Thanks to ‘Kota Factory’, the promotional work by coaching centres and the disappointing news headlines, Kota’s realities are no more a secret to the world. When I say that I have seen the city develop into this infamous education hub, I mean it. I have seen it all, I have heard it all and I have been made aware of how this student culture feeds and runs the local economy. This is, unfortunately for you finance junkies, not enough to ignore the harsh reality of this hell-hole.
If you must know, not everyone in Kota is brilliant minded, not everyone is driven by science, but somehow everyone is involved in the rat race.
Be it an arts or a commerce student, there are just one too many comparisons, expectations and reminders of the pressure. The most amazing fact about the Kota Factory is the creators’ decision to keep it black and white. It is a metaphor for the exciting reality of this town where one couldn’t possibly keep up without loving companions who are equally alone in this city of nightmares. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my hometown. I just cannot stand the amount of pressure the system creates on each individual. I would obviously end up blaming everything on capitalism after all.
We lose touch with most of our friends because almost every other student ends up choosing a dummy school, or a ‘relaxed school system’ to sound ethically right.
Chapter I. Reality Check.
A moment to talk about the “Relaxed School System.”
Well, they may sound like your dream school, but they aren’t. You basically pay the school fee, don’t worry about attendance; there probably are no classes to attend. Later, you end up giving exams, signed in as their student. Most of these schools don’t even take exams for classes 9th and 11th since there are no board rules, but there are fake answer sheets. On one hand, it does balance out the pressure of everyday schooling for students stuck between JEE/PMT/NEET classes. But children end up losing a lot on their school life and growing years. I couldn’t in my right mind call that a healthy approach to learning.
Mental Health Check.
I would be brutally honest with this one, this is all business and no one ‘genuinely’ cares, except for one or two teachers, your friends and family. They are in it so that they can have good results. There is an obvious preference given to students who score better. It is understandable yet demeaning to have batches according to grades, but totally unacceptable to check in with only those with higher grades. If someone in admin sees this someday, please make sure you do it right or not at all.
A few days ago, I came across ‘Alma Matters’ on Netflix. Brilliant show, with loads of flashbacks. I was up all night, first binging the episodes, then questioning my life choices. It was all fun and games when we were younger. But at Kota, you join the hustle pretty young. And once you are in it, there is no going back.
When I saw the Netflix documentary, ‘Alma Matters’, all I could think about was my time at these coaching institutes. Trust me, I have been there; I know what it is like to not feel good enough. But I know it from just its surface, I did not have the willpower to attend these institutes in all their glory, that is in 11th and 12th grade.
But don’t worry, I have got your back; I collected a bunch of real-life anecdotes from people I am extremely proud of; who made their way through the sleepless nights. And compiled it into this article.
When I asked my friends for their personal stories, there definitely were mixed reactions; some regret it, some don’t. But what’s common is gratitude, great experiences, amazing friends and a sense of pride.
Chapter II. My story.
I would shamelessly talk about my experience first. I had always been among the rankers of my class; I was fairly good at studies and was convinced that I wanted to become a doctor. I remember being in the seventh standard when it felt like something hit me and all I wanted to do from that day onwards was to study. I went to this famous institute with loads of confidence, and it was nice initially; I was active in my classes, a little slower in math, but fairly good in all of the other subjects.
We had a test within 14 days of attending classes, which seemed fair. I remember the day our results came in. There used to be lists put upon notice boards, with students’ names arranged rank-wise, subject-specific marks and a few other details. What caught my eye were the 3-5 toppers, who used to get their photograph placed on the top of the list. Even though I knew that the picture I submitted with the form was extremely pathetic, the competitive girl in me wanted to see it on the list someday.
Now, I wasn’t used to people having a similar name as mine, so I misread the list and thought that I was amongst the top-10 rankers, I remember going into the class boasting about my rank with everyone I knew. The next thing I remember was when someone pointed out to me, during our ’10 minute’ long break, that I actually was the 33rd ranker and not the 10th. I had never been so ashamed and disgusted with myself. My friends were ranked in forties and fifties, but that didn’t matter anymore. I was lagging behind. There were around 500 students if I remember correctly, but I was still an average student, which I couldn’t accept.
