For many students in India, the soundtrack of the month of March is the rustling of college applications. From choosing a course and a good college to the pressure to building a successful career, their young minds is filled with hundreds of thoughts.
However, for more than 80 million students, every year, the month of March comes in the form of financial sufferings, hunger, and seeking employment to support the family. In spite of numerous challenges on the ways, there are a few who strive to succeed. For them, education is not just an option but a part of life.
Poverty over dreams
M Sivaguru Prabhakara who belongs to the Melaottankadu village of Thanjavur District always wanted to pursue engineering after completing high school. But with an alcoholic father and a mother who struggled to work day and night to make ends meet, his priorities in life had to be changed. His mother and sister would to sell coconut fronds from which the earned the bare minimum of their livelihoods.
Prabhakaran took up a job at the sawmill and worked as an operator for two years along with practising farming to earn some more. His hard work took the financial edge off of his family but there was so much more to his dreams. For his hunger for education, he started saving money and earning sideways as much as possible.
“I worked as a sawmill operator and did a bit of farming. Whatever money I could muster, I spent some towards my family and saved some for my education. I wasn’t prepared to let go of my dreams,” he said to Times Of India.
Reaping the fruits of hard work
His continuous hard work and dedication to pursue his dream worked well in the end. In 2008, he had saved up enough to pay for his younger brother’s engineering degree and also helped his older sister get married. In the same year, he enrolled himself in the civil engineering department at Thanthai Periyar Government Institute of Technology in Vellore which was a beginning for him to say.
As he started a formal education, his lack of fluency in English became one of his biggest challenges. Having a background of studying from Tamil medium school, he often couldn’t communicate and struggled with the academics. But he worked hard to overcome the challenges.
Cracked IIT and UPSC
Prabhakaran wanted to join the civil services, as he was inspired by the Tamil Nadu government’s health department secretary, J Radhakrishnan, who was also the first IAS officer that he had seen. To crack the IIT-Madras entrance examinations, he would travel to Chennai every weekend for training. With no place to rest and stay, he would stay at the St Thomas Mount railway station.
“A friend referred me to a tutor in St Thomas Mount who trained underprivileged students like me,” he says.
All his efforts proved worth when he successfully cracked the IIT-Madras entrance and finished his Masters with an overall CGPA of 9.0. After finishing his MTech in 2014, he decided to give a shot at his dream of becoming an IAS officer.
Along with part-time jobs and studying for the exams, Prabhakaran cracked the UPSC exam in his fourth attempt securing 101 rank. Conquering all the obstacles, he has reached one step closer to his dreams.
Inspiring would be an understatement for the journey that he has endeavoured. It is people like him who make us believe that nothing is impossible if you are determined and work hard to chase your passion. We wish him all the best for his future.
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