Waiter, writer, Civil Services aspirant: Why this young Kerala man's story is special

Sujith Surendran has had to struggle all his life, but he has managed to do his MBA, write poetry, and is now preparing for Civil Service exams.
Waiter, writer, Civil Services aspirant: Why this young Kerala man's story is special
Waiter, writer, Civil Services aspirant: Why this young Kerala man's story is special
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Sujith Surendran’s curls fall on his forehead when he returns the hellos coming his way. He is on his way to stand in line for tickets to a play called Saakunthalam at Thrissur’s Regional Theatre.

To get there, Sujith had to quickly wrap up work, serving biryani for lunch at the government canteen where he waits tables. He loves theatre, as he does writing poems. Before going for the play, though, he had to meet with his publishers, 3000 BC, who are bringing out his first book of poems by the end of February. “It’s somehow mostly all love poems,” Sujith says with a shy smile. People ask him why it is so, does he think of someone fondly or is it lost love? Sujith looks away when he says he doesn’t really know why, perhaps it’s because of all that he’s read as a young boy.

Sujith is not just a part-time poet and waiter. He has done an MBA and is preparing for the Civil Service exams for the third time now. But none of this would be a story if you didn't know about his childhood, the teen years during which he struggled to study and look after his family. His dad passed away two days before his tenth standard board exams. Sujith, who wasn't too good at studies, was then expected to give up school and work for the family, living in Peramangalam, Thrissur. His elder sister Smitha was a bright student. His mother, Sarala, a daily wage worker, had injured herself while working.

“A teacher had, in fact, asked me if I couldn’t forget about school and go for some work to look after the family. I wouldn’t blame him. He was only concerned about us. But that’s when I thought, why can’t I study and work at the same time?” says Sujith. It began with digging wells. By Class 12, he moonlighted as a newspaper boy. He then finished school with good grades and got admission at the Kerala Varma College for Economics.

Those were tough years. Smitha was then doing her MSc in Calicut University and staying at a hostel. Sujith had to take care of her fees and his own. Through an uncle’s help, he got the job of a bus conductor.

“I would work for 15 days a month and go to college the rest of the days. My college principal, who took my bus for work, would see me every day. I wouldn’t take ticket fare from him. There were others like me at the college, earning and studying at the same time. The principal was very understanding, and told me not to worry about attendance," he shares.

Once he got his degree, Sujith didn’t stop. He enrolled for an MBA. By then, Smitha was done with her Masters and went for a PhD in the Netherlands. 

“She said, now you take a break, I will look after the family," says Sujith.

So he decided to pursue the Civil Service, renting a room away from home to concentrate. But even after a stint at working as Associate HR in a Kochi based company, Sujith had no issues waiting tables at canteens. Taking dignity in whatever labour he chooses to do just comes naturally to Sujith, who is now also taking classes for Civil Service aspirants. 

“It first began as classes for auto rickshaw drivers who wanted to write the PSC exam. I was then staying in a room away from home and was wondering how to pay the rent. That’s when I began taking classes and my landlord said I could use a room for just that, it would pay off the rent and give me some money to take home," he says.

He now hopes to seriously prepare for the Civil Service exams and you can easily believe that no dream will be too far for this young man who has fought all his life to get an education he wished for.  

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