The beginning of each academic year, that is, hot on heels of the declaration of the 10th and 12th board exam results, the Sakal India Foundation is frequented by countless aspiring candidates for scholarship. A majority of these meritorious students belong to poor and middle class socio-economic backgrounds. With immense will power to pursue higher education backed by dedication to put in hard work, these students are somewhat confused about how exactly to go about fulfilling their dreams, especially due to financial constraints.
One amongst them was Nargis who summoned all her courage and introduced herself to the selection committee. She had been granted a scholarship for a three year Engineering Diploma course by the Foundation and was practically self- dependent. Therefore, when she made a visit yet once more, we assumed it was to express gratitude to the Foundation. However, she introduced a girl accompanying her, as her sister – Nasseem. Her mark sheet was a fair indicator of her superior intelligence. Like her elder sister she too had got admission to a Diploma course in Electronic Engineering.
However, although she qualified for the scholarship, a home visit we felt, was called for. The date and time was thus fixed. Considering I might find it difficult to locate her home, Nasseem volunteered to pick me up from the Foundation office. She lived in a densely populated, old locality of Pune. Had she not come to pick me up I would have never found her home in that congested, narrow alley round countless turns. Her home was a 10x12 room in a crowded chawl. Living in that one room was her family of seven members. Her invalid father lay on the bed in a corner of the room while the remaining members of the family were busy rolling out papads. With Nargis having got a job, the family’s financial condition had improved somewhat. The scene spoke of struggle to make two ends meet. After talking to Nargis and Nasseem’s mother we stepped out with a heavy heart but having ensured Nassem’s continued education. Nassem’s scholarship was disbursed to her every year even as she scored good marks.
Thus when I found her standing around uncertainly I asked her whether wanted to say something. She said “This month I will not be able to go to college by cycle. Can I get money for the bus fare from the Foundation?” On asking her she told me she was observing the Ramzaan fast for the month; and therefore cycling 7 to 8 Kilometres distance to college would be next to impossible for her during the month. Obviously, I sanctioned the requisite amount. Actually it wasn’t a substantial figure but it meant a lot to her. The importance was driven home when she packed shir korma for us at the Foundation office. Having completed her diploma in Electronics Nasseem took up a job to ease the family’s financial burden. Acknowledging her dedication and skills, the company promoted her to the post of a department head within a couple of years. She even visited the Foundation office and promised us that she would certainly pay back the Foundation in the future. Indeed it is with great satisfaction that as members of the selection committee we had the opportunity to help such a deserving candidate to pave her path to success.