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2 Years Of Exile In Kota Broke Me Down So Much That I’m Still Recovering

More from Tamoghna Ghosh

By Tamoghna Ghosh:

Recently, it was in the news that a girl from Kota had committed suicide after her failure in the JEE. The incident stirred up a whole lot of suppressed memories inside me. So I wanted to share the story of a girl, who almost met the same fate as her. Well, almost.

There’s a sarcastic remark that does the rounds in the engineering circles, “First do B. Tech. Then follow your actual passion.”

Yeah, right. Only that some people have to go through hell to do precisely that.

I had always been the topper of my class since I started schooling, much to the resentment of my classmates, and the pride of my parents and teachers. But I was never a model student. Quite the contrary. My grade sheet at the end of each academic year would be stained by a simple ‘B’ in bold letters in front of ‘DISCIPLINE & CONDUCT’. It was a matter of great concern to my mother, who’d been a quiet child, that her daughter would grow up to be a ‘lyaj-kata-bandor’ (a tailless monkey, for you). I was mortally afraid of her and her punishments. But in spite of all that, I continued to perform well in academics.

As with any good student in India, I was brainwashed into believing that ‘Science’ is the best thing out there. That being a bright student, I was ear-marked to be a student of science.  Nobody, however, cared to scrutinise my mark sheet and discover that my best marks were always inevitably in English. Nobody looked through my notebooks to find sweet little poems scribbled in the last pages. Nobody cared that I had a badge for being a cub reporter in TTIS (the student’s magazine in vogue back then).

By the time I was in Class IX and X, I already knew there were only two career choices in front of me – be a doctor or an engineer. Coming from a family background of doctor and engineer ‘mama’, ‘mami’, ‘mausi’, ‘mama-ki-beti’, ‘mausi-ki-beti’… I knew there was hardly a way out without being engulfed in the family circle, churning out doctors and engineers every year. Adding to that was my parent’s cliched idea of maintaining their ‘standing-in-society’, which would get an immense boost if they manage to produce a doctor beti or an IITian beti. Yeah, you heard me right. Not just any engineering college. That would be too mainstream. That would be lesser than that ‘IITian-cousin-you-have-got-in-your-family’. That would make them ‘lose their nose’, or whatever part of their face, in front of a gang of bloodthirsty relatives and society.

So, all my dreams of being a writer, or a journalist, or a fashion designer, or an interior decorator flushed down the gutter. I was plucked from my cosy life in Bengal and shipped off to the Mecca of IIT coaching: Kota.

In all my 22 years of life, I prefer to block out every memory of the two years of my exile to Kota. The struggle and hardships I went through broke me down to such a level that it took me all the years of my college life to ease back to my old style. I am still recovering.

Kota seemed to me a place from a different galaxy. The environment was so different from the nourished, caring way I was brought up back in Bengal. I got enrolled in a proxy school. I went for classes daily at the coaching institute I had joined and tried my best to cope with the piling pressure. Needless to say, I failed. The coaching institutes had a system of segregating students on the basis of marks in the monthly exams, into different batches.

The top-most elite batches would get the elite teachers, the best of everything, and be fuelled (or brainwashed, I should say) more and more to crack the JEE with flying colours. As we descend down the levels of the hierarchy, we find the competence diminishing, the skills of teachers lessening and the pressure of reaching the elite batches increasing. It was a circus, those coaching institutes. Once you fall, you’re lost for life. The competition is so damn high, that it’ll take you ages to climb back to your previous rung in the ladder, and that too if Lady Luck was benign enough.

Apart from academic pressure, life in Kota, in general, was excruciatingly painful. Being away from your parents, coping with your daily life all by yourself is not an easy thing. On top of it, you have no real friends. The friends are your competitors and it becomes hard to find a person to trust. You become all alone in this mad circus. I did too. I lost my capacity to make friends. I became quiet and introverted. I stuck out like a sore thumb. The girl who’d get a B in Conduct for being an incorrigible chatterbox had lost all zeal in life. She was just another face in the sea of countless students, struggling to reach the top for air and preventing the forces of nature from dragging her down.

