At the age of 17, Vinayak Hosamani was picking up odd jobs after having failed high school for the second consecutive time, but was still nonchalant about having wasted two years of his life. Growing up in Mumbai’s infamous Dharavi slums, Vinayak’s laid back attitude was disturbing for his parents, especially his mother who fell extremely ill due to the stress. However, six years later, Vinayak has replaced his parents’ fears with pride, as he started the new year with UK’s luxury cruise liner Arcadia as a Commis chef.
“When I got my second back in Class XII and stayed home for two years, I was unsure where my life was headed. I had stopped dreaming. But, right now, I know for sure that this is the turning point in my life,” Hosamani tells indianexpress.com while preparing to leave for Southampton.
The Dharavi-boy, who failed his Class V, was admitted to Sri Sri Vidyamandir in the area, which schools more than 500 kids from underprivileged backgrounds till Class 10. With the school’s round-the-clock timings, Hosamani’s father was assured that his son would not fall prey to the slum’s other distractions, thus helping him focus on his studies.
“He was a naughty child. I knew he was smart but I was fearful about him slipping away from my hands to the chawl’s notoriety and I wanted him to be careful while making friends. So I decided to enrol him in Guruji’s (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) Vidyamandir which had recently opened a shakha (branch) in our area. He studied diligently there and scored 56 per cent in board exams,” Vinayak’s father, Hanumantha Hosamani explains. Hanumantha is a leather workshop worker in Dharavi, which is known for its leather market.
After dropping out, Vinayak who was employed at a repair centre, weary of his routine, called up one of his school teachers and narrated his problems to her. Few days later, the teacher, Priya Naik called back to inform him that he could apply for a scholarship for a culinary school that would fund his training to become a chef.
“Vinayak, unlike what his father described him to be, was a rather loving child who was obedient and responsible. He was mostly interested in the community cooking activities we would do in school, so I knew he had an underlying interest in the kitchen. So when we had this sponsor on board to fund kids to take up training at the Culinary Academy of India in Hyderabad, we decided to consider Vinayak for it,” Naik shares.
The scholarship, she explains, was funded by one of Art of Living volunteers as the school is an offshoot of the organisation. “A number of big corporates who are volunteers come together to provide opportunities to the underprivileged section and that is how this sponsorship came to us,” Naik says.
However, the scholarship for Vinayak did not come on a platter. He had to undergo a series of interviews and tests and was then selected from among 15 people for the 10-month hotel management scholarship programme. “Getting an opportunity is one thing and taking it till the end is another. Vinayak’s upbringing and hardwork has played a role in him reaching this stage,” the teacher adds.
Hosamani, who lives in a one-room house on 60X90feet road in Dharavi, with three other family members wishes to buy an apartment of his own in Mumbai. “My grandfather had shifted here from Gulbarga during his time. Mine is the third generation that would be paying Rs 6,000 rent for that one small room we all are living in. I want to change that. I do not want my parents to pay rent anymore and instead, own a house,” he shares.
Revealing bigger plans, Vinayak shares that he also wishes to set up a restaurant of his own in Mumbai and as he prepared to take the flight to the UK, making him first in his family to travel abroad, the 23-year-old hopes to take his family along with him someday.
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