Gaya is the second biggest town in the Indian State Of Bihar. It is a sacred destination for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.
An ancient pilgrim town, Gaya has many legends doing the rounds of its dusty and weather beaten roads and old residences. The residents here are religous and fun loving. Most are engaged in small businesses, mostly trading. A unique characteristic of the population of the town is their cheerful attitude towards life despite pathetic state of development of any kind.
Gaya is famous for its sweats – Tilkut, Lai, Anarsa and Kesaria Peda. They are manufactured in large quantities here and marketed in many areas of Bihar and neighboring eastern UP.
Millions of Hindus from all parts of the world have visited Gaya to perform a special spiritual offering called the Pindaan. This ritual is done for the deliverance of the souls of the ancestors from repeated cycles of birth and death. During an 18-day period, popularly called the Pitripakh Mela, devout Hindus gather here on the banks of phalgu river for the sole purpose of offering Pindaan.
On the outskirts of the town, 14 KM from the its main markets, is the holy Buddhist pilgrimage place called the Bodh Gaya. This hamlet has been sanctified by the presence of Lord Buddha who did penance here and meditated for long periods to obtain final realization of cosmic truth. This beautiful place, with famous temples and good hotels, is a tourist attraction for millions of Budhists in the world.
It is indeed an enigma for many foreigners who visit Gaya. It is an place which figures prominently on the tourist map of the world, but is devoid of basic civic amenities like roads and electricity. During Laluji’s rule, the law and order deteriorated till it reached a state of complete collapse. Even old residents of the town refrained from coming on the streets after dusk.
While Gaya rests on one side of the Phalgu river, the other side has a quaint country town called Manpur. It is the main market hub for people living in villages spread in the beyond. Infrastructure, like roads and power, is as bad here as in Gaya.
Weaving is the major economic activity of Manpur.
Resting in the heart of Manpur is a locality called Patwatoli. The 900-strong Patwa community here earn their living by weaving cloth on hand operated handlooms. They run small units in their houses and manufacture bed sheets, towels, lungis and dhotis.
All members of a Patwa family work long hours in their looms for a living. Working hours extend from early dawn to the late evenings. Children spend more time in the looms than with their studies. In any case, the Patwas can ill afford to spend much on education. Many just about manage to send their children to nameless countryside Government run schools.
As is the case with many parts of Gaya district, Patwatoli is a breeding ground for Naxalites. Frustrated youth of Patwatoli are an easy target for the misguided militant movement. The simple and peace loving Patwa community, however, have resisted the influence of this ultra-left outfit for long. Elders manage to keep their wards focused on spinning the looms.
The elders looked at the unfolding developments in different parts of the country with a rising frustration. Government did not provide any support to the poor population of Manpur town. An insignificant engagement with studies kept some hope alive in the psyches of the Patwari youth. Some dreamt about breaking the shackles of poverty and a life tied to the looms in their dilapidated homes. They attempted to make forays into more promising careers which a college education made possible. One thing striking about a patwa-boy was his sharp intellect. Patwa-boys exhibited a high degree of concentration power. Years of weaving on the Charkha from early childhood helped them in acquiring a good concentration, a key requirement to excel in any endeavor especially academics.
In the early 1990s, some enterprising boys formed a study-group to motivate one another. They shared books and travelled to nearby Gaya Town to give tuitions and earn some money to help finance their studies. They used this extra income for buying books, study materials, not to forget mentioning, kerosene for their lamps required for their late night studies. Some persisted long enough beyond the boundaries of their dilapidated school buildings and kept hopes of pursuing higher education alive.
They worked hard and continued to dream of a brighter dawn some day. Few succeeded to make progress and landed clerical jobs in the Government, banks and Insurance sectors. None achieved the impossible anytime – go for higher education in engineering or medicine.
It was April 1991… menacing hot winds swept across the ancient towns of Gaya and Manpur.
A chappal-wearing Patwa-boy, in an old pant and shirt, walked his way from Patwatoli to downtown Gaya. He came to appear for the IIT-JEE examination.
The teenager never disclosed his “adventure” to anyone back home. He was a shy boy, and did not want to become an object of ridicule for others in his community for dreaming the impossible.
