| Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and scientist Monilal Bhaumik with some of the scholarship-winning students. Picture by Aranya Sen
Pritom Kumar Chatterjee, 18, is the son of a postal worker from Hooghly. His father died of a heart attack when Pritom was only 14. Later that year, despite the tragedy, he secured 665 in Madhyamik. Having always either stood first or second in class, he went on to score 865 in his Higher Secondary (HS) examination, and then ranked 127 in the Joint Entrance Examination. Pritom is now a student of Calcutta Medical College. His dream is to be a heart surgeon.
And, on Sunday, the Dr Moni Bhaumik Educational Foundation did its bit to help Pritom achieve that dream. He was among 18 students awarded scholarships by the Foundation, set up last year to fund the education of deserving candidates.
And chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was also present on the occasion, held out hope for many more like Pritom. “We need to work on providing financial help to students who need it,” declared Bhattacharjee, before reiterating government plans to introduce a system of multipurpose cards for families whose annual income is below Rs 15,000.
“This BPL (below poverty line) card can be used for other purposes, like ration cards, but a student who produces the card for admission to a college or university in the city will not be refused admission on grounds of lack of finances,” asserted the chief minister.
But for Pritom, marks were his only passport. After his father’s death, mother Piyali put herself through the HS as an external candidate, and then through three years of college to get a BA degree. She gave private tuitions at home, to be able to see her two sons through school, and fulfil her husband’s wish of making Pritom a doctor. Younger brother Pronoy, in Class VII, too, always comes first in class. He wants to be a scientist and discover a cure for AIDS.
Both brothers declared that their inspiration and idol was “Ma”, who would teach them at home, every day after school. Piyali said: “I was always interested in education, but was married off early. So, I was determined to give the best to my children.”
Pritom, now staying in a city hostel, has to go back to his Hooghly home every weekend to help with the shopping and other domestic chores. His mentor and teacher, Lakshmi Kanta Roy, proudly pointed out: “I always knew Pritom would make it. He is so obedient, disciplined and hardworking. He will go far.”
So should Liakat Ali Mullah from Bolpur, another recipient of the scholarship. With no help from the family after his father’s death, his mother worked day and night to educate him and his sister. After successfully passing his HS, Liakat is now studying physics honours in Bolpur College. He shyly added that his sister is “better at studies” than him, and is worthier of the scholarship.
Scientist Monilal Bhaumik, the man behind the Foundation, a boy from Midnapore who now lives in Hollywood and made it through “sheer determination”, said he empathises with these students.
“I know what it is like to struggle against adverse circumstances.” He added that the tradition of awarding scholarships would continue every year.
“The amount of money required is not large, since the needs of these young men and women are modest. Besides, there are so many meritorious candidates out there who need our help,” said Bhaumik.