Guru Cool: In his failure, he found success

Guru Cool: In his failure, he found success

Submitted by Subeditor on Mon, 2016-01-18 14:28 Chennai: They say failure is the stepping stone for success. In the case of this political science professor of Governments Arts College, Coimbatore, failure to crack the civil services has spawned many successes. Ask Satish Balan, IPS, now serving as SP, Rohtak or for that matter Arul Kumar, an IPS official now in Himachal Pradesh or even Ajita Begum, the first Muslim lady IPS officer hailing from Tamil Nadu working in Jammu and Kashmir. She is back to the coaching classes of Prof P Kanagaraj again at the Coimbatore Government Arts college where he teaches political science. Ajita now wants to get into the IAS.  “Everything I am today is entirely due to Prof Kanagaraj, whose clear cut guidance and stress on smart hard work, and countless hours of patient teaching has made all the difference,” she told this reporter when the paper caught up with her in midst of her preparations for the writtens for this year’s civil services exam. The Rohtak SP Satish Balan, busy at work in Rohtak was instant in expressing his devotion to his ‘guru’, in fact a friend in the professor whom he knew from old days. It was the first attempt of the good professor coming out of his own depression with a determined bid to overcome his own failure to crack the civil services exams despite facing the interview board twice – in 1998 and 1999 (scoring less than 40 per cent in interview). “I am lucky Kanagaraj is a friend and his experience of preparing for the exam and the pitfalls to avoid are the reasons why I am in the IPS today,” was the instant reaction of Satish Balan when the professor’s name was mentioned to him over long distance phone. He had cleared the civil services exam in 2004. Arul Kumar, who joined the IPS in the Himachal Pradesh cadre last year was only paying his gratitude when he came personally to Coimbatore to invite Prof Kanagaraj to his marriage in Chennai. The police officer would not sit in front of the professor as a mark of respect for his teacher and insisted that he travelled to Chennai for his marriage. “Without his help, I doubt whether I would have made it,” a beaming Arul said before leaving to meet other friends in the textile town of Coimbatore. There are many Aruls, who treat Prof Kanagaraj as the god himself. His initial schooling was from a municiapal school in Thanjavoor district and did his graduation in English literature from the prestigious Loyola College in Chennai. After this his MA, M. Phil and Phd (in working of democracies in pluralistic societies) were from Jawahalal Nehru University, Delhi during 1990 and 1998. He appeared for UPSC interview two years in quick succession, and failed. Deep in depression after the shock, Prof Kanagaraj went into teaching, at the Government Arts College, Coimbatore, some 500 km south of Chennai. At the last count, there were 150 students attending coaching classes, free of cost, at Kanagaraj’s centre, which has no name. Conducted largely in the political science department of the Government Arts College, Coimbatore after regular college hours from 5 p.m. to well into the night, the growing popularity owing to word of mouth publicity and administration’s active involvement, Prof Kanagaraj has got space at a city corporation run school – to accommodate the growing numbers.  “I do not say no to any student who wants to study for the exams. Even Brahmins are welcome,” he said in an exclusive interaction at his college. “Yes I was depressed for sometime after my failure, but decided to coach others who came to me on their own. Now, when anyone gets through, I feel that I have succeeded personally,” Prof Kanagaraj said. He is happy that what started informally today is taking shape as a formal coaching structure in a small place like Coimbatore, which has developed as an education hub in the state. Last year, 14 students cleared the main written exams and of these seven cleared the interview. Three have joined the IPS, two in IRS, one IFS and another will join Group A service. His success has attracted lot of attention. The administration and the government have come together to pitch in with financial and other help to expand the coaching, which remains totally free of cost. What makes Prof Kanagaraj’s experiment different? This is perhaps the only coaching centre that exposes the students to the working of the bureaucracy, with the help of the officialdom, which also participates actively in the training process. The Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner Anshul Mishra, Police Commissioner Shailendra Babu, Cusotms Commissioner S Rajendran are among the many who personally come to deliver lectures on topics and subjects and current affairs to the students. More important, they lend their experience and even offices (outside office hours on weekends) to conduct mock interviews, replicating the ambience in terms of the locale as well as bring in other subject experts too. Each student who clears the mains and going for the interview, faces at least 25 mock interviews. Which is why, the UPSC interview holds no surprise or fear for them. Now this year, their involvement has become more materialistic too. The city corporation has signed an MOU with the Government Arts College to create a Centre for Higher Studies and as named Prof Kanagaraj as the chief mentor of the centre.  It has also built a hall to conduct coaching classes and also erected a computer lab with internet facilities and a well stocked library with reference books. It is not unusual to see students studying all by themselves, each one teaching the others in the process too. Prof Kanagaraj and his centre offer coaching only in three subjects – Political Science, Geography and General Studies. Which is why, even the doctors, engineers, management graduates and science stream students opt for these subjects – all new for them – and still crack the exams. Dr P. Arul Raj, a dental surgeon, is one such student who finds himself at ease, and even confident of making it. “I will definitely crack any examination in India,” he said when asked if entirely new subjects would not make it things difficult for him.b Like many others, it was expressing a desire to Prof Kanagaraj at his college that brought the dental surgeon to his classes. Yes, he had heard of the Professor from someone and read his interview in a Tamil Magazine. “This year many people came, due to the success of seven students. I am confident of increasing the success rate,” Prof Kanagaraj says. What is his success mantra? It is nothing but hard work and smart work in tandem. What we give the students is how to study smart with a scientific approach in a strategic manner for the civil services. A thorough understanding of the subject and application of the knowledge in real life situations and when answering the questions is what the students are prepared for, Prof Kanagaraj says are the components of the surefire success formula he swears by. He is not resting with just preparing the students for the civil services only. On the anvil are programmes for all competitive examinations. But what the good professor is excited about is the programmes being designed for municipal school students. On every Saturday, his centre brings students from municipal schools for a programme called ‘empowering for future’ where they are exposed to the various options available in life and how to prepare for them. At the moment, Prof Kanagaraj is actively involved in bringing out booklets on various career options and professions with correct advise as to the avenues where these options can be realized – in simple Tamil language. “So far, the students of municipal schools across the state were deprived of knowledge and correct advise. These booklets surely will remove this inadequacy,” he says. How about money and who funds it? “It is a knowledge intensive activity, we don’t need any money,” he says but adds “the corporation has taken up the initiative to print the booklets as a pilot project. If the response is good, then it would be expanded to other areas in the state too,” Prof Kanagaraj says.  The presence of doctors, engineers, scientists and management graduates as students at the coaching centre presents a rich resources pool to bring out these booklets, he says. “This surely would increase the strike rate of success,”  Prof Kanagaraj says as he attends a call from a senior Lakshwadeep administration official who wants him to start a similar centre in the union territory. Explaining the rationale behind free coaching he says that he really worked hard for clearing civil services exam. That hard earned knowledge should not go waste.’I believe that knowledge is a virtue and it should never be sold’