Rishi Majumder burns the midnight oil at the Indian Library, Thane, that’s open round the clock
Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
The first battlefield is the AIIMS entrance exam in November. Then, two other competitive exams for medical post-graduation early next year,” mutters Dr Varun Darade, nervously. “Only three per cent of doctors can do their post-graduation on an average,” says Dr Sanjeev Chaudhary, continuing Dr Darade’s line of thought. “For me it’s the National Defence Academy. Exams are next April but I have to prepare!” pipes up 17-year-old Prateek Sawant. “I got into an engineering college. Next it’s the CAT. Four years of hard work —then, enjoy!” is Tushar Telang’s take on the 17-hour days he puts in, like so many others, at the Indian Library, Thane.
We spoke to these people between midnight and 6:30 am, at what the Limca Book Of Records acknowledges, the first library in India to remain open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The students at this learning centre, however, are a study in dealing with the middle class’ most malignant malady: competitiveness.
“I am a product of adversity. I started this library in 1999, because I wanted to give something back to society in a pro-active way, not just through donations,” comments the library’s director Sanjeev Malhotra. Its stock comprises academic material on subjects as diverse as Fashion and Astrology to Medicine and Management. “Considering I provide a 12-hour a day canteen, conference rooms, net-access, and the latest books on every subject, the Rs 1,800 fee charged can hardly pay for the library’s upkeep,” laughs Malhotra who calls the library a “social initiative funded by my business”. “When this library was started four years ago, there weren’t as many books,” Dr Darade remembers. “But when a student puts in an application for a desired book, on any topic, we acquire it within a week!”
In addition, Malhotra organises seminars for career counselling. “Youth is the time to slog. Education will redeem you. Slog now and at 40 to 45 you can relax,” answers Malhotra on being asked whether such over-drive might not be a bit of an over-kill.
And the crowd burning the mid-night oil nod in agreement. “We’re a group of 25 medicos preparing for our postgraduate entrance exams… and here is where we met,” says Dr Gurneet Singh Sawhney, who attributes “25 percent of my success to this library”.
While most of the students in the library are gearing up for conventional entrance exams pertaining to a UPSC, Engineering, Medicine or MBA, Vibhas Sen, an IT student a has not let his physical handicap (he uses crutches) affect his determination to study at the library daily. He loves the “the environment and material it provides”. “At the end, your career choices are shaped by what your peers and immediate family think is best,” remarks Sen. “Sometimes when an examination doesn’t work out you think ‘Maybe I’m meant for a different, albeit less conventional career,’ but that’s always the second option. You don’t really have time to introspect.” At 6:30 am, just as the last student exits… the first one strides in! “Many years before I joined this library, I’d taken an entrance exam with my ‘best friends’.” says CA and LLB student Sachin Verma bitterly, “They’d said there was no negative marking for wrong answers. They’d lied intentionally. When I confronted them on failing that exam, they told me they had to do it ‘for competition’s sake’.”
This article originally appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/iauu