(Note: I’m not a successful man to advice others on success. I have written this on the insistence of my little brother who keeps asking me to write something motivational)
I would say it to be rather my ‘misfortune’ than my ‘fortune’ that I was able to study in the best and hence expensive schools of Assam of my time. ‘Misfortune’ because I could see the luxurious lifestyle of the rich fellow kids but never have it. I belonged to a poor family. My father was a simple school teacher and my mother a house wife. We lived just hand to mouth.
My father had got nothing in the name of ancestral property. My grandfather had died when my father was a kid. His uncles brought him to their house to work in their fields and look after the cows and bulls. He had three uncles. The eldest was a school teacher and a reputed man in the locality. The middle was the village head. And the youngest a farmer. The village primary school was just in front of their house and they had to get my father admitted to school just to live up to their good social reputation. But unfortunately for them, my father turned out to be extremely intelligent- much more intelligent than their own kids. So they could never cut off his education midway. Whenever they tried the school headmaster would reach their home.
My father would work in the fields in the morning. Then go to school. In the noon he would walk back home to have lunch (those days they were not provided pocket money to have food outside) and move the cows from where they were tethered in the fields. He would not be provided lunch unless he did that. After gobbling the lunch he would run back to school (the High School was 1.5-2 kilometers away from his home). Again in the evening he worked a little in the fields and brought the cattle back home.
My father passed matriculation examination with extremely good results. He got admitted in Cotton College-the most prestigious college of the North-East India. He completed his HS with good results. He could have easily become a doctor or an engineer. At that time admission to medical or engineering was based on percentage and my father’s percentage was much more than the required. But he didn’t have the funds. And none of his uncle’s came forward to help. My father’s ego too forbid him from begging from others. He believed not in begging but in earning. So ultimately he did BSc. from Cotton College only.
He wanted to do MSc. But the same economic problems again. None of the uncle’s even asked whether my father wanted to study further. My father got a good job in the Telegraph Department quite easily by virtue of his good marks. But he was a lazy man. He quit that job as he had to work night shifts.
By then my father was married to my mother. I don’t know how that could happen. We’re not so open with our parents. So we don’t talk about it. I know it can’t be an arranged marriage. My mother is from a lower caste and my father from upper caste. His family strictly followed casteism. My mother was harassed a lot by her in-laws. I heard much later from one of the uncles (my father’s smallest uncle’s son who was disowned from the family for eloping with a lower caste girl) how my father too was ‘thrown out’ of the house for marrying a lower caste lady. Anyway that’s a different story.
My father bought a small plot of land. My maternal grandfather and uncles helped my parents a lot in starting their life. They built up a hut of bamboo thatches. Ours was the only family in between the fields at that time. Most of the nights, one of my uncles would stay with my parents just as an anchorage for them. Sometimes there would be no rice to eat. My mother would go to my grandfather’s house and bring some rice.
My father was sitting idle at home when the principal of the Higher Secondary school where he studied invited him to join the school. At that time not many studied. So jobs were quite easy to get for the educated ones. So thus my father ended up being a teacher. He found this job easy. He didn’t have to toil hard. He started his job with a monthly salary of Rs.700. They started building a home with whatever little money they got. They went through days of misery, days of despair, starting from nothing, building their dreams, looking forward for a better future.
My mother was an expert in house management. If you ask her money her answer will always be “We don’t have money”. We never have money! But I don’t know where from the money comes in need. My father brings the salary and gives it to my mother. It is for my mother to manage the home. And my mother saves penny by penny for the hard times.
We had a lower middle class life. We never went out for eating. We hardly went for picnics. We never got good costly clothes to wear. But my parents never compromised with our studies. They got us admitted to the only private English medium school of the region. Most of my father’s colleagues would get their kids admitted to government schools which were free and use that money for buying cars or bikes for themselves. But my parents never did that. They sacrificed their happiness for the better education of their children. And I owe them my life for that.
Sometimes I would demand some costly toy in Durga Puja. But my mother would never buy it. I’d cry. How much I hated my mother for that! After all I was just a kid. But later on as I grew up I began to understand. I began to know that she could not afford it. From those days I became extremely ambitious.
I remember the days when I had shifted from my village school to the school in the city. Everything seemed so different. The kids were all from rich families. I felt odd. Except the school uniform nothing seemed same. They talked of things that I didn’t understand. I suffered from inferiority complex those days. They had everything in their life that they wished for. I could see their life, their luxuries and felt so deprived. I would think, someday I’m going to have all these and much more. I would give everything to my kids which I could not have. I was determined to work hard. The only thing that was in my favor was that I was god at studies. While I walked to the bus stop, I would see parents of kids of my school, taking them in their cars to drop off to the bus stop where the school bus came. But no one offered to give me a ride. I would think someday I’ll have cars and I’ll drop off my kids to the bus stop and I’ll take in my car all the school kids that I find in my way!
I passed my 10th with good results and got admitted to another school. It was a very reputed school. I had to walk 20-25 minutes to the place where our school bus stopped. Our classes started at around 7:30 in the morning. So I had to leave home early in the morning as my house was quite far from the school. During the chilly winter morning it was like hell. It felt so uncomfortable. While I walked through the road, by the roadside I could see daily labourers warming themselves by the fire lit using the flammable throw-away stuffs that they collected from the surroundings. I would feel even they are luckier than me! At least they don’t have to suffer this shivering cold like me.
I missed my school bus many days. Hence I missed school too. Our school requires 90% attendance though CBSE says 75%. My attendance was much below 90 but was above 75. My class teacher threatened me that if I carry on like this I won’t be allowed to sit in the exams. By the end of the year my class teacher started saying,” You stop coming school. You won’t be allowed to sit”. I was afraid but never told all these to my parents. After the pre-board examination there was the parents-teachers meeting. I was sure my class teacher would give me nice scolding in front of my father. But to my surprise, my teacher praised a lot about me. He said,” He’s weak and falls sick quite frequently (that was my excuse every time I was absent) so his attendance is low. But he’s extremely intelligent. He covers up the next day whatever he misses the previous day. I’m sure he’ll do well not only in boards but also in entrances.” It was as if my teacher was playing the role of my father. I really liked him a lot from that day. And I’m happy I didn’t let anyone down.
I’m an engineer now- maybe the first engineer of my village, working in an MNC. I’m having a well off life; much better than what I had in my childhood and much better than a majority of my countrymen. I can possess to some extent, things which I dream of. I have a better life than many of my fellow ‘rich friends’. I go party, eat in fancy restaurants, go on tours, clubs etc. I have travelled a little in the journey towards my goal and much is yet to achieve. But I’m not satisfied with my life. For my dreams are big and my destination is far. And what I have achieved is negligible compared to what I aspire for. It’s nothing!! Sometimes I feel disappointed …frustrated. Sometimes everything goes against you. As if God is the one who wants to screw you. You try a lot still can’t succeed. You see no hope. I’m going through such a phase in my life; a phase of constant wandering. I think what on earth am I doing? But then I picture the face of my father and think if he can came so far despite the odds why can’t I when I have got the support of my parents. This is only the beginning and not the end. I have lot to explore, lot to learn. I know in whatever bad condition I might be I’ll be rising from the ashes.
I would like to end my writing with few lines by Robert Frost.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”