While 2021 was marked by despair as I ran from one hospital to another covering ghastly Covid-19 stories, 2022 brought the hope that time would heal.

I now smile every time my phone screen lights up with the name of Vishwajeet Salunkhe. I met the shy 19-year-old in Osmanabad in the middle of 2021, months after his father had succumbed to Covid-19. He had lost his mother to suicide few years before. With his father’s death, he and his younger brother, Abhijit, aged 16, were left alone in their one-storey home.

The elder bother was trying to join college but had no money to pay the fees. The younger one was struggling to focus on studies: his board exams were close.

On top of that, both had to cook, sweep and mop their house and arrange money for food.

Somehow, Vishwajeet Salunkhe and I struck up a friendship. We stayed in touch after my professional interaction with him had finished.

The district Women and Child Development department was helpful and Vishwajeet Salunkhe managed to secure admission to a college in Pune. Abhijit Salunkhe is now studying in a boarding school in Latur. At the request of the Women and Child Development department, his fees has been waived by the school management.

Despite the hardships they continue to face, both boys shine. Every time Vishwajeet Salunkhe calls to say hello, it makes my heart smile. So much could have gone wrong. But they spent hungry nights and continued their studies.

Vishwajeet outside his home in Osmanabad in 2021.

My chat window is filled with assorted messages: “How are you didi (sister)”, “We will meet soon”, “It has been days since we talked.” Vishwajeet keeps me informed me about his classes, about how he wishes to go for treks in hills around Pune but does not have enough money to spend on travel. He never asks for money and always refuses whenever I offer him some.

Vishwajeet Salunke, I am sure, is going to be one successful computer engineer.