"Stories" from the Collective (YOU)

Bajeerao's Struggle

by Bajeerao Patil

I grew up in a remote village in India. My village was only about forty miles away from Mumbai but still very far from the influence of this overly populated metropolitan city. In the village, we lacked basic amenities. Kids in the village were malnourished and didn't have any kind of medical help. The entire village had to struggle for basic things such as drinking water, sanitation and food.

We drank contaminated water that kept us sick throughout the year.

The main food was rice and gravy made out of whatever the villagers could afford to buy from the weekly market in another village about three miles away from our village. Basically, the whole village lived on a seasonal farming. People worked for more than 18 hours but still did not have enough to eat. In a nutshell, we were deprived economically, socially and politically.

Most people were illiterate including my mother, my uncles and aunts. Somehow, my dad attended school but had to withdraw from the school while in 4th grade because he had to support his siblings and mother after his father's death. Later, my dad donated a piece of land to build a school in the village.

Through their resilience, the villagers compelled the government to sanction a grant for a primary school. Hesitantly, the government approved the school up to 4th grade. Thereafter, we had to go to another village that was about seven miles away. Walking seven miles six days a week was extremely tiresome and nerve wrecking.

I didn't like studies at all. So I played hooky along with other students. Running in the forest and swimming in the muddy water made my days. Catching fish and crabs kept us busy until the other students returned from the school. We took the great precaution before joining them. We even threatened the other students when we smelled

I didn't find anything interesting in school except a couple of beautiful girls. But they didn't even talk to me, and those who did I didn't care about them in particular. There weren't any extra curricular activities beside early morning physical training class that I disliked the most. Who wanted to exercise early in the morning? They had to find other suckers not me.

My lack of interest in studies didn't help me learn much in secondary school either. I'm not sure how I passed my 10th and 12th grade even with the lowest percentage. I guess I was lucky. Almost all of my friends dropped out or failed in the 10th grade.

My elder brother decided to send me to Mumbai for further studies. With his support, I managed to secure admission in the college of social work but couldn't find the place to live. So my brother spoke with a cousin of my mine who lived in one of the suburbs of Mumbai with his family of five in a tiny 10 * 10 rented room.

Though the room was small, my cousin had giant's heart he didn't mind my presence at all. We were not only cramped in that tiny room but didn't even have our own toilet. We had to use filthy public toilet, but the line was always too long.

Fearful of missing my regular train and getting late for school, though disgusted, I would walk near the creek to complete my morning chores as all others did. While at the creek, mosquitoes would nibble me all over the body as if they were desperately waiting for my arrival.

Though I was mesmerized by this colorful city, commuting for about four hours daily was sucking the life out of me. The buses and trains were always overcrowded, and I could never secure seat even once. Also, in college, I had difficulties coping with my studies and managing my tuition fees.

Further, the medium of instructions was English, and I didn't know any English beyond alphabets. I was embarrassed and subdued because all other students spoke English and I couldn't even speak my mother tongue, Marathi fluently. I spoke the unrefined village dialect.

Every time I spoke other students made fun of me. I felt discouraged and wanted to re turn to my village. But at the same time I didn't want to disappoint my brother, who had done so much for me, I decided to stick and stay.

Within a year, though I wasn't eligible for the admission (The hostel was meant for only masters' level students) my brother managed to get me admitted to the university hostel just about five minutes away from my college. This new development changed my entire life and outlook toward life. I learn to read and write English and gained lots of confidence.

With help from a friend of mine, I got a part time job and earned enough money to take care of my tuition fees and other expenses. Determined to do well, I began to work hard and study sincerely.

After completing my degree in social work, I also completed masters' degree in HR and worked with different companies before coming to US. For not wanting anything to hold me back including the fear of English language, I have published two books so far, and many more are in the pipeline to be published soon.

About Bajeerao Patil

Bajeerao Patil has been treating addiction as a drug and alcohol counselor for over twenty-five years. He has a Masters in Social Work and Human Resources. To learn more about Patil and his work, visit http://://www.amazon.com/dp/0989569810/and http://www.bajeeraopatil.com

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