PATNA: It was a sunny day and Raj Kumar Vaishya had trouble walking. But determined to get a postgraduate degree, the 97-year-old sat for a three-hour MA exam, along with students younger than his grandchildren.
Vaishya, who graduated in 1938, was appearing for his final year MA (economics) examination at Nalanda Open University (NOU), Patna. The exams began on Thursday and will continue till next week.
He wrote in English and used nearly two dozen sheets, an NOU official said.
"He sat for three hours like every other student, most of them younger than his grandchildren. It surprised us all, including other examinees," the official said.
Early this year, Vaishya was recognised by the Limca Book of Records as the oldest man to apply for a postgraduate degree.
A rare man, Raj Kumar Vaishya has set an example for millions of people who use age as an excuse to give up on their dreams. "I have decided to prove that even at 97 years, one can fulfil their dreams and achieve anything. I am an example," Vaishya told IANS here.
Vaishya said: "I am also trying to send a message to the youth that defeat should never be accepted. I want to tell them not to get upset and depressed. 'Mauka aur awsar har wakt rehta hai, kewal khud pe vishwas hona chahiyea' (There will be always be opportunities for those who believe in themselves)," Vaishya said in mix of Hindi and Urdu.
He was frank in admitting that it is not easy to follow the routine of a student at his age. "It is really difficult for me to wake up early to prepare for the exams. My first exam was on June 1."
Talking about his routine, Vaishya said he has devoted hours every day to studying and worked hard to prepare for the exams. "If I clear MA this year, my long cherished dream will be fulfilled. I hope I pass with a good percentage like in my first year MA exam."
Vaishya enrolled for the course in 2015. He said he has no plans to pursue a PhD.
NOU officials said the 97-year-old had not requested for any special facility for the exam.
Vaishya, who retired from a private firm in Jharkhand in 1980 after having worked there for over three decades, recalled that he wanted to study economics to understand the problems being facing by the people, and the society as a whole, in the country. "The idea is not to get a degree but to study economics. There are many PhD students who have superfluous knowledge."
Born on April 1, 1920, in Bareilly, he did his graduation from Agra University in 1938 and got a degree in law in 1940.
"I failed to pursue a postgraduate programme at the time due to family responsibilities," he said.
A vegetarian and a lover of simple traditional Indian food, Vaishya said he never consumed fried food and always ate in moderation.
"As one approaches old age, one should pick up a hobby. I regularly read books, newspapers, magazines and watch television serials, including popular historical TV serials like Jodhaa Akbar, Razia Sultan and Maharana Pratap," says Vaishya.
A confident and upbeat Vaishya says he can read without glasses and write in both Hindi and English. "I only take the help of a walker after I fractured my back a few years ago," he says.
The perennially happy Vaishya lives with his son Santosh Kumar in Rajendra Nagar Colony, a posh society in Patna. He has been living here for almost a decade after his wife died.
Before this, he lived with his wife in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. He shifted to Patna because there was no one to look after him.