By the time I was done with Kota, I was hardly recognisable. I had lost my creative enthusiasm. I couldn’t write a single good poem. That was coming from a girl who’d write poems by the dozen, every other week. I hadn’t read a good book in years. My ability to reason and logic, in short, my IQ, for which I had received many an accolade in life, had reached an all-time low. I was just a robot who’d been programmed with the essential commands to crack IIT-JEE and think no more.

A part of me dealt with all the academic information, which I must remember till the last second of the exam. The other part of me, which was still human, dealt with the pressure put on me by my family. Every second of my life, my dad would remind me the lakhs they were spending on my education, and how I must reimburse them by getting into IIT and getting a well-paying job. My mom would never stop to remind me of her sacrifices, and how I would ‘rub their faces in the mud’ if I didn’t crack JEE. It was a lot to take in. I was overwhelmed to say the very least.

And then the D-Day came. And I couldn’t crack JEE. Speculations and blame games started in my family. Mom and dad took it upon themselves, that it was their fault I couldn’t crack JEE. That they should have spent more money, they should have given more time, they should have fed me nutritious food to make my brain function, they should have changed coaching centres and all that crap. It never occurred to them that the real blame lay in forcing me into something I was disinterested in. Relatives tut-tutted and sighed in mock concern and gave advice that hardly seemed sincere enough. My grandparents snidely commented, “Not all people have the same IQ. There could be just one IITian in the family.” In short, my parent’s ‘standing-in-society’ plummeted to the depths because of their demented daughter. *Slow clap for the Indian society and education system*

It was a terrible thing to be caught in the crossfire that ensued my not getting into IIT. First of all, there was the burden of my failure. Then my low self-esteem, which sank even lower hearing those comments from my relatives, people I had always counted on. Then the stricken look on the faces of my parents and their incessant moaning about how much money they’d invested in me. The academic, financial and psychological loss was too much for me. I contemplated suicide many times. I started smoking stealthily. I had a nervous breakdown. And my parents knew nothing of that. They were busy licking their own wounds, the wounds inflicted on them by their own daughter, apparently.

Now, after three years, I don’t remember exactly how I managed to climb out of the pit of depression, if there was a turning point or not. I quit smoking, grew bolder and started nursing myself back to good health, figuratively. Then one fine day, after my admission to my college and only a fortnight away from joining college, I finally snapped and lashed out at my parents in the midst of a family argument. A few relatives were present too. They were stunned into silence. Something had broken inside me, that urged me to shout at my own parents and mouth things (the truth, obviously) that I would never have had the courage to say. The pent-up frustration of all those years was out in a matter of seconds. That incident is to go down in the history of my life as the day I stopped fearing my parents and what society would say and started concentrating on what I want, for a change.

I am now in my fourth year of civil engineering. Again it was a stream I wasn’t too keen on at first, but slowly with time I’ve grown to love it. My philosophy towards life has changed a lot and the meek submissive girl of high-school is no more. On that note, I stand vehemently against the whole system of education in Kota, where coaching centres have sprouted like mushrooms and against the orthodox practice of parents imposing their ambitious dreams on the naive shoulders of their children.

Like Tamoghna, lakhs of students in India face intense pressure because of a system that’s obsessed with marks over learning. This need to change. Tweet to the Education Minister and demand action now:

Why must students in India undergo so much pressure? Edu. Minister @PrakashJavdekar, #DoYourJob

Featured image for representation only. Credit: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
Banner image credit: Ramesh Sharma/India Today Group/Getty Images.

You must be to comment.
  1. Indranil Sengupta

    A rather well put together article.It takes courage to write about the worst period in one’s life. I guess everyone who has been a part of entrance circus in 11,12 has experienced something similar if not the same.This brought back too many memories although not very pleasant ones.

  2. George Felix

    I could relate to your experience in a heartbeat! Whenever my thoughts stumble onto the Kota days, I reel with disgust. It comes reflexively. Thanks for sharing your story. And well-written!
    I wrote a blog post around two years ago on my Depressed phase. You can read it here:- http://www.georgefelixblog.com/details-of-depression

  3. Ayush Anand

    This article shows that you are still a fabulous writer . I also want to be an iitian but not at this cost.

