Who is Anand Kumar?
Anand Kumar is an Indian teacher who is best known for the 'Super 30' program, an initiative that coaches brilliant students from poor families in breaking the Joint Entrance Examination for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), which is considered tougher than getting into Harvard. Coming from a low-income family, his dreams of higher studies in mathematics were shattered after his peon father died suddenly. He later determined to make sure that young talents do not die out for lack of money, and started the ‘Ramanujam School of Mathematics’ to provide cheap coaching and sponsor higher education of needy children. Despite the fact that competing institutes have assorted to crime to prevent his ‘revolution’ to make education accessible to the poor, it doesn’t scare him as he intends to be an example to others who might create such initiatives in the future. Also, he feels that silently he is feeding another kind of revolution, as thanks to his efforts, clerks like his late father now dream of making their children IAS officers instead of clerks.
Childhood & Early Life
Anand Kumar was born on January 1st, 1973, in Patna, Bihar into a middle class family. His mother is Jayanti Devi, and he has a brother named Pranav Kumar, who later became a professional violinist.
His father was a clerk in a post office and could not afford to send his children to private schools. As a result, he and his brother attended a Hindi medium government school, where he developed an interest in mathematics.
Anand Kumar later graduated from B. N. College in Patna where, in 1992, while still studying, he had formed the math club ‘Ramanujam School of Mathematics’. He started a free training program for mathematics lovers under the guidance of his mentor and guru, Devi Prasad Verma, the then-Head of the Department of Mathematics, Patna Science College.
He had to take a 6-hour train journey to Varanasi every weekend to study at the Central Library, BHU, as Patna University library did not have foreign journals. His brother, who was learning violin under N. Rajam, had a hostel room there, where Anand used to spend the weekend.
In 1994, he had secured admission to Cambridge and Sheffield universities, but due to his father's death, the financial status of the family dropped, and he failed to find sponsors in both Patna and Delhi. However, he continued his study and submitted papers on number theory, which were published in 'Mathematical Spectrum' and 'The Mathematical Gazette'.
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Following his father's death, Anand Kumar's mother had started a small shop at home where she made 'papad' which he delivered in the evening for extra income. He was also forced to take a class III job that he was offered because his father died in harness.
Determined to teach mathematics, he converted the math club he had established back in 1992 into a coaching institution to train needy students for various competitive examinations for a nominal fee. He rented a room for Rs. 500 a month and started with just two students, but reached 36 students by the end of the year, and 500 within three years.
He offered yearly coaching just at Rs. 1000 while the market price was Rs. 6000, but some of the students from underprivileged backgrounds were unable to afford even that. In 2000, when one such student told him that he sought coaching for IIT-JEE but could not afford the annual fees, he decided to sponsor him.
He called his brother back from Mumbai and chalked out a plan to begin the 'Super 30' program in 2002, which selected 30 meritorious students from extremely poor backgrounds for free-of-cost coaching for IIT. He also provides free food and lodging to them for a year, apart from study materials.
During May and June every year, he holds a competitive test to select 30 brilliant students from economically backward sections of the society. For the next one year, he prepares them for the extremely competitive IIT-JEE test.
Since 2003, he has tutored 450 students under the program, among whom an incredible 391 students passed the IIT-JEE to enter the prestigious institute. Between 2008 and 2012, he achieved three consecutive 30/30 results.
Anand Kumar has already succeeded in his attempt to revolutionize the educational system with limited means. He is determined to provide top grade education to needy students without financial help from outside.
Awards & Achievements
Anand Kumar's 'Super 30' program was featured in a one-hour-long documentary on Discovery Channel in March 2009. His extraordinary story was subsequently covered in a half-page article in 'The New York Times'.
In the following years, he featured on many BBC programs and in a documentary hosted by actress and former Miss Japan Norika Fujiwara, who visited Patna to record his life. He has also been invited to talk about his experiences at IITs, IIM Ahmedabad, University of British Columbia, Tokyo University and Stanford University.
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In 2009, he made it to the Limca Book of Records for his efforts to provide IIT-JEE coaching to poor students. His 'Super 30' program was also included in 'Time' magazine's list of Best of Asia 2010.
In July 2010, he received the 'S. Ramanujan Award' from the Institute for Research and Documentation in Social Sciences (IRDS). The following month, United States President Barack Obama's special envoy Rashad Hussain praised his initiatives, specifically naming it the 'best' institute in the country.
In India, he has been honored with the Ramanujan Mathematics Award at the Eighth National Mathematics Convention at function in Rajkot, Maharishi Ved Vyas by Madhya Pradesh Government and received Honorary D.Sc. from Karpagam University. Abroad, he was honored by government of British Columbia, Canada and by ministry of education of Saxony of Germany.
Personal Life & Legacy
Anand Kumar has been approached by many government and non-government organizations from India and abroad for financial help, but he is determined to sustain 'Super 30' on his own. While he funds the program by organizing evening classes in Patna, his mother cooks for the students and his brother takes care of the management.
In May 2016, IIFA, Filmfare and National Film Award winning director Vikas Bahl announced that a biopic on the mathematician was in the making. The film, produced by Preeti Sinha, will be extensively shot in Patna and Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan will play him in the movie.
In June 2016, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar released a biography written on him and praised his self-less initiative by stating that he has become the face of Bihar. The book was written by Canada-based psychiatrist Biju Mathew in association with journalist Arun Kumar, and was published in English by Penguin Random House and in Hindi by Prabhat Prakashan.
Anand Kumar needs to take bodyguards wherever he goes as there have been attempts on his life. According to him, most institutes there are run by criminals who are annoyed by his enormous success and try to stop him at all costs.
He also helped Amitabh Bachchan prepare for his role in the movie 'Aarakshan'.
Movie 'Super 30', released in 2019, is based on Anand Kumar's life. In the movie, his character is portrayed by Hrithik Roshan