"Life of a student studying in Old Rajinder Nagar deserves a documentary.’’
Certifying the above words, I accompanied my journalist friend to the Mecca Of The Civils – Old Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi. One recorded and one wrote. Together, we uncovered some dirt and I will unveil some dark.
As soon as I stepped out of the metro, the blistering and baking heat wave slapped me hard. The CNG odour laden winds perturbed my respiratory tract for a minute. The latitudinal location of the national capital makes it unwelcoming and inhospitable for most part of the year.
Nevertheless, I was firm on my exploration. With my aqua filled backpack, I began my sojourn. Minutes later and down the stairs, I was in a colourful cloud of crowd, chaos and confusion. Bitterly buzzing was the atmosphere. Failingly faltered were the faces. Cluelessly calm was Aiman – the author.
ORN is a raucous and a garish coaching market for UPSC- CSE to which a huge migratory population of students flock – every month. Study enthusiasts from across the intra-national borders reside here. It is a go-to-place for Civil Services aspirants where excitements and expectations change to difficulties and dilemmas in a fortnight or so.
A cynical Central Delhi district where the studying section lives in Dickensian lodgings and the teaching section drives Audis. A toxic site where individuals are hardsold the idea ( read falsity) of putting up at, paying to and performing at some popular coaching-cum-crammers to unlock the gates of UPSC CSE.
Bearing a roasting temperature of 45 degree Celsius, the first challenge was thrown by the place. Sastaa Thikaana is a dream in Dilwalo Ki Dilli. One, invariably, in search of a room falls prey to property dealers and brokers. A hefty rent for a small room is the norm.
The landlords and dealers are pure parasites – they can suck the magenta coloured notes from a dead man too. Bearing deep pockets and zero ethics, they know the art of draining one’s hard earned money. Rent for a shared room starts at Rs. 15k and even ascends to Rs. 30k – monthly.
You read the last word right. Getting a room in ORN with AC, RO and balcony/ventilation needs some divine intervention with one’s luck. Food is the point which triggers an imbalance in dopamine. Food generally is repetitive and bland in PGs.
But if you, by some sins are dependent on the tiffin service, Holy God protect your gastric glands. After few days, the tiffin food crosses the threshold limit of tolerance easily forcing one to look for Baahar Kaa Khaana.
Any part of the day on the main road, I encountered an ocean of students. Thick books in hands and schoolbags on shoulders, most of them looked lost. Their existences succumbing to the mounting pressure. Anxiety clouding them. I fixed my eyes on towering buildings lay side by side. Batches after batches streaming out onto crowded streets.
Crowd thinning from the main road and swelling into the coaching campuses where shockingly teachers wearing lapel mics address 250 plus students in one single classroom.
Glamorous hoardings and endless posters of these coaching factories strung up at street corners and sidewalks competing for attention. Promising highest marks with the easiest optional in the shortest time has become the USP of these factories.
Long banners and large cutouts rolled down in front of these buildings having triumphant ads laying claims to the same toppers names is a part of obnoxious. This ninja technique attracts newcomers.
Their lives revolve around marketing and advertising . Almost everyone I bumped into appeared to be a running newspaper or a walking standard book. Proudly narrating fundas to their peers, they are unsure of if they can make it even through preliminary stage of the exam.
Amidst a pack of currency cravers, students helplessly shed their pockets in ORN. Isn’t fleecing students in the name of fees unethical and wicked ?The sale of Vidya starts at no less than RS. 1,70,000 only for General Studies.
Add Essay, CSAT, Optional, Test Series; will make up a fees that can buy a firsthand Alto car. The enormity of the competition hits a student at the moment of registration; forms cost RS. 700. Where shall the middle and low class aspirants go? The coaching clubs are greedy beneficiaries.
Catching youngsters is crucial to make big money. Sad but true ORN’s multibillion dollar coaching industry thrives on the typical Indian obsession with a Sarkari Naukri or a Gazetted Post.
I personally found the whole atmosphere intimidating. The rate of expectations is maddening. Freshers come with the zeal of getting a one or two digit rank. Repeaters are with their share of reality checks; contended in getting Group A services.
Pep talks with peers help but in ORN, a casual conversation takes no time to change to a discussion on Russia-Ukraine , Centre-State, Policies–Impact etc. One goes out for tea and invariably ends up looking at a bookstore to find some sure-short solutions. In ORN, aspirants breathe UPSC.
Life revolves around it. Do or Die does not remain a mere metaphor. Students chart their schedules, force themselves to strict routines. Feelings of resent and dissent are bottled up. Every second person is depressed but not every depression leads to suicide.
Mental health is in shambles for most. With such an ultra-focus on success, a system is operating within ORN where students do not know how to fail. The toxic culture of competition based on marks and marks prevails. Respecting the space that GK provides, I wrap my piece with:
What is at stake in ORN? Father’s mortgaged land? Mother’s government job craze? An individual’s IAS dream? Everything or Nothing ?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.