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The saga of Raj Kishore Pandey!

India today is a land of choices and help.

The story of Dr. Raj Kishore Pandey is important because it explodes two persistent myths about Indian society:

... one, that it is a caste based matrix of hereditary rights and privileges, and

... two, that it is made of income based layers, meaning that the haves and the have-nots, stay apart , with the former  unconcerned about the latter.

Raj Kishore Pandey, as many can infer from his last name, is a Brahmin, that seemingly 'born-to-lord' caste, to whom all doors of education should have opened. They didn't.

And, he was born in an impoverished family that couldn't afford to send him to college, let alone fund him for post-graduate studies. Yet, he's a PhD today.

In India too.

You may say: 'oh, come on! ... it happens all the time in the West!'

But the point is, it happens in India too!

Raj Kishore, now 44, was born in Tiwaripur, UP. His was a poor, conservative family given to centuries-old ways. He was married off at age 10! Such 'illegal' practices may still occur in the dimly-lit rural lands of India. Except that, more and more emerge into another India, lit with opportunities. They face whatever it takes to reinvent themselves.

Raj Kishore arrived in New Delhi in 1980. Aged 20, armed with a high school graduation certificate, he dreamed of becoming a clerk! That was not to be and he accepted a security guard's job in the campus of Delhi university.

He had a wife and four children, and an austere family life. A life-long devotion to Rama had the family recite the Ramayana every Tuesday and Saturday. And so life might have gone on, had not a new India presented him with choices.

The first step.

May be it was seeing the students stroll on the campus, maybe it was the urge to seek formal learning; Raj Kishore prepared himself for a 'shastri' degree, equivalent to a bachelor's from the Varanasi university. When he got it in 1985 and wanted to enroll for a master's course in Delhi, he hit the first road block: Delhi recognised only 3 year bachelor degrees, whereas Varanasi's was a 2 year one. Raj Kishore, then did a one year bridge course.

In 1988, he joined Delhi's Hans Raj College for a master's degree in Sanskrit. He scored 64% and by 1991 was ready for an M. Phil degree! And got it, scoring 74%

Raj Kishore Pandey now stood at the threshold of what for many academics, is the promised land, the land of doctorates.

The hitch was it was a full time day-course and Pandey with a family to support could scarcely afford the luxury of full time study. Help was at hand. Prof. Upendra Baxi, the vice-chancellor and Mr. Madan Mohan, the registrar, let Pandey take some leave, withdraw some money from his provident fund and also be put on the night shift so that he could pursue his studies during the day.

Help comes along.

Pandey's research guide was Prof. B M Chaturvedi who took his tenacious student under his wing and treated him like a son. Pandey is filled with gratitude and admiration for his guide, who was a scholar, author of several books, a man of integrity and old world charm.

Earlier this year, on Feb. 5th, Pandey's thesis, 'Comparative study of Adhyatma and Ananda Ramayana' was accepted. On Sep.16,2000 he received his doctorate from Vice Chancellor Deepak Nayyar, in the presence of the Chief Justice of India, J S Anand!

20 years since he came to Delhi! What a long trail and how diligently traveled! The story of Pandey is not unique but typical of today's India where people refuse to be stopped from going ahead by cynical whispers that the system is loaded in favour of the privileged. His story is also inspiring for the roles played by the likes of Baxi, Mohan, Chaturvedi and several little known Indians like them, who reach out to help their fellow men.

Pandey needs another helping hand that will give him a job, where he can employ his love and formal knowledge of the epics. He hopes to get a teaching position when a vacancy occurs in the university.

In the meantime the Pandey household goes on as before. All the four children are studying. No TV at home! But, readings from the Ramayana twice weekly!


Raj Kishore  Pandey
Barrack no 7/3
Near Meghdoot Hostel
University of Delhi
New Delhi-110007