Chandu is shy and painfully thin; yet the light of life shines better in his eyes than in most. He walks at an angle, almost as if he is constantly shying away from the world, and wants to disappear into his own world. His gaze however is startlingly direct and his demeanour open and transparent. Chandu lives in a house close to mine.
I saw him first almost a decade ago, when I needed to replace my happy-go-lucky car cleaner, Ramu. Ramu is an old man with the heart of a child, full of mischief and fun. He also devotes only as much time as he wishes to work. My poor car languished at his cavalier treatment and that was when I noticed that a couple of cars in my colony shone like they have been well worked on with loving hands. Obviously these cars were being worked at by someone who cared about his work. I found the man behind the job - Chandu.
|Chandu and Suman|
I had no hesitation in offering the car cleaning job and he accepted it graciously. Ever since he has been heavily in demand. He did the job with the same diligence and care and love as he gave the other cars. I had no complaints with him. He would wish me Good Morning with a smile on days when we met at the early morning hour. I asked him once what he did otherwise. He told me he worked in a private company in Balanagar doing odd jobs. He and his family - his wife and two children - Suman and Swapna, live in the outhouse of this house close to mine.
I'd seen Suman growing up as a kid. He was a serious sort of a boy and always focussed. I don't remember when he started helping his father but I do remember him coming to help even as a young kid. When he grew older he would come by himself. He and his sister would go to school in the colony.
Sometime in 2011 when I was driving past the school I saw a vinyl poster advertising the school toppers in the Xth class. I was pleasantly surprised to find Suman's picture up there as one of the toppers. Then he joined Narayan College and excelled. Then he wrote the JEE and got himself admission in NIT, Trichy. Four years flew by and a month or two ago he told me he got a job as a Technical Analyst at JP Morgan. The boy beat all odds, all limitations and did himself and his family proud.
What impressed me most was that throughout this incredible journey, Suman, never behaved any different. He would still come and clean the car everyday when he was in town, still does in fact with that JP Morgan job in hand. He does it with a kind of dignity that is impressive to watch. And he has the same diligence that his father has. He would sometimes ask me questions and I perhaps shared a couple of my books with him as a reward for doing a good job. Once in a while I would share what I know in the hope that it could help him.
Suman is due to go to Bangalore soon to join his new job. I asked him to come home with his father so I could interview them and share their wonderful story. They came last Sunday and we had a good hour and a half of discussion.
I asked Chandu what his background was. Where he came from.
Chandu said his name was originally Chandulal and he changed it to Chandu. He was originally from Kalwakurthy village in Mahbubnagar district. He lost his father when he was young and his mother brought him, his two older sisters and one older brother, up by herself. After studying in the government school in his village for a while, he came to the city to study with some people he knew - as a 10 year old. He stayed with that family near YMCA, Narayanaguda and studied till the 10th in a Government High School. He did not clear the 10th exams and gave up on studies.
In 90-91 he got married and shifted to AG Colony with his young wife. He worked as a water boy in a company in Balanagar. Then with another company as a security guard, then with a workshop that made liners as a handy man and painter. Meanwhile his family grew and he had two children - Suman in 1995 and Swapna in 1999. He said he drew a salary of some 2000 when he first started and now draws 10000 as salary. He works in a company in Balanagar still.
I asked him why he decided to educate his children?
Chandu said he always realised the importance of education and that it will deliver his children to a better life. He and his wife were always clear that educating the children will be their top priority. He said that he was also inspired by the teacher he lived with in Narayanaguda. She worked in a Government High School and was very particular that her children study. Everyday she would wake her children up at 4 am and they would study till 7 am. Then they would come back from school and study from 6 pm to 8 pm. The children grew up and got good jobs.
I asked him how he managed the children's fees etc?
He said he joined the kids in Shanti school which was in our colony. The idea was to educate the children as far as he could. Suman would study well by himself studying in the morning and then evening. He would top the class without tuitions etc. To increase his income, he would freelance with some odd jobs.
Suman interrupted here.
He said he was overconfident then because he would top his class so easily. All he would do was learn all that was taught by heart and reproduce it in the exams thanks to his hard working ethic. It was only when one Vikran sir joined the school in Suman's 8th class that he was challenged. Vikram sir told him that he was not as good as he thought and gave him some questions in mathematics that required application of the principles and not just blind reproduction. That caused Suman to think. He formed a bond with Vikram sir who helped him everyday from 530 to 8 pm with Maths. Though he left the school in the 9th class, Vikram sir already made Suman do the 10th class Maths portion.
In the 10th the family decided that Suman needed tuition and went to one Kalyan sir who lived in Sanatnagar, behind the colony. He was a Physics teacher from Hindu Public School and taught about 25 students everyday between 530 am to 830 am. Suman and his father would wake u at 4 am and head out to the classes. Kalyan sir also saw some spark in the boy and when the boys section would get distracting due mischief, he would shift Suman to the girls section.
Suman topped Shanti school. He did one better. He topped the constituency. That was when I saw his photo on the poster.