Months before he travelled to write the daunting IIT-JEE examinations, he toiled hard with his studies without any guidance from any quaters. Many evenings found him in the premises of Durgasthan (abode of Goddess Durga). There he sat for hours in a corner with his torn books and a few sheets of paper. The temple priest observed the determination in the boy with admiration and, being a kind person, often invited him to study in his quieter room situated within the temple precints.
Born in a devout Hindu Patwa family, the lad knew all about God’s just laws; he never blamed anyone for his dire straits. His illiterate but wise mother often told him: “Son, one form of an answered- prayer is to work persistently towards a goal. God’s laws are just; but He is also a compassionate Lord. He never punishes or rewards anyone – one is a victim of his own karmic effects. As the LORD loves all equally, HE has endowed each person with HIS divine will power. This divine gift is enough to counter all negative cosmic influences and come out successfully from any situation.”
Every individual, therefore, got some sort of a level playing field. This wisdom took deep roots in his consciousness and developed in him an immeasurable faith in cosmic mother. He kept on undaunted with his studies till the day of reckoning arrived.
The boy’s name was Jitendra Prasad and he came from a poor weaver’s family of Patwatoli.
Jitendra’s unusually bright face beamed with confidence as he took his seat in the large hall with many other IIT aspirants. Despite limited access to books and IIT coaching material, he brimmed with confidence. Endowed with a keen intellect, he knew his strengths and concentration powers. “Given half a chance, I can beat the best student in the country.” He muttered often in the privacy of his thoughtsd.
Did he get a level playing field here? The answer was a resounding NO, in as far as practical aspects, like coaching and study materials required for preparing for the IIT-JEE was concerned.
The papers were tough and he came out a bit shaken on his confidence. He attempted only 60% of the questions in Maths and this made him discouraged as this was his strongest subject. He wondered with growing uncertainty: “ I have not done well in Physics and Chemistry.” He was not sure where he stood in relation to other aspirants in the examination.
He mentally reconciled to his situation in life. God, he mused, must have written his fate in stone. He would be spending his life just like his father and uncles – in the dusty haunts of Patwatoli, spinning on his old handloom.
His hard work did not go unnoticed in the heavens. The planets were asked by the Lord himself not to interfere anymore. Negative vibratory influences of the planet having been neutralized to some extent, events unfolded positively for Jitendra.
The results of IIT-JEE were declared in May 1991. For the first time in its history, he list of successful aspirants included someone as challenged in life as Jitendra. Jitendra became the first boy from such a disadvantaged background to crack the toughest test on the planet. Patwatoli residents huddled together in shock. Was it the turning point in their community, they wondered with sheer disbelief?
Unknown to any, Jitendra toiled through many nights under a flickering Kerosene lantern. His room, of course, did not have a fan. For 18 years since he was born, he braved through the menacing summer months of Manpur-Gaya belt when temperatures cross the awful 40 °C mark.
But as they say “WHEN THE LORD IS WITH YOU… WHAT CAN STOP YOU?” – not even the planets and the stars unfolding karma induced events on one’s life.
Jitendra Prasad went on to study in the IIT.
Did he forget his roots? Not a bit. A sensitive person, he felt acutely for the boys in his neighborhood.
He motivated other boys when he came home for holidays from his college. He coached those who showed interest. It was a tough project for Jitendra and he often felt discouraged to see the desolation in the faces of the youth of Patwatoli. During the years 1991-96, not one made it to the IIT.
“Was my success a chance occurrence?” Jitendra often wondered. Many his attributed his success to some celestial intervention whose reason was known to the Gods alone.
Jitendra, however, never gave up on his mission to help others in his village. Whenever he got a chance, he assemble a few students in Durgasthan and taught them stuff normally known only to the experienced teachers in IIT coaching institutes in the cities. He collected study materials from his rich classmates in IIT and started a small library for the poor boys. A few study centers were opened where the boys gathered for joint studies. He persisted in his mission despite 0% success for 5 years in succession. Jitendra was a man obsessed and was committed to the job of helping others in his locality.
Finally, Gods intervened –Jitendra’s goodness of heart and sincerity in reaching out to others knocked at the doors of the heavens.
The summer of 1997 descended on Manpur one more time. Unbearable heat and poverty stared at the residents of Patwatoli.
