Anand Kumar, the founder of Super 30 which has been helping underprivileged students prepare for IIT JEE, often gets strange requests like action against a wife-beating man or saving someone wrongfully convicted of a crime.
“Almost every day, no less than 10 people come to Anand with requests of varying natures - someone’s husband hits them, someone wants their children to be educated, someone has been wrongfully convicted of a crime,” writes Biju Mathew in the book “Super 30: Changing the World 30 Students at a Time.”
They all think Anand can help him but he is helpless. Everywhere Anand goes, youths in great number come out to hear him; to be part of the revolution in education.
“Some people think Anand is a big personality and often some poor woman would come to Anand begging him to teach her nine-year-old son. There have been also cases when a woman whose family was harassing her for dowry turned to Anand for help,” Mathew writes.
The book, published by Penguin Books India, tells the story of Anand, a mathematics teacher who defied all challenges to set up one of the most successful and innovative initiatives in the world -Super 30.
Born in Gaudiya Math in Patna, Anand secured a place at Cambridge University, but couldn’t attend because he had no money and sold papads in the evenings instead. He dealt with his own disappointment by setting up the innovative school in 2002 to prepare underprivileged students for the IIT JEE examination.
Super 30 has an astonishing success rate and, on average, 27 to 28 of the 30 students crack the exam every year.
After making up his mind on doing something for underprivileged children, he decided to hold an entrance exam to test their potential. Out of these, he would pick the top 30 students and prepare them for the IIT JEE free of cost. And he would house the students nearby and provide them food cooked by his mother.
But why 30?
“Anand had arrived at the number 30 after much pondering – 50 would have been beyond their means but he felt 30 was a number they could strive towards,” the book says.
Anand was hailed as a hero by People magazine, and his unique initiative was celebrated as one of the four most innovative schools in the world by Newsweek magazine.
While describing the atmosphere outside Shanti Kutil, the Super 30 house, just before the IIT JEE 2008 were to be declared, the author writes, “Expectations were sky high as twenty-eight students had cracked the coveted IIT entrance exam the previous year, in 2007.”
Anand fielded calls from journalists who had grown close to him over the past few years as Super 30’s fame spread.
“I hope the result doesn’t disappoint, prayed Anand, as 9 am ticked nearer. Outwardly, he was the picture of calm - reassuring the students, charming the media.
“At about quarter to nine, Anand positioned himself in front of the computer screen with a list of roll numbers in hand. The students huddled around and more and more people pressed themselves into the cramped room. At 9.01 am, Rakesh Kumar was in! A cheer went up, Rakesh was thumped on the back, a journalist surreptitiously tried to lead him outside so he could get an interview.”
Anand Kumar still had 29 more names to go.
“...A few minutes later, Jai Ram had made it through! And now it was 18 on 18. Anand was perspiring freely but a hint of a smile played on his lips. He went on checking result after result – sometimes it would pop up immediately, leading to raucous cheers and in other moments, the error page would come up.
“Nearly an hour and a half later, it was just Anand and Ranjan Kumar, the thirtieth student left at the computer. ‘Chinta mat kariye, sab achha hoga,’ Anand said to the white-faced Ranjan. He had made it. He hugged Anand tightly and started laughing, and then crying, and then shouting garbled victory cries.”
History had been made. Super 30 had achieved a 100% result.