The distance between an IIT campus and the house of a young boy or girl who could one day walk through its gate is, of course, not to be measured in terms of mere Newtonian space. More than the physical miles, there’s the psychological distance, the social distance. Think of all the things you don’t have because of penury, and convert those into miles. They might as well be different planets. It takes years of willpower to make that crossing—passion on a slow, sustained boil.
I think of Anup Raaj, a 2008-batch student. His mother did not even have slippers when she brought him here. She told me about an evening when he was crying incessantly because of hunger. There was no food at home. “I will get some rice on credit from the local bania. Let him at least have rice with gruel and salt,” were the parting words of her father. She put water into a vessel to boil as he left. He never returned. Never! Years later, she was outside my classroom to get her son enrolled.