Jitendra arrived at Patwatoli on a last visit to his home. Very soon, he would be flying to the USA. Price Water House offered him a job in their New Jersey office. His journey in the corporate world commenced on a good note.
The sensitive young man was in a pensive mood. He appeared sad at the prospect of going away to a distant land, leaving behind his poor family to carry on with their lives of poverty and darkness. The plight of the poor families of Patwatoli haunted him. Despite his sustained efforts, no one succeeded in qualifying for the IIT since the time he accomplished the impossible 6 years ago.
A hot summer descended on the impoverished hamlet of Patwatoli. Jitendra, as was his wont, engaged the poor boys one more time with his favorite topic: studies and IIT. He exhorted them to keep on even after he left. He again forwarded his own case as an example for others to emulate. All the boys sat spellbound, held together in fellowship by the sheer sincerity and pulsating power emanating from Jitendra.
Just as the dusk entered the dusty bylanes of the locality, and the afternoon’s hot winds subsided in fury, one boy came running towards the spot where Jitendra and his group of admirers sat in animated discussion in a simple expression of friendship.. The boy carried some important news, it seemed, but his uncontrolled excitement prevented him from speaking coherently. When his words finally came out from his trembling limbs, no one believed him. He flipped out a sheet of printed paper – this was a copy of the published results of IIT-JEE 1997. It could not be dismissed as a fancy of a dreaming lad.
Jitendra Prasad’s persistence in motivating and coaching the boys of Patwatoli yielded amazing results at last. Six years after he achieved the impossible himself, and just when he was spending the last days in his village and bidding tearful farewell to his poor family and scores of friends and admirers before leaving for the USA, good news finally reverberated in all the dusty lanes and by lanes of Patwatoli.
A miracle of the most inexplicable kind stunned everyone- 13 boys from Patwatoli had cracked the IIT-JEE.
Celeberations erupted in the evening in Patwatoli. The boys lifted Jitendra on their shoulders and took him in procession to Durgasthan for a resounding thanks giving to Divine Mother Durga. Poor residents of Patwatoli gathered Jitendra and his winning team and showered them with flower petals. Sweets were distributed to all the households in a simple expression of joy and triumph.
It is said that when the LORD gives, HE is more than generous. This time around, He gave in abundance. It clearly appeared to be the climax of a dream-script written in the heavens by the Gods themselves.
Jitendra succeeding in winning the battle for his village.
He was now ready to travel to the USA in peace. He was supremely satisfied – he gifted something invaluable to Patwatoli, his childhood home and setting for his own stupendous struggles in life.
PS: After the 1997 earthshaking success, the trend continues unabated for Patwatoli boys. Every year, since the fateful day of May 1997, a few poor Patwa boys find a place in the list of successful candidates for the IIT. Many more go to other prestigious colleges in the country. While no one has kept a count of IITians from Patwatoli, the numbers vary from 58 to a little over 100 between 1997 and 2011. While there is some cloud around this cumulative numbers going the rounds, there is no controversy on this fact- Patwatoli has the highest density of IITians in the country.
Patwatoli is now hailed as the village of Engineers and better known for its boys successes in the IIT-JEE than for its famous handloom industry.
The dream IIT-JEE run, which started in 1991 when a poor braveheart converted an impossible dream into reality, continues unabated year after year for the poor lads of Patwatoli.
Latest news published in Time of India after the IIT JEE 2012 results were declared:
IIT-JEE 2012 results: 13 Patwatoli boys from Gaya crack the examination
Abdul Qadir, TNN May 19, 2012, 04.03AM IST
GAYA: With 13 of its boys coming out successful in this year’s IIT-JEE, an all-time high figure, the demand to rename Patwatoli, the once nondescript virtual slum on the northeastern skirts of the Gaya Municipal Corporation (GMC) area, as Abhiyanta Vihar has got louder.The boys, who cracked the examination, the results of which were released on Friday morning, are: Binod Kumar, Khemchand Prasad, Shiv Kumar, Sheo Nath Prasad, Amit Kumar, Ranjeet Kumar, Aniket Kumar, Dipak Kumar, Shashi Kumar, Nirbhay Kumar, Sujit Kumar, Rahul Raj and Gopichand. Binod Kumar, ranked 189 in the OBC category, tops in the Patwatoli roll of honours this year.