Chetan Regar, 19, inspires people. The mechanical engineering student in IIT-Rajasthan is a legend in home city Kota, the country’s coaching hub for engineering entrance tests.
Son of Dalit vegetable vendor Chauthmal Regar, Chetan cracked the Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination last year, overcoming the crippling odds that come attached with poverty.
Chetan, who bagged an all-India rank of 1027 in the Scheduled Caste category, grew up in a small single-room house in Ganesh Nagar area of the city. He did not have much going for him — “not even electricity in the house to study under lights at night” — except his brilliance.
His father went around the residential colonies of Ganesh Nagar with his vegetable cart. His income was meagre and inconsistent, hovering between Rs 4,000 and R5,000 a month. Life was brutal, but Chauthmal ensured Chetan stayed in school.
The fees for Chetan at the Hindi medium Manu Public School were nominal. After he scored 92% in the class 8 board examinations, the school’s director, Rajendra Gupta, waived his fees till class 12.
Chetan scored 73% in class 12 and tried for admission at the Resonance Coaching Institute to prepare for IIT-JEE. Education is business in Kota. Exceptions, however, are made for the exceptional. RK Verma, the coaching institute’s owner, provided free coaching to Chetan.
“Poverty was a hindrance. I often had to go to homes of friends and relatives to study because we did not have electricity at our home,” said Chetan. “My family struggled to help me accomplish my dream.”
Hemant Sharma, the school friend at whose house Chetan used to study most nights, said, “His most striking ability is not losing hope.”
Chetan wants to pull his family out of poverty and educate his two younger brothers who are in school. His mother, Geeta, is not educated, but she always knew her “eldest son would one day succeed in life”.
“I am proud of my son,” said Chauthmal, who still sells vegetables from his cart, but now has a spring in his step. The family hopes to start a small business after Chetan starts working.
Chetan’s success has already ended one struggle. The Regars now have electricity at home.