The sons and daughters of a cobbler, daily wage labourers and a landless farmer, among others, have cracked the highly-competitive IIT-JEE exam this year thanks to a free coaching centre for underprivileged students in Bihar.
Wards of poorest of the poor comprise 27 of the 30 students of the Super 30 institute to pass the exam for entrance into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
Among them is Sudhir Kumar, a cobbler's son who himself polished shoes in Biharsharif, the district headquarters of Nalanda, to eke out a living.
"One day, I polished shoes of a man and when I asked for money, he abused me and walked away. I was seething with anger, but my father told me to calm down and said that the best way to take revenge was to acquire real power through education," said Sudhir, who used to aid his father in his work.
The insult became a motivating factor for Sudhir, who desired to become an engineer."Finally I have achieved my dream... I am happy. How can I thank Anand sir for all that he has done," he said, adding like Super 30 founder director Anand Kumar, he also wants to work for the poor after completing his studies.
Another successful candidate, Amit Patel, from a village in Varanasi district of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, is the son of a landless farmer and did not have money for a uniform when he studied.
"After I came to know of Super 30 from a newspaper and cleared its screening test, I decided to work hard because I wanted to study. I am very happy that I have realized my dream," he said.
Sanjeet Kumar's father Ram Bhajan from Bihar's Muzaffarpur district is a daily-wage labourer, loading goods on trucks.
"After clearing my class 12 from a government school, I heard of IIT for the first time. But people told me not to try for it, as my father was too poor to afford costly books and coaching. Many a time, we got just one meal when my father could not go to work due to ill health," he recalled.
Sanjeet said that he reached Super 30, he was not sure if he would be selected for it. "But I was lucky and from then on, there was no looking back," he said. The father of Sunil Kumar is also a labourer.
"He toils from dawn to dusk but running a family of eight children was always difficult. We ate just rice for many days, as there was nothing else. And we had learnt to be happy with just that, but my father wanted me to study. My elder brother could not study due to hardship and that hurt him," said Sunil Kumar.
Last year, 28 students of Super 30 had made it to the IITs. Every year, Super 30 selects a group of 30 IIT aspirants from poor families and provides them with free coaching, food and accommodation.
"It is a moment of joy for all of us, our students, mostly from underprivileged families, made it," Anand Kumar told IANS here.
What the success meant to these students and their proud parents was evident at Anand's residence, where they were all smiles as they shared sweets and dreamed of a better future.
Having himself experienced poverty in his student days, Anand Kumar set up Super 30 in 2002 and so far, 308 students have made it to the IITs out of 360.
Anand Kumar, who also runs the Ramanujan School of Mathematics, said Super 30 is supported by the income generated from the mathematics school, which has students from affluent families.