25 minutes. 2 Gentlemen. 1 Career.

September 2007, 3 weeks before junior college began...

‘Ashu, It’s not that you’ve underperformed with your grades but I believe you’ve got much more potential to gain a better grade’, Dad said, on a soothing Sunday morning performing his daily yoga chore. I was just up, and sitting back in the living area waiting for mom to serve tea. Genuinely it’s difficult to perceive such gyaan/knowledge/lecture during morning hours. They are not just irritating but they feel on your heart. Nevertheless, I replied back to him with my master line from the vacation months. ‘Yes Dad, I’ll ensure that I really work hard now’. This is THE cut copy paste reply, I used on every other relative/friend/maid/neighbourhood/opinion leader/Any damn senior who knew me & had a point of view for my career.

‘Ok, So I’ve fixed an appointment for you with *Why does he exist?* Sir’, Dad said. ‘*Why does he exist ?* Sir?’, I asked him. ‘Yes, *Tuitions = LOL* classes waale’, Ok I just realised, *Tuitions = LOL* classes. This was like a family tuition for us, right from my 4 cousins, to my sister and brother prepared for their graduate entrance exams post 10th grade here. My family rated them very high, I don’t know why, because my sister got a medical seat preparing under them while my brother almost flunked studying under the same roof. Was it just the tuition or a student’s caliber? ‘Ok’, I replied. ‘So this is important, we want you to train under *Why does he exist?* sir thoroughly, I want you to take their 2 year course for PCM, PCB & for IIT-JEE’, So technically I had to be this Super ’Nerd’ preparing for regional & national engineering + medical entrance exams (Total 4) and the father of all — IIT-JEE (+1 = 5). I was now awake, thoroughly. ‘But Dad, why would I take Engineering as an option, I am focused on Biology…’ I was genuinely aligned to what we spoke earlier. ‘Yes beta, but your sharpness & caliber should be utilised to the fullest and worst case, if you don’t clear medicine, we need you to get a backup’, Ok, that hurt, the later part of the statement seeded a pinch of insecurity in me. ‘As you suggest… Dad!!’, I did not wish an argument here. ‘And you also need to understand, the competition………’, I lost him right there, not the same lecture again. I had a much interesting thing to do — Parle-G biscuits with tea. It felt good with my ears mute. I loved my habit of hopping off or into a conversation. Like completely focused on the on-going topic and just in a second moving out of it, not even bothered to hear that noise.

‘Please be seated, Sir will call you’, said the lady at reception from *Tuitions = LOL* classes’ branch. Dad and I were at their sustainably compact headquarters near the railway station which in itself is a crowded place. Mom always praised *Why does he exist?* Sir’s excellence on how he shifted from U.P. to Mumbai and started taking tuitions with 8–10 students in a small room and invariably transformed into a huge — mega coaching chain with over 5 branches across Mumbai, till the date I joined. My family somehow was also connected to *Why does he exist ?* ji. Some long distance friend’s friend’s friend’s friend, enough for my Dad to trust him. I was indeed looking forward to meet this gentleman until he helped me make one of the most important decisions of my life at this very meeting — the super negative one, I feel.

‘Congratulations Dear! 87% is not at all a bad score’, said *Why does he exist?* Sir. Again ‘is not at all a bad score’ pinched me. ‘I must tell you, Krishna could’ve easily cracked 90%, it’s just that Algebra issue, he got mentally deviated, you know’, replied Dad, my innocent defensive father. ‘I know Mishra ji, most of the students went down because of this incident’, said *Why does he exist ?* Sir who was meeting Dad for the Nth time. Thanks to my cousins and the endless number of referral admissions my Dad helped him with. ‘Ok! so what do you want to do Krishna?’ Sir asked, with a direct eye contact. Getting my back straight on the seat, I replied, ‘Sir, I’ve had my interest in biology and would want to pursue medicine ahead’,I looked at Dad, he opened his eye a little wider as if I was missing something, Oh yes! How could I miss the engineering part? I continued, ‘And of course, I want to give an attempt with IIT-JEE as well’, ‘Ok, but why would you want to try both the fields when each one of them is extensively rooted, vast and requires sheer effort to grill and crack it. Instead why don’t you just focus on one of these field’, Sir replied, which was exactly my point. I looked at Dad. ‘Actually sir, we had 2 kids already trained under you but Krishna I feel is the most versatile and talented amongst them and would definitely be working hard to crack one of these’, Dad replied in a flash.

‘Mishraji, I understand your point, but this must be very hard and misguiding for the kid as well. This is as good as learning French and Japanese together’, Dad kept quiet. ‘And specially for IIT and PMT exams, students only focus on either of them and yet elegantly fail to crack it after so much efforts’, Dad did not utter a word. I was liking this man until his next words, ‘And I must tell you kids from Mumbai comparatively have lower caliber to crack these national level exams, thanks to their academic pattern which does not match with the national level coaching’, Now, this hurt on my existence to dream big. Remember I said about human caliber being important and not the medium or channel, he just almost killed my assumption/theory. ‘But Sir, my son is extremely good with his aptitude skills and presence of mind. He is a quick learner and very adaptable’, Dad finally replied!

