Mahabir Pun passed the entrance exam to study 11th and 12th grades at the most prestigious science college at that time, the Amrit Science College. Living in a rented room for 30 rupees/month (33 cents USD) he had no money for books or clothing. Most of his books were borrowed from the school library and he wore simple attire. In his own words: “I wore short pant, simple shoe and shirt all the time in Kathmandu. I had bought a woolen sweater for the winter to keep me warm. Many people used to tease me wearing short pant and shirts in the college. I did not listen them because I did not want to tell that I could not afford to do it. I was the only student in the college with short pant and shirt. That was why I still don’t care about what I wear even now. That was the way I grew up.”
He struggled in class because the science and math classes were taught in English. Imagine trying to study difficult courses such as physics, math and chemistry in a foreign language while lving in a strange large city without knowing anyone. His goal was to take the final exam and make the required passing grade of 60% in order to qualify for a scholarship through the Columbo Plan. More information on the plan can be found here. He wanted to study Engineering abroad but his total average on the final exam was a disappointing 53%. Although his father wanted him to continue his studies Mahabir knew he didn’t have the money and it would place a huge burden on the family.
Like he would do his entire life he made a difficult choice and put his studies on hold to return to Chitwan. He told me: “My dream to become an engineer was shattered. I did not want to be burden financially to my father. That was why I went to Chitwan and applied for a teaching job.” It was July 1973 and he was 19 years old. Packing a small sack he went home and took a teaching job for 225 rupees/month ($2.48 USD) so he could put his younger siblings through higher education.
Have you ever given up a dream or put your goals on hold? Share your comments with the readers and join me next week for chapter three which begins the story of Mahabir’s teaching years.