Agni Udhayan: The heart of a Phoenix with a Will of Fire

“The number zero has a supreme quality. If you multiply it by any number, the situation will remain the same. I have a deep connection with zero since all the rags to riches story start there.”

A propelling story of a young boy who rose from dust to finally realize his dreams and develop the courage to dream beyond. Agni Udhayan, a student from the eighth batch of IIM Rohtak shares his amazing journey from rags to riches.

A few years back, I remember myself being a mischievous kid with no friends, roaming alone in the streets of my village. Since my parents were illiterate wage workers, they used to work very hard to meet our daily expenses. They had no time to spend with me, and it made me hate them. I did my schooling in a rural vernacular medium government-run school, thanks to the mid-day meal scheme, and my life was filled up with the same aridness until my 9th standard.

The first turning point in my life was when I was in the 10th standard and my mother was diagnosed with high BP. She could not work anymore and mostly stayed back at home. A goodbye while leaving for school, a welcome smile with snacks when I came back and finally getting a lot of time to spend with my Mumma made me realize mother’s love. She motivated me to study, to listen to my heart, to worship God and moreover, to become a class leader. Soon afterwards, we set up a tea stall where I used to sell tea to help my family manage the expenses. Despite the lack of opportunities, I got 463/500 in my 10th and secured a full scholarship for my 11th and 12th standard from a nearby private school. After getting 1163/1200 in my 12th standard, I secured a seat in Madras Institute of Technology, a dream engineering college for many.

For any kid, the saddest moment is to see his father break down. After arranging money for admissions, my dad fell short of 200 rupees to travel from my village to Chennai right before the admissions night. He cried that day, blaming his inability to support me for my studies. He took a loan from some of his friends for that 200 rupees. That moment was the second turning point in my journey, it made me realize the hardships of life.

The peer group in my college was very vibrant, very knowledgeable with excellent communication skills. Being a vernacular medium student, I failed to understand anything taught during the lectures. Perplexed, I developed an inferiority complex and started to believe that I was a misfit in this society. To heal some wounds, Indian Oil Corporation Limited offered me a full scholarship for my graduation. Soon, I started developing an inclination towards reading which later became a habit. I used to read about political leaders, kings, society and art. One day, I had a chance to read about Dhirubhai Ambani Ji, followed by the movie “GURU” I was completely awe-stricken by him. I suddenly realized that I had an interest towards business. It was then that I decided to follow my interest and pursue management studies and hence, an MBA. With the help of my friend Arivazhagan, I had a chance to approach Mr. Sriganesh Subramanian (A demigod for me).

“Tell me, Agni, what do you want from me?”, he asked.

“Sir, I want to MBA I do GATE exam, please join me in your class,” I replied.

After a very nice reaction to my English proficiency, he replied,” Oh! You want to do MBA? For that, you need to write CAT exam, not GATE.”

“He (Arivazhagan) have ask me to see you, sir, that is why I come to see you.”

“Agni, you do not even know the difference between has and have, how are you going to clear CAT?”

“I was dazed, I never realized the amount of hard work that lay ahead of me. Sir accepted me as a student after I assured him that I would work really hard.”

Thereafter, began my journey of learning, the CAT coaching that I had joined was filled up with the brightest students from CBSE and ICSE boards. I wasn’t even able to introduce myself in the class. I became lonely, less confident and had started losing hope about the CAT. There were days when I could not even answer the simplest of questions like, ‘Tell me about yourself’, during the campus placements.

One day, my crush-cum-friend said, “Agni, I have my convocation ceremony in the next month.”

“What? With whom? Arrange marriage or love marriage?”, I replied.

“Hey, what are you talking about?”.

“You only told that you have convocation, that’s engagement, right?”

“What? Does convocation mean engagement? I am happy that you are a CAT aspirant”, she said sarcastically.

Embarrassed and ashamed, I felt awful. I had decided to give up on CAT and informed the same to my mentor. He was disappointed but the mentor-protege relationship continued.

After a few days, I had a chance to meet and work with Mr. Venkatesh who is the elder brother of Mr. Sriganesh. He was a charismatic leader and a serial entrepreneur. One warm evening, I had a conversation with him, which turned out as my third turning point.

“Agni, tell me about the leaders you idolize?”

“Dhirubhai Ambani, Abdul Kalam, Narendra Modi, Nelson Mandela, Kamarajar.”

“Do you find anything common here?”

“They are hard workers.”

“Yes, but did you notice, all the people that you have mentioned have come from very humble backgrounds, which means you have a very high probability of winning in your life.”

“Sir, yes! It seems so.”

“Yes. Always remember, the hardest part is raising a zero to one because if you multiply a zero with anything, it becomes zero again. Work very hard to change that zero part in your life.”

That evening had motivated me to a great extent. Once again, I thought about appearing for the CAT and I asked Sriganesh sir to help me.

I put in my sweat and blood for CAT preparations, spent a lot of time at the library, read a lot of English books. However, two days before CAT 2015, I scored a ‘-3’ in the VA section in a mock test. Those days were dark and in CAT 2015 I secured a meagre 40 percentile in the VA section.

After spending some days in depression, I gathered all my courage and decided not to give up and took CAT 2016.

Finally, I am here, at one of the prestigious colleges for Management, IIM Rohtak. The journey that I have been through has changed my personality completely.

Now, I believe that I have converted my zero into one and I will always remember,”God may fail, but hard work never will.”


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