The stories of Jaykumar Vaidya, Wasima Shaikh and Vishnu Auti are ones of grit and determination. Fighting poverty, stereotypes and fate to educate themselves, today they are changemakers at the grassroot level.
This article has been sponsored by BIC Cello.
When we speak of changemakers and unconventional heroes, we realise that most of their resolve stems from their own struggles. Their path to success is often lined with failures and limited means, and it is in such situations that education comes to the fore.
Hailing from a country where, not too long ago, the literacy rate stood as low as 42 per cent, is perhaps what drove a few pathbreakers to make a difference. In the pursuit of knowledge, many have gone on to achieve big dreams for the larger good and have taken the world with them.
As Dr APJ Abdul Kalam had said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Putting this to practice, driven individuals have used education time and again to drive social change in times of crises, to alleviate poverty, fight climate change, for law enforcement and cultural dissonance.
Today, the consistent efforts of several changemakers have ensured steady growth, which has escalated India’s overall literacy rate up to 77 per cent. BIC Cello in partnership with The Better India celebrates such inspiring stories created through the power of education.
BIC Cello believes education plays an integral role in positively transforming the community. Hence, this Independence Day, here’s celebrating the people who have fulfilled their dreams by using education as a key tool and gaining independence from poverty and despair, like the following three heroes.
Today, Jaykumar Vaidya is a scientist pursuing her PhD at University of Virginia, USA. However, his journey began from an 8X10 in the Kurla slum of Mumbai.
Imbued with abject poverty and a broken family, Jaykumar had to work hard and give tuitions to put himself through college. But even today he attributes his success to his mother, Nalini. Suffering a long-drawn divorce along with supporting her child, Nalini would often work odd jobs and reach out to local trusts and NGOs to get by. Amidst constant turmoil, she was a source of motivation for her son, motivating him “to live for the next day”.
So, making the most of any assistance they received, this driven youngster chose to steer his fascination with the universe towards making a successful career. While there was never any money for school picnics, eating or hanging out with friends, he became enthusiastic about nanoscale physics.
Through focussed attention towards academics, he graduated in Electrical Engineering from KJ Somaiya College of Engineering with the help of borrowed loans.
After graduation, he began earning a monthly salary of Rs 30,000 at the prestigious Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). Mentorship under the organisation pushed him to apply for a PhD. That’s how he went on to study nanotechnology, nano-oscillators, nanoscale device applications and architecture.
Today, he earns a monthly stipend of $2,000, a part of which he sends his mother. Now, Jaykumar aspires to use his education in making India self-reliant in hardware technologies. “After my PhD, I want to get an industrial job and eventually set up a company in India. I want India to become a self-reliant manufacturing hub of technology. I also want to help girl children and underprivileged students in fulfilling their potential,” he said.
“My mother will no longer toil under the harsh sun in other people’s fields, for I have become a Deputy Collector,” Wasima Shaikh told The Better India. She secured the third rank among women in the recent Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) exams.
Wasima’s social milieu was as much a hindrance as an inspiration for her current achievement. Hailing from a Maharasthran village replete with illiteracy, poverty, child marriage and domestic violence, she came to understand dearth of resources all too well. In a family of eight, her mother and brother were the only earning members.
Nevertheless, her family supported her, and that was all she needed. Facing challenges head on, she prepared for her exams without coaching classes or even electricity. She completed her graduation in Arts from Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University in 2015 and went on to pursue a career in the civil service.
“I have experienced grassroots distress first-hand and I realised that people who hold government positions have the power to build a welfare state and empower people through their initiatives. I wanted to be that person who would bring a change and make lives easier,” she said.
However, preparation for government exams requires hours of coaching, extensive study material, and hefty investments. It was then that her eldest brother, Imran, who had dropped out in his second year of BSc and started driving an auto, stepped in to help her out.
Even though she failed her first attempt, Wasima persevered through all odds to top her second attempt. She was even selected as a Grade Two officer in Nagpur’s sales tax department and went on to support her brother to complete his graduation.
Vishnu Auti strived to live by what his father told him, “If you do not study well you will end up toiling under the sun like me. Become the person who sits under the shade, not a labourer.”
He went on to put his heart and soul into ending the cycle of acute poverty for himself and his family.
Hailing from Maharashtra’s Kumbharwadi village, he was born to parents with disabilities. He reminisces filling his stomach on roti with a side of salt, which they would provide for their kids while often going hungry themselves.
Around the age of 10, he began assisting villagers in odd jobs for some pocket money while pursuing his education with focussed attention. Years later he went on to clear his Class 10 boards.
Realising the significance of education and the lack of it in his region, Vishnu went on to complete his Diploma in Education and took up a teaching job in 1999.
This was when he heard about the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) examinations. His determined efforts bore fruit, as in 2010 he cracked the state services exam in his first attempt and got his first posting as Assistant Commission of Sales Tax in Jalgaon.
But he was not done yet. Auti wanted to serve at the national level and thus began his preparations for the Union Public Service Commission in 2013. Burning the midnight oil, he persevered until the exam was cleared in the third attempt with an All India Rank of 1064 in 2016. Life completed a full circle around this time, as in the same year his son cleared his Class 10 boards with distinction.
In the last four years, Vishnu has travelled and worked in several offices to bring in change at the grassroot level. He has worked his way up through sheer hard work and determination to become the Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax in Aurangabad.
Through these inspiring stories, we would urge all young minds to believe in the infinite power of education and the role it plays in making dreams come true. BIC Cello’s campaign #AzaadiJoKalamUthaKaiMile stands for the ability to recognize that education gives choices and empowers people to change their lives. BIC Cello lauds the indomitable spirit of these people who have pushed boundaries and hopes that this initiative inspires the millions of people who may be struggling.