How A Slum Dweller Rose To Positions Of National Importance Will Give You Chills

Every child has a million dreams while growing up and this includes their career choices, too. The list keeps on revising as the kid learns and grows more and more. Such is the case of our subject for today who left behind a tough life of slums and became one of the most respected persons of the country.

Eight-year-old Narendra Jadhav was born in the slums of Wadala, Mumbai and had a clear vision of becoming a gangster in future. Such a thought was obvious growing up in such an atmosphere where hardly anyone considered education as life changing. But thankfully, as Narendra grew up his dreams changed. Now, he was attending a municipality school and had his eyes set on another attractive career option.

During secondary school his ambitions changed overnight. He now ardently wanted to become a peon. He explains, “I grew up at a time when life was uncertain. I wanted a steady job that nobody could take away from me and a peon’s job sounded ideal.” After sticking with his new-found ambition his liking shifted once again. He now aimed to be a teacher, and by the time he was 13, he wanted to become a writer. Listening to this, his horrified brother warned him, “You would starve.”

Jadhav’s father was a person with clear instinct. His own meticulous life had thought him to be open for all thoughts and opportunities. And so, when Narendra was nurturing his being a writer, his father advocated him by saying, “Don’t listen to what others tell you to become. They may tell you to become a doctor, barrister, or engineer. But follow your inner voice and do what you want. I really don’t care what you choose for yourself, as long as you’re at the top, wherever you are. Don’t ever be mediocre. Even if you’re a thief, make sure you’re an internationally acclaimed one.’’ His semi-literate father served to be a dalit worker with the Bombay Port Trust.

The motivation fell right in place and Narendra topped in Sanskrit in his SSC exam. He then passed BSc in Statistics and Economics with distinction from Ruia College, Mumbai. After this he opted for MA in Economics from Mumbai University and got a job of as a probationary officer with the State Bank of India after passing his first year. This was an added income for his cash-strapped family and also a learning experience for him but he did not take it up.

Choosing the offer meant he had to balance between his studies and the full-time job. “My brother thought this was a bad idea. He was convinced that my scores would dip and that I could not have my cake and eat it too,’’ said Jadhav. It had now become Jadhav’s habit to prove people wrong so he proved his brother wrong by standing a first in Economics – something which was done for the first time by a dalit student.

Working with the bank for three continuous years made him travel to different parts of Maharashtra. He then joined the Reserve Bank of India where he was the youngest researcher at the age of 24. His greed to study was not yet fulfilled. And so, on a government of India scholarship, he headed for the University of Indiana, where he received a Ph.D. in Public Finance. His habit of being outstanding with his performance continued and he was awarded the Best International Student and the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Economic Theory. The switch from Marathi to English was hard for him but he never used his background as an excuse for incompetence.

It was apparent to all the students that they would not return to India after finishing their degree. Classmates of Jadhav were shocked when they found out that he was returning back to India after getting the degree. Jadhav had a response to this, “I believe there can be no substitute for your motherland. My commitment to my own people was so strong that I would not been happy anywhere else.”

When Jadhav returned home, it became hard for his mother to understand why was her son working so much even after getting a Ph.D. degree. Again here, Jadhav’s father took a step in and explained to his son that whatever he has got now is only key to the door. It’s the license that has permitted Jadhav to drive ahead. “Here was one illiterate person explaining the value of PhD to another illiterate person. And he couldn’t have put it better,’’ says his son.

Jadhav’s father was the best motivation he ever had. When Jadhav was studying for his degree in Indiana, his father fell critically ill and Jadhav had to come to India to meet him. Jadhav’s father rebuked, “Don’t waste your time in the middle of your studies. Come back when you’ve finished your degree. I won’t die until then.’’ Keeping his words, he died when Jadhav returned back as Dr Narendra Jadhav.

Today, he is nominated as a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and is a distinguished professor. A person who started off with slums has reached the position of utmost respect in the country through immense grit and perseverance.

A lot more that covers the list of what Jadhav has done:

  • Chief Economist, Reserve Bank of India.
  • Vice Chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University (2006)
  • Member, Planning Commission (For 12th Five Year Plan)
  • Member, National Advisory Council (Contributed in implementing the Right to Education Act, 2009)
  • Public Policy Expert (Has authored 31 Official Reports of Public Policy Issues)
  • Prolific writer in English, Hindi and Marathi (37 Books & 300 Research Papers and Articles)
  • Distinguished Professor (Council for Social Development)
  • Outstanding Public Speaker

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