O Captain, My Captain, Do You Take Private Classes?

As you know, Teacher’s Day is celebrated on the 5th of September every year to commemorate the birth of India’s most respected academician, Arindam Chaudhri. It is a day for educators to sit back and reflect upon the hellspawn that they have to put up with all their lives, and wonder what would have been had they chosen easier professions, like Bomb Disposal Expert or Wine Shop Owner in Riyadh.

Of course, not all teachers in India fit the stereotype of overlooked and underpaid slaves – some work at coaching classes. According to the Centre For Statistics That I Just Made Up, coaching classes account for 43% of the nation’s GDP. And that’s just the stretch outside Dadar station.

We’re the nation that loves studying so much that instead of doing it well once, we do it shoddily at three different places per subject per semester. I remember when coaching was limited to senior classes in school, mostly for board exams and medical and engineering entrances. Then we started telling kids that they needed to begin prepping by class 8, and then class 6, to the current situation wherein it is understood that unless you get a professor from Bihar to sing calculus formulae to foetuses, they will grow up to become something embarrassing, like roadside earwax cleaners or journalists. (Although the earwax cleaners do enjoy better job security.)

So it was hardly surprising when news broke that a bunch of junior colleges in Mumbai had outsourced their PCM syllabus to private coaching classes, even allowing their staff to walk in and use college classrooms the way Chinese people stroll into Leh on weekends. The catch is that if students choose to not take the expensive coaching option – for trivial reasons like being poor – they allegedly face attendance issues and their forehead acne rearranges to form the words ‘Mera college chor hai’.

In other words, imagine that your local Udipi joint gives up its kitchen to the guys from Masterchef, who then charge you 1000 bucks for a masala dosa. They tell you that you can forego this option and choose the regular menu as usual, but if you do, they make you slurp the sambhar off the owner’s hairy navel.

This is sad because college is just supposed to be a building where you go to celebrate Rose Day, Chocolate Day, Can’t Believe Girls Fall For This Crap Day and Screw It, Let’s Drink Day. Why desecrate the place by forcing kids to study? Nobody goes to college to get high exam scores – that’s what private classes and animal sacrifices are for.

The colleges insist that this friends-with-benefits arrangement helps students prepare more effectively for engineering entrance exams. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that colleges get hefty commissions, with higher limits reportedly in the range of 40k per student. Multiply that by a few hundred students, and you’re suddenly looking at a whopping total of eight to ten US dollars.

But the truth is that by themselves, most colleges couldn’t prepare you for engineering entrances even if they wanted to. It’s like performing open-heart surgery after watching one episode of House. (You need to watch at least six.) Coaching class owners know this, which is why they strut up to colleges in Wasseypur style going, “Beta, tumse na ho paayega.” For example, here’s an average HSC question:

Sphere is round. True or False?

And here’s an average IIT-JEE question:

A magnetized sphere rolls down a frictionless incline in a vacuum while a massless insect runs along its surface with a constant speed, and then lightning strikes the Large Hadron Collider, so how many moles of unicorn blood is needed to create a wormhole for me to go back in time and take arts instead?

Meanwhile, the IB kids are in a corner going, “Whatevs, I’ll just ask Daddy to buy me a college ya.”

The colleges in question are being investigated by the relevant authorities, although for their sake, they’re hoping the CBI takes up the case so that all the files and possibly the students go missing. Meanwhile, the MNS has graciously offered to step in, which is nice because this is the only way they’ll ever see the inside of a college. In all this chaos, it’s the students who end up losing out on valuable drinking study time. One such harrowed student was quoted as saying, “If I wanted to get ripped off by a college, I would’ve just gone to Arindam.”