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Merit and mark of true grit

- Madhyamik duo jump many hurdles to score high in test

A poverty-stricken boy who saw the light of education under a lantern and a cerebral palsy sufferer who didn’t let disability get in the way of his dreams are among the stars of Madhyamik you won’t find on the merit list.

Metro meets the duo whose every mark came laced with toil, tears and the triumph of spirit.

Samiran Singha, 15

Manasadwip Ramakrishna Mission High School

His father ferries goods and commuters in his cycle van for a living. His brother dropped out of school in Class VIII because the family’s income often wasn’t enough to buy food, let alone pay for an education. He often wonders what it is like to study in a properly illuminated room at night.

Ask Samiran Singha if he isn’t bothered that the odds are against him studying to be a mechanical engineer and he will tell you that not getting a few marks more in Madhyamik is his only disappointment.

“I should have scored better, at least in the range of 90-plus,” the 15-year-old told Metro.

Samiran aggregated 625 marks out of 700 for a more than healthy percentage of 89.2. It’s a result earned as much through his tenacity as his talent.

Samiran had walked four kilometres to and from his home in Purshottampur village every day to attend classes at Manasadwip Ramakrishna Mission High School in Sagardwip, around 110km south of Calcutta. At night, he studied by the light of the lone lantern in his one-room mud house.

He never complained. “I have always studied by the light of a lantern. I never considered it a challenge. I am used to it because there is no electricity in our home,” he said.

Samiran made up for what he lacked by working extra hard. “During the tiffin break, I preferred to be in the library rather than outside,” he said.

Most of his text and exercise books came from seniors in school. “We haven’t been able to buy books for him since he was in Class V,” said elder brother Sanjay, a daily-wage worker.

To ease his family’s burden, Samiran sat for scholarship tests. “In Class VIII, I appeared for and cleared the state government scholarship exam. I have received Rs 6,000 out of the promised Rs 18,000 so far and given it to my father,” he said.

Samiran’s family has made compromises, too. “There have been occasions when we have had to cut down on essential expenditure to pay his fees,” brother Sanjay said.

Samiran has decided to study Higher Secondary at Khansaheb Abad High School in Sagardwip, though that would mean travelling around 20km every day.

The school’s headmaster had hosted him for a month so that he could attend special classes before the new session starts. “The school is about 10km from my house. If he stays in the hostel, it would mean adding to his family’s expenses,” headmaster Jaydeb Das said.

To Samiran, gestures like these more than make up for the privileges many of his peers enjoy. For everything else, he has his talent to fall back on.

Rajesh Das, 16

Jodhpur Park Boys School

Cerebral palsy took away the strength in his legs but could not snatch the courage to succeed in his first major exam.

Every time Rajesh Das entered his classroom at Jodhpur Park Boys School on crutches, he reminded himself that he must not “lag behind”.

Rajesh, the son of a taxi driver, sees his aggregate of 78.14 per cent in Madhyamik not as a personal badge of honour but a reward for his family that had never doubted his ability to win a challenge.

“My father has toiled to raise me and my brother (a final-year engineering student in a New Town institute). I have to succeed in life and build a career so that I can stand by my father. I want to earn enough so that he does not have to drive a taxi,” Rajesh told Metro.

The Cristiano Ronaldo fan aspires to study science, crack the joint entrance exam and do his BE in computer science. “Computer science can potentially get me a job soonest. My second option is teaching,” he said.

Mother Asha, a homemaker, is delighted that her son has done well in Madhyamik but is also worried about the financial burden her husband would need to shoulder to fulfil his dream of becoming an engineer.

“We want Rajesh to succeed but his father already has a huge loan to repay. He had taken it to pay for our elder son’s engineering education. Sooner the two of them get jobs and start earning, better it is for us,” she said.

Taxi driver Sundar, who had been anxiously waiting for his son’s result since early on Wednesday, took a rare break from work the day after to celebrate his son’s success. Rajesh’s success has reinforced his belief that “if one labours hard, success is bound to come”.

What is your message for Samiran Singha and Rajesh Das? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com