Coaching Centres in Ranchi: the transformation and transgression #makeyourcityinclusive

“With the increase in student crowd in the city, a need for better administration hasn’t been achieved. This has led to increase in accidents due to lack of regulations. Also the residential areas are turning into commercial areas, for example Lalpur, and still there is no parking space. These places have become unsafe for girls,” observes a local resident.

That stretch of road in Lalpur, especially in the evenings, is always busy, always chirpy, and full of young people. The area is an administrative nightmare. Local residents express their displeasure and concerns rising out of the sudden mushrooming of coaching centres. With the State Government lobbying to establish Ranchi as an educational hub, one wonders what attracts coaching centres and students to the city.

Why coaching centres in Ranchi?

Crediting it to the small town mentality, the local residents who have both studied and taught for several years in Ranchi, say that schooling has always been at par if not better than the metros of the country. “For parents who don’t have enough time, sending their child to a coaching institute where the student is taught all the subjects under one roof is convenient,” laments a secondary school teacher who chose to stay anonymous. To him, with the advent of mobile phones, television, and working mothers, the city has seen a decline in the quality of students; and the coaching centres are taking an advantage of the lifestyle change.

Mrs. Supriya, whose son recently joined a private engineering college after attending coaching classes, shares that there are many mothers in her residential building who have moved to Ranchi with their children to avail the provisions of schools and coaching institutes. There are many students from nearby cities and towns, like Bokaro, Dhanbad, Purulia et al, who move for more opportunities.

Riya*, a resident of Bokaro has been preparing for Banking exams for over two years while living in a apartment-turned hostel. Her decision to come to Ranchi was because Ranchi is cheaper than Patna. Incidentally, her career choice is heavily influenced by her location as a girl from a lower middle class family. She coyly adds that the only negative in the city is that they have to adhere to the rules that the hostel owners deem fit. They forcefully fit in four in a room meant for two people, adding to the ‘they are in it for the money’ discourse. While students are policed, very rarely are these places questioned about their quality of the service.

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Is there a market for education? Is it inclusive?

Managing Director of an established coaching institute with nationwide presence claims that most institutes haven’t established themselves in vacuum. With Ranchi becoming a capital, more students have been applying from this city. Talking about the culture of these institutes, a student of Class 11 says, “They will do everything in their power to get you to enrol; and after that you are on your own. They only care about IIT, Medical students.” Most of the girls join these classes together as parents would otherwise not allow them to go out in the evenings. The basis for choosing the institute was the fact that it provided bus service to their students who paid extra. A battle between gender and class?

Reminisce of a ‘selfless’ time where the teacher shared a warm relation with their student, the teachers we spoke to constantly reiterated their concerns about working mothers considering that the student is only a boy! Are coaching classes banking on people who never had the opportunity in schools or with traditional tutors because of inherent biases? These are the voices that get left out when talking about making education accessible and inclusive, about meritocracy.

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Ranchi – an educational hub?

Along with coaching centres , there is a sudden growth in the number of colleges offering varied courses in Ranchi. Students whose cities offer fewer options for further studies choose these colleges, but it may not be the first priority for local students with the privilege of choice. Farah chose to pursue her post-graduation in a premier institute in Ranchi because of its brand and a welcome change to the orthodox culture of her city. Mrs. Supriya observes that in her circle of friends, students whose families are based in Ranchi aspire to leave town for their higher studies. One wonders if this is a case of upward mobility and better opportunities. Having said that, little changes in the city are hopeful – Chandni, a Class 11 student sums it up the best, “I feel liberated when I drive my scootie on the streets as late as 8 in the evening. I can do that because there are so many of us now.

*name changed on request of the individual

Are we ready to talk about Mental health in our cities?

Tumhara gaon kahan hai?” (Where is your hometown?)

“Ranchi”

Arey, wahan toh paagal khana hai, tabhi tum aisi ho. Haha!” (There is a famous mental asylum there, that explains why you are the way you are. Haha!)

