Sometimes even the wrong train takes us to the right destination. This was the case with Shuvajit who had no clue how to graph his career but accidental occurrences made him choose the right track. Although he walked on it with a snail’s pace but made a lasting impact after while.
Hailing from a middle class family of Kolkata, Shuvajit Payne had to struggle even to get his minimal needs fulfilled, let alone his wish list. He saw his father toiling for money and financial crunch was always an issue while he was growing up. From the very initial stage, he knew that being a spendthrift was never an option and grew up with this instinct.
“Today, I see that bane as a blessing, I think it formed me as a person who understands that I need to work towards getting what I deserve. Also, it made me care about every bit I have earned instead of splurging away!”
Shuvajit had no clue which career to pursue as his choices were stuck bizarrely in a maze. He landed up studying economics from Presidency College, Kolkata, and then MBA from IIM, Lucknow. He hadn’t planned on doing an MBA but when he saw his friend preparing for CAT he was inspired to do the same. Coming from a not-so-qualified family, he did not grow up with someone to guide him or mentor him. It was by sheer chance that he collided with his friend and earned himself an MBA degree from one of the most prestigious colleges in India.
He found that Presidency College was the place where everybody talked about changing the world, activism, freedom of self-expression, fight for rights, and overturning the system. Then there was IIML — starkly different, but still a host of young dreamy engineers talking about ideas that would disrupt the status-quo, out of the box, the next big thing and all that.
Couple of years ahead, he found himself in this tall building in London, working on a workstation fine-tuning a robust, massive revenue collection system for an oil corporation. He was utterly comfortable there in a lovely office, great work culture, challenging tasks, intelligent and fun work colleagues and of course, a lovely city.
One fine day, walking towards office, he took a picture of his window and posted it on social networking site stating that it was his office window. Someone commented “which one” and he had no answer. This moved him and he quit his job and returned to India.
“It was probably, one of the defining moments of my life. That point where I realized that I am just lost in anonymity, faraway from what my friends said about changing the world. It was a small thought that made me quit my job because I didn’t have a motto. I planned to take some time off, return to India, travel around, explore, and take photos.”
In the meantime, a friend of his sent him a link to SBI Youth for India fellowship — a programme launched then for the first time. It was unprecedented, and all it said was, “You’ll live in a village and work for its development.” It sounded interesting so he applied for it. In a matter of weeks, in 2011, he was sent to Vidarbha, associated with an NGO MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF). He had to figure out something to do that will change the lives of people. It left him clueless.
His village-mates came to him asking if he could make them fluent in English. It was something he could do, so he worked on a group of 12 students for over three months. He made them speak broken, but fairly comprehensible English.
“Why was it possible for me? If I dig deep, I believe it is probably because all of my students were basically me — a confused student without any guidance. I started liking my work. There you go, I finally found a purpose in education,” he says.
Gradually, he started working with a capable team, of teachers, managers, volunteers, fellows and support staff. “Back then I was a volunteer on a nominal stipend. Today, this is my job. Yes, I am not paid in pounds but I am paid enough to pay my bills and take care of any emergencies. For the schools that I work with, I have huge paucity of funds; to the point that they’d shut down if we don’t find support,” he says.
These are night schools for children hailing from remote rural communities who cannot attend day schools as they have to cater to livelihood requirements like cattle rearing, assisting is parent’s daily wage labour work, or manage households when parents are out earning money. They need education to know the world that they can access with their potential. These schools aim to bridge them to government schools gradually.
In order to meet his needs, he started a massive with Ketto to raise the funds. “This is my focus as of now. Anybody who can support will be providing a much-needed aide for a child who really deserves this. Presently the only milestone that I am looking forward to is to continue these 30 schools for 1,200 such students.”
His story inspires us to follow the heart instead of running after money. Everything he earned came to him by taking right decisions at the right time. Today he is running night schools for children and making their scopes positive for future.
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