| Daya Shankar Pathak
He is a teacher and a respected resident in his Ritchie Road para. But what makes Daya Shankar Pathak different is his rise from humble roots.
Son of watchman and a charwoman, the youth was at the top of his class in St Lawrence evening school, where he says he was “blessed” to have been “adopted” by his mentor, Tripla Malhotra. The housewife recognised his determination and drive, and decided to help him achieve his goals.
The second beneficiary of Malhotra’s “plant a child” project, the 25-year-old reflects: “We are a big family of two brothers and a sister. My father, being a durwan, couldn’t afford to keep us all in school, though he wanted to.”
His talent, hard work and his mentor convinced the St Lawrence authorities to admit him into the day school and reduce his fees from “around Rs 120 to Rs 10” per month. “English was a problem. When I stood first in class once, I complained to the teacher that she had written ‘excellent’ in my report and ‘very good’ in that of the boy’s who came second,” he laughs.
Persistence paid off, as Pathak’s dream to get into St Xavier’s College came true when he got in with a first division. The sports freak pursued his love for football as a member of the college team, and even practised on the same field with Bhaichung Bhutia on one occasion. “It was amazing,” he says.
Playing hockey, another passion, got him up to the state level and the Nehru Junior Champion’s League, an experience, he insists, he will never forget. As a member of the Maddox Square Club, he has participated in many a police tournament.
What he enjoyed most, though, was leading his own contingent at the Republic Day Parade on Red Road for nine years, a privilege granted to the NCC cadet of long standing, who also took part in the Corps Young Men’s Welfare Project to promote education in remote areas.
It wasn’t always easy. “When my father suddenly lost his job, my mother was ill but had to work. I would go to other people’s houses after college to help out my mother. In one case, the house turned out to be where a senior from my college lived. That was hard,” he remembers.
The teacher now gives private tuitions to students up to Class VII, including free help to those who can’t afford it from his alma mater, St Lawrence’s evening class. “I have to give something back to society. That is what I have learnt from my mentor and from life.”
Now, running around from morning to night from home to home, he has had to give up his hobbies to support his old, ailing parents and a brother in college. “But I have only thanks to offer, for all that I have,” he concludes.