Sarwar, a resident of Vijay Nagar Chandbad, a dingy colony in old Bhopal city, has seen many hardships in life even though he is only 19 years old. His parents separated when he was just a year old – his father vanished for good and his mother remarried and moved on, thereby abandoning him. He was brought up by his nani (maternal grandmother) Zehrabi, now 75 years old and blind in one eye. Zehrabi, who has been receiving a widow’s pension from the state government for the last 25 years, still struggles to provide the family with two square meals a day.
About his childhood Sarwar remembers clearly that he couldn’t play like the other children of his age. To fund his education, he worked several jobs – everything from delivering newspapers to a working as a daily wages labourer in a local bottle-making factory. Sarwar says “I do not remember how I spent my early years in the care of my nani Zehrabi. But I certainly remember starting my working life very young. When I was young, I used miss playing with friends or celebrating festivals because of lack of money, but my friends, teachers and neighbours always helped me. My friends used to provide me stationery, my uncle provided me with clothing and my Math teacher Krishna Matanker has always been there to guide me. He taught me to always dream big and not give up on my education at any cost.”
Sarwar has always strived hard to be the best. He has won several prizes for painting, science models and singing. While studying in Twelfth grade, he wrote the Pre Engineering Test (PET) exams and secured a seat for Computer Engineering in the Bansal College of Engineering in Bhopal. However he could not come up with the Rs. 22.000 (about $565) first semester fee. He alsmost lost all hope of going to college when he learned about SOS Children’s Village Bhopal. Upon interviewing him, the Village director agreed to sponsor his fees for the undergraduate course. The fee was deposited on the last day of admission!
Now, his day begins at 4.30 a.m. every morning – when most of his friends are still in the comfortable lap of sleep, Sarwar distributes 250 newspapers by 7 a.m.. He then goes to College. Although his hopes have risen high, he still faces difficulties. “The newspaper distribution work disturbs my studies and sometimes I miss the college bus to reach in time for classes. I am hopeful that SOS Children’s Villages will help me further so that I am able to complete my studies without any trouble” he says.
Sarwar wanted a normal childhood – to be able to play cricket, watch movies, buy new clothes for festivals; but had to always quelch these desires. However, the lack of money has not deterred him from inching ahead in life. Sarwar is appreciative of the opportunity he has been given and wants SOS Children’s Villages to help other poor children like him so they too get the opportunities they deserve.