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A Farewell To Agrawal's - In all Earnest

Saturday, January 01, 2011
Today's paper read like the proverbial morning cuppa. Only this time, it was strong enough to jolt self out of years of blogging slumber.

Well, you know this has to special right?

Agrawal's Classes (Ideal for Scholars) is downing shutters.

Big deal you might say, if you're not from these parts. But for any Mumbai Science HSC student, there is a lot of context here. Especially if you were lucky enough to have got an admit into the hallowed portals of 1st floor, Harganga Mahal. Oh, in case I didn't make it really clear, you got an admit, you just didn't enrol by throwing money. Right. There was a CUT-OFF to get ADMISSION here. A 'COACHING CLASS'. (Show me any other place which had the cojones to do that, and I will convince you that Mumbai has gone to the dogs. Wait, do I need to...?)

The SSC Marksheet - Science+Maths total - would determine whether you were good enough to enrol here. I remember rushing for an Agrawal's admit immediately after my SSC results were out, and then worrying about which Junior college to go to. The joy on dear Mother's face was of Nirupa Roy proportions on learning that I had made the grade by one mark. "You have made us proud, and our struggle was worth it", et al.(If this sounds too melo, well, she had the habit of subtly pointing to the neon logo, whenever we would pass by Dadar TT, ever since I was one.)

All in all, a very smart business model by the man. If you take the cream of a city's students, and subject them to a really bitchin', bad-ass boot camp, you are bound to top the HSC lists too. Which really gives their proclamation that 'Top ranking students almost always come from Agrawal's classes' a very very smug sheen indeed.

By the time I was in, Agru's offered only vacation batches - where we had to wolf down the entire HSC syllabus, in a generous 3 month period. This led to discovering areas about self that one didn't ever know - prime fact being that the human brain is incapable of concentrating on Limits and Calculus after half an hour. This is where the seeds of that seminal life skill called Zoning Out were sown. Probably the single biggest thing I have taken away from Agru's and used in Life. Which is saying a lot.

Agru's weekly tests would be exercises in the worst kind of sadism possible, with questions airlifted from IIT JEE levels. There would be just one question related to what was taught in class, and all the rest were barbed wire underwear masquerading as 'Application of Knowledge'. Prime Example? Physics 2 - "Why do farmers plough their fields in winter, and not in summer?" (This still sticks, after more than a decade. The trauma.)

Held in IES Dadar, with a marriage unfurling outside your classroom, what with (Shrikhand+Puri+Batata Bhaji) fumes creeping up your nostrils, shehnai white noise, and you cooped in Fourth Standard benches, it was barely enough to just write your name and roll number without wincing, leave alone answer gems like the above.

To pile on the joyousness of it all, there was a mandatory half an hour minimum period to be spent in the classroom, irrespective of whether you wanted to write past the first question or not. Which in my case, was 11 times out of 10.

The sheer evil genius of this whole show, was manifested in the Report Cards. Which arrived by good old Indian Post, for your parents to admire and cherish. More so, when they had the highest scores, the average score, and your ward's score, all neatly laid out, with mug shots of the toppers. Was something I really looked forward to.

Agru's had a great selection of profs, ranging from the pits to absolute stud-boys, and everything in between. You couldn't get a better deal though, for the price you paid. Their entire fees would cover one subject's tuition fees for 'Private' (sic). Individual attention be damned. Some real dudes who taught there who still trigger unbearable nostalgia attacks are

  • Prof Babu ("LimtuponLimitSumofLimitCompleteIt!!!!!")
  • Prof Vengsarkar ("IIT Question... very popular question, give it some thought.")
  • Prof Awatramani ("You are my students... How CAN you fail?!")
  • Prof Kadali ("Hello Hello Alkane, Dihalo Alkane")
  • Prof Kulkarni ("In general...")
  • Prof Dhir Singh ("Yes please")

D Damodar functioned as the un-official canteen for Agru's, and a couple of samosas a day, served as the highlight, where you could commiserate with other wounded fellow men, marvelling at the pincer attacks of the subjects before and after.

Agru's peons were the friendliest people on earth, and had sweeping executive powers to make you stand outside as punishment, in case you were late for the lectures. Their word was final. Even friendlier were the sari shop owners just below the building, who would shoo us away like cattle, if we blocked their display windows while waiting to be let up. Evidently, they lost crores in five minutes. Heartwarming.

Agru's memories are something which will stay with me for a long time, and ironically outlive Agru's itself. It is sad to see them wind up, and it is like one part of your life which you thought would be there for ever. Fact of the matter is, that nothing ever is.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

posted by Tapan at 1:12 PM