This is my friend Prabaka. Prabaka is a 17 year old boy from Manipur, India. Manipur is a small region that falls next to the Myanmari border. Prabaka speaks English, Kannada, Hindi, Manipuri, and a village language. He grew up in Manipur with his mother, uncle, grandmother, and younger brother Tomba. Prabaka’s family sells fish on the roadside. At the age of fourteen Prabaka, Tomba, and his uncle made the four day journey from Manipur to Bangalore over land. His uncle returned to Manipur after setting Prabaka and Tomba into a charity children’s hostel. There they received free food and housing. Prabaka and Tomba enrolled in Parikrma and received a free education. Prabaka mentioned that when he first arrived the shock of leaving behind his friends and loved ones was so great that he couldn’t eat for a month. The younger Tomba couldn’t handle the change and returned to Manipur. Prabaka understands the important sacrifices that people must make to build a better life, and stayed in Bangalore. Prabaka is basically without a family, living off of charities and raising himself on the streets. On might say he is an education seeking refugee. Who found refugue in New India
Prabaka dreams of working in a hotel. In India, one needs a Bachelors in Hospitality to get such a job. Prabaka is ambitiously working toward the goal of achieving top marks to earn a Parikrma university scholarship. Although Prabaka has these aspirations some of the staff believe that he may need a bit more time in school before he is ready for college.
Although Prabaka wants to live in Bangalore, he told me that he would respect wherever his mother asked him to lived. He also mentioned that he must support his family. The staff of Parikrma knows this and they are encouraging him to move into vocational training so that he can quickly turn his education into livelihood. Start earning and put his dreams on hold. That is a tough thing to ask of a bright eyed young man. That just illustrates how tough he has got it.
Prabaka is my private student for most of the day. My only assignment is to be a good role model. Needless to explain, he is learning Japanese. He can identify most of the Hiragana. He loves Japanese and he even looks up words on his own. He plays the real man’s sport Chess. Chess is an ancient India classic game that came to the West through the Silk Route. Prabaka looks up chess strategies in his spare time.I drew a chess board for us and we made makeshift pieces. Just because he is poor doesn’t mean he has to think poorly.
Prabaka is on the receiving end of a lot of my motivational speeches. I was lucky that my fraternity years gave me a bunch of great talking points for motivation and manhood. I try to blend them into our conversations, so he doesn’t notice.
I’m aware of the storm of trouble brewing for him after school ends. Some of the staff has been rather dire about the conditions he is going to face as a homeless single youth once his time in the charities end. That on top of being asked to work, provide, and study in order to get his degree. To soften the blow and better prepare him the teachers are planning to ask him to spend extra time to complete his high school diploma.
They haven’t told him yet. They are asking me to prepare him mentally for that shock when it does arrive.
I hint to him that the moment that your dreams seem most far away, I’m eluding to the time that reality is going to interrupt his school-boy day dreaming, that at that moment of struggle you are actually closest to your dreams. That just before the universe grants your wish it tests you, to see how badly you want it. And the answer to that question can be the story of your life.
Another teacher told me that once Prabaka had repeated one of my motivational speeches to her as advice. The teacher reminded me that I had told Prabaka that there are two moments of unique challenge in climbing a mountain. The first is the decision to start and the last is the few moments before the end. That in order to climb a mountain it is necessary to descend as well as ascend. (this is actually true). That many people will quit mountain climbing because they believe that descending is failure, but descending is a part of the whole. That Prabaka should just press on with the ups and downs of mountain climbing.
Prabaka has no idea that I’ve never climbed much of a mountain.
Prabak once gave me good advice. When I asked him about marriage he made it very clear that he didn’t want a pretty girl, he wanted a “good woman”. He is right.
When Prabaka sees me he comes over to me and we talk and he enjoys our time together. I am important to him. Its so nice to say that.