I am currently studying for my pre-meds in a city in Rajasthan filled with students. Kota, (that’s the name), is almost theatrically reigned by coaching class-empirists, that venerable group of businessmen who recognised India’s desperation for education early and consequently made a staggering amount of money very quickly.
It is divided into areas, as any city generally is, but what’s remarkable is that each area has been, by tacit and silent agreement, almost assigned to a particular coaching class, probably to avoid a Gangs of New York like scenario, which would have most definitely ensued, when everyone concerned should have been studying. Like the centre of its own private universe, each coaching campus rises in the middle of its self-designated area, while galaxies of hostels whorl around it. There is no demographic variety in Kota, 95% of the population is the students, the rest are probably their teachers. And therefore, there is hardly any variety of landscape. Almost every building that you see is a hostel, the others are schools. Probably the natives of Kota have thrown their caps in the ring, and have converted their houses into hostels, sacrificing individuality to happy prosperity.
An area of about 4 acres undertakes to educate about 50,000 students at one time. At all hours of the day, uniformed students, (of course we have uniforms, the most pathetic excuses for apparel which could be ever conjured up), are to be seen on roads, on foot, in rickshaws, buses and vans, crossing bridges and canals, wearing that ubiquitous leash, their ID card, around their necks. Like insects crawling out of the woodwork, or ants around a piece of sugar, each area is a jungle of students displaying their colours and swearing loyalty to the coaching class of their kingdom. If it weren’t so depressing, it would be awe-inspiring.
I see people everyday forget that they ever had a life, and studying, studying, studying to crank up an admission into a medical college. Very, very few people have thought beyond the elusive admission, beyond the four and a half years which will permit them to put a Dr. before their names. They have been told since childhood that the surest way to happiness is to become either a doctor or an engineer, so they proceed with the formalities immediately, and with great determination. They don’t care about what they are studying, whether they like doing it, whether it is interesting to them, whether they will wake up 20 years from now and regret spending the best years of their lives doing something something they didn’t care for, and not doing something they loved, and would have done much better.
To be fair, these poor souls come from backgrounds where they cannot afford to take risks. They ask only contentment from life, and the fulfillment of their tolerably low expectations. So, maybe I shouldn’t wonder.
And yet, what could happen if they were free to choose! India has a massive young population, and if everybody worked at what he or she loved, and did best, we wouldn’t have half of the problems we are having now.
But this is Utopia, and I live somewhere very far from it. Oh well, it feels good to imagine. And a few good men can change the world.