  4. suchismith roy

    I can completely relate myself with your situation.especially the part of coming from comfort of Bengal.
    My case was different though,i was admiitted in similar sprouting centers in hyderabad..and i was pasisonate abt science..and engg further.
    But their system..exactly like u described..crushed my dreams..the idea of getting left out of an elite batch is so traumatising.
    Nyways..i have come out of all of it…and in a much btter position.
    But i still wish i cld travel back and change those 2years.

  5. Shree Bhargava

    I was not a topper of the class but i was among top 20. My interest was in music-basically drumming and other instruments but thoughts of my family were far apart from mine….
    In the end as most of the parents who are already engg. Or doc. Wants their children to become like them. Somehow i survived my 11th and 12th class but then i was not interested in engg. But then also my parents sent me for cochng institute…..
    This is our indian society who doesnt give a damn what you do in your life but interfears when they can gossip about it….! Your story reminded mine past too….

  6. Anushree Acharya

    More power to you Tamoghna! Reading your story was like looking into my own past of those 2 long years in Kota. It brought back the memories, both good and bad, the pressure of those times and the depression phase. The only difference being, my family was my strongest support system. They never gave up on me, and this kept me going. Now I’ve moved on, doing journalism and have new perspectives to live life with the zeal I used to.
    I want more people to get aware of all that is wrong with the coaching system, where they are manufacturing robots. And everyone reading this, please do what interests you. Because if you do what you love, you’ll excel and be happy. It’s all that matters!

  7. Vinay Rahure

    This article should’ve been captioned as “losers’ talk”

  8. Vikram Goyal

    Heart touching article..

  9. Angshuman Pal

    It takes courage to write this article. More than that, Tamoghna, it also takes burning and raging emotions within…
    I have never been to Kota in my life, and harbour no wish to go there ever. In my third year of Mechanical Engineering in one of the better engineering colleges of Kolkata, it is even more evident to me what utter imbecilic idiots the people are who imagine that a course at Kota or any such hellish place will guarantee a journey to the Promised Land in life, metaphorically speaking. Not being an IITian myself I have immense respect for them. But the typical products manufactured in factories like Kota, even those who get into the IIT’s, do not have a future worth anticipating 20-30 years down the line. There are, definitely, exceptions, who manage to get through hell without getting charred, but my peace of mind is very precious and I don’t risk losing it.
    I loved my subject and performed as per my calibre, which was, incidentally, without the assistance of any Institute. But at least I have the capacity to think independently and not just what a group of coaching institute morons want me to.

    Godspeed to you Tamoghna. Vinay Rahure, get a life man.

    1. Vinay Rahure

      Angshu MAN you’re too amateur to me to get into any sort of debate, so keep calm and study well 🙂

  10. Ranjeet Singh

    Thanks Gosh for giving an overview of KOTA education system . The courage you have shown to tell reality is very good. Before this I was unaware of these facts , I was thinking to send my brother’s for IIT preparation but now I decided I will not send them . I will not make any intervention in their life . Thanks again ..

  11. Nirmal Poudel Joe C

    What is wrong with guys like you. You kept bitching about your days in kota , you held your family responsible for that even when they are not. And finally you are doing engineering. Wow what was all that drama about.

    1. Harsha Vardhan

      STFU if you cant understand someone’s feelings.

  12. Niladri Ghosal

    this particular individual simply couldnt cope up with the pressure and now is lashing out her frustration. Even though i did not get into an iit, i was still able to get into the top college in my state, which , frankly would have been impossible had i not trained in kota. my wbjee rank after class 12th was 13000+ and after i studied in kota it was 944 so, yeah, even though i was not academically excellent,i learnt a lot. it was a hell. but it was an unforgettable experience. i was in top 3 in my school but my wbjee results post class 12 was a slap at my cheeks. and my year at kota was like a bucket ice cold water being thrown over my head. it showed me my true worth. it taught me how hard i must work. the boy who was 3rd in his class had to work his arse off to reach top 20 in his batch- lets just forget about whole institute ranking. I enjoyed a lot too. some of the food there was great. [west bengal’s eggrolls does not hold a candle to kota’s egg rolls 😀 ] the people were friendly. it was the safest city i have ever seen. you can get an auto at 2 a.m. night easily, or walk around the streets under the cool moonlit nights… enjoying a breath of fresh air [assuming you have time after completing your homework]. Its simple darwinism- survival of the strong willed and fittest. those things aside, unless you can handle pressure and immerse yourself in working hard, kota is not for you. but if you can buckle up for those one or two years, you can learn a lot. atleast i did. but i guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

