On 28 July 2019, news about Prachi, a student of 10th standard caught my attention. She was born poor but brilliant and had scored high in her final exam. Many a student had scored better than she had but Prachi was the only one to have had earned her schooling costs through undertaking tuition. Besides, she was daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver and granddaughter of a terminally sick woman. Prachi’s tuition had struck me and I could see Udho busy biking to his evening classes.

I met Udho first in the insurance office I had gone to join. He was ten years my senior, had a coal-black skin, stood six feet tall, and when he walked, it seemed he glided more than he walked. He was an amiable man and, all the years I worked with him, I never saw him getting mad at anyone. And, if you were in his company, he will keep on joking about himself and keep you guffawing.  But behind that affable facade was the diehard Udho who had sprung through the mud the hard way.

Udho, born poor in a joint family, couldn’t continue his studies after higher secondary. He learnt shorthand in an evening course while doing his higher secondary. He took up a job with a wholesale chilly vendor of the town and funded his education. His skill at shorthand had come handy. 

At the time of my joining, Udho did secretarial job, on contract, for the Insurance Company I was working for. He did an hour’s stint with the chilly trader and sold insurance on weekends. Later, he pursued his graduation through another evening class. After he graduated his Bachelor of Arts, he continued with yet another evening class to study Actuarial Science. It took twelve years for him to earn the status of Associate of the Society of Actuaries.  Twelve years – a diehard person Udho, indeed, was!

Udho had later formally joined the Insurance Company as its Secretary. Two decades later, he resigned his position and, now, at seventy-seven, teaches principles of Actuarial Science. Insurance men, bankers, and persons pursuing business risk analysis are Udho’s current clientele. Now he is top ranking Actuary of the town with a roaring practice.

I can see a spark of self-reliant Udho in Prachi. When Udho had worked to fund his studies six decades ago, he had had to break many a fresh ground. His classmates had thought him mad. But he had proved his point with élan. Had he been less self-reliant than he was, he would have been tilling his land today. In that case, he could have been on the edge of ruin now, Indian farmers committing suicide day in and day out.

I yearn for the day when Indian business houses would offer millions and millions of contingent jobs to millions and millions of Prachis and Udhos to help them fund their education. Our Prachis and Udhos need those desperately.

Sometimes, a Sewa or a Kanchan gets a lucky break and blooms. But most debase into Sitwas.  They are our Kohinoor we have mortared to raise our brick walls.

If other nations can care for their talents, we, too, can.

Can’t we?

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