COVID-19 Pandemic And a Ranchi Tutor’s Shattered IAS Dream

Ajay is fighting to support his family of six. But what about his childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer?

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My Report
5 min read
Ajay is fighting to support his family of six and his childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer.
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It has been over six months since the coronavirus pandemic hit India. Not only lives, many dreams have also suffered because of it.

Ajay Kumar Sinha is one such dreamer from Ranchi, Jharkhand, who is fighting to support his family of six along with his childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer.

A bright student since his school days, Ajay couldn’t afford private schooling. He used to skip classes to help his father, a carpenter, at work. To save money, he had to take admission in a below-average government college. Alongside his Bachelors’ degree, the 28-year-old somehow managed to get help from a teacher who agreed to coach him for the civil services exam, free of cost.

Ajay Kumar, 28, manages time between his coaching classes to prepare for the civil services exam.
Ajay Kumar, 28, manages time between his coaching classes to prepare for the civil services exam.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

While Ajay juggled coaching and college, his father began to rely on him for financial support. He wanted his eldest son to quit his studies and get a full-time job.

Ajay remembering the day when he was felicitated for scoring good marks.
Ajay remembering the day when he was felicitated for scoring good marks.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

With no technical degree, finding an appropriate job was next to impossible, so Ajay settled for the job of a salesperson.

Ajay catches up on current affairs for his IAS preparation.
Ajay catches up on current affairs for his IAS preparation.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)
Ajay’s worried reflection while his mother works in the kitchen.
Ajay’s worried reflection while his mother works in the kitchen.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

A part-time job alongside college put his IAS preparation on the back burner yet again.

A Phone Call that Changed Ajay’s Life

In 2013, when Ajay’s teacher proposed he take few classes on his behalf due to an illness, things changed for the better. Ajay had figured out a way to support his family financially and continue his IAS preparation as well. The very next day, he quit his salesperson job.

After some convincing, he started teaching Accounts to a batch of 4 students in Class 11 permanently. When Ajay graduated college in 2013, there was more to celebrate as his four students performed extremely well in their exams.

Ajay with his batch of students on the occasion of Teacher’s Day 2017.
Ajay with his batch of students on the occasion of Teacher’s Day 2017.
(Photo Courtesy: Ajay Sinha via Nirmal Poddar)

By 2015, Ajay’s batch size increased to 300 students. In another two years, this number again increased. Ajay had also earned a Masters to become a well-known teacher at VK Coaching for Accounts and Maths. He took over most of the responsibilities from his coach.

He was able to comfortably support his family from his earnings, from building a house to getting his own vehicle. While one goal had been realised, Ajay had lost his way with his second goal ie his IAS preparation

Meanwhile, another responsibility awaited Ajay – his sister’s marriage in November 2019, which cost him his entire savings and put him in debt.

Suman visiting her parents and brother for the first time after her wedding.
Suman visiting her parents and brother for the first time after her wedding.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

Coronavirus Lockdown: A Blessing in Disguise?

Ajay had thought that he would pay back his debts soon. Four months after Suman’s marriage, in March 2020, Ajay was planning to join a coaching centre to prepare for civil services when the lockdown was imposed.

“It all started as a small family vacation but as the lockdown kept increasing it soon turned out to be a nightmare for all of us.”
Ajay Kumar

With all the savings gone, it was also difficult to pay the rent of the coaching centre that he now was in charge of. His students were reluctant to return to classes.

Ajay’s mother worries about her family’s pressures.
Ajay’s mother worries about her family’s pressures.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

Ajay’s father sensed the trauma and came up with an idea. He made a few tables and benches and turned his abandoned workshop-cum-parking space into a coaching centre. This new setting was a ray of light as it was almost time for ‘Unlock 1’.

(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)
Ajay’s father turned his workshop into a coaching class.

Unfortunately, his students weren’t comfortable enough to attend classes just yet. As a last resort, Ajay began taking online classes.

Ajay borrowed a tripod stand to start with online classes.
Ajay borrowed a tripod stand to start with online classes.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

Still, many of his students could not take classes as they belonged to middle and lower-middle-class families and did not have smartphones. Moreover, students could not pay tuition fees either, as the pandemic had hit families financially. Yet, Ajay continued.

“I don’t want any of my students to feel constrained because of money, which I used to feel in my days. I decided not to force them for the fees in this pandemic situation.”
Ajay Kumar

Towards New Normal (and Back to Square One)

With Phase 4 Unlock guidelines in place, students who could not attend online classes have started coming back to the new coaching centre. Ajay has started with 4 students in a batch again, just like old times.

Ajay’s coaching class started with a batch of 4 students after lockdown.
Ajay’s coaching class started with a batch of 4 students after lockdown.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

As the days passed, numbers have increased to 15-20 students per batch.

Ajay monitoring students individually and attending to their doubts.
Ajay monitoring students individually and attending to their doubts.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

Ajay and his family have to take all COVID-19 related precautions for the students, like wearing masks, sanitising, and maintaining social distancing.

Students sanitising themselves before starting class.
Students sanitising themselves before starting class.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)
Students are provided  fresh masks at the entrance.
Students are provided fresh masks at the entrance.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

As Ajay, his family and students cope with the new normal, what about his biggest dream? Would Ajay ever be able to become an IAS officer?

Ajay’s dream of being an IAS officer depends on his coaching classes.
Ajay’s dream of being an IAS officer depends on his coaching classes.
(Photo Courtesy: Nirmal Poddar)

With plans halted and entire world struck by the pandemic, he too is back to square one, piecing together his dream from scratch. I wonder how many more Ajays are out there. It is difficult to imagine their struggle.

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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