Kota Factory, a much-loved web series among viewers, is making a comeback with its second season on September 24. While the series is riddled with many faults, mostly being written and shot through the gaze of its male students, offering instant solutions to problems that end up scarring students for life, one has to give it to the show for offering a realistic take on the coaching culture in India. Why do I say that? Because yours sincerely has been a part of this circus – I used to live in Talwandi area of Kota during my gap year.
Being a coaching student in Kota is a sweet and (mostly) sour experience. The separation from family, the palpable anxiety in every nook and corner of the city flooded with students and the uncertainty about one’s future make it a tough experience. While parents and coaching institutes define 10 plus two and gap as the defining years of your life, the emotional burden of these years stays with students long after the ordeal is over, yielding good, bad or tragic results. To put things in perspective, over 50 students in Kota died by suicide between 2013 and 2017, as per data released by the Kota district administration.
Drawing from my personal experience while preparing for the medical entrance exam, here are five things I feel Kota Factory gets right:
1. Copy paste promotion of coaching institutes:¬†The series takes a dig at how we find faces of same topper students on billboards and promotional material of multiple coaching classes. Where did this dude actually study, many students and their parents often end up wondering? This happens usually because students end up procuring preparation material from multiple classes, or sitting for their mock exam series or “crash course” which is like a rapid revision session for the entire course and is usually held in the months building up to the exam. Does anyone care about providing correct info to the prospective students? Rarely.
2. It is not easy to get used to Kota: The water tastes funny, the food is either too spicy or too bland, the heat is unbearable in summers. I remember changing the tiffin services multiple times till I found a dedicated Punjabi aunty who would provide ghar ka khana to a limited number of students only. So yes, life away from home, usually the first time a child lives away from their parents, is not easy to get used to.
3. DPP sheets are real, so are the gazillion tests that students have to take for preparation: You have to remember that preparation for IIT or NEET (then it was PMT) is all about practice. Completing your course is just one aspect of your preparation, how aptly can you solve questions, that too in a set duration is another aspect. And mind you, this practice isn’t exclusive to Kota institutes. Almost all institutes make their students take tests regularly, the results are then published for everyone to see.
However, many students do score top ranks in such tests because they cram answers to questions from test sheets of previous years. Their rank might not mean anything, but it ends up shaming and pressuring other students into working harder. Many students develop anxiety due to their results, I did too.
4. Romanticisation of Pressure: Pressure runs in the waters of Kota. Every single person in the city is there to simply remind you that your parents have spent lakhs to send you there and thus it is your duty to clear the competitive exams and make them proud. I have seen students sobbing during a lecture when one of the coaching teachers launched into one of his regular charged-up sermons about how we owed it to our parents to succeed in exams, or else we were plain losers.
The level of pressure at the coaching institute is both toxic and misguiding. Many students sleep and breathe thinking that JEE or NEET is the be-all and end-all of their life. Ten years down the line the perspective changes a lot. And all the pressure that I and my fellow students were put through now seems unnecessary. In fact, many aspirants that I know now feel that the returns of spending 14 to 16 hours studying were not as expected.
5. The paying guest business:¬†Providing accommodation and food for students is a huge means of livelihood and extra money in Kota. Many times, these multiple rooms are carved out by erecting partitions in existing rooms of a house so that more students can be crammed in a limited space. Even parents don’t mind their children living in tiny windowless rooms because padhai hi to karni hai, the lesser the distractions the better. While most landladies are thorough professionals, they are not as harsh as depicted in the series. For instance, our landlady would regularly check on children, even inviting us upstairs for breakfast time and again.
The toxic coaching culture depicted in Kota Factory may come across as repulsive to many, so then why does the show have such a large fan base? Because the show depicts what was or is a reality of thousands of students, year after. Good or bad, every experience shapes us in its unique way. Students who have studied in the factory set-up of Kota might agree that the show is both nostalgic and a way to introspect on the merciless lifestyle that we were subjected to. The only thought that comes to my mind when I watch this show is that I wouldn’t want my child to through what I went through. It has helped me unblock a trove of memories that brings me pain and anxiety, but it feels necessary because students of yesterday will eventually play a big role in shaping the future of students tomorrow.
Check out the trailer of Kota Factory season 2 here:
Views expressed are the author’s own.