To prepare, students from across India travel to the historic northern city of Kota, spending months or even years away from their family and home. Whether the children of manual labourers or business tycoons, all have travelled to Kota for one reason: academic glory.
Kota is the epicentre of India’s private coaching industry. Here, students enrol at one of the many for-profit residential institutes that prepare teenagers for their university entrance exams. For months, even years, teens who’ve barely left their parental homes before live alone, in austere hostel rooms, cramming morning, noon, and night in the hope of a secure, financially lucrative future. They leave their hostel rooms early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and walk down cracked pavements to stuffy classrooms, where they crouch over desks. At lunchtime they wolf chutney-filled dosas before returning to their desks to cram some more. The most studious return to their hostel rooms and study alone, well into the night.