid.
She worked as a part-time help in about 6 houses in the city but
made sure that her daughter did not follow her steps. Despite the
pressing economic need in the family she sent her daughter to
school daily and continued her education up to college. The
problem started when Madhavi stepped out of school and was ready
for college. “We needed money and there were none. It was
impossible for me to pay Rs 6000 as Madhavi’s admission fees and
also meet her monthly college expenses.”
It was at that time that Kallol Ghosh of Offer
India came forward and volunteered to pay the admission fees.
Professor Santanu Ray, director of ICFAI business school and one
of the well-known philanthropists in the city also joined his hand
to help Madhavi. And thus despite her extreme economic poverty
Madhavi continues to study in the college and is all set to become
an honours graduate soon. Cases like Madhavi, whose mothers are
working as domestic helps, are not rare. They are spread across
the nooks and corners of our diverse country. These are the young
achievers who with a little support make it to great heights.
Take for example the
case of Balaji. Son of coolie worker
is one of two sons in a family of three. After his mother’s
passing a few years ago,
Balaji’s father became dependent
on him, to help with running the house, as he is the eldest
son. It was difficult growing up without a mother. Living
in a thatched- roof house in
Chappadipalli, a village near
Palamaner, every monsoon brought with it many woes. The
roof would leak, but, nothing could be done about it. He
hoped that he could somehow help in getting a better life
for the three of them. He went to school and then college,
but it was very hard as the college was twenty kilometers
away from his house. They were never financially stable.
How much money could coolie work fetch, given that work
comes only at seasonally? However
Balaji was a boy who had
never stopped dreaming. He joined an
program organized by an NGO
and acquired basic knowledge in computers. He then went
on to do an advanced course and finally managed to secure
a job as office assistant at Centre for Social Action Trust,
Palamaner. He says he is very happy with the job.
Manisha too has a similar story. Being
a rag picker she was leading a condemned life of a destitute
on the streets of
Noida till an alert social worker of
Saksharta Samiti, a partner NGO supported by
Foundation, one of the largest organizations
for children that has over 100 projects and 1
noticed her wandering aimlessly on the streets and brought
her to the school being run by the organization. During
her initial days in school, she was shunned by her other
classmates as she was dirty and smelled bad. Persistent
counseling and patient efforts of teachers brought about
a change in
Manisha and from being a directionless child
she became a focused and responsible child. Today,
holds a government job and leads the life of an aware and
confident young woman.
What sets apart these young achievers who despite
their extreme poverty manage to make their mark? Is it just luck
or destiny or do they have some innate qualities in them that
make them stand in the crowd. “Luck surely is a factor.
Had professor Santanu Ray and others not helped me to fund my
education, my dreams of making it to the college would have been
just that; that is a dream,” says Madhavi Baidya. But she
agrees that she always had the dedication to study and the dream
to achieve her goals. “True I got help but yes I looked
around for it,” she says. And it is typically this industriousness
and dedication, which sets a young achiever apart from the rest.
“Every child has immense potential in
him and her. We just need the proper spark to light it,”
says professor Santanu Ray of ICFAI Business School, who is also
instrumental behind running the ICFAI republic schools, a project
for underprivileged children across the country, in Kolkata.
need of the hour is to focus on education and health of the children,
The foundation that reaches out to over one lakh children has
recently launched a mega project at national level called
with an objective of providing a comprehensive mobile health care
service to under-privileged community in outreach, remote rural
areas and slums. “We do not select any young achiever from
the crowd and give them any special treatment. However, if we
do notice a particular child is talented in some area or other
we try to offer special help to him/her so that her talent is
nurtured,” says an official.
Dedication, sincerity and the ability to dream
seems on the other hand the key factors that is instrumental in
making these young people successful. For instance, if we take
a close look at the careers of Swarnajit Chatterjee and Md Arif
we realize that theirs is a tale of grit, determination and dedication.
Unlike many of their counterparts in the city, these people did
not have an access to the so called premium schools and branded
coaching classes with ace tutors promising to make them sail through
the board exams.
Nonetheless both of them topped their respective
board exams in West Bengal. There was a point when Swarnajit thought
he would drop out of school. Had his school - Bankura Sonamukhi
Bora Chhatra School - not 'adopted' him, it would not have been
possible for Swarnajit to take his Higher Secondary exams, let
alone possibly top it.
His father Hariprasad Chatterjee is the owner
of a small grocery store while his mother Mili Chatterjee is an
Anganwadi worker earning not more than Rs 1200 per month. The
small amount that the family earned was not sufficient and forced
Swarnajit to ponder whether or not he will be continuing his education
or drop out and lend a helping hand to supplement the family income.
His schoolteachers, however, were reluctant to let him go. After
all he had always stood first in class and was a brilliant student.
With their active support Swarnajit focused
on his goals and continued to toil hard to achieve results that
would justify the faith that his teachers had on him. It was a
rigorous study of over 12 hours per day that helped Swarnajit
to achieve his best results and score around 91.8 % in the board
exams. Though the HS council has officially not given the rank,
yet survey shows that in the state no one has crossed his score
of 459 on 500. “I studied for over 18 hours a day. I knew
I had no second chance and so I had to make it to the top this
time,” Swarnajit says.
“Hardwork definitely has its dividends.
Despite your poor condition if you have the grit to overcome every
hurdle and the tenacity to fight back you will surely meet your
goal,” says Professor Ray.