Sunday, February 27, 2011

Agrawal Classes - an iconic educational brand

In every one's life there lay a turning point that changes the course of one's life journey. My life had many such moments but first such event that set others to follow was an 'Admission to Agrawal classes' at Harganga Mahal at Dadar TT. Those days admission to Agrawal classes was more important and prestigious than securing an entry to university affiliated college. They would announce qualifying bench mark for admission. You fill up the form, pay the fees and get enrolled.

What was that magic formula that made Agrawal classes so successful? I can think of few. They never taught fundamentals of any subject nor did they make any attempt to let student assimilate the purity of a subject. Instead they went on solving questions. The basics were automatically unfolded during the solution that was explained step by step. The objective was simple : Get good grades than burn your energy on overall knowledge. They had mastered the weaknesses of examination paper setters - of being lazy and choosing questions from past papers - sometimes not even changing the numerical. Every question in the exercise book was listed with the year it appeared. Some questions kept on repeating periodically over 20 years. This was a perfect recipe similar to ‘horse racing’ or ‘matka’ punters who placed their bets based on the past results. I used this technique to the fullest. “Smart Not Hard Study” was their mantra. In my SIES College, I never passed any exam paper. But who cared? Yellow and Parrot green colour A3 size question book of Agrawal classes was enough to get through engineering. The list of yearly rankers printed behind this book read like a list of Wimbledon winners. It was fun to see the names of colleges that appeared frequently. Xavier’s, Wilson, Elphiston, Ruia and SIES figured most with few exceptions of KC, Khalsa. Ruparel and Parle era started with our batch and it continued its glory thereafter.

Agrawal classes would now be closed and this institute would now be of bygone era. Prof Agrawal – the owner – mentions that shift in education system from intermediate science to HSC diluted the quality of competitiveness. I agree with him. Inter science was like a test match, while HSC is like a one day. One gave a space to recover from mistakes and tested endurance while other left to luck or chance. Apart from structured problem solving techniques ; discipline and regular exams kept students skills polished. If one were to miss an exam, one would be barred from attending two classes. Once I was thrown out for being next to ac, settings were changed by someone from the previous class and I was thought to be a culprit. Rare occasion in my life of being punished for no fault. Most of the time it was otherwies. Even after three decade and half, teachers at Agrawal classes stay sharp in memory. Their personality, vivid character and teaching styles have influenced in some way or other in my working life. I can think of some of these great names.

Prof Karkhanis - he would pick up a chalk, break top rounded part, throw them in the corner and start writing trigonometric equations. Often attired in brick red half sleeve shirt and thick bordered square spectacles, with erect stance he would seamlessly go from one question to another. Prof Dheer - elderly between two Sardars.He would teach physics and make sure to poke at SIES college professors. Those who studied at SIES would heartily reciprocate while others would wonder about his rambling. Prof Mohinder was the other Sardar . He was smaller in stature and wore nice coloured turban. The taller Sardar prof wore turban like a truck driver. Prof Shetty - curly hair tall person taught coordinate geometry in an easy manner but once I saw him exploding when backbenchers were up to some mischief. Prof Kalra - some called him Khanna. He looked more Russian and had penchant of wearing new ties with short length that suited his height. Rumour was he got free ties from Milan shop downstairs to promote their ties. I believe Prof Kalra went on start his own classes in Vile Parle. Prof Pai – He taught physics in his sharp authoritative tongue and as much enjoyed doing roles in TV and movies. Prof Katre taught algebra and with his shining bald head and small height was most noticeable among all prof. Prof Agrawal , the owner came just once but his innocuous white attire personality made me wonder the reason of his being successful than other flamboyant professors.

I had scored 6 out of 100 in physics exam of SIES while scoring over 70% in Bombay University. Just the same year Bombay University had changed the rule that everyone would be qualified to appear for university exam irrespective of the results at college level. I knew I would make it to engineering with the magic of Agrawal classes and I made it despite HSC guys taking half of the seats.

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