INDORE: Indore's Deepak Prajapati, a labourer's son who was tagged 'extremely poor in studies' at age 7, has scored 99.93 percentile in his very first attempt in the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) mains round-one.
Fuelled by fierce determination ever since he was dismissed by his teachers in class 2 as a no-hoper, and backed by a family that flinched at nothing in helping him chase his dreams, Deepak's inspiring success is as much about self-belief as the faith his family has in him.
"There's another secret to my success," he chuckles. "No social media."
His family had borrowed money to buy him a smartphone for online studies during the Covid pandemic. "Smartphone was a luxury for us. But my parents arranged the money from my uncle and the phone played a pivotal role in my preparations," Deepak told TOI, happy that his younger brother is inspired to follow in his footsteps.
Deepak's father, Ram Ekbal Prajapati, works as a welder but doesn't have steady work and does odd jobs to make a living.
Prajapati failed his class 10 exams but realized the importance of education. So, he moved with his family from a small village in Dewas to the district headquarters when Deepak was seven, and enrolled him in class 2 in a government school.
His teachers initially wrote him off as "extremely poor in studies". "We had just shifted from a remote village and I didn't even know the basics. I started working very hard in class and by the time I reached class 5, I was good at studies," the 18-year-old told TOI. He steadily improved and secured 96% in class 10. That brought him to the notice of government counsellors who showed him his career options.
"You can call my interest in mathematics 'extreme'. I am fascinated with the concept of engineering, so I promised myself that I would study computer science engineering at IIT-Kanpur," Deepak said. He told his parents that he wanted to move to Indore - MP's education hub - to prepare for JEE. There was no hesitation. They agreed.
"Humara aukaat toh nahi hai par bacche ko padhna tha, toh hum kuchh chota mota zevar bhi bech diye (We cannot afford his dream but he wanted to study, so we sold whatever little jewellery we had)," said his mother, Anita Devi, who is illiterate. The family lives in a rented room in Dewas, around 40km from Indore. When her sisters knew about this, they too pitched in what little they could from time to time. "It was a very difficult time, financially. But we did everything we could," Anita said. Deepak shifted to Indore last year, in the middle of his class 12th, and secured 92.6% in the state board - the first in his family to pass high school.
During the pandemic, as classes shifted online, he was left with no choice but to request his parents for a smartphone. "It was crucial," said Deepak. He clocked 13-14 hours a day in preparing for the intensely competitive JEE. "And I still stay away from all forms of social media," he said. "When I feel I need a break, I play badminton or football." Consistency is the key to success. A combination of hard work and smart work is necessary to achieve any goal," said the young achiever.