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Mettle shines amid hardship

- Poverty fails to hold back Higher Secondary achievers

Marks aren’t the measure of what a handful of students achieved in the 2014 Higher Secondary exam, the results of which were declared on Friday. Metro highlights the stories of seven outstanding boys and girls who overcame multiple hurdles to chase their dreams.

Aniruddha Ray, 18

Hare School, Calcutta
Score: 94.4 per cent

His father earns less than Rs 2,000 a month, delivering printing material such as letterheads and folders to offices. The family lives in a single-room rented house in Alipore. He borrowed books from friends because father Ashim Ray couldn’t afford them.

Yet, he came up trumps in the all-important exam of his life. “My peers enjoy more privileges like private tuition and an easier life. I could never think of that. It was my predicament that made me more resolute to perform,” he said.

Aniruddha wants to study physics (honours) at either Presidency or Jadavpur University, a choice by compulsion because “I can’t afford engineering coaching”. “I managed my school syllabus by borrowing books but that won’t be possible for studying engineering,” said the Hare School topper. “I don’t have a steady income to pay for his tuition. But his teachers helped us and he got a monthly stipend from the school,” the father said.

The tide could turn since chief minister Mamata Banerjee herself called the family to congratulate Aniruddha. “She has invited me. I will let her know our financial status,” Aniruddha said.

Rina Mondal, 25

Binodini Girls High School, Calcutta

Score: 63 per cent

Her daily routine is determined by the hands of the clock: wake up at 5.30am, study till 6.30am, chop vegetables and do other kitchen chores at the canteen of the ladies hostel in Ballygunge where she lives, and head for school at 9am. In return, she gets free food and accommodation — a room on the terrace she shares with a middle-aged canteen hand.

“I cut about 10-15kg of vegetables every day. There were days when I had to skip school because I was told around 9am to make 50 rotis or parathas,” she said. “This is also a hotel, not just a hostel,” she added.

The room’s roof leaks. Rina doesn’t mind: “I don’t have to pay for the stay, you see.”

Evenings are spent serving food in the dining room and she gets to retire to her room at 10pm — “to be with my books”. Her books blessed her with an enviable score of 63 per cent in the arts stream. “I cleared Madhyamik after three attempts. It was tough. I was working in someone’s house and there were hurdles. My mother and brother wanted me to get married,” said Rina of Bidhyadharpur village in Canning, South 24-Parganas.

Agnivo Mandal, 17

Jodhpur Park Boys High School, Calcutta

Score: 77.8 per cent

Son of a day labourer, Agnivo funded his education from the tuition he gave to a Class III student four days a week. It fetched him Rs 1,000 a month.

“I will have to continue the tuition to meet my educational expenses. I hope I get admission in a government engineering college because I cannot afford a private institution. If I don’t make the cut, I will study physics (honours).”

Rahul Maity, 18

Benu Pal Chalk High School, Howrah

Score: 80 per cent

His father runs a tea stall in north Calcutta and the family of four lives in a one-room house at Parkanpur village in Howrah.

Like many in families that make barely Rs 3,000 a month, Rahul too has borrowed books from his school seniors and gave tuition to two Class V children that fetched him a monthly payment of Rs 300. “It used to take care of some of my personal expenses.”

“I didn’t buy reference books but banked on the library. That was enough. I didn’t want to increase the load on my father,” said Rahul, now nurturing a dream to “study in a college in Calcutta”. “At times, I used to feel low…my friends were well-off. My mother taught me to overcome such shortcomings. She would tell me that even if we are poor we can excel in studies.”

Ritwik Haldar, 18

Kulpi Janapriya High School, South 24-Parganas

Score: 85.02 per cent

He scored the second highest marks in school — 426. His father is a landless sharecropper and they live a two-room tiled house at Kamarchak in Kulpi. “I could not study beyond HS. I had to give up studies because we were poor and there were responsibilities at home. I won’t allow my son to follow in my footsteps,” said father Pankaj Haldar.

Ritwik’s mettle attracted support from everybody who knew him. His headmaster had waived the tuition fee for classes XI and XII, enabling him to continue his studies. “He is a sincere student. Ritwik stood second in Madhyamik. We will continue to help him,” said headmaster Mangal Purkait, whose son topped the school in Higher Secondary.

Tanaya Purkait (top) and Selim Khan

Ritwik said he would forgo his first love, engineering, and study for a degree in mathematics. “My family makes less than Rs 1,500. Without the assistance by my teachers, I would have been nowhere.”

Tanaya Purkait, 18 Selim Khan, 20

Krishnachandrapur High School, South 24-Parganas

Scores: 76.2 and 71.4 per cent, respectively

Tanaya’s father is a farmer while Selim’s is a mason. She excelled in science, Selim in arts. “I earn about Rs 1,500 a month and I don’t know how I will finance her higher studies. But I will try,” said Tanaya’s father Sritati.

Selim hopes to get a seat in Dakshin Barasat College. “I can’t study in a Calcutta college. Who will pay for my accommodation and food?” asked Selim.

What message do you have for these HS achievers. Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com