Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Balsu Chronicles - I: The quest for genius

I used to go for IIT training classes. Well, it was a rite of passage for most students in the 11th or 12th std and who were in Chennai CBSE schools and in the science group to attend them. The smart ones shifted to matric or state-board schools after finishing 10th so that they could crack the highest ever marks and sneak into BITS or enter some Anna, Thangacchi University to study engineering or Meenaachi, Kamaachi medical college and become certified geniuses. The super-smart ones (not me), the ambitious ones (again, not me) and the ones who couldn't see/plan for more than 3 months into the future (self) stayed in CBSE schools. And attended IIT coaching classes - without which one risked major loss of identity or developed deep existential anxiety (I am in 11th and NOT attending IIT classes - who am I, what am I doing on earth, why is everyone calling me Jason Bourne?). After all there are only two alphabets in the English language, I and T and one of them is so irresistibly good, that they used it twice. (If you are lucky enough and destined to, you learn other alphabets like M, B, D, K, another-K etc. after you get through the JEE.)

At that point in time, there was only one A-list IIT coaching center in Chennai. If you had even an iota of self-respect and wanted to be somebody at some point in your life, you wanted to join Balsu-sir's IIT classes, period. And obviously, there was a very stringent selection process (after all, only so many people in Chennai can attain super-smartdom at the same time). So, my dad and I landed at his house in West Mambalam at 2.30 pm on a May afternoon, requesting a spot in his class. The man himself came out, dressed in a baniyan and veshti, enquired about my 10th total marks, asked a few questions and noted my name down in a maroon diary. I was in. There was a brief moment of unrealness. Did that just happen? My dad and I walked out of his house in disbelief and a slowly encroaching sense of jubilation. And by the time we reached Ashok Pillar, we were in the middle of a full-blown happy-attack. The world sure was a rosy place. And filled with nice people too. I could imagine how Wooster must have felt the morning after his engagement was broken, and while he tasted Jeeves's bacon and eggs (laid by, no doubt, happy hens).

Thus started my quest for genius.

The classes were held behind Kamarajar Arangam in DMS, in a school run by a trust (Balsu-sir and his colleagues were offered the best of schools to conduct their classes in, but chose this place as the resulting revenue would benefit the trust, and help in running the school.) After finishing my day-school, I would cycle home, shove some snacks in, cycle to the train station, take a train to Guindy, take a bus to DMS and walk the final stretch. The bite from the travel was softened by an occasional tea/biscut at the tea shop near DMS bus stop. In the monsoon season, the fun would be multiplied. The school was located in a low lying area, and so, for the briefest of rains, there would be knee-deep water around it, through which we would all wade (including Balsu-sir), our pants rolled thigh-high. The fact that the area around the school was generously used as a public open-air toilet and the logged-water had a very high content of natural fertilizers, dissolved particles and methane did not deter us from our quest.


GB said...

LOL @ Anna-Thangachi University. Science bozos can never match the cool Arts people. Summa wasting time in IIT class when in the end, everyone is in CTS anyway :D

Bhaskar said...

Good to know you are back to your bloggin' ways!

Pretty golden days those! Wading in the waters with other 'dirty fellows' ;-)

The Visitor said...


You too write well, M.

err... that is suppossed to be a compliment. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh you too r blogging!! Inspiration from S?

magesh said...

GB - yes, yes, science people can never match the total joblessness of the arts crowd.

Bhaskara - yes, those were the days. It is still so vivid in my memory - all aspects of it - the countless train, bus, cycle journeys, the homework shenanigans and all.

Visitor - glad you liked the post.

Anon - I started wasting large chunks of my time watching and gossiping about movies a while ago.

journeyman said...

"Thus started my quest for genius", this is being honest. Yet don't you think this has become the bane of our society. "Super smartdom" being connected to an institution or exam one passes and not up on the individual's mental abilities. Atleast for me, this quest has always seemed flawed !

magesh said...

Couldn't agree more with you. This collective obsession towards the name-institutions and the marks is more damaging than anything else.

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Bart Simpson said...

Cool one Magesh. You remember the maroon diary. That cracked me up!


magesh said...

@ Gopal - yeah, the red book which contained the pathway to greatness!!

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