Lalu Banerjee looked at the calendar and grimaced. Exactly two months left for him to travel; time to start booking train tickets. He turned his computer on and opened the IRCTC website. The traffic on the website was unbelievable. After half an hour of login errors and timed out sessions, he finally managed to get inside. The list of available trains appeared; there were seven regular trains and around eight special trains. He wanted the best available coach – preferably air-conditioned. But one click and ten minutes later he realized that it was completely booked and he had to settle for a sleeper class. It was like every eligible Indian was desperate for a seat.
Elsewhere, Kapil Raju, a class five school student, had just finished his last exam and was happily trotting out of the hall ready to spend his well-deserved summer vacation playing cricket and swimming. But his parents had other plans. Exactly seven years left for JEE, they thought; time to start coaching their child. He must get into one of the seven old IITs or the eight new ones. They started hunting for coaching classes. They wanted the best one for him. Most of them required the student to write an entrance exam to prepare them for the entrance exam (which is perfectly logical, ofcourse). After getting kicked out of many centres, they had to settle for an average coaching centre. It was like every eligible Indian was desperate for a seat.
Coming back to Lalu Banerjee, when asked by the reporter how trains can even be regarded as a viable way of travel, Mr. Banerjee said, “Well, the rich people have it easy. All they have to do is book a flight to reach wherever they want.”
Not convinced, the reporter ventured further, “But what if you can’t afford a flight and your train is out of tickets?” Mr. Banerjee’s face contorted as he replied “Tatkaal. There is no other way. But look at me. Do you think I can afford internet fast enough to book a tatkaal ticket?” By this point, Mr. Banerjee was fuming with rage “And after all this, what do I get while travelling? Poor sanitation and hygiene! And don’t forget the pathetic food!”
To research deeper on this topic, the reporter went to a well-reputed JEE coaching centre to get a first-hand opinion. Rahul, who is still a student at the centre after multiple unsuccessful attempts, had this to say, “The rich people have it easy. They don’t need to worry about IITs. All they have to do is get into a good university abroad and that is much less competitive.”
On asking how it is that he remained unsuccessful after so many attempts, his face turned red with anger “Reservation. Unfortunately for me, I do not belong to a lower caste. There is no other reason”. Finally, on enquiring why he was putting himself through the terrible conditions in the centre, Rahul smiled and said “Terrible condition is just a state of mind. Actually my mummy wants me to get in more than I do. But I know that I will make it big one day”.
Going further, the reporter visited an IIT and asked a student how she found the place. “We put in so much effort to get here and look at our living conditions”, she said, pointing at the rats in the room and dirty sanitation. “The mess food is pathetic and the AC does not work even in places where they are installed”.
To conclude, be it IIT-JEE or IRCTC, everything in this country boils down to coaching and training. However, the reporter urges readers to realize that it is sometimes way more beautiful and rewarding to bring out their dusty old bike, car or cycle and take the road less travelled to reach their destination.