‘Looking back, there is every chance that I would not have opted for Kota.’
‘The biggest flaw is that your personality gets blocked.’
‘It took me two years to get back to ‘being human’ again.’
“The Indian ideology is to divide between those who make it to IIT and those who don’t. But the reality is that cracking JEE, NEET is just one of the many ways of achieving success,” Tarun S, a former student at Kota who cracked the IIT entrance exam, and is currently employed in the corporate sector, tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih.
In a year that has seen 24 student suicides in Kota, India’s coaching hub, he says, “An image has been created in society that if you clear the entrance exam you are special. This is totally wrong.”
“Children are blindly given a target to chase and when they can’t cope — they collapse.”
I graduated from IIT and joined a foreign bank nearly two years ago. When I look around me in the corporate world, I find that a major chunk comes from a parallel ecosystem — and only a small percentage is from IIT.
They are young women and men who graduated from regular colleges, changed several jobs and are working in the corporate sector. They are examples of the truth that there are many ways to success.
The curriculum of other engineering colleges is nearly the same; the only difference is in the starting package which can be easily compensated in 5-6 years.
But the problem is that everyone runs after the starting package only. The Indian ideology is to divide between those who make it to IIT and those who don’t — but the reality is that cracking JEE, NEET is just one of the many ways of achieving success.
Students need to be told this earlier on.
The Kota coaching institutes won’t tell you this because this will kill the Kota dream.
Coaching institutes create an aura that IITians are special. We, IITians ourselves, perhaps perpetuate this aura. I find it very egotistical to correlate your personality with the cracking of an entrance exam.
The ecosystem is teaming with people who think this way and will never accept that this is toxic.
I believe you are the average of the five people around you. If 100 people around you are running in the same race, it is almost impossible to run in the opposite direction.
But the truth is that there are many ways to success. Kids need to be given a chance to explore those other avenues.
Coaching industry is toxic
The coaching industry is the byproduct of a third world country. Since there are so many unemployed, it creates a competition among the unemployed. The institutes make you feel that if you clear the entrance exam you are very special. This is the image that has been created in society which is totally wrong.
At that age, children don’t know what their target is. They are blindly given a target to chase and when they can’t cope — they collapse.
The right way to prepare for the entrance exam is…
Of course, students should try for the competitive exams, but not to the extent that you cut yourself off for two years.
Going to Kota to prepare should not be the only goal, but one must try their best in a healthy environment. Make a good study group and dedicate six hours of solid studying every day.
You need concentration, you need some isolation, but you need to find that balance while living with your family.
If you feel too much distraction in your home then you can go to a relative or a cousin, but don’t be completely isolated.
Play sports. For two years, people stop playing and do great harm to their health.
Give it your best and if you don’t clear the exam, join the college you get, study well, get a job or do MS/MTech or entrepreneurship or business — after all, the whole point of an engineering degree is that it empowers you to do whatever you want after that, isn’t it?
MTech is a good higher degree, but I don’t know why it does not get importance in India.
I know many who have done well in the second innings, so please don’t obsess about that entrance exam. Don’t make it the only thing in life.
My life in Kota
I was good in science and the advice I received from relatives, friends and teachers was that if you want to succeed and progress, you will have to go to Kota.
There was too much peer pressure.
Once I went there I was completely detached. The lifestyle and routine was unchanged for two years. Everyone around you was following the same schedule — 4-5 hours of classes and then finishing an equivalent amount of study work after you got back to your room.
When you are out of the classroom and are on your own, that is when you are vulnerable to taking extreme steps. If you are self-motivated, you will study, but if you are there only because of peer pressure – then the game is over for you.
It is unnatural to study without any purpose day and night
I know of people who were there against their wish. 80% people over there subconsciously know that this is not their purpose.
Looking back, there is every chance that I would not have opted for Kota.
The biggest flaw is that your personality gets blocked. It took me two years to get back to ‘being human’ again.
Luckily, I was able to handle the personal and materialistic detachment. I became my best company and came to know myself better. I explored spirituality and self-awareness. But most are not naturally made like this — this was the only positive for me.
It is like training for a race
It is like training students to only run for two years at the cost of everything else that s/he feels unhappy when at rest.
Everything is a competition.
Many of my engineering friends who are following the typical definition of success, have an elevated ‘unhappiness level’.
Many who have cracked these exams are now planning to go into business. They are realising this much later after having run too far into this race.
They join the corporate world and some feel burnt out because there is under-utilisation of their creativity. A few years down the line, they switch to entrepreneurship or business, which is something they could have done after leaving college itself or much earlier on.
Expose school students to entrepreneurial mindset
I also feel that had I been exposed to an entrepreneurial mindset in school, I would be doing something else more satisfying.
I wanted to do research. I had two choices — IIT or a research college in Mumbai, but societal pressure made me opt for IIT. I was consensually brainwashed.
Society feels you are successful, but I am now so deep in that marsh that I cannot come out.
I feel online education should also be explored today, but ultimately, what is most important is self-dedication.
Secondly, do your preparation while living with family.
It is after all, it is a crackable exam. Don’t obsess about it. Don’t make it your life.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com
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