Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Photo Essay | Mukherjee Nagar, the hub of aspirations

Coaching centres for competitive exams abound in Delhi's Mukherjee Nagaryoung people come here 'to make life'

After graduation, Pramada Pranjali, now 24, moved to Nehru Vihar, a neighbourhood in Mukherjee Nagar, the coaching hub in north Delhi. She came six years ago from Patna, Bihar, to Delhi University in search of a good education. Today, she is preparing for civil services exams.

It is in this colony that ambition and reality fight for their place. Students from all over the country come to this coaching hub to prepare for civil services, bank, management and other competitive exams. There are an estimated 400 coaching centres, of all sizes and calibre. It’s estimated that no less than 300,000 students stay in and frequent the locality every day. A room here can cost anywhere from 8,000-15,000 a month.

From the Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar Metro station to the many by-lanes, the neighbourhood exudes a young vibe. Restaurant menu cards look like handwritten notebooks, staircases work as innovative spaces for advertisement, a boy with a laptop sells “HD movies" for just 10, about a dozen small, private libraries offer students “air-conditioned space to study at peace", a roadside snack joint called “Pagal Bhelpuri Wala" draws crowds to his stall. There are property agents and stores selling old furniture. The cycle rickshaw is ubiquitous. Professional poster boys fight to ensure top billing for the coaching institutes they represent.

“Mukherjee Nagar is an ultimate aspiration hub," says Pranjali, sitting in front of the Batra Cinema building. In tune with everything in this locality, the facade of the building too is lined with posters and banners promoting all kinds of coaching institutes. “You come here to make life; some succeed, and some get frustrated after being exploited by all—coaching centres, landlords, tiffinwallahs and book vendors," says Rabi Kumar, 28, a civil service aspirant from Bastar, Chhattisgarh.

“Two things that you will find interesting in Mukherjee Nagar are high rents, despite this being a student area, and private commercial libraries. While the libraries are a great help, though they add to the living expenses, the spiralling rents are now forcing many to share rooms," says Harjinder Singh, who is preparing for government clerical jobs. He stays with a friend in Indira Vihar, adjoining Mukherjee Nagar.

Sunil Dua, senior regional head at Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd (TIME), says the area has developed into a coaching hub over the last two decades when competitive exams started picking pace in India. “Students come to TIME to get trained to crack bank entrance exams, qualify for the prestigious IIMs and of course, for civil services," says Dua, sitting at his institute in Hudson Lane.

A book store in Mukherjee Nagar where students can buy study material.
A book store in Mukherjee Nagar where students can buy study material.
The Pagal bhelpuri wala’ stall in Nehru Vihar.
The Pagal bhelpuri wala’ stall in Nehru Vihar.
Professional poster boys compete with one another to get their institute top billing.
Professional poster boys compete with one another to get their institute top billing.
A private library for students.
A private library for students.
Even staircases are used for advertising coaching institutes.
Even staircases are used for advertising coaching institutes.
Signboards of various coaching institutes cover the facade of this building.
Signboards of various coaching institutes cover the facade of this building.
A class in session at Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd in Hudson lane.
A class in session at Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd in Hudson lane.
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