The backbone of the Indian Education system is not the official network of schools and colleges, but the parallel unofficial network of private tuitions. Children get initiated into the tuition racket pretty early on in life, sometimes even before they enter school. There are many tutors who ostensibly coach little kids on the essentials needed for admission to Montessori sections of ‘good’ schools. Catch them young, preferably as soon as they are born!
Coming from a family which prefers to swim against the tuition-tide, we were left to fend for ourselves as long as we could, surviving with a little help from our parents (to twist the Beatles song).
So when I remember my initiation into the tuition-racket, it is actually in the role of the tutor rather than that of the tutored.
I was a ripe 7-year old, newly promoted to the second standard (Class II). It was the carefree summer holidays before term started. I had a younger friend called Sonali, who would start her first standard that year. Now, Sonali’s mother (who I called Kakima – a generic term for all my friends’ mothers), was suddenly inspired to appoint me her daughter's tutor for one month to teach her the basics of the First Standard syllabi.
So, after playing and sweating it out in the playing ground every evening, I would accompany Sonali back to her house and guide her through the intricacies of Addition/Subtraction and Radiant Reader.
My charges? An evening snack every day – an omelette, or muri makha (spicy puffed rice) or chirey bhaja (fried crushed rice), and a bar of chocolate as a grand farewell present.
WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST TUITION MEMORIES?