This post is a part of Neer, a collaborative project by DCB Bank and Chaaipani to bring out stories of individuals and initiatives that are working hard and smart to save water.
One of the things that always pulls us towards influential people is restlessness. It might be perceived as an undesirable quality if you were to think about it from the perspective of a 90s parent, but off late, restlessness has proved to be a quality of the successful. This might be confusing. Well, here is how it works.
There are two kinds of restlessness-es (not sure if that’s a word). There is the kind that just makes you uncomfortable where you are and leads you to no productivity. That’s the useless kind, that’s the kind you want to get rid of or stay away from and that’s also not the kind we are talking about today.
The other kind of restlessness is a product of knowing that you would rather be somewhere else, and be really productive, be doing something that is actually meaningful to the world in some way. Well that restlessness is the prerequisite to genius and that is the kind we are talking about.
Today’s story is one of will, of determination, of vision and of the ability to go on against everything people think is a challenge. Now I am going to be honest with you. This is the third draft of this story. The first I wasn’t happy with, the second, was pretty good but the third was needed. And you’ll know why very soon.
Enter Niraj Gupta, an SRCC third year student poised to change the way the garbage recycling industry functions. Niraj is one of the most straightforward people you’ll come across. An entrepreneur by choice, an innovator by nature and a rationalist at heart, Niraj unfolds his story in so many different layers that it took me a while before I could pen down the most important aspects of it.
The son of a businessman, Niraj never wanted a job for himself. He is not the frustrated product of a failed education system, neither did he quit an irritating job, this was something he always wanted and this is what he gunned for while he was still in college.
“As a kid I used to watch Zee Business and CNBC Awaaz, all the time”, he tells me as I try to venture deeper into where his entrepreneurial spirit comes from.
“I precisely remember, it was the 13th of Jan, 2005 when CNBC Awaaz launched and I started watching it, trying to learn from it despite hardly being able to understand what they were talking about”, he says this and I think he’s got to be bluffing me, which is when I silently google the launch date of CNBC Awaaz and watch the top link crumble my suspicion.
These days, while he is not busy being glued to the television keeping himself updated about the capital markets, Niraj runs his company by the name of Junkart. You could call Junkart an Uber for recyclers who would come to your place, collect the recyclable material that’s lying around and pay you a good price for it.
“There was no effective organisation of this sector, so I made one”, he says when I ask him why he picked this up.
As I discuss more about Junkart, there is one thing which is very clear about Niraj, he knows what he is talking about. He is sure about what he wants and is doing all he can to make it work.
“Have you ever been questioned about your age?” I ask him as I discover he is only 21, now turning 22.
Indians have a thing against kids trying to do something and a part of my shallow prejudice just couldn’t hold back from discovering if he ever ran into any problems and how it would make for a great story to read.
“If you talk like a child people will take you for one. If you have the tenacity, the maturity and the critical thinking to talk like an adult, no one really cares”, he replies, dismissing my question as if it were an insult.
Thinking back in time, it probably was. People, wherever they are, and whoever they are, always crave for a higher level of intellectual interaction, higher than their own. Those who don’t care, generally don’t matter. The most admirable part about Niraj is that he understands this very well. That’s what makes the story interesting to follow. But wait, there is more.
I dig a little deeper as the conversation slowly moves from enthusiastic to slightly draggy as we get into motivational rhetoric.
Which is when I ask, “What’s your formative moment? What’s that one point of time in the past that you would define as your inflection point?”
He takes a pause. The kind that you generally don’t except from a man who has restlessly talked to you for an hour already. And then goes on to say,
“I was really bad at studies to begin with. However, that was a choice I made for myself. When I was in my 12th class, I was asked to give three re-tests of subjects that I had miserably failed in. At the end of the third, when I met my Vice Principal Mrs. Rachna Gupta, she asked me if I had any more to give, to which I proudly replied, ‘No ma’am! This was my last one!’ Her face changed colours and she looked at me and asked, ‘should I congratulate you for it?’ ‘No ma’am’ I replied in a meek tone. ‘Are you having fun right now?’ She asked me to which I said with a more guilt filled voice, ‘no ma’am’ ‘Well then, at least have that’ she replied and left”
This is where Niraj tells me that he realised what he was doing wrong.
“I wasn’t having fun, I wasn’t studying either, I was just whiling away my time at useless recreations. I knew that I just had to either have fun or study or do both”
His outlook to life is refreshing, productive and full of the desire to get to the next big thing. The best part is that it always manifests itself in terms of actions and not arrogance. And one thing that almost no one notices about him is that he is visually challenged.
I knew I had to ask him about it but in a way that does not make me sound like an absolute dodo. I go on to pose a very cautious question,
“I know that there are enough gadgets and provisions for people with a vision problem these days, but still I am compelled to ask if it ever came in your way of getting to where you are or eventually want to be”
To which this gem of a person has the best reply in the world,
“First of all, it’s not a vision problem, it’s a visual problem and I think there is a huge difference”
I was stumped. He had me there, whatever else he had to say was just a filler to what makes up for the minimum length of a decent answer to a question in a telephonic conversation.
His zest was unbelievable, his drive commendable, given his condition where most would think that his life is useless. I asked him if people ever put him down for being (this time very carefully) visually challenged. To which he says,
“Literacy has a huge role to play. People in villages think my moving from one town to the other or taking a flight on my own is a big deal. But the people who matter to me, treat me like just another man trying to make his mark in the world. Those who know what it really takes to be where I want to go, hardly ever pay attention to my visual challenge”
Junkart is moving to a new website and seeking its first round of funding to become what could possibly be India’s biggest scrap aggregator. Or at least that’s what we and Niraj hope for. Whatever the case might be, it would be an awesome story to follow and we hope that we could come back to him again next year and document all the awesomeness he is going to do now.
Until then, as they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”
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