  13. Harsha Vardhan

    Even though I ended up in one of the IITs,I think that Indian education system is a mess.

  14. Siddharth Siddy

    I whole heartedly agree with what Tamoghna (is that the Bengali form of Tamanna) has said here.

    For people like Vinay Raghure , you must be like the quintessential Sharma ji ka beta whom our society uses for comparison and embarrassment. Don’t mock people as losers. Who knows tomorrow you might be standing where we are today. Let me tell you of an interesting anecdote – my brother slogged through the 2 maddening years of IIT JEE preparation but he couldn’t crack it. His classmate made it to (perhaps for the lack of memory) the top of CBSE merit list with 98.8 percent. The guy even cracked IIT JEE with an AIR 900+ something and went into mechanical.

    I was shocked !!! At least 900 brains were better than this guy (just incidentally , the parents of this topper were both ISRO scientists if you have any faith in Lamarckism). And I remember my brother so teary-eyed on the day the board results were declared since he got “only” 90.5%. He took up chemical engineering. Today he’s completed a masters in both chemical as well as computer engineering (this goes for you Nirmal Poudel Joe C.) from University of California , Los Angeles. And he works for a much larger company today – namely Amazon – than his fabled classmate.

    WHEN WILL YOU PEOPLE REALISE THAT WHAT BROKE US WAS NOT THE SOCIETAL PRESSURES , COMPETITION OR EVEN SIMPLY OUR INABILITY TO REACH / CATCH UP WITH THE TOP. WE WERE BROKEN BY A MINDLESS EDUCATION SYSTEM THAT BOILS DOWN TO A RAT RACE. YES WE RAN , BUT WE STOPPED MID-WAY BECAUSE WE WANTED TO KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING.

    Perhaps you were one of the stronger few who were able to hold on to their heads and get through the 4 grueling years of engineering too , or were you ?

    Still didn’t get it ? I honestly can’t make this any simpler. Giving the link to save you some trouble. Here , watch this:
    https://youtu.be/w67dhHLUK3M
    Just watch the retaliation from Will Smith and you’ll know what I am talking about. These imbeciles are what our education is famous for producing. I dearly hope you don’t make a fine specimen of it one day.

  15. Harnav Gill

    With all due respect mam you cant expect a fish to climb a tree. Neither the tree ( KOTA) nor the fish ( aspirant) are at fault no matter how hard the fish tries. Some things just don’t belong together. Kota can be heaven or hell it all depends on one’s intention to go there. Personally speaking its the interest and love for the subject which will take you all the way other than anything else. Kota has nothing to do with degrading your poetic acumen.

  16. Nitin John Raj

    Dude, read carefully, idiot. She’s against Kota. She went through crap. The place broke her self-confidence, self-esteem, creativity. Sure she’s doing engineering now. But wait a sec, she didn’t crack JEE.

    So I guess Kota didn’t help her after all.

    1. Nitin John Raj

      She’s against Kota, not engineering.

  17. Neel Deshmukh

    This is actually not fault of Kota. I have never seen a place that I liked as much other than probably My college. I think the fault is more with parents forcing into unnecessary and possible a completely irrelevant competition to a persons talent. For people who are into engineering types of subjects , Kota is very much fun. You meet a lot of people with IQ north of 140. And even students in average batches are some of the smartest people you will meet. Every system comes with a few bad characteristics but this story seems more like a less likely bad case than the REALITY. I would say the major blame falls on parents followed by students who fail to speak up at the right time(But at that time they are too young to be that revolting or understanding at that time)

