As a youngster Ashok Kumar Bhati studied under streetlights, a legend associated with the 16th US president Abraham Lincoln.
Though Bhati has no intention of running for the presidency, the 58-year-old's quest for knowledge has earned him an astounding number of 16 degrees and diplomas.
If this is not extraordinary, consider this – Bhati is a railway food trolley vendor at Luni in Rajasthan's Pali district, around 350 km from capital Jaipur.
In 2009, Bhati made it to the Limca Book of Records "as the only railway vendor with nine degrees/diplomas". Since then, the number has swelled to 16.
After satiating the hunger of train passengers, Bhati gets down to take care of his own hunger – for knowledge and more knowledge.
All his sixteen degrees and diplomas have come after he took up the family business at the Luni railway station, started by his grandfather.
Bhati works alone without any helper at his food trolley.
Bhati's extraordinary quest for knowledge was the highlight of the 7th Convocation of Vardhman Mahaveer Open University at Kota where he was felicitated with a 'special award' on Thursday evening.
Bhati has acquired 11 of the degrees/diplomas -- from VMOU and the rest from other universities.
His bio data is enough to earn him a decent job in any company or even government department with degrees and diplomas including BCom, MCom, bachelor of law, bachelor of journalism and mass communication, MA in sociology and MA in political science.
But all these have come from sheer hard work and dedication. Speaking to the gathering after his felicitation, Bhati recalled studying under streetlights when in school as there was no electricity at Luni at that time.
Bhati also revealed that he is now pursuing a diploma course in Gandhian studies from VMOU.
"I read for a couple of hours daily after completing my daily work at the railway platform," said Bhati who started work as vendor in 1977.
Vice-chancellor of VMOU Vinay Kumar Pathak described the Bhati feat as "extraordinary".
On his passion for education, Bhati said that he is keen to learn and attain knowledge. "The record was an added motivation. I would also like to have a Guinness record, not for anything else but just to tell our youngsters that anything is possible," he added.
If not anybody else, his two sons have followed their father though not many in their extended family are educated.
Bhati's elder son Amit is a graduate and works at a call centre while his younger son Abhishek is engaged with an event management company.