'I am planning expansion of Super 30'
Over a cuppa
This is the second consecutive year that all 30 students of Super 30 have cracked the IIT-JEE. How do you achieve this?
There is no success mantra as such. Sheer hard work and faith in God can help you reap rich dividends.
But what was your reaction when the results were announced?
It was on the expected lines. Ever since its inception in 2002, the success rate of Super 30 has gone up. Altogether 18 students had cracked the JEE in 2003, followed by 22 in 2004, 26 in 2005 and 28 each in 2006 and 2007, 30 in 2008. This year too the figure has touched 30.
Don’t you think it’s high time you enrolled more students than the usual 30.
I am working on that proposal. It’s quite possible that from 2010 onwards, we will have 90 students. Thirty each in three batches, so that the nomenclature is not changed.
But what is the selection procedure?
A preliminary test is conducted for the 10,000 IIT aspirants. Out of which I select 200 of them. Eventually, 30 students are chosen after proper screening and written test. Most of them are downtrodden and underprivileged children, who could not even afford to have proper meals, forget the astronomical amount of coaching fees.
Who bears their expenses?
I take care of each and every student. I have a separate coaching institute - Ramanujam School of Mathematics (RSM) - where nearly 1,000 students are enrolled. The income generated from RSM is used to nurture the students of Super-30, as most of them are sons of farmers, labourers, tea-stall owners, autorickshaw-wallahs, tailors etc.
How did this idea of helping poor students crop up?
Actually, I could not complete my engineering due to financial constraints. Nor was I able to go to Cambridge for Higher Education for the same reason. Despite the fact that I was an extremely good student in Mathematics during my school and college days. In fact, my research paper on Numbers’ Theory was published in Mathematical Gazette & Mathematical Spectrum, in UK way back in 1992.
Then what went wrong?
My father, who worked in the postal department, suddenly died of heart attack in August 1994, while arranging the huge cost of my higher education in Cambridge. I was completely shattered. We had just Rs 700 to eke out the living.
Thankfully, the nominal amount of Rs 1200 as monthly pension for my mother rescued us. But this was insufficient to run the household. So my mother started making papad at home. And I used to sell it near Patna Market area.
In 1997, it struck to me why not teach maths to needy children. So I started an institute called RSM with just two students. The number of students swelled to 31 by the month-end. All of them were taught almost free of cost. By the year 2000, I had 1,000 students enrolled, and another 5,000 on the waiting list. Then I started charging them a reasonable amount of fees.
But, what gave birth to Super-30?
Out of those 1000 children, one of them told me once that since his father was a small farmer, he could pay the fees only when potatoes from his field would be sold. It stirred me. The incident was an eye-opener which reminded me of my impoverished background. I felt other poverty-stricken children should not suffer like me. I decided then and there why not pick up 30 such extremely poor students, who are really bright but have financial constraints.
National Geographic channel had telecast a documentary on Super-30?
Not only that, former Miss Japan Norika Fujiwara too had made a documentary for her country. Besides, NHK channel in Japan had telecast the success story of these underprivileged children. In fact, the OR TV of London bagged an award at Los Angeles for their documentary on Super-30.
Besides, Discovery channel had telecast an hour-long documentary (produced by Veronica Hall and directed by Christopher Mitchell) on March 14 and 15, 2009.
Abhay Kumar in Patna