Thounaojam Loyangamba Meitei was washing stone chips at a construction site when he found out that he had come fourth in Manipur’s class XII commerce stream examinations.
The part-time daily wage earner, who aspired to become a civil servant, was forced to take up work at an early age to help his family battle poverty.
At first, couldn’t quite believe his ears when his friend called him with the news.
“All that I wanted in the XIIth exams was to do better than my matriculation, when I scored 70.2 per cent,” Meitei told PTI over the phone.
Though he fell short of his target by a whisker— scoring 69.2 per cent marks—finding himself among the toppers was something he never expected.
Meitei scored 346 marks out of a total of 500 in the examinations conducted by the Council of Higher Secondary Education Manipur, the results for which were announced yesterday.
He was the sole student from a government institution— Churachand Higher Secondary School—to break the traditional grip of the Don Bosco school over the top five spots.
“It does feel good,” he responded calmly when asked about his achievement.
However, he is not celebrating yet.
Meitei wants to do his graduation in Commerce from Manipur’s premier DM College but wonders how far can he go as he “has to face reality”.
His father is a farm labourer and mother a housewife from Keibi Makha Leikai, nearly 20 kilometres away from state capital, Imphal.
Unlike teenagers of his age, Meitei is regularly working at construction sites. He picked up the shovel when he was studying in a high school, to supplement the family income.
“Our family condition was such that when I was in the IXth standard, I began going for daily work whenever I had free time from school,” he said.
He has also been teaching students from Class II to VIII.
“It starts at 5 in the morning and continues till about
7.30 am, after which either I go for work or my school,” he said.
While he teaches all subjects for lower class students, he focuses only on mathematics for those in the VIIIth class, a subject which is his favourite after Manipuri.
The income from what he calls “side work”, helped him to pay for his private tuition fees for Accounts and Mathematics -- the only subjects in which he felt the need for help.
In Manipur, parents consider private tuitions as a necessity for their children, considering the frequent shutdowns of schools for weeks due to unrest.
The third among four siblings, Meitei’s childhood dream was becoming a civil servant, but poverty is getting in his way.
“While I was growing up, I wanted to appear for the UPSC exam but now I am aware what sort of effort is needed for that and what my situation is,” Meitei said.
That thought, however, is not foremost in his mind at the moment, nor a get together with friends to celebrate his achievement.
“I have to be at the work site today on time,” Meitei said.