He'd like to change the world but he has to catch the 10:37 local. And go to work. That's the problem with the world. There is a 10:37 local in the lives of our best men. And it takes Vrajlal Patel to Churchgate from where he treks to a cobwebbed government office. As an inspector in the central excise and customs department, he tries to keep the strictly horizontal line in his career chart moving through the grid.
He is the last stop for all civil service aspirants, candidates who have a dream but no money, who cannot pay for guidance. Vraj Patel has all the books, consultants and advice one needs to take the killing test of the civil services. And, the man is doing this because he didn't make it. He is searching for a bloodless vengeance against a system that cast him to a nook in a government office.
I come from a small village in Saurashtra. I tried to get into the IAS but there was no one to guide me. I had no money to buy all the books I needed. Now, since I have lost, I think I should help those who want to succeed. It is a logic that Mumbai has long forgotten.
Patel joined the central excise and customs department in 1981. Now, even at 40, not a day passes without the blurred image of the ias baton slipping away from his hands. So, in an inexplicable contest with nobody in particular, he opens his doors from 7 to 10:30 in the morning and 6 to 9 in the evening, keeping Saturdays for buying and arranging books, open again on Sundays, making himself available when someone walks in and asks for his books that are collectively worth over Rs 10 lakh. I've been doing this for over 15 years now. I keep buying books all the time.
How can he afford it? A careful explanation:
"See...I don't drink, I don't smoke. I don't even have tea. So I have a lot of money to spare. "Doesn't the wife object with a broom in her hand?
But this year, he had a problem because the demand has increased after he sent hand bills to all colleges advertising his services. So my friends gave me Rs 50,000 to buy books.
He also organises free coaching classes for the exams, an eminent panel of professors on his list making time to give advice to all the hopefuls. He has books for other government exams too, even IIT, MBA GMAT and GRE.
A few years ago he was shifted to the CBI. Those four years I had to travel a lot. I couldn't concentrate on the library. So, he got himself transferred back to the excise department, to be available. And, as a reward, till now he has lost about 1,000 books. The fact that books can be pinched from a former CBI inspector tells you how enterprising the great Indian middle-class is.
That's why this year he decided to have a deposit system. He takes a deposit of Rs 500 and returns it at the end of the year. The value of most of the books is far more than the deposit but Patel shoos away such equations. There are many who cannot afford the deposit too. So, I tell them that they don't have to pay.
This year over 1,000 students have enrolled with him. Last year it was 400. And four of them made it to the IPS. This year I am sure some people will make it to the IAS. Of course, he has regrets about his own failure to clear the exams. A stray lump in the throat because when he was young he too had a dream. But he prefers to share it than let it die.
For details, contact: Vrajlal P. Patel 4-Palm View, 1st Floor, opposite Swami Narayan Temple Dadar (E), Mumbai 400 014 (Phone: 022-4125174).