  18. Vaishno Dev Singh

    I am in kota and I am in top batch of my Institute and my true passion is engineering and I am loving it, the atmosphere here is electric. Even if I am not able to get into iits I just learned how to push myself to the extremes and that’s one hell of an experience. I loved science and I chose it and I am enjoying it. If you go for your true passion the pressure is never too much

  19. Akash SAhu

    Well this is not only the possible outcome but its one of the million possible outcomes.
    The problem with writer or people like her is that she didn’t actually want to do engineering things and her passion lies in creative writing and such related stuff.
    Being myself from Bansal classes and currently from IIT, I know a lot of people who require proper guidance to show them career direction and perhaps, they couldn’t have made jee without the guidance and tge system.
    Kota gives us an opportunity through proper planning and execution, which requires complete dedication and discipline. Unlike writer who wasn’t very disciplined kid, there are many sincere and disciplined students waiting for a single opportunity. So, instead of blaming kota she should perhaps blame her decision maker who sent her kota without thinking about her way of studies. Its like blood with certain blood group it doesn’t suit everyone but to those it suits, it works successfully.

  20. Jaspreet Sidhu

    kota is the poster boy(city) for everything that is wrong with our educational system. Sure you can “work hard” by which I mean you can stop having a life apart from your stupid mock tests. KOTA SUCKS. face it.

    1. Siddesh Shelar

      stop blaming other and work harder

  21. Âshûtôsh Sîñgh

    Ohh common…stop blaming others for ur failure…and plzz dunn say anything wrong about kota…u r just spreading rumors about the coaching institutions there(kota)…

    1. Utsav Chaudhary

      Rumors!!!????..we all know how many opted for suicide

  22. Makarand Pande

    I’m with you… Had almost same experience…

  23. Siddesh Shelar

    see dear suicide is not the solution to any problem i cleard mains and adavnce with god rank of air1254 see choosing a stream is ur passion and work towards it full heartly ur will really succeed u told about families and all see first thing when u r in kota leave everything apart ur family frndz all 2 years 100% dedication and the most imp in not from kota not even a student of any elite student batch just cracked exams on my iq and skills i cleared both see the most imp for jee is ur skills and u need to one in thousand u r dreams should motivate u thankyou
    i kindly appolize if my words hurt anyone thnk u

    1. Sita Kiran Sankara

      Still in your bubble.. of deemed superiority 🙂
      See things from others perspective.

    2. Bipul Islam

      Glad to know you made it. But…
      I think the problem is not about dedication. Some people have the dream of cracking the Jee’s others don’t. Those who don’t have such dreams should have a hard time of adjusting to the scenario. Feeling like a fish out of water.
      Its a matter of feeling something being enforced on one. I know people who didn’t go to Kota and still cracked IITs, as well as those who went and cracked IITs. Not everyone is capable of handling the scenarios that is thrust upon you at that age — I for sure won’t be able to. I am sort of thankful to my parents that for them, me staying far away from them at that age wasn’t an option, even though they have forever pushed me hard — but not to become a mill made poster boy or, neighbor’s envy.

      And that’s her whole point in this piece… all these suicides are not because they failed the exams but the ingrained/brainwashed sense that if you don’t succeed at this, your life has no meaning on it’s own.
      Also really, why should IITs be considered the epitome of success? Why should one have to give up all colors of life to achieve something that is branded as a success? Why should pressure of dreams that aren’t your own make you do all that? Its a protest from her not an apology.

  24. Ankit Kumar

    The faculty members need to become serious. Student’s life is much more valuable than just making money. You can see my blog on Unknown Facts of Students Life in Kota here http://www.ransphire.com/blog/student-life-in-kota-facts/ , where I have described each aspect of student life in Kota.

  25. Dijoraj Senroy

    Thank you for this.
    I’m stuck in the same loop as you were and I can relate to most of that.
    The world needs more socilly aware people like yourself, and I must say that you conveyed your story beautifully in terms of langusage and content.
    It made me reconsider some decisions I was probably taking against my own wishes.
    Shared this , and hope that this reaches to all who need a silver lining in their lives.

    1. Dijoraj Senroy

      Socially*
      Language*

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biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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