A person on Quora asked a question “What does it feel like to be poor?” which drew a lot of people to share their experiences. One of them was Pritam Kumar.
Pritam Kumar, a struggling bachelor in Bengaluru, has answered it perfectly. He boldly and without any kind of hesitation shared his struggle, or what we call experience, on Quora.
Pritam Kumar lost his father at the age of 6. He is just 10th pass and knows programming. He is excellent at English language too. Whatever he is today is because of his own undying passion to do something.
Here is Pritam Kumar’s answer to the question: What does it feel like to be poor?
This is one of the most viewed and upvoted answers on Quora. It is sort of lengthy but worth reading.
I am the son of a woman who cleans other people’s houses. I lost my father at a tender age of 7. Feeding us (me and my younger brother) from the meagre money she earns became difficult to cover our basic needs. We used to live on a single meal per day, sometimes twice when my Mom took the half-eaten meals left on the dinner plate from others’ houses. My family suffers from malnutrition and we are all emaciated. Our house was mud-walled and had a grass-thatched roof, which would leak terribly when the rain falls. The rain brought with them the Anopheles mosquitoes which transmitted malaria. I was the most vulnerable to malaria infections in my family. I vividly remember once I was praying to God to take my soul while lying in the hospital bed when I was 10.
My Mom took me to a government school (primary school) and got me admitted because she always encouraged us taking education seriously and said this is the only way we can come out from this situation. So I started taking my education seriously. Until 4th standard I got free books from my primary school, after I passed 4th standard, I had to join a new school (secondary school) from 5th as the previous school I was studying in was having classes only upto the 4th. From 5th I had to buy books and I had to walk 6kms from my house to reach my school. My Mom always reached out to people and asked books for my studies. This gave me lot of energy and a reason to work hard and do good in my studies and I maintained top position in my class. My classmates were always bullying me because I always studied in class even during my lunch time. Everybody got a lunch box to have lunch and when I felt hungry I went out and drank water to fill my stomach. They spoke about my dirty clothes, ripped bag but I never responded. I remember the day I asked my Mom that I have to pay exam fees to write board (10th) exam, she was not having money. Mom reached school and bowed down in-front of the principal but he refused to pay my exam fees. One of my class teacher paid my board exam fees. And I cleared 10th exam with 78% marks.
My mom was so proud of me and prepared Kheer (sweet dish) for all of us. And that’s the full stop of my education.
I had to stop chasing my dream knowing the fact that my Mom could not afford my further studies, so I came to Bangalore from Jharkhand in search of a job with one person from my village who was working as a security guard in an apartment here in Bangalore. My Mom gave me Rs. 50, but it was not sufficient to buy train ticket so I did not buy one but I had been warned that if I get caught by TTE, I would be thrown out from the train, I was lucky enough that I reached Bangalore without any problem.
I was searching for a job for 2 months but I did not get any so I went to the nearest Railway station and started working as a Coolie, selling books and newspaper. I started earning enough money to feed myself 2 times and save Rs. 10 everyday so I can send some money home. I was first recruited by a book stall guy. I was assigned to sell the novels in one of the busiest traffic signals in Bangalore, I read novels when the signal was Green and started selling when it was Red. I read almost 100 novels during that time. One day a police officer caught me selling duplicate novels but when I told him the book stall owner asked me to do this job, he took me there but the stall owner refused to identify me. But somehow I convinced the police officer that I was just selling it but I did not own them.
I left that job and came to a residential area and started washing cars for my living. I still didn’t get any place to stay so I used to go to the Railway Station everyday to sleep with my old friends over there.
Once while I was working in an apartment, one person came and asked me where I am from, for the first time in 2 years of my life in Bangalore. And also where do I stay, why I started working at this age, when do I get time to study. I told him everything about me and as I can read, write and understand English, he offered me a typing job, in return he will teach me computers and give me a place to stay in his house. As I was very much passionate about computers, I agreed to that without thinking anything and being offered a place to stay was like an icing on the cake.
He taught me how to use a computer, internet, MS-office etc. I asked many questions about the internet and gathered a lot of information. I always had 4 hrs access to his system to get the work done, gradually I started to finish the work so early, in and around 2 hrs and during the remaining time I started learning programming and other stuff. I started dreaming again. I worked with him for 4 hrs and after that I started new jobs like cooking, washing vessels, cleaning houses of his friends to earn some money for some extra bucks. After 2 months when I started working on the programming, I got pretty much knowledge but it was once again a time for bad luck as the project he was working got completed. Now I did not have access to his system any-more. All my dreams were broken into pieces again. I was afraid to ask his computer as I could have lost the place where I was staying. I was cooking for 4 guys in a house and one guy was having a second hand laptop to sell. They were all working in TCS. I asked him about the price, first he asked me why and said it’s not a car wash or cook food. I just said I want to learn programming so I want to have it. They started laughing so loudly and said we didn’t learn to programme in last 4 yrs of our engineering and how can you learn just like that. He said, anyway if you want to buy it then the price will be Rs.15000. I started working so hard to get that laptop for myself so that I can start to learning programming again. I was so excited. After 3 months of hard work I gathered Rs. 12000 and I asked him if he can give it to me and rest he can deduct from my salary. He said he can’t give me Rs. 3000 in advance. I asked other houses where I had been working for more than 6 months but nobody gave me loan of Rs. 3000. I thought let me work for another month and take that laptop. After few days I heard my Mom was sick and hospitalised and needed Rs. 13000 so I had to transfer the money to my Mom.
I will definitely pursue my dream along with my work and I will be successful one day fighting all odds.
Everyday I go to the internet cafe and spend about 2 hrs learning to program and found this very useful site Quora today. I feel like spending so much time reading answers.
This is my first answer on Quora, I don’t know whether I will be able to make you understand how it feels to be poor but I can say that it’s a bitter-sweet journey so far, but it has made me so strong. I hope I will complete my story with a good ending one day to inspire 100s of people who simply does not pursue their dream only because they are poor and do not have access to good schools and colleges.
After reading his answer many people reached out to him to help him but he politely declined. People even offered him their own laptops. But he wants to make it on his own. Now he’s got a job and his paycheque is going to arrive soon. He plans to buy a second hand laptop with his own salary.
After reading this overwhelming answer I found myself to be a fool. How I have almost everything in the world but still I find reasons and excuses to give up. This guy has nothing and has struggled so much but still hasn’t given up on life. And it is not that he is just clinging to that little ray of hope but instead he works day and night towards achieving it.
His story tells us that the light at the end of the tunnel is perceivable only if we run towards it. And never stop.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.