It is not very often that we hear the success stories of those born in the underprivileged and deprived segments of our society, but recently my favourite newspaper, The Times of India covered an inspiring story on their front page. The headline reads, "Sons in IIT top-500, daily-wager dad doesn't have Rs 1L for fees."
The story is about the family of Dharamraj Saroj, a daily wage earner from Pratapgarh district in Uttar Pradesh. Both his sons Raju and Brijesh have cracked the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance test -- one securing All India Rank (AIR) 167 and the other 410.
So what's the big deal about cracking this IIT exam? A Silicon Valley friend of mine once told me that people tend to ask which IIT you're from even before asking your name.
An American TV Channel, CBS in their famous show 60 minutes aired a documentary on IIT. This documentary finds out why the IITs are among the best technology schools in the world. It described the IITs as "Harvard, MIT and Princeton put together".
"They challenge discrimination based on caste, class, the reservation system and all other such arrangements made for uplifting downtrodden and deprived people."
Of course, this is not the first time that achievers who've fought difficult odds have made it to the news. For example, in 2013, Prema, the daughter of an autorickshaw driver called Jayakumar Perumal, topped the National Chartered Accountancy exam. Both she and her brother cleared the tough exam in their first attempt. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is the second largest accounting body in the world.
In our country, there are many young talents like Raju, Brijesh and Prema who stand as inspiration for all those underprivileged kids who feel left behind by their more advantaged counterparts.
So here's the question: What is the class and caste of these young stars? Cattle, Poor, Middle, Elite? Do they want a quota or reservation to get a job? Are they looking forward to the nepotisms available to them under our caste-based quota system? Here my intent is not to start a debate on the pros and cons of caste-based reservation, but to underline that merit cuts across income, caste or any other demographic line.
They are "Warriors of Will", and that is the only class that they represent. They are change agents. They refuse to accept that the son of a slave is a slave and that of a king is a king. They challenge discrimination based on caste, class, the reservation system and all other such arrangements made for uplifting downtrodden and deprived people.
The other thing they have in common is poverty. All of them were deprived of the world-class teaching and learning facilities available to the privileged in modern India. Imagine the environment in which they shaped their learning and development. The lack of resources, facilities, healthcare and an environment amenable to study, the very struggle of day to day existence did not deter them from emerging as winners.
So what it take to be a winner? Skill, experience or talent?
In a recent episode of Zee Media's "Dr Subhash Chandra Show", he noted, "Skill can be taught, experience can be transferred. But you either have talent or you don't."
Talent is innate in a person. That translates to the fact that talent can emerge in any family. It has the power to break the intergenerational inheritance of poverty. It means that being poor is not a life sentence. Congratulations to Raju, Brijesh , Prema and all other young achievers born in many underprivileged families. Your success is our nation's pride.