<%-- Page Title--%> Slice Of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 157 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

June 4, 2004

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All The World's A University

Richa Jha

I'll be lying if I pass off this idea as being original. Truth is, ever since I read Mr. Shawkat Hussain's piece some time back on the mushrooming Universities in Dhaka (SWM Jan30, 2004, Nothing If Not Serious-'In Search of A University), this thought has been brewing inside me: that of setting up my own University. With innumerable around, it can't be that difficult. They say the most difficult part is finding the VC, which, mercifully, an ex-Director from one such University has expressed his willingness to consider. His failing to accept my offer, I may do it myself, though I'd prefer to chair the one-woman Management Committee.

This in place, the rest of it should be a cake walk. But to begin with, I recently decided I needed some professional consultancy. McKinsey and the ilk being beyond my means, I had to settle for Mr. Done-all, a successful entrepreneur in his own right- he owns a popular super mart in our lane. He also happens to run an even more successful 'Sixes And Sevens University' in our locality.

It is interesting to note that he does the latter purely as a hobby. About four years back when he renovated and extended his showroom, he realised that his disused storeroom was being wasted. That's when he decided to start a University from that room. After all, all he needed to do was spend a couple of thousands on repainting the room, buy a few chairs, tables, a blackboard etc., bring in an old AC, put the fan back in running condition, and all the usual stuff. He had heard his college going son rave about a television and video set with projectors inside his business school classroom, so he decided to move the 14" TV from the store into the classroom. His Academy had finally taken shape...

Today, his University is probably the most sought after in our lane. And mind you, he has stiff competition. Our lane itself has as many as five of them. They say the lane running parallel to ours boasts even greater numbers. But Mr D's University attracts maximum students each year. Given this brief crasher on Mr Done-all, do you now see how invaluable his suggestions could have been for me?

When I unfolded my plans before him the next evening, he seemed pleased. (He said he likes healthy competition.) My foremost worry was regarding the faculty. I had no idea how Mr. D arranged for a competent faculty. He was forthright with the facts. "You see, I have to rely about 50% on the visiting faculty". He takes care of the rest 50% all by himself. "The Director doubling up as the faculty infuses a sense of confidence into my students, and besides, they know I am good". This was a revelation to me. "Mr. D, I had no idea you were a trained academic!" But he begged to correct me. No, he had not been able to finish his graduation due to circumstances beyond his control, but he felt that nothing trains a teacher better than experience, of which he has plenty. After all, running a store for a little under thirty years has been quite an experience.

Elated, I was already day-dreaming about classes full of enthusiastic students eager to excel in life. But there was a problem. "Mr. D, how does one manage the various batches simultaneously?" It shows what a novice I am. Mr. D, on the other hand, had it all figured out, "Simple. If you want to make it big in the business of running Universities, learn to apply your mind laterally. You don't have to run all the courses at the same time. Look at what I do. Each batch studies in class for about three hours, after which they go out into the market for some practical training. I keep rotating the various batches doing different courses all day, juggling them between the two rooms I have. It may sound slightly complicated to you, but you'll soon be an expert at it." My mind saluted the guru.

It sounded great. Mr. D had put everything in perspective. Surer than ever before, I thanked him profusely, and asked for his leave. I apologised for having taken so much of his priceless time (all for free, I was gloating inside), and was about to leave when it struck me. Where was I to run the Institute? I didn't own a shop, I didn't have a spare store-room. This was a problem all right. "Mr. D, err...one last thing sir,....".

I knew this man's a genius.
This morning I had the painters whitewashing the servant's room in my apartment. It has been lying unused for several months. The room is not as spacious as Mr. D's store room, but what the heck. There is an attached toilet, and a fully functional emergency exit. The spiral staircase then, will be the USP of my Institute. I call it the 'Up Down' University.

This morning I also had the first set of banners put up around in my neighbourhood. A prospective candidate called up enquiring if I offered courses in Australian English. I lied and said yes, of course. I am now on my way to get lesson tapes on it. For myself, silly! Don't you see, I'll be taking up that course?





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