Oct 06, 2015; Originally written by Swaraj Paul Barooah on Facebook.
''On Sunday, as I was sitting and waiting for the day's session to start, a lovely young student came up to me to ask me for advice on going abroad for his masters. As the conversation went on, I discovered that Yogendra, the student in the picture, it turns out, has an absolutely incredibly inspiring story! Certainly seemed like an embodiment of the concept of "Anti-Fragile"! After hearing it, I asked him to write it out and he very kindly obliged. I reproduce it here below...''
''THE HARDER I WORKED THE LUCKIER I GOT’'
Hi! I am Yogendra Yadav, IDIA scholar and 4th-year law student from National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, India. Poverty and hunger are the stark realities of many villages in India, especially states like Jharkhand and Bihar. My village’s name is Pitiz and it is in the state of Jharkhand in India. There were days when we had to survive on fistful of rice and a glass of water. I was soon told by my father that he would no longer be able to afford my education and I was asked to work and support my family of seven.
It was October 1998 when I was studying in class two. At the age of seven, I was forced to sacrifice my studies and soon I started working as a domestic helper in the house of a Block Development Officer. Her house was twenty kilometers away from my house so I had to stay at her residence. After this, I never went to school. Sadly, there are not proper labor laws in India that regulates unorganized labour and I was victim of one such lacunae of our legal system. The officer kept on harassing, torturing and made me work for long hours. She used to pay 50 Rupees (less than one dollar) as monthly salary to my father in return of my services. I did not want to work there but my father thought that she being an influential person could help our family in future. I worked there for four years. It was 2002 and life was just the same. One day I accidently broke her crockery and I was beaten black and blue. I mustered courage and returned to my village. I made up my mind that I will pursue my studies, at any cost. Since my father did not have money to make me study, I had to graze animals in jungle.
In 2003, life changed for good. My village’s news reporter asked me if I wanted to go to Ranchi city (capital of Jharkhand, hundred and fifty kilometers away from my village)and work at his colleague’s house who was also a news reporter. He promised his colleague would teach me. City life fascinated me. What made me happier was that I could be in a place where I could resume my studies. I said a yes in no time.
City news reporter was a noble and generous man. I worked as a domestic helper at his residence for four years. He would buy books for me and his wife would teach me after work. My bond with newspapers grew like never before. My everyday newspaper became my teacher in my new city. I would go to my village to write my annual examination. This way I completed class nine. In Indian academic system class tenth and twelfth marks holds great value. So in 2006 I left my work in city and went back to my village to prepare for class tenth examination. In 2007 I passed my class tenth examination with distinction. I wanted to study further but my father did not agree. He said he did not have the means to make me study and I should arrange for it.
I started selling newspapers in my village to fund my studies. At that time no newspapers were delivered in my village due to its remote location. I was the first person to bring newspaper in my village. I used to walk 9 km every day to get newspapers from the dealer in order to sell them back in my village. Not many people knew how to read and write and only few teachers, shopkeepers bought newspapers from me. I earned around 5 rupees every day from this. I managed to enroll myself in my district’s college with my earnings. My college was twenty four kilometers away from my village. It was very difficult for me to travel twenty four kilometers every day and attend classes. I used to travel on top of the buses because travelling on top of the bus would cost me lesser than travelling inside the bus. After studying law of Torts in first semester, I learnt what I did was "volenti non fit injuria"- Voluntary taking of risk! But I had no other option.
In 2009, when I was in class twelfth and my examination was very close, my sister and her husband met with a fatal accident. While my brother in law succumbed to injuries and passed away, my sister battled for her life in a hospital. I had to stay by her in hospital for four months. She recovered by god’s grace but we were in debt after this tragic incident. My father had mortgaged his land and borrowed huge sum of money from my relatives. Therefore, he now strictly asked me to look for a job. Hence I could not clear my class twelfth examination.