Before there was Jharkhand, and before Dhoni became synonymous to Ranchi, the few people who had heard of ‘my’ city would often use this as a jibe against me. The people of Agra might relate to this. I already didn’t relate to the city, and the ‘Paagal Khana’ reference made me want to distance myself further – “Jodhpur is my birthplace”, I would protest. My experience of the city was limited to being pampered by my grandparents – my Didun-Dada and Tham-Tham every summer. I ‘saw’ the city by accompanying my zealous Dada to his favourite areas of the city – this we did up until he started becoming forgetful.

We recently lost Dada after he battled Alzheimer’s for over a decade. Despite the generation gap, nostalgia was the coping mechanism for everyone. Titbits about the older generation as youngsters are guilty pleasures – glimpsing into their faltering moments, the tables seem to turn. These stories made me feel inquisitive and indulgent and I started pestering Didun about her life before us – her experiences of the partition, the famous people she’s met, her first job – the list is endless and the stories are so rich.

A history that is three centuries old

During our regular sessions, Didun revealed that her father had briefly worked at the Lunatic Asylum. While its history dates back to 1725 AD, the institution was shifted to Kanke (where it is located presently) in the year 1925, and renamed Indian Mental Hospital. Didun’s recalls this was post independence and before its nomenclature was again altered to Ranchi Mansik Arogyashala (RMA) in 1958. Being a family member of the Staff, she had more access than the general public. I grew up having a Bollywood imagination of that space and was visibly taken aback – to which Didun said that in the 50s, Ranchi was a favourable holiday destination, and this was one of the tourist spots!

RINPAS main gate

 

Having the privilege of learning my inherent biases around mental health, this act of voyeurism made me very agitated. Immune to such outbursts, Didun continued to narrate snapshots of her experience. There were two wings – the European wing treated English patients and Indian royalty while the Indian wing housed poorer patients and sounded less charming. Every Thursday, Didun and her sister would attend a social in the European Wing – they were briefed to not refuse any patient for a dance. I pictured an Enid Blyton boarding school scenario and devoured these stories with rapt attention.

Baseless taboo around mental illness

I asked her if that space was a taboo for people around her and she shared that when the hospital bus would come to the city for special occasions, there was discomfort among the general public. She remembers a patient confronting this, “To you we are abnormal, and to us, you are!” It seemed like she wanted to pass this memory on as learning for me. Soon after, she chuckled remembering a man who taunted her saying, “Bhishon rodhh lagche? Nehru ke bolun chhata debe!” (Is it too sunny for your liking? Tell Jawaharlal Nehru to get you an umbrella) She kept reiterating that these were not ‘violent’ patients, and many recovered and later lead ‘normal’ lives. My friend, a mental health professional, had revealed this to be the strongest bias, ultimately leading to fear of such spaces.

Upon hearing Didun’s experience, I wanted to visit the place and give shape to my imaginations. I mentally reprimanded myself for toeing the ‘50s tourist’s line! There was an instant sense of pride when Didun told me that the famous poet of undivided Bengal, Kazi Nazrul Islam, was briefly treated here. Didun was in college and remembers the excitement it had caused in the city – especially among students who revered him. The romantics in us rejoiced upon hearing the legend of his illness – it is said that he could not cope with Tagore’s death! This reminded me that we had to consciously stop ourselves from romanticizing Didun’s bout of depression after Dada passed away.

Pride of the city!

I genuinely believed that I had overcome my childhood conservatism that made me take offence of being from a city that houses one of the largest Mental Health Institutions of Asia, but it is clear that I will have to keep checking myself – I have a biased imagination of the perfect mental health patient.

At present, Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry & Allied Sciences, RINPAS is a premier mental health institution; and according to the limited news articles I found, it is not a perfect paradise. In a way, it is indicative of our priorities as a city defined by the discourses around mental health. Hopefully, someday when (if) a kid is teased for having a ‘Paagal Khana’ in their city, this would be a thing of pride for them!

(Photo Credit: http://rinpas.nic.in/history.html)