I asked Chandu where he learned his work ethic from?
Chandu told me that he always believed that he should do a good job of whatever was given to him.
I asked him if anyone taught him that and he recalled a driver who guided him about this philosophy towards work.
Suman was to join a small college called NRI College in SR Nagar. When they needed signatures for admission in the college they met one Mr. Harshavardhan, a retired IRS officer and Income Tax Commissioner. Not only did he help them with the signatures he also got the boy admitted in Narayana Junior College. Suman did not disappoint, though he said, he felt discriminated against in the first year. But when he scored 463 / 470 in the first year and was college topper, they could not ignore him anymore.
|Me, Chandu and Suman|
I asked how they managed the fees?
Chandu said that they needed to pay Rs. 40000 in the first year and he managed to raise it from the people he stayed with in Narayanaguda. In the second year he paid 10000. Overall Suman scored 980/1000 marks in Intermediate.
Then came the Entrances for IIT. Suman secured a good rank. Lacking guidance he missed securing himself admission in IIT, Dhanbad.
'I thought that IITs had only five branches sir,' he said shyly.'If I had known better I would have got an IIT admission'.
Since his final round was at the same time in both IIT and NIT, Trichy, he opted for Trichy. This was in 2013.
'I was tempted to go for EAMCET because of the fee reimbursement program and I would also be closer to home. But Mr. Harshavardhan encouraged us and we went to NIT, Warangal for counselling. He booked tickets, arranged for someone to help us in the counselling process. It was my first train journey. I did not even know how the seats were allotted and that there were separate bogies. We sat in some bogie and then someone told us to go to our bogie,' said Suman.
"Also the counselling hall was huge and was filled to capacity. Thankfully Mr. Harshavardhan's contact helped us and our document verification was done in a jiffy. We were out by 12 pm and took another train back home. We reached home at 4 pm."
"Then we went to Trichy. Again Mr. Harshavardhan helped us. He bought us tickets by bus, arranged for a senior to help us. He arranged for us to stay at the guest house at the college. All day we waited for the admission process with no food to eat - from 10 am to 6 pm. Once we got the admission we completed other formalities. Room, bed, bucket etc."
The journey was on course. Chandu returned by the evening bus, again booked by Mr. Harshavardhan.
Suman said he was thrilled at the facilities at the NIT, Trichy campus which were so different form his life back home. It was the Golden Jubilee batch and he remembers tiled rooms, wifi. All through he used a laptop he bought for Rs. 27000, thanks to the teacher at Narayanaguda.
How did he fare there?
Suman said he took active part in all festivals and helped seniors in organising things. He was inducted into the technical committee team in the second year. He was very clear about his role and was always there to deliver whatever the team head wanted, how to improve on the past etc. This gave him a lot of confidence.
Until then he was unsure about his English speaking. He feared making mistakes and being ridiculed. But as he organised the festival he grew more confident. He speaks well now.
Suman feels proud of having organised 9 events by himself and having to coordinate with several people and departments. In the third year he was to get internship but managed through college projects.
How did he cope with the competition?
Suman says candidly that his GPA was low. He could not understand why though because he put in the same effort. But he cracked the exams and the evaluation thanks to his friends - they told him to prepare only what the Professor taught and not the whole book and his GPA shot up.
Though some companies insisted on a GPA of 7 and more and he had only 6.96, Suman managed to convince the placement coordinators to get him a couple. The first and perhaps the only interview he attended was that of JP Morgan and it lasted 55 minutes. It was a detailed interview and he was grilled about every subject. He was asked about the application of concepts to real life situations. Suman did his best and also convinced them that he will do his best for the company.
Suman said that the students had a code about how the placement would go based on what the interviewer said as they left. His code was not encouraging but he made it. The next round with HR was 10 minutes and easy. He did not expect a final placement but when at 430 it was announced that he got the job he was numb with no feelings. JP Morgan offered him a job as a Technical Analyst at Bangalore with a package of 5.3 lakh.
'I called my mother. She was numb. There were no feelings. Good, she said and put the phone down.'
I asked Suman what he planned to do going ahead?
Settle down sir. Do my best for the company. I decided to help other students in my village. I have some debts to clear and will do that. I propose to do some charitable work too. I want to help ease the burden on my family. And as far as the career goes, I will see if I should explore the Civil Services option and even bank jobs.
Suman leaves on July 31 to Bangalore and begins another wonderful journey in his life. In some ways he has been destiny's child (as we all are I guess). Many times he came to the cross roads and found just the right person to help him. Whether it was Vikram sir, Kalyan sir. Mr. Harshavardhan, his seniors or just his way of finding the right opening at the right time, he has come through briliantly. He is absolutely rooted in his reality, has no ego, is full of the learning mindset, carries himself with a remarkable mix of dignity and humility and is disarmingly honest. Lovely story. I am glad for Chandu who believes that perhaps his good karma and his good work ethic helped in shaping this. I am sure it has. Good luck Chandu and Suman. Here's hoping that young Swapna also picks up the baton and moves forward to fulfil her potential.