IIM-Calcutta student rejects plum jobs to educate villagers
KOLKATA: The beaten track is not for everyone and that is why the world is still worth living in.
The story of Puja Mishra, who will receive her MBA degree from IIM-Calcutta on Monday, is a case in point. She has chucked IIM-C placements so that she can live and work in a remote village to educate children and see them through graduation. But this is not the first time that Puja has cold-shouldered a plum job. She had earlier given up an Infosys job in Chicago to study at the management college.
Puja schooled and graduated in computer science engineering from Lucknow. She then bagged a job on Infosys’ Bangalore campus. After working for a year there, she was sent to the US by her company where she met her husband, Shashank Shukla, who had to drop out of NDA after an injury.
It was a coincidence that Infosys offered her a green card at almost the same time as she got her admission at IIM-C through the GMAT and interviews. “I always dreamt of teaching village kids. My forefathers are from Rae Bareilly and thus I have seen village life for close quarters. Students travel at least 35 km to reach colleges. The girl child is the worst affected. My father would always tell me that I was lucky to be where I am and that my education would be useless if I did not do anything for village students,” Puja shyly said from Lucknow, where she was holidaying with her parents. She would be in the city on Monday to accept her degree at the IIM-C convocation.
With the earnings that the duo had set apart while they worked in the US, they have started Gurukul Mahavidyala, a degree college, in a remote village called Purasi in the Rae Bareilly district. The land on which the college stands belongs to Puja’s father RD Mishra, a prominent lawyer from the Lucknow high court. While Puja studied at IIMC, her husband did the ground work to set up the college. Puja wanted a management degree so that she could utilize her training in running the college.
In the course of setting up the college, the couple realized that it was not enough to just have a college without a school attached because the students they were getting were extremely weak academically. “So we have just started Gurukul Public School, an English-medium school. As of now, it has till Class VIII but we will extend it up to the Plus two level. Proposals have been sent to the UP government and we will soon get the approvals. Also, as of now, only pass courses in English, History, Political Science, Sanskrit, Sociology and Economics are being taught in our college. However, we will work towards upgrading them to honours,” Puja said.
Looking at the zeal of these two indefatigable youngsters, the UP government has helped by extending free studentships for those unable to pay tuition fees. The teachers are paid from a corpus that the duo has intelligently created partly from their savings and partly from a huge loan that they have taken for the purpose. “People often say that we are mad for taking our careers so lightly. But this is our call in life and we don’t mind the risk. As far as uncertainty is concerned, nothing in life is certain!” Puja said bravely.
Puja’s IIM-C teachers are thrilled at her decision. “About a decade ago, we had a similar student called Vinayak Lohani who did not wish to be placed and started a school for street children. Now we have Puja. We are proud to have a student like her. In fact, we are trying to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship in our students. But Puja is unique, she is not only an entrepreneur but a leader in her own right,” said Prashant Mishra, IIM-C’s chairperson for the postgraduate programmes.
Interestingly, as Puja returns to UP after collecting her degree, her husband will now take a break and go to Harvard Kennedy School in the US for a Master’s degree in Public Administration.