From working in a quarry after passing out of Class 10 to selling fish, the string of odd jobs that Ajith had to take up to sustain his family is unbelievable.
But the will to learn and the determination to be financially secure kept him going, and eventually, he achieved what he once thought was impossible.
Today, the 28-year-old proudly adds the prefix of “Dr” before his name and is the first auto driver in Kerala to have a PhD. Currently working as a visiting lecturer in the Malayalam Department at Sri C Achutha Menon Government College in Kuttanellur, Ajith tells us how he overcame a life filled with hardship and struggles to get to this point.
A Bumpy Ride
When Ajith was just three months old, his father abandoned him and his mother. At that point in time, they had nowhere to go and didn’t even own a piece of land or a house of their own.
“My mother filed for a divorce, and even before I turned one, we moved to her village. We had to live in a house without electricity, and my mother would go for daily wage work to keep the house running and to send me to school. It was one of the most difficult phases in our lives,” recalls Ajith.
With the struggle to make ends meet, education was the least concerning factor for the family.
“I was always a below-average student, and when I failed in Mathematics in Class 10, my mother calmly asked me what I wanted to do. I knew I had to help her out, so I decided to drop out of school and make some money,” he adds.
A desperate Ajith joined the workers at a quarry and started working day and night. He would earn around 100 to 200 rupees every day, which was good enough to sustain a family of two. But when the rainy season started, the work was cut down to half a day, so he started taking up other jobs like selling fish and working in farms in a race to make as much money as he could.
Taking The Right Turn
“When I was working in the quarry, many people asked me what I was doing there and why I didn’t complete my education. At that point, with the urge to make money, I didn’t think about finishing school. But after a year passed by, I realised that I could achieve so much more with my potential and decided to expand my horizons. So in 2007, I returned to the Muvattupuzha Govt High School intending to complete my education,” Ajith explains.
Santhosh Kumar, Ajith’s Political Science teacher in school, motivated him to continue studying, so, after passing out from school, he joined St Peter’s College, in Kolenchery, to pursue an undergraduate degree in Malayalam. Money was still an issue, but he had enough to purchase a second-hand auto, so he did that and started doing evening rounds after college and made use of all his holidays to earn money for his college fees.
A Paved Road
“Once I completed my undergraduate degree, I couldn’t stop myself from studying further and joined the Muvattupuzha Sri Narayana College of Education to pursue a BEd degree. With the auto as a steady source of income, I didn’t have to think twice about following my dreams,” says Ajith.
With the goal of becoming a lecturer, Ajith went on to do his post-graduate degree in Malayalam at the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University.
Soon after graduating in 2015, Ajith became one of the first to get selected as one of the 15 research students of the University.
“This was an unexpected turn in my life. I never expected to be one of the first PhD students of the college, and I’m truly grateful for Prof T Anitakumari, my research guide for helping me complete my doctorate in three years,” says Ajith.
No ‘Brakes’ To Your Dreams
After being awarded his PhD in 2019, Ajith also cleared the UGC NET the same year. Today, he works as a visiting lecturer at the Sri C Achutha Menon Government College situated in Kuttanellur, and continues to drive his autorickshaw.
“My life was a series of failures, but I was determined to turn those failures into stepping stones and prove the world wrong. The only thing to remember is, our dreams have no boundaries. The only boundaries are the ones we set,” Ajith concludes.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)