Monday, March 22, 2021

Boy goes back to thank his teacher for IIT gift

What is so spooky in wannabe engineer Luv Kumar’s life?

Luv Kumar’s family had migrated from Bihar to Bengal in the 1980s and his father Hari was working at a jute mill in Howrah, on the outskirts of Calcutta.

Although the jute mill gave Luv’s family a place to stay, it was by no means a home. It was almost like a slum. And, even Hari was paid poorly by the mill and often found it difficult to make ends meet.

Luv studied at the local Corporation School and was a meritorious lad. The school didn’t charge any fees from Luv or the other students. Even though some of the teachers were very forthcoming, the school’s infrastructure was almost crumbling.

But this branch of the Corporation School was known for its meritorious students and the teachers often went out of their way to ensure that these boys and girls didn’t look back in life.

It was in the year 2001 when 18-year-old Luv was in Class 12. And, he was getting ready to enrol in a coaching class. He wanted to study engineering from India’s top institute, the Indian Institutes of Technology or IIT.

His school teachers coached students for numerous medical and engineering entrance exams but if someone wanted to crack the IIT entrance exams, he would have to go to Calcutta and take coaching there.

Luv was an ambitious boy and fell in this category. He wanted to fight the IIT battle and win it — just like Napoleon won the Battle of the Three Emperors.

And, unlike any other student, he didn’t take it as a mere challenge.

Calcutta was about an hour away from his home. One day, without telling his parents and skipping school, he set off for the city.

After all, his friend Abhishek, whose brother Amitabh was studying engineering, not in IIT but in another reputed college, knew some of the eminent coaching centres and teachers in Calcutta.          

Abhishek gave Luv the name of an IIT coach Samresh Das, who earned fame for getting many of his students into the IITs.

Abhishek, though, wasn’t sure of the name. Samresh lived at a place by the name College Street, which was in the northern part of the city, famously known as Old Calcutta.

Luv went to College Street, looked in the lanes and by-lanes. There it was, 611, College Street, the house of Samresh.

Luv looked at the house. It was probably a 100 years old and in a half acre plot. It accommodated around 20 big rooms on one floor.

Most parts of it looked dilapidated and spooky but only a small portion, comprising five rooms and a courtyard — typically associated with a nineteenth century building in Calcutta — were renovated, and upon knocking, an unimposing 60-year-old man, in pyjamas, opened the door.

“Sir, I am looking for Samresh Das,” said Luv. He immediately got an answer, “Yes, that’s me. What do you want, son?”

A determined Luv went on to say, “Sir, I live in Howrah, study in one of the corporation schools and want to appear for IIT. Can you coach me?”

Looking at him, Samresh said, “Yes, you can join the 6 pm batch and I teach all subjects — physics, chemistry and mathematics. My charges are Rs 1,000 a month.”

Hearing this, Luv saw his dreams fall like a pack of cards. Crestfallen, he chose to walk away but Samresh called him.

“Hey boy, where are you going?” Luv looked at Samresh and said, “Sir, I don’t have that kind of money to pay your fees. The only thing I have is my determination.”

Samresh looked at him. “It seems this boy is hungry for success,” he thought.

He told Luv, “Okay, let’s work out something. If you come in the afternoon, I can teach you alone and for free. But I will charge you Rs 100 for my notes.”

Even Rs 100 would be difficult to manage but Luv was determined to join the class. He said to himself, “Perhaps, I will take a loan from my father or my friends. I will have to take the classes.”

He agreed. Samresh told him, “Come every day from Monday to Friday around 2 pm. We will study for two hours. I want to start right away. We just have 10 months left.”

Luv nodded in excitement and headed home. He charted his daily schedule very carefully.

Morning six to 12 noon would be school, and after a brief lunch, he would have to leave for College Street.

Then, he would head back home and study from 5 pm till midnight in his one-room house, where Hari and Luv’s mother Leela often got into heated arguments, and sister, five-year-old Khusi, made noises while running around and playing.

But all these did not come in the way of Luv’s determination to succeed.

For Saturdays and Sundays, he drew up a 12-hour study plan.

Classes began and Samresh found Luv to be very intelligent and enthusiastic. He knew that the boy was surely on the right track.

It was becoming difficult for Luv to cope with his finances, transport cost and tuition. He managed to get a private tuition near home that took care of his transport cost.

Despite all this difficulty, he was getting full-fledged help and encouragement from Samresh.

Soon, it was time for Luv’s Class 12 board exams. And, he had to miss some of his IIT classes in order to appear for his exams.

The exam papers were somewhat tricky that year and some of his meritorious friends even came out crying from the examination hall.

But Luv’s exams went on well, except for chemistry where he had left out some questions that were out of syllabus.

Upon hearing this, Samresh, for the first time, shouted at him. “Why did you leave out the questions? If it is out of syllabus, you just needed to attempt them to get full marks,” Samresh told Luv angrily.

Luv put in his best in the run up to the IIT exams. During the exam, which went on for three days, he thought he solved only 50 per cent of the questions correctly.

Taken aback by his performance, he went to Samresh, who told him, “Boy, if you get 50 per cent of your answers right, then you’re in.”

A month later, the results were finally out. Yes, Luv had made it to the IITs, with a rank of 453. This meant he could choose to go to the top-most IIT, and perhaps, take the most sought-after courses.

Amid celebrations at home, an ecstatic Hari gave Luv Rs 100 to buy his teacher sweets.

Luv bought some of the most delectable Bengali sweets, Sandesh and Rassogolla, from one of the best-known shops in Calcutta and took a taxi to College Street. After all, he was in a hurry to inform his sir.

When Luv reached his teacher’s house, he saw that the portion of the building suddenly looked old and dilapidated. He went near Samresh’s house and noticed that the door was open. Going inside, it seemed that it had been abandoned for decades.

Clearly puzzled, Luv went across to one of the neighbours and asked, “Sir, where has Mr Samresh Das gone.”

The septuagenarian, who he talked to, also lived in a mansion that was dilapidated. He looked as if Luv was joking with him. “Listen boy, stop playing pranks with me. Just go away.”

But Luv said, “Sir, I have got into IIT just because of Samresh Sir.”

Baffled, the man looked at him, telling him, “Samresh is no more. He committed suicide 15 years ago because he was insulted by a parent, who called him a cheat because his son, who used to take tuition from Samresh, didn’t get into IIT.”

Now, Luv couldn’t believe what he just heard and sauntered to his sir’s door again.

He looked down and saw that a bundle of notes worth Rs 1,000 was kept at a wooden shelf near the rickety bed. Samresh had returned the money he had taken for his notes from Luv!

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