In 2010, I once again came to Ranchi city and with the help of the same city news reporter I found a job at a construction site. I would study at night after completing my daily work. In 2011, I cleared my class twelfth examination successfully and got enrolled in Bachelor in Arts programme in a city college. In July, 2011 my employer at the construction site abused me so I left his job and started selling newspapers in city.
Destiny has its own course. Sometimes life surprises you in most unexpected ways. While one morning I was preparing to distribute newspapers, I came across an article stating that IDIA- Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access helps students from marginalized and underprivileged background to prepare for CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) free of cost. I was interested in law and I immediately contacted the undersigned people. I had to sit for IDIA National Aptitude Test (INAT) to get into their free course programme. I was the only candidate who got selected from my state- Jharkhand. Now that I had cleared INAT, they helped me fill the form and take coaching for CLAT. I cracked CLAT in 2012 and I got into National University and Study and Research in Law, Ranchi. I joined Law school in July 2012. The cultural change made me nervous. I was unsure how well I would be able to adjust amongst my urban cultured classmates. Language too was a major barrier for me as the medium of instruction was English and being from Hindi medium I was unable cope with daily lectures. I was bogged down. I soon went to the Registrar and asked him that I wanted to withdraw as I am not able to understand and adjust. He encouraged me to not to give up so soon and give it another try for a week and then come to him. Things changed in that week. I made up my mind that if I had come this far by facing so many hurdles I would overcome this one too.
Today it’s been three years since that one deciding week has passed. Now I not only have great friends but I also converse in English, an answer in class and argue like a professional in English in my Law School’s courtroom exercises.
They say where there is will there is a way. In these years I have built my own way and come this far. I aspire to go abroad for higher studies as I have a quest to know more. Legal illiteracy is rampant even in the most educated classes of India. I believe if you want to empower your country make people aware of their rights. Every time I visit my place during holidays, I gather villagers and make them aware of their rights so that they are not convinced by the politically corrupt people. I discuss with my village people about their rights. I make them aware of government policies and its benefits they are entitled to.
I visited my village during my semester break last year. I was shocked to see the vulnerable Birohor tribal community living under open sky in severe winter. A powerful man vandalized their house. He took away bricks, asbestos, doors, windows from their house and used it for his own purpose. He also planned to sell their land. He used their bricks to make a fence around his huge farm. I took these people to the nearest police station and lodged a First Information Report. I am relentlessly seeking for justice in this case and helping them with my legal knowledge. I am also helping them to get their ration card made and bank account opened.
Though India abolished untouchability at the time of independence and Mahatma Gandhi called them Harijans-children of god, the practice is still prevalent in rural areas. Birohar Tribe is an ostracized community. Their children are not allowed to go to schools. Presently, my sister is teaching these children. I made up a story that an NGO would be paying her for her services so that she takes classes sincerely.
I wish to go for higher studies abroad. I have heard the quality of education imparted at the world’s finest universities can change a person’s life by changing his or her way of perceiving things. I believe one good institution changes your outlook. I want to be a part of one such great institution. What intrigues me is the effective governance there. I want to know why society there is less corrupt and more efficient. Why overall Human Development Index is constantly high there.
I want to apply the same principles when I come back to India. I aspire to fight elections from my constituency and become a politician. The course of bringing change when you are a politician becomes easier and a little hassle free, especially in India. I want to bring a change in the lives and attitude of people around me. I know it’s going to be a long journey but one important lesson I have learnt so far is nothing is impossible. If you can think of it, you can also achieve it. I want to make life easier for many more Yogendras who are struggling in their lives and have bricks in hands instead of books.
IDIA- Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education project was initiated to reach out to these marginalized and under-represented groups, sensitize them to law as a viable career option and help interested students acquire admission to these law schools. It is hoped that such access to legal education would go some way towards empowering the marginalized and underprivileged students and the communities that they represent.
It's a wonderful organization that allows students like this to come up could really do with some publicity and money.And if you feel like contributing towards this cause, hop over to IDIA.