Bobbee Singh is a well-known name in Delhi's biking circles. The owner of Old Delhi Motorcycles, a firm that specialises in customising Royal Enfield Bullets, he also runs an outdoor adventure company that organises motorbike tours for tourists. Singh, however, has no degrees in the subject. Neither has he gone to any fancy college abroad — in fact, he didn't even finish school, having dropped out in class X.
How Singh managed to get where he has, despite the lack of a college degree, is a tale with lessons for our marks-obsessed society where anyone who gets less than 95% is considered a failure. Perhaps Singh's story also has something for those who ridicule the present HRD minister for not even being a graduate.
Born into a middle-class family, Singh's father, who worked as an accounts officer in the Delhi electricity board, and his mother, a nurse, got him admitted to a well-known school in Delhi. His family had high hopes of him, says Singh, and he did well, always standing first until class IX. But somewhere along the way, Singh says, he lost interest. "I didn't feel that I was being educated. Nobody really bothered to find out what motivated me." And so he dropped out.
Over the years, Singh, now 41 years old, did all kinds of jobs — he worked in advertising, as a salesman and in the travel industry, until he found his calling in restoring bikes.
Not all class X dropouts, of course, go on to do as well, but then there's no single blueprint of success, Singh insists. The obsession with exams and marks, Singh says, is a "money-spinning game" played by schools and tutorial classes.
Ashish Gupta, director of Xtreme Gaming, a Delhi-based firm that markets e-games and is the principal organiser of BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) multiplayer gaming events, has similar views on exams and marks. "If you don't got 95%, it doesn't really matter whether you get a 60% or a 90%," he says. And so, Gupta turned off studies, managing only 67% in his class XII boards. An avid gamer, he then went on to do his BCom through correspondence, starting his business with a Rs1.5 lakh-loan from his father. "I've paid it back to him six times over," he says with some pride now.
Admittedly such success stories are rare, but they are also heartening at a time when the media is full of reports of students who choose to commit suicide because they have got less marks. Especially now, says Usha Albuquerque, a former DD news reader who runs a career guidance centre in the capital, when students have so many career options open to them. "There are private colleges now where they are more likely to get admission. It's more expensive, of course," she says.
Ritika Agarwal chose a very different path. With only 75% in her CBSE boards and keen to become a doctor, she spent a year in Kota attending tutorials for the medical entrance exams. When that didn't work, she decided to study psychiatry at Christ University in Bangalore.
Albuquerque speaks of a boy who got only 54% marks and came to seek her advice last year. "He got into the OCLD (Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development, run by the Oberoi Group of hotels and considered one of the best programmes in hospitality in India), clearing several rounds of tests, which are generally considered quite difficult," she says.