A very popular Hindi saying compares hard labor to rolling out ‘papads’. Whether he rolled out ‘papads’ or not is not known but internationally acclaimed mathematician & educationist, Anand Kumar, regularly sold ‘papads’ with his mother at one point in his life to support his family.
Looking back today, the life of Anand Kumar is no less eventful than a movie but this modern Indian education has had to go through various hardships to chase his dream of higher education & further research. Probably that is why, today, he has created Super 30 – a support platform for underprivileged youth who want to live the ‘Big Indian Dream’ of completing their education in the IITs.
Born in Patna, Bihar, Kumar lead an early life stricken with poverty & difficulties that always came in the way of his education. Due to financial constraints, Kumar’s parents had to give up the want of getting their son educated in a private school. But even in a public school, Kumar developed a keen interest in mathematics. During college, Kumar wrote his first paper – on number theory – which brought him initial fame. His paper was printed in two international gazettes – UK-based Mathematical Spectrum and The Mathematical Gazette. Following this Kumar got a chance to attend Cambridge University for higher studies. But here too, fate came in his way.
Kumar could not venture overseas to pursue his dreams as his father passed away. Kumar’s mother took up the responsibility of feeding the household through a business of selling ‘papads.’ Kumar would study during the day & help his mother in the evenings. His excellent academic record earned him the chance to become a private tutor. This aided the financial condition of the family too. But even while so many things were going on in his life, Kumar did not give up on his pursuit of mathematical knowledge. For his research, he required foreign journals which were not available in Patna. Every weekend he would thus embark on a train to travel for 6 hours to Varanasi to get access to the study materials he required.
Anand Kumar started his career in 1992 by founding the Ramanujan School of Mathematics – a one-room institute with a couple of students which grew to the strength of 500 in a matter of 3 years. All was going great and Kumar’s popularity with getting students ready for IIT-JEE was reaching heights until 2000 – Kumar was approached by a student plagued by poverty. In spite of being talented, the student could not manage the fees for higher education for IIT. Thus came the turning point in Kumar’s life & he was driven to a start a venture like Super 30.
Various news channels & media agencies have quoted Kumar in the past, calling the Indian education system “rich-oriented.” During an interview given to Zee Media, Kumar was asked why he was motivated to start Super 30. He replied by saying that a majority of Indian youth suffer from the plight of poverty. He went on to talk about himself & said that he had to miss a chance of higher education at Cambridge due to poverty-related reasons. Super 30 is just a way in which he is making life a little easier for 30 students every year.
Super 30 constitute those 30 students who have been selected through a competitive test of Ramanujan School of Mathematics (RSM). Kumar grooms, trains & readies these 30 students for the IIT-JEE. These students are provided free lodging & food from RSM. From 2003-2017, 391 students from the Super 30 batches have made it to the most prestigious engineering colleges of the country – the IITs. It is important to mention here that Super 30 has no governmental support & is maintained solely through the earnings of RSM.
In spite of running the Super 30 scheme so successfully, Kumar has various grievances against the IITs & the Indian educational structure. Kumar believes that Indian youth is a talented bunch. But this talent is not concentrated in urban & privileged areas of the country alone. There are numerous gifted kids, living in villages, who do not have access to standard education & hence are missing out.
In the interview to Zee Media, Kumar mentions that in India, teaching methodology is faulty as the “why” and “how” of subjects are often skipped. He points out that government educational facilities in rural areas need to be revamped.Ridiculing the entrance exams of the IITs & the high application fees charged, Kumar says that most Indian institutes overlook the children from rural & under-privileged backgrounds even though the latter is a goldmine of talent.
At a golden jubilee function of ‘Indian for collective action’ organized in San Jose, California, Kumar said that a huge void existed between quality education & the youth of rural & remote India. Only technology could bridge this gap. With the day, more & more youth are striving hard to get educated & all this together is slowly changing the face of the country’s educational scenario. In this situation, only technology can come of huge help!
Though Anand Kumar travels across the globe to deliver lectures on mathematics and topics related to education & has been featured by Discovery Channel, BBC, The New York Times & various renowned & lesser known media agencies, his image is not free from controversy. It can be said that Super 30 & its propagator have a love-hate relationship with the media.
In July 2018, Kumar was accused of deceit by a popular vernacular daily stating that he misinformed the public about the number of students from Super 30 who have been able to clear the IIT-JEE. It was alleged that while only three students from the year’s Super 30 batch have made it to the IITs, Kumar claimed that the number was 26. The most astonishing fact is that the accusation has been made by one of Kumar’s very own Super 30 students.
Though most eminent personalities & politicians have supported Kumar openly in this case, the accusation has cost this Rashtriya Bal Kalyan Award winner a reference in the upcoming movie – ‘Super 30’.
The title of this upcoming Hrithik Roshan-starrer makes it clear that the film is about Kumar & his ventures. But following the controversy, the makers have decided to dissociate Kumar from the film to avoid further problems. Directed by Vikas Bahl, the story has a different setting – Kota, Rajasthan – and is slated to release in January 2019. If the accusations against Kumar are untrue, it can be assumed that dissociation from a film is not going to discourage this fighter to carry on his educational crusade.
Anand Kumar has been acclaimed by various national & international bodies like Bihar Government, Ministry of Education, Saxony, Germany, IIM Ahmadabad, University of British Columbia, Tokyo University to name a few. His most recent accolade is the Global Education Award conferred to him by Malabar Group in Dubai on 10 November 2018. Dedicating this award to his students, Kumar stated that the award had increased his responsibility & it will encourage him to toil harder in helping more and more underprivileged students in getting their due.
Malala Yousafzai had once said that one teacher has the capability of changing the world. Anand Kumar has changed a lot of lives around him already & is afoot on the mission to change more.