Vijay Kumar Chauhan dropped out from Class V and fled to Amritsar from Bihar, in search of a job to sustain himself and earn some money. Today, after about 10 years, he’s in Bihar and is an active part of PRAYOG (Professionals Alliance for Youths Growth) and also runs a coaching centre along with his younger brother to teach 300+ students from Class VII to Class XII. This is the story of what hard work and an indomitable spirit can do to a person.
Vijay is an extremely talented youth from Bihar who holds a B.A. degree, the child of a landless labourer, a serial entrepreneur, a teacher, first volunteer and the local face of PRAYOG, an NGO that works in the rural parts of Bihar in providing education to young students, empowering young girls and helping in the growth of youth by grooming them and providing them with better opportunities in the world. Vijay fled to Amritsar when he was about 15 years old and was homeless there. For somedays, he stayed in the vicinity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, eating the free meals available at the temple and sleeping in the verandah. After a few weeks, he moved to Ludhiana to do some menial jobs in a factory, garage and even a restaurant.
There is no job that I have not done in my life. You name one, and I would have done it, says Vijay.
From making tea and selling it, from cooking samosas to driving an auto rickshaw, from being an LIC agent to an event manager and finally in opening his own coaching centre, Vijay has done it all. He kept travelling to places in search of better opportunities and has lived and worked in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP, Jharkhand, Kolkata etc and can speak 5 languages.
When Vijay returned home, he wanted to give his Class X exams. He had not attended school from Class V onwards and had not been in a classroom since then. He joined a coaching centre a year before the board exams and started preparing. “I had to re-learn how to even read and write when I joined the coaching centre; forget learning English grammar or solving algebra problems”. He started his preparation by refreshing his memory to read and write. He learnt every subject by writing the answers, memorising formulae, understanding physics, chemistry and biology to learning basic English grammar. “It is very hard for you too pass boards this year Vijay given that you haven’t attended school for so many years”, his coaching teacher had told him. That fed his spirit even more and he kept up the preparation. When the year was ending, he started showing up amongst the toppers of his coaching centre and his teacher had to eat his words. He cleared his board exams and went on to intermediate college and then to pass his B.A.
It was on 15th June, 2013 that PRAYOG was started by Surya Prakash Rai in the form of a Community Library in the Bania Chapar village of Gopalganj district of Bihar. Bania Chapar is the same village that Vijay and his family resided in, and Vijay was in college. After a few days since the inception of the library, Vijay started coming to the library to interact and teach the children there. He volunteered to play games with them, conduct general knowledge quizzes and competitions, curate the library books, attend to the needs of the children and encourage them to study and not miss out on the opportunities like he did. When PRAYOG conducted their night classes in the village, Vijay was mightily impressed and wanted to teach then onwards.
At the same time, PRAYOG conducted various essay and story writing competitions, painting, debate and other competitions for students from the vicinity. Vijay used to go to various schools and coaching centres to publicise and encourage children there to participate and join the activities of PRAYOG and sparked in them an excitement, a curiosity. He constantly fed this excitement amongst the children, and the children reciprocated the love and started calling him their dear “Vijay Bhaiiya” (Bhaiiya is a respectful term for ‘elder brother’ in Hindi). This love and admiration he received from the children kept him afloat and he started gaining respect from the people in his village. Impressed by his pro-activeness and his spirt, PRAYOG inducted him into the team, groomed and encouraged him. When PRAYOG started their Tablet Program, Vijay led the daily activities of the program.
PRAYOG also started their Digital Education program in Government Schools of Bihar. Vijay became the lead facilitator and started teaching Environmental Science and Mathematics to the students in the Middle School of Thulachapar. He started loving his job and was excellent at it. During the days of less workload, he told the students the stories of Sunita Williams and Kalpana Chawla in space, Dr, B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru; local personalities like Dashrat Manjhi, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan to convey to the children that if the people like them succeeded back in the day, even they could. He leveraged his popularity amongst the children to start his own coaching centre in a nearby village for students till Class X. After a year of successfully running the coaching centre, he wanted to scale up and consulted with his earlier coaching teacher if they could partner up and run coaching centre to Class XII students, which was in high demand in the area. His teacher did not want to venture into the more difficult job. So, for one year, Vijay studied Class XI and XII Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics on his own. In his third year, he started with higher classes and got learning aids like video lectures to explain to the students the more difficult concepts of Mathematics, Relativity and other Quantum Theories of Physics.
Today, his day starts at 4am everyday, when he wakes up and starts giving classes from 5am to 9am. He then has a quick breakfast and starts with the Digital Education program of PRAYOG in the schools till 1pm and then lends his hand in running the Tablet Program of PRAYOG from 3pm onwards to about 5pm. This is his daily routine and this is the kind of hard work he does everyday, which is keeping him and his family afloat. He wants to start building a house this year and also admit his younger brother into an engineering college in Patna. He also voluntarily mentors the youth who, with the association of PRAYOG have ventured out into various entrepreneurial and professional careers.
The story of how he started to read and write is another testament to his indomitable spirit and hard work. Vijay along with his father had gone to watch the movie Koyla in a theatre in Calcutta. He asked his father what was written on the screen when the title appeared, and his father could not answer him. He could not digest the fact that he was unable to read that and resolved to learn to, and not be like his father. After watching the movie, he went out of the hall and asked someone to read what was written on the hoarding near the theatre. That is where he learnt how to read ‘कोयला’. Then onwards, he slowly started reading alphabets in Hindi by asking people around him and practicing them in his free time. The young lad who did not attend school from Class V is teaching students in high school and intermediate college. Perseverance and hard work are the two biggest virtues one can learn from him. It is because of the youth like Vijay that PRAYOG keeps doing what it is doing. We do it with a hope that the students and youth do not have to go through the disappointments and difficulties like Vijay did, but excel in their lives by looking at and learning from his life, which teaches us some very important lessons for our own lives.