In 1947, the departure of the British Empire created three countries: Pakistan and two Indias. One India lives in its cities, the other lives in its villages.
Close to 500,000 people call the city of Akola their home, making it one of the biggest cities in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Only 33 kilometers separate Akola and a tiny village known for just one thing: its dam. You would have better luck finding Elvis alive than finding more information about this village, called Chondi Dam Village, on the Internet.
In this village, near this dam, in a mud hut, survived Milind Gudade with his parents and seven siblings. The dam provided this family’s livelihood.
Milind’s father worked as a laborer — a euphemism for a person who works long hours for any kind of given work, but doesn’t get enough money to survive. He received $40 a month from the village’s irrigation department.
Just as the dam stopped the water, this village stopped knowledge.
There, Milind grew, isolated from knowledge. Just as the dam stopped the water, this village stopped knowledge. Milind did not need a bookshelf, for he did not have any books. He did not go out of the village, for there were no roads or modes of transportation. The other India trapped him.
Still, Milind pushed himself to complete the elementary school, wearing the same school uniform and a rubber flip-flop. The village offered schooling until the 7th grade. After that, Milind’s parents found him a boarding school. A government boarding school.
In contrast with the lush green lawns, sharply dressed students, and the tall towers of education in the private boarding schools, the government offered only the basic. Kids of wealthy parents in India’s fanciest boarding schools spoke fluent english with neutralized accents. In Milind’s school, although the curriculum was in english, the teachers themselves had not learned the language.
A teacher punished Milind for struggling in this school. This punishment pushed Milind forward. As if water had broken through the dam. Milind resolved to never face punishment and to free himself of ignorance. The school principal woke the kids up at 5AM. Milind cemented this habit. Tired or not, he woke up early, finished his homework, and studied.
Just like a powerful stream of water, Milind gained momentum and pushed away the obstacles. He made a case to the local administrators, requesting admission to a different, better school far away from home. The Indian government agreed and paid for his lodging and tuition. He found peace in learning and found a good, encouraging math teacher.
Just when he thought he was making progress, Milind now had to apply for high school.
For students In this India, a lack of guidance and knowledge meant fewer applications at good high schools, also known as junior colleges. A lack of money meant only a couple of applications. Milind scraped one.
This high school denied his application as he struggled to provide extra copies of the required paperwork. Sensing defeat, Milind pleaded to the administration, but he heard repeatedly, “No more available seats. The admission cycle is complete.”
Milind pushed forward.
He explained his situation to the principal at another high school. The principal, kind but firm, gave the same answer: “No more available seats. The admission cycle is complete.”
Milind rejected the denials and fought for a chance. The principal, moved by Milind’s persistence, asked for Milind’s school math scores and told him to come back in a couple of days.
Milind breached his way into a junior college. He learned that trying until he destroyed life’s obstacles he would not succeed. While the other kids, the wealthy kids of the other India, had parents who would skip work to meet their needs, received expensive tutoring to lift their scores, and even received motorcycles to save time on their daily commutes, life gave only challenges to Millind.
He stayed with a relative to save on the boarding costs, but this cost him his grades. The distance from his family distracted him. The principal warned Milind about his weaknesses in science and advised him to instead take up commerce. Milind rejected this suggestion, refusing the field traditionally mocked for lower-achieving students. He replied, “I will not stop studying science and I will show you my good grades.”
Milind requested money from his father. The only goal now was to get better grades.
He studied. He practiced. He succeeded.
Although he was in the top 10 percent of his graduating high school class, he had failed to understand the full complexities of the admissions process and ended up in a lower-tier engineering college. When students and professors found out his high school grades, they asked him, “What are you doing here? You should be a in a better college.”
A professor guided Milind’s transfer to a better college to continue his engineering degree. There, in a big city, Milind saw for the first time a vast and deep ocean of knowledge. He jumped in. With only a few hundred of Rupee bills and no place to live, Milind stretched his hunger for more than two weeks, living just on bread.
He later secured lodging from the government, and finally, focused on his studies.
The college library loaned books only for a day, and Milind lacked the resources to buy the textbooks, so he found a way.
The college library loaned books only for a day, and Milind lacked the resources to buy the textbooks, so he found a way. He returned the books only after studying all the material. He and the librarian hardly exchanged pleasantries.
Years passed. Milind grew. He was about to graduate. Yet, he lacked any knowledge of what to do next. He liked the idea of getting trained in computer programming. He had just started the training when he learned that some other students were taking Japanese classes. He grasped both. Soon after, he learned about a company that took engineering graduates to Japan. For the first time in his life, he scored an advantage — the bit of Japanese had learned helped him secure one of just 20 available spots.
He had to master Japanese fast. For three months, he practiced as much as he could and rushed off to Japan.
Water finally met the ocean where it could move freely and expand. Without affirmative action and the Indian government policies, he would have remain restrained.
Water finally met the ocean where it could move freely and expand.
After many years of a successful career in Japan, something began bother him: life was too comfortable. He had left all his struggles in the village.
Now. He had to help others.
First, he started a school in his village, near the dam. He saw himself in the village children who spent time catching fish and playing in the water. His school would never turn these children away. They would be invited them inside the classroom.
Second, he trained the other older children, those working in menial jobs, to become teachers. They first taught at Milind’s school and later found full-time jobs at other schools.
Now, he wants to create employment opportunities for others, for all of those who still struggle in that other India. He left his job of ten years to start his own business. Life in the other India only presents challenges. Milind turned them to strengths: the force and determination of a strong current. He started a recruiting firm that uncovers talent for Japanese firms. This business recently won a contest, gaining more opportunity for social good for people in need. “Success means to help and see others succeed,” Milind said.
For them, Milind continues to push obstacles away.