July 11th, 2017
We all love dosa, well that’s what I’d assume, masala dosa, paper dosa, plain dosa, set dosa and so on. But have we ever given a thought about how difficult would it be to be in there, in a dosa stall, preparing and serving dosas on a hot summer afternoon? Adding on, inside a dosa stall, a hot summer afternoon and the board exam the next day?
On the 13th of March, I got a call from one of my students, Awaze Shaikh saying “Bhaiya, daddy ka tabiyet aaj bhi theek nahin. Main gaari par hoon aaj bhi”. Awaze’s father wasn’t keeping well for sometime and Awaze, along with his brother Huzefa had to take care of the dosa stall; next day he had his Maharastra SSC Board, math exam!
Awaze is very proud of his father and has always been very happy working at the stall to support him. He understands that his father works hard to support the family. Yet, that day was different and I could sense a feeling of helplessness in his voice. Awaze is always one of the brightest students. Possibly, he never really required my ‘help’. Ironically, a student as good as Awaze needed my help only on that one night before the exam, not academic but emotional. I honestly did not know what to do then. All I knew was, I needed to rush to the stall.
When I reached Somwar Peth, I saw Awaze and his brother at the stall. As mentioned, his father wasn’t keeping well and his helper was on leave! Awaze had given me a call by 5:30PM, the stall had 5 more hours to go before closing the shop at 11PM. Awaze had worked for every single day of the year but it was one night before the exam!
Awaze was particularly tensed as he had lost a good number of hours to this in the final days to his Math exam. He was sure Math was going to be his top scorer, his trump card! He wanted to revise every concept in the book before taking up the exam and be doubly sure that he crossed the ‘magical’ 85! (To know why 85 is magical, read on!)
I, Awaze and Huzefa met and quickly discussed what could be done. I did not know anything about dosa-making whatsoever! I was wondering what use could I be? In 5 mins, we decided to cancel the parcel system for that day as it would have been confusing for me. Huzefa started making dosas, I started helping him serve and clean the plates. Awaze was relieved of his job. He straight away went on to prepare for the subject he was best at!
My personal experience suggests, in Maharashtra Board, getting a score above 85 is difficult and a matter of pride! Informally, it’s referred to as the ‘Magical’ score! (Quick Fact – Anyone who scores more than 85 in five of the total six subjects is awarded 50,000 by the government of Maharashtra. 1.7 million students had taken up the SSC Maharashtra Board this year alone. The board, in my views, is a little strict as the student approaches 85). Awaze scored a respectable 87/100 in Math!
Business and Math thrill Awaze! He proudly says “Mukesh Ambani’s and Manjul Bhargava’s favourite food is Dosa!” Something very different about Awaze is that he is very aware. He loves listening to news and follows interviews, something he credits me for. Being informed gives him an edge over others in the way he looks at the world! Sunny Varkey happens to be one of his idols. He is amazed by how Mr. Varkey took up his father’s educational centre and created a very successful model – GEMS Education, in turn becoming one of the richest in the world! Awaze too wants to take up his father’s business and transform it into something way more profitable!
Here’s an example of how following interviews and being aware helps Awaze. Recently, Sonu Nigam was invited by ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ to speak about his views on Azaan. Awaze, as usual would have tuned in. What he picked up from the interview was something very different. He called me up to say that Sonu Nigam had said that as a part of social experiment he sang for 5 hours disguised as a beggar and landed up earning Rs 12! That means that with the sum total of same talent and skill but minus the publicity and marketing, he made considerably lesser! He exclaimed over the phone saying that they too work very hard and have a lot attention on hygiene in their stall. He pointed that cleanliness was taken so good care of that not a single customer had ever fallen sick after consuming their dosa! Awaze realised that his story was the same – work, talent, taste but no marketing translates to meagre profits! That’s what he wants to change!
The business and the math sense combined to make him realise that the same was happening to their business! Awaze wants to pursue Business Management from IIM Ahmedabad! He is very serious about his plans of having a food chain across the globe applying the concepts he would learn – some at the college and the rest by ‘trial and error’! Something he keeps telling is – “Why is Indian food not as popular as the Chinese?”. He is very proud (and aware) of the diversity of the Indian food. He has a valid point when he says that he has heard that Indians abroad crave for Indian food, whereas here in India they prefer the ‘unhealthy’ burgers and pizzas!
Awaze turned out to be the second topper of the school and undoubtedly has been one of the most sincere and hardworking of all the students. He never ever missed a single assignment in any of the subjects. One big reason for his success is that he never takes any concept in any subject lightly. If he doesn’t get a concept, he would keep going to the teacher (on his own) till he gets it right! His smartness and logic makes him shine. He is extremely attached to his parents and thinks he is very lucky to have such supporting guiding forces. Business drives him and his plan is to name his food chain after his parents! He attributes his business sense to his father. When Awaze’s father has started his business way back in 1997, Awaze wasn’t even born then. At that point, street food had a bad name as it had a negative tag of being ‘unclean’. He could change that negative perception by taking care of cleanliness levels. This became his unique selling point! Awaze learnt the art of creating differentiating factors.
Awaze’s father could not go to school beyond grade 4th. He is extremely proud of Awaze and trusts his potentials. He has a very firm believe that Awaze would take his business to really great heights! No wonder, Awaze has ‘Papa kehte hain bara naam karega’, a popular song from the late 80’s, as his most loved one!
Awaze has an interesting twist to his business plan. His mother’s name is Parveen and Father’s name is Khaled. He wants to name it – PK! The tag line is all the more revolutionary (combination that points out his Math, Science and quirk!) – Taking Indian cuisine to the world AND BEYOND! With a smile he thanks Aamir Khan for ‘free marketing’ already!
This is the face of ‘The Brave New India’, not averse to taking risks, following heart with head held high! He is not running away from studying, at the same time is trying out something which is not a part of the herd mentality. At 16 if Awaze is this serious, methodical and disciplined about his goals, guess what the future would hold for him!
– Satyam Mishra was a Teach For Indian fellow who taught 10th grade Mathematics to Awaze.