Sanjay Aakhade, son of a porter in Nashik, has cracked the civil service examination. He secured a rank of 263.
TOI reports: Son of Dnyandeo, an unlettered porter, and Vimal, a beedi worker, growing up was about bringing home some money. He cleaned tables at hotels, worked at a medical store, distributed newspapers and manned an STD booth through his teens.
Although a topper in school, Sanjay dropped out and pursued a course at the Industrial Training Institute; getting a job was priority. He'd attend class from 10 am to 5 pm and work at the STD booth till midnight. "I was a voracious reader and would read whenever there weren't any customers. If I liked something, I would jot it down in a diary,'' recalls Sanjay.
This is what is so amazing. Despite a really hard life, Sanjay did not wallow in self pity and curse his fate. He found a way to learn and grow, within his limited resources. And not for any particular reason. But somewhere deep down I'm sure he knew this was the only way to escape from the prison of circumstance. And make something of himself.
See any 'success' story and you'll find this common trait! They stay hungry - no matter what.
Self-study was what the Marathi-educated Sanjay depended on as he learnt English through newspapers. His drive was recognised by a regular customer, Digambar Vaishyampai, a teacher who started bringing him books and encouraged him to return to studies. It was with his backing that Sanjay enrolled for the HSC exam and subsequently pursued his BA, ranking first in all exams, despite not being able to attend lectures. His family started backing him too. His mother says she can't even read the clock, but wanted her children "to make it big in life''.
A UPSC advertisement Sanjay chanced upon got him interested in the services. He trails off into another incident that further strengthened his resolve-a narration that brings back memories of Slumdog hero Jamaal being interrogated by policemen. "A college friend of mine once had trouble with a cop, who smashed the windshield of his autorickshaw. When I questioned the action, I was thrashed,'' says Sanjay, adding that he could perhaps join the IPS and reform the system.
But achieving his goal wasn't easy. He first gave the UPSC exams with history as his subject in 2006 and failed twice. Although from a minority community, Sanjay applied through the open category as he wanted to play fair. "People would tauntingly call me collector sahib and tell me how life would never change, but I believed otherwise,'' says Sanjay.
This is the 'stay foolish' bit. Never mind what the world says.. you have to believe in yourself.
He married his cousin last year and has a four-month-old son named Yash. His interview in Delhi was his first trip to the capital. "I gave my interview in English, as I didn't want to lose the essence of what I said during translation.'' Employed with an insurance company, he dutifully returned to the rut, praying all along for his results. When his phone rang on May 4, also his birthday, he knew good news was on the way. "My friends called to say I had cracked the exam.'' His newly rented flat buzzed with visitors on Thursday.
"Entering the services will not change our lives at home, but help me change the lives of many others like us.'' He says his background has helped him better understand what the government needs to do. "I will be handling child labour, for instance. I know what it is to be a child labourer."
I think this is certainly true. Sanjay's own experience would make him so much more sensitive to the plight of millions of Indians living on the edge of poverty. Devoid of hope, or opportunity.
Hearty congratulations and warm wishes to Sanjay. Keep the idealism, keep the faith!
Another heartwarming story is that of Maharashtra topper Aniket Mandavgane who secured an all India rank of 29 . The 22-year-old's father takes care of their ancestral temple at Varangaon in Jalgaon.
However Aniket was sent to live in Pune with his grandmother from the age of 5, and that's where but he completed his school and college education. He is a graduate of Sinhagad College of Engineering (2008 batch).
Interestingly, he began preparing while in third year of engineering itself and this was his first shot at the exam. That should certainly enthuse some of you out there to start preparing early if the UPSC is your dream!
Aniket plans to join the IFS.
Then there is 24-year-old Balaji Manjule from Jeor in Solapur, who cleared the exam on his third attempt.
TOI reports: Manjule, who has poor eyesight, studied under a kerosene oil lamp and lost his left eye as he had a cataract that was diagnosed late. "My village does not have electricity and I had no option but to study in such conditions,'' says the 57th ranker, who was asked in the interview if his eyesight would pose a problem at work.
He replied: "Having just one eye has never been a hindrance in achieving anything, not even a high score in the UPSC.''
A few months ago, this Wadar community (one of the most backward communities in the state) boy was also short-listed for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission exam and was offered a posting as a deputy CEO. Manjule's parents are daily wage workers who break stones for building roads. Their son wants to become an IAS officer and "progress of India's countryside'' is high on his agenda.
I think this is real progress. Here's to many more spirited young men and women taking India forward!
P.S. 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish' is an attitude which applies to all walks of life. And hence it will be the theme of the weekly show on careers I am hosting from this evening on UTVi.
Do tune in if you can - at 7 pm. Channel no 541 on Tata Sky.