Group Tuition: Where Childhoods Go to Die


Group Tuition: Where Childhoods Go to Die

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

Being a teenager in the mid-noughties was a wonderful thing. We spent most of our preteen days being duped into buying fattening potato chips for the decade-long Ponzi scheme known as Tazos. We were the ill-fated generation that stomached unhealthy amounts of bubble gum just to use our spit as lubricant for temporary wrist tattoos. Free periods in class were spent playing WWE trump cards on a back bench. We were also the last generation that grew up on Channel V and MSN Messenger.

An oft-overlooked part of our millennial childhood has been how much time our generation has spent in dingy classrooms across different parts of the city in the name of “coaching”. At its core, group tuitions are where your parents send you when they can’t afford day-care. I kid; it’s because you either lack responsibility or the intellect to study on your own. But the real purpose of a group tuition is to coach you in the important rite of passage of playing footsie.

Thirteen-year-old me strode into my first group tuition on Juhu’s sixth road, all set to excel at Social Studies and Hindi. This was an exciting transition for me since I’d hardly interacted with my school friends outside of school. Seeing all of them in clothes other than our school’s pale uniform was a pretty eventful sight in itself. But what I hadn’t prepared for was all of the students from different schools that were strewn across the floor of Mrs Gandhi’s living room. Several of these were from different educational boards like ICSE and CBSE.

You see, as an eighth-standard student of the SSC board system, my interactions with my ICSE and CBSE-board counterparts were akin to the Arjun Kapoor meme, where the text reads, “Sir, myself coming from SSC board area.” I’d come to expect taunts like “Eww! You study Marathi instead of Japanese?” and “Uh! Do you even know how to spell ‘phonetics?’” I bore their digs but secretly took joy in the fact that for all their fancy education they were sitting on the same ant-infested floor as us and also got called “Bleddyy stupeeed” with the same kind of gusto if they fucked up their muhavaras.

Back then, it would seem that to be eligible to give group tuitions, you had to be a homemaker in her mid-40s, living in a suburban co-operative housing society that always smells of haldi and resounds with multiple pressure-cooker seetis going off like a symphony orchestra. Most importantly, you had to be proficient at using your belan to effectively whoop your students’ arses. Ruthless Ranade was my introduction to this species.

At the outset, Mrs Ranade came across as your run-of-the-mill, no-nonsense Maharashtrian woman that you’d dread bumping into in a Ladies’ Compartment brawl. She lived with her seemingly centenarian mother who also doubled up as her domestic help. When asked about why she made her mother do all the housework, she insisted it’s because she wants her to “shhtay actiwwe in her oldaygge.” It still remains the nicest definition of unpaid labour I’ve ever heard.

To be eligible to give group tuitions, you had to be a homemaker in her mid-40s, living in a suburban co-operative housing society that always smells of haldi and resounds with multiple pressure-cooker seetis.

Ruthless Ranade also made it a point to comment on any girl who came dressed in “strayp-less” clothes and loved to hear gossip about her students’ lives outside the classroom. An effective way of disrupting class was telling her something along the lines of “Aapko pata hai, ma’am, woh Jamnabai-wali Sanjana hai na, uska aur Bittu ka full girlfriend-boyfriend scene chal raha hai.” She epitomised your society’s drama-starved aunties who get their jollies from passing judgment on youngsters that choose to live their life more openly than they did. But we endured all of her antics since none of us had any scope of passing Marathi without her tutelage. As far as my mom was concerned, she could be Komolika from Kasauti Zindagi Kayyy just as long as she was enabling me to score a 60+.

Before ninth standard was done, coaching classes for the 10th had already begun. Because a good college is bae. Like greyhounds before a race, we were all hoarded into different classes of “potential”. The rankers or top-rung of scorers were pooled together in the very high-potential “A1 batch”, while the deadbeats with little to no potential were in the “A15 batch” classrooms. Everything from the kind of notes you were given, to the type of tests you took, was dependent on your batch. The kind of effect this had on most kids’ self-esteem, they might as well have called them, “Future CEOs” and “Future Chauffeurs”. I was pooled into the above-average, “A4” batch. This class was a strange mixture of former state-level toppers who had gone rogue by scoring a mere 70+ and other seemingly bright and disciplined kids with a tendency of watching porn on their Nokia 6600s in the middle of Physics class.

A4 was a comfortable batch to be in. While the A1 batch students fantasised about having their pictures on the side of buses as “SSC toppers”, us A4 folks had smaller ambitions like scoring a modest 80 per cent in our boards… which we just barely did, even as our dating game moved on from footsie to more interesting forms of intimacy. (Say what you will about A12 batch’s intellect, but the girls there sure knew how to have fun!)

But it’s only by the time you are in junior college (shout out to Gujju-quota!), that a zero-fucks policy towards grades begins to kick in. You realise that you have been enduring all the garbage the Indian education system has thrown at you over the years with its outdated syllabi, sub-par teachers, and the overall disinterest toward imparting actual knowledge.

College group tuitions are where all of this becomes clear to you. Mostly because you finally realise that all you needed to do for passing grades, is take tuitions from the people setting papers. If only someone would’ve told me that in school. Could have saved me a lot of belan-whacks.