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‘I Knew He’d Make It One Day’: Driver’s Son Makes It To IIM-A, Fulfills Father’s Dream!

Pankaj often drove his employer to IIM Ahmedabad for guest lectures. He would wonder if his son could ever study in such a prestigious place. The seed of a dream was sown.

Hitesh Singh recalls how his mother would stay awake till 2-3 am every day to make samosas. His father, who worked as a driver during the day, would then come back home in the evening to fry the samosas and go out to sell them. With two children to bring up, the couple did everything they could to provide a well-rounded life to them.

“They would never let us see their struggle. All they wanted was us to study,” tells Hitesh while speaking to The Better India (TBI).

Hitesh, on his part, did not let his parents’ efforts go to waste. Sarita Devi and Pankaj Singh’s forbearance and stoicism in the face of adversities have been aptly rewarded as their son Hitesh is now on his way to one of the most coveted Business Schools in the country—IIM-A!

Hitesh Singh

The happy news hit the family like a shockwave, and the overwhelmed parents are still coming to terms with the fact that their sacrifices did not go in vain. It takes time to adjust to happiness after an incessantly long struggle.

The Journey

Hitesh with his family

“Educate your kids, that’s the best thing you can do for your child,” says Sarita Devi who is still overwhelmed at the wishes pouring in for her son’s success.

Pankaj hails from the small village of Rajaun in Bhagalpur district of Bihar. Coming from a family with a farming background, he knew he had to make a momentous change to support his family. So he shifted to Anand, Gujarat, in 1989 and started working as a watchman. He kept his family supplied with whatever he could manage to save and in 1995, he asked his wife to join him in the city.

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Both Pankaj and Sarita could study only till class 10 due to financial constraints, and when they welcomed their two sons, the couple decided that the children would receive the education their parents could not. Though they never had enough money but the need to secure their children’s future was paramount in Sarita and Pankaj’s life.

Pankaj knew that the meager salary of Rs 600 that he was getting as a watchman was not enough. So he decided to start learning how to drive and soon got a job. Not wanting to put the entire burden of the house on her husband, Sarita sewed clothes, and the couple would also sell samosas to support their children’s education.

The conscientious mother would even learn Gujarati as her son Hitesh’s school, St. Xavier’s, was Gujarati medium.

Though Hitesh was always good in studies, it was in class 5 that he received a scholarship based on his performance. This was an eye-opener for the young boy. He understood that if he studied hard enough, he could reduce the expenses of his education considerably.

“I started working harder to get a scholarship every year, and that’s how I reached here,” Hitesh says.

The Turning Point

Hitesh had been in class 10, when, in 2007, his father met Mr. R.S Sodhi, Managing Director of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF). Though initially he worked as his personal driver, Pankaj soon became a permanent employee of the company in 2011, and things became better for the family.

As Mr. Sodhi’s driver, he often took his employer to IIM Ahmedabad for guest lectures. Pankaj would wonder if his son could ever study in such a prestigious place. The seed of a dream was sown.

“I always dreamt of Hitesh being among those students at IIM. I knew that children of only a certain class could get there, but somehow I felt that Hitesh could make it one day,” shares Pankaj.

After passing class 10 with flying colours, Hitesh wanted to go to a good junior college but was hesitant due to the fee structure. Luckily, he received another scholarship and joined D Z Patel Higher Secondary School. This was a place where the kids of the city’s wealthiest people would come. But Hitesh made his mark here too with his performance.

“50 per cent of the students who were studying with me in D.Z Patel had moved to the U.S.A after class 12. Sometimes I would feel that they were the privileged ones, but now I know that I am the one who was more privileged to have parents like mine, who supported me, despite their hardships,” says Hitesh.

After scoring 97 percentile in Physics, Chemistry and Math in 12th Boards, Hitesh decided to do B.Tech in Dairy Technology from SMC College of Dairy Science, Anand Agricultural University.
A lot of reasons influenced the decision. Hitesh had ample knowledge about the dairy industry owing to his father and also understood that chances of placements were higher in this field. The biggest reason, however, was that the course was State Government-funded and the fee per semester was just Rs 6000, an affordable amount for the family.

Here too, the bright student earned a scholarship and would get a rebate of Rs 3-4 thousand per semester.

But Why Management?

During the third year of engineering, Hitesh understood that the marketing and supply chain of dairy products in rural areas was a big problem and the farmers were missing out on a lot of profits. Hence, he wanted to pursue management to learn how to tackle these areas.

“Both my parents belonged to farmer families. But whenever I would not study, my father would say – ‘If you don’t study you will have to go back to the village and become a farmer. My mother would scare me by saying – ‘If you don’t study, you will have to graze cows.’ This made me think that why can’t farming, or cattle grazing be a profitable business for farmers?” he explains.

Thus, in 2018, even after he topped in his B.Tech class in the university, won 5 gold medals in academics and got placed in a reputed company, Hitesh decided to prepare for the Common Aptitude Test (CAT).

How to prepare for CAT

Hitesh worked in an 8 am to 4 pm shift and then come back and studied. He joined coaching classes for CAT in his final semester, however as his internship and class timings were the same, he could attend very few classes. He used the study material from the coaching centre and online guidance of the previous CAT toppers. He says that Quora and the website www.insideiim.com helped him a lot to prepare for the written test.

According to Hitesh, CAT is not a tough exam and does not require too much time to prepare.

“Here you have to be a jack of all, not necessarily the master of one. Just keep your basics clear about the topics, and you can do it,” he says.

By strategically studying only for 3-4 hours a day, Hitesh scored 96.12 percentile in CAT and has been selected for the two-year Post-Graduate Programme in Food and Agri-Business Management offered by IIM-Ahmedabad.

“My father couldn’t believe when I first told him that my name was in the list. I had to convince him that it is indeed true. Yes! His dream has come true,” laughs Hitesh.

Sarita Devi is content today. She says that she doesn’t even remember about the days of struggle after being informed of her son’s success. For Sarita, education is the best gift a parent can give to their child.

Hitesh signs off with this inspiring message to everyone, “Find the thing which drives you and pour your heart into it to achieve it. Cultivate the value system in your life. What I think is that success and failure are part of the journey but what drives our life is our value system.”

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5