The fields of Borsi, a backward village in Chhattisgarh, are light years away from Hyderabad’s National Centre for Nuclear Sciences and Mathematics.
But for 29-year-old Puna Ram Sinha, that quantum jump was no more difficult than skirting a ditch in his backyard.
The youngest son of a poor farmer in Borsi, 90 km from Raipur, he joined the department of atomic energy in the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) as a scientist in April 2007.
Hardship never deterred Sinha. On the contrary, it was the fuel that fired his zeal. A single school uniform, missed meals – all was grist to his mill.
"Luxuries cannot motivate one for challenge and growth,” he said. The simplicity of village life was "beyond compare”.
But that simple life came at a price. His village had no hospital, no electricity, no cars and no motorable road. Poverty was universal. It made him realise one thing: "There was no option but to study.”
Today, that perspective has changed. Education, he has come to realise, is only a tool. "It is dedication and sincerity that helps one realise an ambition,” he said.
But those were things Sinha had aplenty. The youngest of four brothers, he had to work in the fields for six hours a day. "Still, he never went to bed before a three-hour study session,” said his father, Bodhan Singh Sinha, 62.
Things would have become difficult if Sinha had not benefited from scholarships. That came easy, for he had been a topper throughout.
The fortunes of his family changed too. Today, they own a house with nine rooms and 4.5 acres of farmland.
But Sinha has a few dreams that concern others as well.
"I want to help poor children achieve their goals,” he said.
"There is no magic wand to realise a dream,” Sinha said. "The role of a school in one’s career is about 5% to 10%. The rest are achieved through hard work and dedication.”