JEE Mysteries

Got admission to electrical engineering at IIT-Bombay in 1973 when I was 16. Came straight after completing eleventh at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Barrackpore. Had come to do well in studies, but instead found myself surrounded by super-smart geniuses. IIT-Bombay’s electrical engineering department was known for attracting JEE top rankers. About half of top 100 JEE rankers from all India opted for electrical engineering at Bombay campus in those days. I, with AIR around 250, was probably among the lowest ranked in electrical engineering.

I could understand part of the reason why they were so good. Unlike me, almost everyone had completed twelfth grade. Then there was the Agarwal Classes which most had taken. When I asked the professor to teach “vectors” he refused stating that it was easy and I could study that in my hostel room. Instead there was a great demand to solve an example perhaps the students could not solve while doing their M.Sc. (or even perhaps their PhD’s) before taking JEE.

Then I heard toppers going to the professors and requesting them to make the subject matter more difficult. Once one has finished a Ph.D then studying undergraduate subjects at even IIT becomes really tedious, I guess. Time is better spent intimidating kids like me, hiding books in the library, anything to impede the studies of someone who could later achieve better than Einstein.

During those initial days somebody informed me that Narendra Karmarker, the JEE topper, had taken the JEE earlier but had not scored a high enough rank, therefore he took it again (and again?) until he got the top rank. 

Later people mentioned him being born in a mathematically gifted family. During our 35th anniversary a few of us met at Powai and this was mentioned. Once the class had made a practical training visit to Bombay’s power supply company and there a person who looked like a supervisor met us and introduced himself as the father of Narendra Karmarkar. He didn’t appear so mathematical.

Confused, I checked in 2014, the Wikipedia page on Narendra. It mentioned that he was 16 when he went to study at IIT. Recently I checked again. He has grown older by 2 years on his Wikipedia page.

Note: I liked Karmarkar and he was helpful. He was one of the few toppers who talked to me.