Tejaram Sankhla from Rajasthan’s Sojat town is no ordinary labourer. His son, 26-year-old Ram Chandra, is a Google executive at the internet giant’s Seattle office in the US.
But the 50-year-old man still loads sacks of henna on trucks in the town famous for its global export of the plant used for dyeing, 262km southwest of state capital Jaipur. He earns about Rs 400 on a good day.
Sankhla doesn’t need to work to make ends meet. His firstborn, Ram, earns an enviable pay.
He has inherited the father’s industrious gene. He overcame the family’s financial shortcomings to become a software engineer, land a job with Google’s India office in 2013, and went to the US this April.
But Sankhla loathes sitting idle at home. “I feel useless if I don’t work,” he said.
Ram wants his father to take it easy.
“I keep telling him not to work but he won’t listen,” he said over the phone from the US after a Facebook Live session with students of a Kota coaching institute on Saturday. The students are training to crack the IIT entrance examination, India’s toughest competitive test.
Ram went to this institute in 2008 after passing Class 12 from the government, Hindi-medium school in Sojat, with a personal loan from a judicial officer posted in the Kota sessions court.
He took admission in IIT-Roorkee in 2009. Another family from Sojat paid the counseling and first semester fee.
“They bought me a suitcase and some clothes to wear in college,” he said. “Later, some people from the community raised Rs 30,000 to buy a laptop for me. My father took a loan to pay the second semester fee. I got an education loan in the second year to fund the rest of my education,” he said.
Mother Rami Devi is 49, stays home and looks after a 1.5-acre farmland that the family bought with money from Ram’s salary. She used to work before at construction sites to support her family of five.
“He was bright since childhood. We knew that he will improve the family’s fortunes some day,” she said.
Ram recalled how he used to cook dinner on a clay stove for the family when he was in school. He saved and spent Rs 70,000 from his college scholarship to build a kitchen for his parents. The stipend was Rs 30,000 a semester for three years.
After he got the Google job, he repaid the loans. His father owed Rs 3.5 lakh to several individuals and the education loan was about Rs 5 lakh. The debt cleared, the family built a brick-and-mortar home and bought a piece of farmland.
“People didn’t take back the money they lent me when I offered to repay. They said help the needy, bright students who are like me,” he said.
Ram wants to help students. He taught at an orphanage in Kota for about a month in October 2015, and spent his scholarship on younger sister Jyoti to send her to Jodhpur to prepare for the engineering entrance test.
His siblings, unfortunately, haven’t fared well academically.
Vikas, his 24-year-old brother, dropped out after he failed in Class 8 thrice. He works at a shoe shop in Pune whose owner is from Sojat. Sister Jyoti is 22 and stays home. She failed in the BSc final exam this year.
“I want to work until we become financially secure. After that I will stay with my family in Sojat and become a social worker,” signed off the young man, who picked up English by speaking aloud subtitles from Western movies he watched in his college days.