One of the best gifts of journalism is the experiences it offers that leave one inspired and moved.
I encountered one such incident recently while covering the results of Punjab State Education Board 2013 for class tenth. The assignment took me to a village Dhandari Kalan, some 10 kilometers away from the main city of Ludhiana, to meet Deepak Kumar, who had stood third in the state with 96 percent.
I went to his school SGD Grammar Senior Secondary School, standing amid a bustling market. With summer vacations on, the school bore a deserted look, even as a gangly, shy and very disciplined-looking boy dressed in school uniform strolled around the entrance. As I found out soon from the school principal, he was Deepak.
“We called him to congratulate him, even though the celebrations are really a quiet affair given the vacations,” the principal told me. She added that Deepak has been a brilliant and very disciplined student always and with potential to reach great heights.
I thought a photo with Deepak’s family huddled around him would be great, and so I requested him to guide me to his home. He felt reluctant and, when I reached his house, I sensed why.
The humble house laid bare the family’s financial condition, making it as embarrassing for me as for him. A chair was hurriedly arranged for me to sit, his mother began to conceal with a cloth things strewn on the bed, and somebody began to wave a handfan for me. I politely asked her not to as I was very comfortable. To ease the situation, I smiled and began to ask the parents how they felt about their son’s achievement. The father trembled as he answered me and, as I learnt in a few minutes, he was a migrant from Bihar who had shifted to Ludhiana to work as a labourer a decade ago. Now, he ran a small grocery store from the two-room house.
I asked Deepak what he wanted to pursue his career in, and he told me it was his dream to become a Maths lecturer. This was why he had opted for non-medical stream in class eleventh. As I learnt, it was less out of choice and more out of a lack of knowledge for further options; a Maths lecturer was the most accomplished person in the village so far.
From the house, I came to know, Deepak walked to the school daily, negotiating broken paths on the way. Asked about his window to the world of opportunities, Deepak said he watched Discovery channel regularly and had Internet on his cellphone.