The narrow staircase of an old house leads to the first floor, and to a very small room that was refurbished into an office. A fan is swinging and a bulb is spreading milky light. There is no space for the air to escape, so a blanket of unbearable humidity engulfs the space. A person is sitting at the reception desk. The wall behind him has a poster with the name of his coaching centre and an enlarged photograph of a teacher. The person in the photograph and the person at the desk look the same. Probably, the teacher was also fulfilling the role of the receptionist.
This centre, which claims that their railway job aspirants always get the desired post, has a line in its pamphlet—Humari koi doosri shaakha nahi hai (We don’t have any other branch). I approach the receptionist as the elder brother of a railway job aspirant, and enquire about the courses and chances of securing a job. The teacher tells me, “It is a one-year course at the fee of Rs 18,000. It will prepare candidates for maths, reasoning, science and GK (General Knowledge).” He proceeds to sequentially talk about the jobs one can apply for on completing the course, how many questions will be from which subject in the examinations, and the passing marks required to qualify. After the course details, he quickly jumps to the cost structure for students who opt to reside at the institute. Price for one bed is Rs 1,800 per month, and if my brother decides to cook food at home, an additional Rs 2,000 will be charged for cooking utilities. It is important to do an ITI course to secure a technical job in the railways. Most of those who have not done so, turn to a coaching centre.