18-year-old Rahul is a resident of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, and a 1st  year B.Sc. student. He started working at a Gutka shop when he was 13. Very cheerfully and proudly he says that his monthly income back then was Rs 16. In these five years, he has grown this small enterprise to a big shop with a tea stall, while continuing to study at the same time. What he missed most during those years was playing and catching up with friends, he says.

He has been earning his own living since Std VI, but he says that the best part of his life is the support that he receives from his parents and four elder siblings. Village life seems pretty good, he says, but things would have been better if more facilities were available nearby. There is one government school in the village which is only up to Std VIII, a private school, as well as a coaching centre, whose fees he cannot afford.

After Std VIII he had to shift to another government school for which he had to travel 5-7 kms everyday. Now in college, he travels 17-18 km daily. But despite the distance, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to attend college. He feels that it is the only way to get exposure to the world outside and figure out what he wants to do with his life. He is a member of NSS in his college and is also preparing for SSC exams on his own. He looks forward to joining the army some day.

By Sumukhi Vaid

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