By the end of the eighth standard, I knew that this wasn’t something that I was interested in anymore. I had just lost someone very close to me. Facing death for the first time, I wasn’t ready for the race again. This time I didn’t have my friends, only competitors whose only knowledge of the world was science and math and JEE and NEET.
If you visit me someday, you will see a guitar and will find a keyboard in my room. If you ask me to play either of those, I’d be ashamed. I know the basics for sure, I could play some Bollywood songs for you; but it wouldn’t be perfect. I wouldn’t know the chords for most, and you wouldn’t trust me that I was amongst the good and talented ones in my class. What happened then you ask? Kota, I’d say.
The rest that follows.
As I spoke to my friends, getting to know their stories was harder than I could imagine. They had gone through so much, all alone. Even if you have people around, the competition and the pressure swallows you up. Stuck in oblivion with no end, you keep falling until you find yourself at the top and the cycle continues.
Initially, everyone felt extremely attached to their respective institutes, it was new and refreshing and the studies didn’t seem like a burden. But eventually, in the long run, it did become exhausting for them to follow all of that as a lifestyle.
Most of these people were toppers of their class, actually all. Something common in a few stories was gaining a bit of over-confidence post 11th standard, and going downhill at the advent of 12th. Only because they landed up in the top batches in the previous year. However, they worked their way through the rough patches and ended up scoring better than ever.
Chapter III. When you leave Kota, but Kota never leaves you.
The Regret is Real.
The obvious question that might pop into your heads is definitely that if you got into the college of your dreams, then what is there to regret?
It is the regret of losing all those years to something that could’ve been procrastinated without much difference in the future. Knowing that people around you did it all in one year, you lost most of your teenage years struggling through practice sheets and not on the city streets.
For what it’s worth, finding good friends, making everyone proud of your achievements and doing it all by yourself counts, counts a lot.
What is it like for someone who takes a gap year?
Some people take drop-years in hope of better colleges or desired branches. Then some feel lost in the crowd and end up finding themselves at the back. It is extremely difficult to make your way back to the top.
All it takes is the courage for that first step, and the rest follows. Things are tougher for students who like to take a break, there is definitely a lot of pressure. But in the end, nothing is impossible and the picture unravels itself. You just need to stay calm and consistent and it will make sense one day.
Out of the blues.
What remains a constant is knowing when to take a break, having good companions and not giving up on yourself. As they made their way to their dream colleges, the reality was a little different than the Dharma movies. Everyone begins by exploring their campus, finding friends, and eventually finding themselves in the little college experience. By the time they realised, they had to get more serious. Life at these dream colleges is not easy, people still have to work their way through classes, assignments, internships and placements.
Believe me, no one has it easy, not even the IITians or the Medicos; especially not them.
It definitely is a rat race, it makes you push your emotions away and turn into this robot with an extremely monotonous life, and one day you just lose it, you don’t want to do it anymore.
You lose the motivation and the willpower, and what comes your way are a few sad days, so dark that even you are afraid for yourself, and at times of yourself.
Being a student at your dream college.
With the bunch of anecdotes, it was a pretty easy guess that all colleges are loaded with equally insane minded people, a feeling of belongingness and all good things. Of course, we cannot run away from assignments, internships and examinations. But well, it is all worth it when you come back to your dorm, to your ‘home away from home. There is definitely also the ‘college-tag’, which never hurts.
Even if you don’t make it, at the end of the day it is all about experiences, practical knowledge and your willpower to never give up. Take a pause, feel grateful for what you have, there are always have – nots to be sad about.
Kota is undoubtedly the hub of education, an ocean of great minds and the land that turns your dreams into reality. If you are lucky enough you will find your weirdos, luckier if your landlords are extremely nice. There are definitely tonnes of experiences to gain from and memories to cherish waiting for you in this city. With warm hearts and practice sheets, the city shall wait with you till you reach your endgame.
As scary as it sounds, I believe the journey speaks for itself.
Acknowledgements: This article is inspired by real-life incidents of Divyanshu Bujethia, Drashya Khatri, Moysha Gera, Shreya Gupta and Shubham Talwani. I sincerely thank you all for helping me out with your stories.