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Poor Marks to Poverty: 5 IIT-ians Who Overcame All Odds to Crack JEE

The dream to crack one of India’s toughest exams seemed impossible at times. But these brilliant students endured through all the hardships to crack the exam and make their dream a reality!

It is often the struggles in the path that make the person worthy of the success they achieve. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, after all.

The Better India usually brings you success stories of people who have overcome physical, financial and academic difficulties to finally excel in their chosen fields. Each story is as unique as the challenges they have endured and provides glimpses of hope to those going through similar struggles.

Here is a list of five such IIT-ians who have overcome all odds to gain admission into one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country.

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1. 39% in class 12th & a PhD in Europe

Source: Ask IIT-ians

Rajiv Dandotiya hails from a remote village in Rajasthan where education was given neither the attention nor the importance it deserves.

When he wrote his account for Ask IIT-ians, he said that his fellow students would take private lessons and mug up answers to pass in school. Teachers would favour these students.

Studying under trees and teaching himself the lessons that went untaught in empty classrooms, Rajiv scored 39% in his class 12 exams–securing the 5th rank in his class!

Since the marks left him with little choice but to appear for the IIT-JEE back in the 1990s, Rajiv gave his all in preparations. He studied hard, convinced his mentors of his aim and completed his degree from IIT Kharagpur.

Today, he has earned a PhD from Sweden and is working as an Assistant General Manager in Denmark.

Rajiv’s dedicated efforts show that more than the educational infrastructure, it is you who can overcome the challenges to secure your dream.

2. Teenaged sons of a farmer who cracked the tough exam

Source: TBI

Satyam and Shivam Kumar both cleared the JEE exam in their early teens. While Shivam secured an All India Rank of 383 at the age of 15, Satyam became the youngest student to crack the exam at the age of 12–he was a preteen at the time!

Speaking to India Today, the child prodigy said that he was brought to Patna from Bakhorapur when he was just six-years-old!

But his brilliance in academics was evident from that tender age. Following a strict regime of early-to-bed and early-to-rise, Satyam studied with passion and achieved what most of us would deem impossible.

You can read more about their success here.

3. A cobbler’s son who stepped into IIT

Source: Indrajit Datta/Facebook

For Abhishek Bhartiya, the struggle is not just about the difficult chapters in his books. He helps his father–a cobbler–who earns between Rs 60-70 in his workshop, while his mother stitches rags to support their family.

Overcoming these financial hardships, Abhishek studied hard for the IIT entrance and made sure that his parents’ troubles didn’t go in vain.

Speaking to Silicon India, his father said, “We have just one small room where six of us live and that too, without electricity. So, he used to study under the lantern for five-six hours in the night… I am worried about the fees. From where can I manage the amount? This question is troubling my mind…”

But when Abhishek secured the 154th rank in the SC category of the 2015 IIT entrance test, the happiness of the Bhattacharya family knew no bounds. He secured admission at IIT-Kanpur.

4. A Betel Seller’s son who scored 99.56% in JEE Main

Source: TBI

Shubham Chaurasia’s academic excellence is as awe-inspiring as is the story of his struggles. While his father could not afford to educate him after class 10, a tuition class came to his aid and ensured that the hardworking student got what he deserved.

Speaking to The Better India, Shubham said, “My father is a betel seller, who struggled through many hardships to educate me. After I completed class 10, it became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to further fund my education. I had almost given up hope when I came across Magadh Super 30… The selected students stay at the Institute for two years, where they get proper guidance, free lodging, as well as food. Sometimes, older students come back here to help the current batch.”

You can read a detailed account of his struggles and success here.

5. From Teeparru to Google via IIT-Madras

Source: Řamesh Šatpute/Facebook

Naga Naresh Karutura was born in an underprivileged family in Andhra Pradesh. His father is a lorry driver and his mother is a homemaker.

In 1993, Naresh met with a terrible accident when he fell off a lorry and lost both his legs.

Not one to seek pity from the situation, he insists that his life did not change dramatically after the incident.

Even after the accident, he focused all his attention on his studies and cleared the IIT-JEE exam with an AIR of 992.

An optimist through and through, Naresh believes that the world is full of good people. One example he gives is of a man named Sundar, who after hearing Naresh’s story, came forward to pay his hostel fee.

He cracked the entrance exam with flying colours and maintained his excellence throughout the course at IIT Madras. Since he was passionate about computer science, algorithms, and game theory, when Google offered him a job, he took it with arms wide open.


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When life throws lemons at you, and you feel demotivated or too weak to pursue your passion, amazing stories like these are a great dose to up that confidence. Your struggles are here to make you stronger and all you need is to endure through them.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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