I felt good in a way, but genuinely hated the way Dad was trying to sell me. To our surprise, he stood up, turned towards his huge shelf and picked up a piece of paper. He sat back scrutinising it and gave this paper to me. ‘Krishna, you’ve got 20 minutes, these are 5 questions, 3 for medicine, 2 for engineering, please tick the correct option below. You can sit there next to the sofa’, there was this study table. I looked at Dad, he nodded at me to go. I sat their screening this piece of paper while Dad and Sir continued talking about their mutual well-being. Now, to be honest, I did not understand a single question, except for the English grammar in it. These were genuinely alphabets, & some written signs which I never came across — alien. Some weird formulae etc. I know I was dead, the probability of scoring a 5 on 5 was long gone. Unless I am damn good with my luck. I had no clue what was going on. I somehow ticked answers on the basis of the question — supposedly the words I could match in the options and in the questions. Frankly, they were all fluke, selecting whatever I felt was right. Gut feeling you know!

Completing my worst test ever, I went to the main table. I handed over the paper to sir, he looked at it for good 20 seconds, kept the paper aside and instantly replied. ‘See Mishraji, your son couldn’t crack a single question. All of them are wrong. This is what I was explaining you, our academic curriculum is too shallow as compared to the national one. Hence our students fail at excelling in IIT and PMT. Didn’t you find these questions alien?’, he looked at me.

‘Yes’, I said, frankly I was stunned with whatever he proved. Dad looked at me with a grudge full of sigh — not even a single right answer and my ‘Yes’ added to his misery. ‘Ok Sir, what do you suggest?’, Dad said, waving a white flag. ‘I would want him to take up state entrance challenge for medicine and engineering, forget going to the national scale. That might just kill his chance of performing better here. Trust me! Looking at his grades, I would give a 75% discount on the entire fee amount for these 2 years which would include his 11th & 12th regular college course and his entrance preparation as well’, Sir replied. Dad looked convinced, may be the discounted fee added to his conviction. ‘As you say sir, we shall do it’, he said and they smiled looking at each other. We shook hands with *Why does he exist ?* Sir and left. Now, here is the problem, I was stunned the way this meeting ended, how could this gentleman decide my capabilities? How does that piece of paper with alien words prove my IIT/PMT cracking capacity? How could these 2 gentle souls decide my potential in life?

Agreed, one was my Dad who did everything to sell me off as one bright head to the other who was a pioneer in coaching minds. But how could they conclude of me as an underdog. OK! I didn’t know whatever was written on that paper but there is always room to learn. Even if national board students were exposed to it, so what? Going forward we shall be in the same class learning the same course, just a challenge for me to learn that extra bit (actually a lot of it) which they’ve done before. How does this even stop me from attempting and who the hell are these two gentlemen to decide If I was fit to attempt an IIT/PMT exam. And for Dad, he could’ve taken my point/suggestion for once? What I wanted to do. Frankly, I did not even have the courage to question my Dad’s decision. Today after 9 long years I met a few IITians and I realise I could’ve cracked it, may be not top the list but at least could’ve grab a seat anywhere across the nation. It was upsetting. My career was decided in 25 minutes between 2 gentlemen. May be this is how a middle class youngster is treated when it comes to choosing his/her life. Back then I regretted, but today I don’t. Why? Because I sent him a letter lately, an anonymous letter (I don’t want to spoil my Dad’s relation with people).

But I am sure he would remember me. Well! I wrote it in a way that he does…

“Hello Sir, Hope you’re doing well :)

I am ‘Immaterial’, former student, from batch Immaterial year. I have a confession to make. I am totally not interested in your ‘Who wants to be a billionaire?’ fastest finger first test. Back then, 9 years ago you could convince my Dad but let me tell you, we come to your doorway for guidance and expect that to be a support for what we want to do, and not what you want us to be! Or your ‘feel’ of what we can do! I realised recently, that back then you did not have provisions for IIT/PMT coaching and that was the biggest reason you neglected the option for me because you would lose for that 25% discounted fee you asked my Dad for. Also to clarify, the alien questions you gave me to solve were not from CBSE board syllabus but were from graduation in science 2nd year (I found this recently in one of my anxiety to find those answers). Your marketing skills, I really appreciate for you convinced my Dad and even me to an extent. But trust me, you are there to build and encourage students and not fit them in a way you want them to. And Ohh! Btw I happen to meet your son a few days ago. ‘Dope King’ his friends call him, please pick up some time & guide him as well.

Thanking you,

No, I don’t feel like thanking you…Oh! Wait! Thank you for were the first person on planet earth that made me realise — people can definitely be pointless in guiding their audience. Ironically, you were the first person to spark that rebel in me who always wanted to do things and live the way he wants to…

- A potential IIT/PMT aspirer who would graduate as one of the toppers in his course of life B) ”

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Content Curator. Farmland Nomad. Pub Quiz Master. Colloquial Author.

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Krishnakant Mishra

Content Curator. Farmland Nomad. Pub Quiz Master. Colloquial Author.