Monsoons are a bad time for residents of Chandigarh's downmarket Shahpur area, where Sunil Kumar, 18, lives in a single-room mud hut (jhuggi) with his family. The place is waterlogged much of the time and electricity is a luxury that comes once in a while.
Sunil Kumar with his parents in Chandigarh. HT/Gurminder Singh
So, studies are a tough
proposition for anyone seeking the light of education. But as the saying goes, if there's a will, there’s a way. Sunil had the will.
The son of a washerman, Sunil studied under street lights to fight for a better life for himself and his family. And with some help from a sympathetic head of a coaching school for aspiring engineers, he took the All India Engineering Entrance Examination earlier this year and stood 32nd in Chandigarh.
Today, he is pursuing a degree from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh and expects to get a job that fetches him R50,000 per month once he graduates.
“I wished I had been able to give him a glass of milk when he studied under a street light but that was a dream we couldn't afford. Now my son will give us every luxury we need,” said his mother, Rekha Devi. Sunil’s father Mithai Lal said proudly, “It seems as if the world has stopped for us because today our son seems like a star. He has fought all odds and is surging ahead.”
Sunil summed up his achievement thus: “I come from a backward area and from a poor background. None of my family members are educated but today I am a role model for many. I plan to buy a flat for my parents after I get a job.”
Along with his parents’ encouragement, Sunil got a helping hand from Anil Verma, who heads a coaching centre for would-be engineers.
“I saw him studying under a street light outside my house one day and asked him to come in,” said Verma.
When he found that Sunil was serious about cracking the IIT entrance exam, Verma had him coached at his centre free of charge.
Sunil had the will and now’s he’s found a way — to a better life for himself and the ones he loves and hopefully, for society as well.