Brothers brave the odds to crack tough IIT entrance examination

A small one-room space for five adults to live in is by any standard uncomfortable, if not claustrophobic.

Apply any geometry you may wish to, but as night settles after a long arduous day, there’s little space to even step out from one of the tightly-packed sagging beds crammed in this pint-sized area they love to call a home. This is the place where brothers Amit and Sumit grew up and studied. But it’s not about the everyday ordeals that this family of five encounters in the face of penury and helplessness. It’s about the triumph of these two teenage poor brothers who cracked the famed IIT entrance examination not once, but twice despite the appalling conditions they have lived in.

Their father Jitender Kumar sells tea on the roadside in Jalandhar in Punjab and struggles to make ends meet. Ask him, and he can’t figure out what’s really changed in the manner people now see a tea vendor. One notion gets a quick burial. Chaiwalas still live different destinies, whatever may have been the outcome of the glamour that this general election brought to the image of a tea vendor rising like a phoenix.

Both brothers, who often double up as workers at their father’s roadside tea shop, cracked the IIT Joint Entrance Examination even last year. As fate would have it, the family did not have anywhere close to the money needed to pay for the course fee. Their total life-long saving wouldn’t add up to close to even the first year fee needed for one child.

Kumar couldn’t afford to overlook the horrors of a rainy day. As options dried up, the choice wasn’t hard to make. Both Amit and Sumit dropped the plan to join an IIT for want of funds last year.

But that wasn’t the end of their grit. The two brothers again sat for the examination this year in May, and cracked it yet again. Talking to Deccan Herald, younger brother Sumit said when results were out, they weren’t sure whether to celebrate or worry. Another one year of income from the roadside tea vend was only enough to feed the family. It was back to where it started, but that wasn’t what it was meant to be. Volunteers, good Samaritans have pitched in to fund the education of the two boys. About Rs 3 lakh has been generated to aid their education in IITs.

The results of counseling will be out on July 1, Amit said. “I hope we get to study in one of the IITs. It means a lot for us. My family’s condition will change for good if we excel in life. This is the only way,” he told Deccan Herald.  

At the one-room rented unit, mother Manju Devi, an illiterate, is largely unaware of what an institution like IIT is. She isn’t even sure how cracking the examination would help her sons. But she knows one thing very clearly--that something good has happened, which is why after decades of a life in isolation, there is sudden rush of government officials, bankers and people from all over willing to lend a helping hand out of the blue. Poverty, for once, has a brighter side. “My sons are our hope. We can only pray they live their dreams,” she told Deccan Herald.  Life has already started to change. Manju Devi says she hadn’t even seen a VIP or a minister in her entire life, until recently.

On Thursday, the proud mother accom­panied her two sons to a function at a local school in Mohali, near here, where Punjab Education Minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema was the chief guest. Her sons were special invitees for the event.

The family hails from Sitamarhi in Bihar. This year Sumit secured 809th rank while Amit has got 2014th rank in the entrance examination.

However, Jitender Kumar is not sure of what’s in store for them. Two decades ago, he migrated from Bihar to Punjab.

“For years, my father pulled the rickshaw. He then worked as a peon. Later, as the company shut, Papa put up a push cart on which started to sell tea,” son Sumit said. Sumit says his father had a yearning to save money after last year’s fiasco when he could not pay even some part of the fee for us to join the IIT. Kumar worked overtime so that he could save some money. But destiny had different designs. 

Just two weeks before the examination this year, as Kumar was crossing the road  holding tea in glasses to serve commu­ters, a speeding biker hit him from behind. An injured Kumar helplessly saw his desire fall like a pack of cards. Whatever little he had saved for his sons, he says, was spent on his treatment.

Still worse, with the father on bed, Sumit and Amit spent more time at the tea vend than studying for the examination that was just days away. “We still would study for more hours each day,” they said.

For them, everything now appears in place. State Bank of India local branch has decided to sanction the loan for the brothers. The bank had also opened their accounts and deposited Rs 5,100 in each of the accounts. The bank would handle all the expenses of Sumit and Amit when they go to New Delhi and Dhanbad for counseling.

Persuaded by the Punjab Education Minister, an educational group in Punjab, pitched in with a contribution of Rs 1 lakh to help the boys realise their dream to study. A doctor couple from Mandi Gobindgarh in Punjab and their friends and relatives has raised Rs 80,000 towards their education. Punjab National Bank employee Satbir Singh had donated Rs 20,000. A beginning has been made. 

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