The story of Ranjit Singh Raj is straight out of a Bollywood script. His journey from the dusty lanes of Jaipur to a life in Geneva is full of twists and turns. What has kept him going is his indomitable spirit and the determination to move ahead in life.
“I would seethe with anger when someone would beat me up me in public for no reason.”, Raj remembers. “It happened many times when I was insulted, even slapped. I used to feel disgusted. Is it a crime to be poor? As it is, I struggle with my poverty, and you are pulling me down further.”
Now settled in Geneva, Raj smiles as he reminisces. He says he now looks back at his life differently.
“I have been battling social prejudices since my childhood,” he says. “I was poor and dark-skinned, and I was often at the receiving end of taunts. I used to get very angry. Now I have calmed down as I can see things in perspective.”
Ranjit Singh Raj lives in Geneva, Switzerland. He works in a restaurant and dreams of opening his own. He runs his own YouTube channel where he takes his audience to different places. His life is a lot settled now, after years of turmoil.
My journey started in an auto.
Raj was just 16 when he started driving an autorickshaw, which he did for several years in Jaipur. He says, “I am 10th-fail. I wasn’t good at my studies, but my folks sent me to school ‘to become something’. No one cared about creativity and imagination. I had zero ambition.”
What Raj didn’t know was the hidden entrepreneurship in him. He says he noticed that other auto drivers spoke English, French, Spanish and other foreign languages to attract tourists.
“I was very impressed.”, he remembers. “That was in 2008. Many young people were then doing IT, but I just wanted to learn English.”
Raj soon set up a tourism business and started taking foreign tourists around Rajasthan. It was then that he met his future wife, and his life took another turn.
Protest outside the Embassy
Raj’s wife was his client. She had come to travel around India. Raj showed her around Jaipur, and they soon fell in love.
He says, “We first met at the City Palace. She had come with one of her girlfriends to travel around India. We started liking each other and got talking. After she returned to France, we stayed connected via Skype. We realised we were in love.”
Raj wanted to go to France to meet her, but his visa application got rejected. They became impatient after multiple rejections.
Raj remembers, “We wondered how, after multiple visa rejections, we would be able to sustain our long-distance relationship. So on her next visit to India, we both sat in front of the French Embassy, in protest, demanding to meet the French Ambassador to India. An embassy official soon met us. They were initially sceptical about giving me a visa but finally granted me a three-month tourist visa to go to France. I made multiple trips after that and kept coming to France.”
In 2014 they got married and later had a child. Raj then applied for a long term visa with the French Embassy.
“I was asked to learn French. I took French classes at The Alliance France in New Delhi and got a certificate. That helped me get a long term visa.”
“I still dream.”
Raj now lives in Geneva, but his imagination still works overtime. Recently, he started a YouTube channel to teach how to cook. This is an exciting story.
He narrates, “My first visit to France was a cultural shock. I was accustomed to Indian food. The French eat bread, cheese and raw meat, which was unpalatable for me. So I started cooking for myself, and my cooking got better with time.”
He hasn’t stopped dreaming. He wants to start his restaurant and is working hard to make that happen. He says with pride that being ‘tenth-fail’ has not stood in the way of his success.
“I do not believe that being a school dropout or being a B-Tech makes such a big difference. I believe it depends on a person’s attitude. If a person makes the right life choices, works hard and follows his passion, success will follow, with or without a formal education.”
Raj considers his travels to be his most significant educator.
“I love travelling. It is because of my travels I have learnt languages and many other things. Travelling is an education in itself. It also calms your mind.”