College was so much fun... he could now smoke without worrying about his parents finding out. The lingering scent in his clothes would bother no one.. and there was no nosy villager around to carry tales! There were the Friday night booze parties that were so much fun.. and living with friends. Checking out the lovely girls, and bunking classes to go to the movies. College life was so much fun!
He studied hard during the study holidays though and made average marks. Soon the first year was over and he went home for his summer break. Only to be treated like royalty. His mom and grand mom waited hand and foot on him.
"This feels so good" he thought.
But Ranjit was not easily fooled, he had an inkling of what went on in college and he wanted to give Ajay an awakening.
"We are going to Chennai tomorrow" he told Ajay "Pack your bags".
"But why dad?" asked Ajay
"Your cousin is leaving to the US and I want us to go see him off"
At Chennai Ranjit went to his sister's place where her son Ramesh was packing up to go to the US. He was an IIT pass out and was going to the US to pursue his higher studies. Ajay was in awe. He asked Ramesh all about the exams he had to pass to do his higher studies in US. Ramesh offered him his books that he had used to prepare for the exams. Ranjit on the other hand was interested in the financials
"How are you paying for all this" he asked his sister.
"Oh he has got aid. Which means his fees is fully paid by the university. Apart from that if he gets a part time job, he will be able to support himself. I just have to pay for the tickets and the visa formalities. They are all arranged by an agent" She said.
Ranjit sighed a far away look in his eyes. Ajay smiled to himself .. his eyes twinkling with dreams of the future.
Later that day Ranjit took Ajay to his cousin's house. His cousin's son had done his engineering too .. but worked as a sales representative in a computer hardware sales firm. He had to go to houses everyday to sell computers.
"Take Ajay along with you today" Ranjit said. Ajay went with his cousin Prakash on his bike to sell computers. It was hard work and very frustrating. The door was banged on their face ever so often. And the heat was sweltering...Ranjit did not understand why Prakash would do this.. after all he was an engineer.
"Why don't you apply to some IT Company and take up a job there" he asked
Prakash answered "As if I want to do this. But who will give me a job?"
Ajay was bewildered "Why you are an engineer aren't you?"
Prakash "Yes but I barely made it through my engineering, and over the years I had many arrears. The major IT companies require a minimum of 70% to get in. They also require that we clear the exams without arrears"
Ajay was thoughtful and did not say much for the rest of the day. This was a rude awakening for him, he realized that this was where he was heading.
Back home he started getting organized and began to study the material given to him by Ramesh. Ramesh had also encouraged him to open an email account and send regular emails to him.
Through the next three years, Ajay was more cautious in his wayward ways and made sure that his studies were not affected by his partying and fun time with his friends!
At the end of the four years, he gave the entrance exams for doing his masters in the US and got through some good universities. But there was still the matter of paying for his travel.
This time though Ranjit was overjoyed and quickly arranged for the money for his visa, travel and initial months of stay. But he had to tell Ajay "Son, I know it is not easy to work and study at the same time. But I just can't send you any more money. Your grandmother's medical bills are so high nowadays that I just don't have money to spare"
Ajay replied "You don't worry dad, I will get a job like Ramesh. Ramesh's friend is in the same place and he said he will help me get a job"
He also said "I will finish my Masters fast and start paying back the loan quickly like Ramesh is doing"
Ranjit was overjoyed at his son's responsibility and drive. The trip to Chennai long ago had reaped its fruits and Ajay had turned over a new leaf since then. It was with tears of joy that Ranjit and Radha saw off their son Ajay as he embarked on a journey to new frontiers.
(to be continued ...)