Unlike many of the students we meet during the course of our field evaluation, the bearded young man standing in front of us, wearing a red shirt, is completely at ease, “I’ve done so many interviews before, so I’m comfortable with it now” he says.
This is 20-year old Praveen Bagore, a third year BCA student from Nemawar, a tiny pilgrimage town situated on the left bank of the Narmada river, as it threads its way through Dewas district in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Praveen has made most of the opportunities that have come his way. He was a bright student in school, and despite scoring a respectable 72% in his Class XII examinations, the prospects looked bleak.
The money that Praveen’s father earned, working as a tailor in Nemawar, was barely enough to support the family. Things were further complicated when his father became ill and stopped working altogether. Praveen, who had enrolled in the BCA course at the Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management by then, eventually began working to pay for his education and support his family.
Praveen says an low-cost education loan from Rang De and the salary from his new job helped him pay the tuition fee and continue studying towards earning his degree.
When we speak to him, we find out that Praveen is really passionate about dancing and has won many competitions. He recently participated in a dance competition in Nemawar and used the Rs 11,000 prize money to contribute to the renovation of his home. He also dances professionally, and will be seen in a local reality show called Dance Indore Dance. After clocking in eight hours at work, he heads to a local dance studio and teaches students how to dance.
We ask him how he finds the time to manage college, work and dancing. “I don’t like being idle”, Praveen says. His packed schedule confirms this. He told us that he studies with the help of Youtube videos and returns to college 2–3 months before his exams. In class, his friends help him out with any work that he has missed.
Despite such a packed schedule, one would imagine that Praveen would struggle to clear his exams, but he has maintained an healthy average of 65%, which is exceptional for someone with so much on his plate.
In many ways, Praveen typifies the aspiration of the youth who live in rural and semi-rural areas in India. For the young people living in places like Nemawar, Ralegaon or Bachkal, places on the peripheries of India’s urban centric discourse of progress and development, the presence of television and easy access to the internet offers them a glimpse of the world outside their villages and towns.
Yet, very little in their immediate surroundings can help them realise their aspirations, which are sparked off by this brief but ultimately unsatisfying contact with the “New India”
Consider this: access to higher education continues to remain dismal in many of the rural areas where a vast majority of the youth in India continue to live. For young people seeking employment, seeking to start a business or looking to make a living through an unconvetional career like the performing arts, migration to he big cities remains the only viable option.
Today, Praveen has quit his previous job, and now works in a small firm with friends in Indore. The salary he draws has not only allowed him to pay his college fees, but also support his sister who wants to study further. Praveen’s story and his many accomplishments, given his circumstances, are a testimony to the strength of purpose and the hard work of the youth in rural India.
It is also an example of how small opportunities — whether in the form of a good education or financial assistance — can go a long way, allowing people to pursue their aspirations and make lives better for themselves and their families.
This article was first published here on Youth Ki Awaaz