Dharmendra Kumar, 22, had to give up his studies four years ago because his father, a daily wage labourer, could no longer pay his school fees as providing for two meals a day for his family of five began to drain his earnings.
"Instead of going back to school I was expected by my father
to work. But I wanted to study and become a lawyer," he said.
So, Dharmendra decided to work as a truck driver to help provide for the family and continue his studies. "It was a nightmare," he said without elaborating.
Soon, his father's health took a bad turn and his parents and siblings moved back to Nepal while Dharmendra decided to stay back in Dehradun to pursue his dreams.
That's when circumstances or luck - Dharmendra calls it fate - stepped in and changed the young man's life for the better.
Avdhash Kaushal, chairman of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) based in Dehradun came to know about Dharmendra's problem and offered him a solution.
The NGO gave him a job as a driver, free tuitions to help him study in the National Open School, a room on the RLEK campus and access to its staff canteen where he can eat.
RLEK runs 17 schools in the Garhwal hills of Uttarakhand and in bordering Uttar Pradesh. The focus of the professionally run RLEK schools is on modern teaching techniques.
Said Kaushal, "The mandate of imparting education fails if a student gets derailed midway through his studies. I came in touch with Dharmendra and asked him to work with us. Meanwhile, we ensured that he cleared the class 10 exams - which he did with a first division."
"The boy wishes to work in the education field. He is now studying for the class 12 board exams after which he will pursue law," said Mamta (who uses one name only), senior law faculty member with RLEK, who teaches Dharmendra.
Dharmendra is looking forward to fulfilling his aspiration to be a lawyer and work for ordinary people. "My idea is to help those who don't get a chance to raise their voice against injustice or can't afford to fight for their rights," he said.
Recalling his recent past, Dharmendra said with a smile, "Those were difficult times. But fate seems to be on my side now."