Living the IIT dream may seem distant to a lot of aspiring engineers, but this village of weavers on the periphery of Bihar’s Gaya town has borne witness to its 15 teens making their way to IITs across India in 2017.
The village is named after the dominant community, Patwas (Hindu weavers), who comprise 90% of the population.
According to a TOI report, in 2016, this village of weavers had 11 successful IIT aspirants. In 2015, the number was 12. The last 25 years have seen more than 300 engineering graduates. While 100 of the lot are IITians, most others have made it to NITs and state engineering colleges.
The noise of power-looms drowns every potential conversation that can take place. But the determination of aspirants has seen them juggle successfully between work and studies. Vineet and Ranjan not only helped their families with dyeing and drying fabric but also prepared for the entrance tests and cracked them successfully.
It all traces back to 1991, when the first IIT success story etched itself in this weaver’s village. Jitendra Kumar, a weaver’s son, made it to the prestigious engineering institute that year.
During the recessions of the 1990s, power-loom units, the main source of livelihood in this village of 1,500 homes, were slowly becoming financially unviable. Increasing power cuts, a declining market, tough competitors and lack of capital plagued the weaver’s dreams.
But instead of giving up, the village teenagers immersed themselves in preparing for the tough engineering entrance test. Jitendra’s feat inspired them to push towards their goal. To help each other realise those dreams and work towards it, they formed a unique group study model. This initiative gained impetus as Nav SKIL Prayas (New Effort).
Under the mentorship of the first IITian, Jitendra, Patwa Toli’s students worked hard. He gave them helpful tips and motivation. The road to success, however, was quite long. The results started showing only after 1998, when three boys made it to the IITs, and 1999 when seven students emerging victorious. There has been no looking back ever since.
While Jitendra moved to the United States after contributing to the village, the others are employed in different towns and cities across India. But in recent years, competition has taken over the spirit of group learning. “The new boys who have tasted success lack the commitment of their seniors,” community leader Prem Kumar Patwa told TOI.
For the longest time, Patwa Toli was dominated by male IITians as flagbearers. None of the students who qualified for the engineering institutes were girls until 2014.
The year 2015 saw Deepa Kumari break through and enter the roll of honour as the first girl IITian in the village. Since then, two more girls -Dolly Raj and Saraswati – have successfully become engineers. Juggling between domestic chores and exam preparations, both girls have made the village proud.
The success of the village has inspired former municipal councillor Lalji Prasad, who wants to rename AGES Patwa Toli as Abhiyanta Vihar (Engineers’ Garden).
The recent years have also seen many career options opening up for Patwa Toli students. In 2016, Pitambar Kumar cracked the UPSC exam and joined the Indian Revenue Service. More Patwas are also taking up banking jobs. While one is a deputy commandant in the CRPF, others have joined law establishments too.