While stories of a newspaper delivery boy and a tea vending boy, walking up to head the biggest democracy of the world, have inspired many, only few have really tried to walk similar roads in their life. But what happens to a child, who never gets to read such stories, because he is not literate enough?
Born in a middle class family in Chhindwara (MP) with 2 younger siblings, this boy heard the word ‘Death’ for the first time in his life, when he lost his mother to an overdose of medicines. But the rebel in him wanted to escape from the clutches of poverty, illiteracy, and dependency. So when he heard and understood the word ‘azaadi’, he walked up to his dad and asked permission to change his surname to ‘Aazad’. But freedom did not come to him easily. Financial and food crisis drove him to stealing chapatis from neighborhood, and even eating food touched by rats and cats. With an ill younger brother, and no money to support his medications, Aazad sold off his kitchen utensils, and bought a stove. Determined to fight his fate, he put up a tea stall outside his school. Selling tea in the morning and evening, and attending the day school, he started supporting his education and his dad as well, to run the family. Although he did not score well, but his dedication earned the respect and love of his teachers and principal.
Cricket being his favorite game, he organized a cricket tournament when in Std 7th. But for the concluding ceremony, his search for portraits of 2 young freedom fighters opened his eyes. In the midst of people’s callousness, he found 2 photographs of Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. His quest to know more about them, led him to understand the true meaning of freedom, not realizing the impact it would make on his life later.
After schooling, with an additional support through tuition, he completed his Bachelor in Arts. Quest for greener pastures brought Aazad to the state’s capital Bhopal, where he found himself lost in the crowd of unemployed graduates. Sleeping on railway platforms, eating at road-side eateries, working as a conductor in mini buses, as a doorstep salesman, he tasted the plight of thousands like him, who migrate to cities dreaming of a bright future. One morning after finishing his poha jalebi, a classified popped up from the paper underneath- “Need a Hindi Proof Reader”. Jumping to the occasion he grabbed the job at a meager salary of Rs 1600/- per month. To get a roof on his head, he took a job as a night watchman too @Rs 900/- per month.
With a job in hand, a roof on his head, living out of a bag, and with some money to fill his belly, Aazad’s next journey began. In the next few years, he completed his MA in Hindi Literature and B.Ed, topping the University, and cleared UGC NET twice. His qualifications and accomplishments got him a job at a Girls College where he was offered a dream salary of Rs 32000/-, almost 13 times his current salary. Managing his living expenses including rental most optimally, he sent a major amount of the salary to his father every month, to bring their family out of penury.
Moved by the death of a student’s mother due to Gas Tragedy, and with glimpses of his past peeping, he decided to write a book and make a documentary on the tragedy. A new upcoming school in Bhopal spotted this talent, and decided to hire him with a raise. Working with a premier school in Bhopal, he did lots of street plays with the students, and also wrote a book on the gas tragedy. For a month, he studied and researched about how to make documentaries by watching more than 1000 award winning short films and documentaries. His short film on the tragedy was made on a shoestring budget of 1 lakh, which his students and other people raised through small contributions. A fast uprising journalist in Bhopal covered his story, which caught the eyes of an NRI, who presented it at the Swiss Radio. Aazad’s short film won many national level awards.
His research on documentaries prompted him to pursue his doctoral research on Ghalib. But on the final day of his synopsis presentation, he met a man who told him about the lack of research on Subhash Chandra Bose. Recalling his cricket tournament days, he realized its importance, and decided to do so. Despite his friends opposing his decision, he completed his PHD on Subhash Chandra Bose. With this qualification Aazad came to be known as Dr Sudhir Aazad.
In the meantime, on behalf his school, he went with the students to perform a Hindi play at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Here among the audience was one of his favorite cricketer’s wife, who offered him a job at an International School in Delhi. While working with the school, Sudhir made a short film ‘Ore Bachpan’ which was released in presence of eminent Indian cricketers like Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman.
Here again among the audience was the CEO of an internation School in Dubai, who offered him a job there. Dr Sudhir Aazad flew off to Dubai, where he directed and presented ‘Ramleela’.
The road in life traversed by a boy, from stealing roadside food to flying off to such great heights, is not a rags to riches story, but speaks of the passion and determination of a child whose dreams made it really BIG.
Narrating his journey, Sudhir says: “I was never smart, never talented. But the hidden writer and poet in me, never allowed me to stop and get disheartened. Knowing my strength and passion as a writer gave me immense confidence. I never compromised with the situation and was not afraid to take risks. I learnt not to wait, but keep moving”.
“God has given each of us a specialty, we just need to find it. Never lose hope. If you have your elders’ blessings, roads will clear themselves, just for you to move ahead”, Sudhir said.
His 2-line verse summed it up all:
“Ye mera Azm, mera hosla nahi badla
Ye aur baat hai ki, naseeb ka likha hua nahi badla
Main wahi se guzra, jahan se nahi guzarna tha
Maine kisike darr se, apna raasta nahi badla”.
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