From across India, thousands of students travel to the northern city of Kota to receive private coaching in the hopes of being accepted into one of the country's top technical colleges. And for some, the pressure to succeed is overwhelming
By SIRIN KALE
With only 23 prestigious Institutes of Technology and thousands of hopeful applicants, competition amongst India’s brightest minds is intense
Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images
For Indian teenagers, the pressure to excel in a country of 1.3 billion people is immense. And at no other time do these pressures metastasise more than in the month of April: exam season.
This is when the nation’s brightest minds sit the examinations that will determine whether they secure entrance to one of India’s prestigious Institutes of Technology (IITs), medical institutes, or business schools. They dream of becoming engineers, dentists, or doctors. But with only 23 IITs in one of the most densely populated nations on Earth, and vastly over-subscribed dental and medical colleges, competition is intense.
To prepare, students from across India travel to the historic northern city of Kota, spending months or even years away from their family and home. Whether the children of manual labourers or business tycoons, all have travelled to Kota for one reason: academic glory.
Kota is the epicentre of India’s private coaching industry. Here, students enrol at one of the many for-profit residential institutes that prepare teenagers for their university entrance exams. For months, even years, teens who’ve barely left their parental homes before live alone, in austere hostel rooms, cramming morning, noon, and night in the hope of a secure, financially lucrative future. They leave their hostel rooms early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and walk down cracked pavements to stuffy classrooms, where they crouch over desks.
At lunchtime they wolf chutney-filled dosas before returning to their desks to cram some more. The most studious return to their hostel rooms and study alone, well into the night.
But most of the teenagers who come to Kota, this effort proves futile. And for some, the threat of failure can prove psychologically overwhelming – and even fatal. In recent years, Kota has earned a more unfortunate reputation for a spate of suicides.