THE CLASS­ROOM OF LIFE

They rose above their grim fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances, over­came all sorts of odds and de­fied stereo­types to top ex­ams, get into IIMs and even pur­sue a PhD at 15! Here are their in­cred­i­ble sto­ries: of un­re­lent­ing strug­gle and hard work. Are you ready to be in

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - by Atisha Jain

They’ve looked ad­ver­sity in the eye and carved out their own des­tinies. Meet five in­domitable young In­di­ans who didn’t let tough times snuff out their dreams

SHIVA KU­MAR NA­GEN­DRA

'For years I slept at mid­night and woke up at 4am'

Shiva Ku­mar Na­gen­dra spots a man wait­ing out­side the beau­ti­ful, white house. The sky is a bril­liant shade of pur­ple and a lone star dots the vel­vety morn­ing sky.

“Should I or should I not?” There's a bat­tle go­ing on be­tween his heart and his mind. “But you HAVE to do it!” His heart wins. And off walks 12-year-old Shiva to­wards the man in the white night suit, to­wards the mo­ment that is go­ing to change his life for­ever.

Shiva Ku­mar Na­gen­dra’s par­ents had mi­grated to Ben­galuru 25 years ago from Mysore. But his fa­ther, a truck driver, met with an ac­ci­dent that left him bed-rid­den for al­most three years. The fam­ily started fac­ing fi­nan­cial prob­lems. His mother took to mak­ing gar­lands so Shiva and his sis­ter could sell them. But it wasn’t enough. “I started de­liv­er­ing news­pa­pers. It was a morn­ing job, so I could con­tinue my stud­ies,” says Shiva.

How­ever, with time, ex­penses went up fur­ther. “I could’ve worked at a res­tau­rant or as a me­chanic. But I didn’t give in.”

One morn­ing, he spot­ted a gen­tle­man wait­ing for his news­pa­per. “I handed him his pa­per and asked if I could wash his car in the evening for some more money.” He agreed. So that evening, af­ter wash­ing his car, Shiva mus­tered up the courage to ask, “Sir, I need

` 15,000 to pay my school fees.” The man was taken aback. Shiva sug­gested the man visit his school, and de­posit the money di­rectly if he found any truth in Shiva’s case.

The next day, Kr­ishna Veda Vysa vis­ited Shiva’s school and dis­cov­ered that he had al­ways been a class top­per. Con­vinced, he told Shiva, ‘I’ll take care of all your ed­u­ca­tion ex­penses. Just fo­cus on your stud­ies and don’t quit!’

So Shiva car­ried on his daily grind along with his stud­ies. But he was am­bi­tious even at that age. He started a news­pa­per dis­tri­bu­tion agency, ap­peared for his class 10 ex­ams and topped. He went on to get a seat at the Ban­ga­lore In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (BIT) and was soon of­fered a job by Wipro.

“Vyas un­cle, an en­tre­pre­neur, thought that tak­ing up the job would get me a fixed salary, but it wouldn’t change my life.” He in­sisted Shiva pur­sue higher stud­ies.

Shiva was in a fix. He didn’t know how to break the news to his par­ents. “When I told them that I planned to de­cline the of­fer, they pleaded with me to work at least for a few years.” Shiva tried to ex­plain to them, how an IIM/ IAS stu­dent has far bet­ter ca­reer prospects. Even­tu­ally, his par­ents re­lented.

Shiva de­cided to take the Com­mon Ad­mis­sion Test (CAT). Mr Vyasa got Shiva ad­mit­ted to a tu­to­rial cen­tre. At this point, Shiva was bal­anc­ing his en­gi­neer­ing classes, his MBA prepa­ra­tion, and his fas­t­ex­pand­ing news­pa­per agency.

The day the CAT re­sults were due, Shiva was a ner­vous wreck. Though he had the Wipro job in hand, he wanted to walk through the gates of an IIM. And then, IIM Cal­cutta hap­pened!

Ini­tially he felt out of place. “It was com­pet­i­tive and dif­fi­cult to match the stu­dents — many from the best col­leges of the coun­try.”

His back­ground, how­ever, had never been a mat­ter of shame to Shiva. Peo­ple at IIM re­spected where he came from and all that he had done to get where he had reached. He at­tributes his achieve­ments not only to in­tel­li­gence, but also hard work. “For years, I woke up at 4am and slept at mid­night. I wasn't born with a sil­ver spoon. I’ve worked hard for what I wanted.”

Shiva grad­u­ated from IIM this year and is work­ing with a Ben­galuru-based startup. Life, he says, will al­ways try to knock you down. “It de­pends on how strong you are to get up and fight back.”

Two suc­cess sto­ries: Shalini Ar­nugam, (far left) works as a do­mes­tic help and is also study­ing to be an engi­neer; Shiva Ku­mar used to sell news­pa­pers be­fore he got into IIM Cal­cutta

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