Impacting millions: The inspirational journey of Shri V. K. Bansal Ji

Maths genius, IIT (BHU) Alumnus (Mec ‘71), and a beloved teacher, Shri V K Bansal Ji, was the epitome of brilliance and tenacity. He founded Bansal Classes, Kota, a coaching institute that trains millions of aspirants for various entrance examinations. Here is the inspiring journey of a man who persevered and defeated all odds and revolutionized education in India.

This story began in 1949 in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. Shri V K Bansal Ji was born to Bisamber Dayal Agarwal and Anguri Devi in the historical city of Jhansi. The meaning of his name, “Vinod,” is someone who faces obstacles with a smile on his face, one who is always brimming with positivity, both of which would prove to be apt for him. In 1954, his father, a government employee, was transferred to Lucknow, the capital of UP.

The first thing that he noticed in his new house was a lantern. There wasn’t any electricity, but it didn’t bother him. He walked for a kilometer every day to attend the Sri Durga Geeta Vidyalaya. Every day, he used to study under the dim light of a lantern. The fumes from it often irritated his eyes. One day, in a fit of rage, he asked his father, “Why isn’t there any electricity in our house? There’s electricity in the neighbors’ house.” Now, his father was well versed in the art of inspiring children. He replied, “It isn’t there because of you. If you study hard and top every class, we’ll get electricity in the next three to four years.” These words would stick with young Vinod. He worked tirelessly, studying day and night with one goal in mind; he had to bring electricity to his home.

He consecutively topped his class in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. People were surprised by his sudden determination. He studied so devotedly that everyone pitied him for missing out on all the fun kids his age usually have. Every night at 12, his parents tried to persuade him to sleep. But he always replied with the answer, “I need to get rid of that lantern.“ All that effort paid off when he won a scholarship of 372 rupees, which was a huge amount back then. With this amount, they were able to get the wiring done, and finally, they got electricity. With much perseverance, he got rid of those lamps.

Even though they got electricity, there was still a hope that he would complete his 10th and 12th grades in the top division and get a high mark in B.Sc Physics to get a degree in M.Sc Physics. Back in the day, an M.Sc Physics degree guaranteed a well-paying job with a salary of Rs. 300-800. In those days, this amount would ensure a comfortable life for an entire family. But on seeing his academic prowess, the expectations from him increased. So why limit him to an M.Sc degree when he has the potential to be so much more?

He filled the application form for IT-BHU and got admitted to the university for free, owing to the high marks he scored in his twelfth standard. When he went to BHU, he was awarded a scholarship of 75 rupees and a full tuition fee waiver. Throughout his academic career, he never had to spend a single dime on education. He never let the fact that he came from a poor background affect his studies. After studying mechanical engineering for five years at BHU, he got his first job in Kota with a decent salary.

After living peacefully for another two years, he started losing his body’s agility. Little did he know that this was the beginning of the most dreadful phase of his life. It became difficult to move around, and he was getting increasingly tired and weak. When he visited the doctor, he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and was recommended to be admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Science. Muscular dystrophy was an extremely rare disorder, and the doctor had never treated a case before.

At the Institute, he had to face the heart-wrenching truth about this disease. He was warned that the effects would come in tsunami-like waves and that the future looked bleak for him. They told him that there would be a day when he’d lose his job, which eventually happened in 1983. After that, the disease took a turn for the worse, leaving him nearly paralyzed. He wrote letters to five neurologists, and one of them replied, telling him not to despair and suggested that he start a new profession; teaching at home. He told him that keeping himself occupied was the best way to manage this disease. Otherwise, it would be difficult for him to pass the time and distract himself from the cruelty of his illness.

Subsequently, he started teaching students, initially with eight students at his dining-room table. The popularity of his classes grew tremendously in 1985 when one of his students cleared the IIT entrance examination, and finally, he founded the well-known Bansal classes in the year 1991. He introduced several strategies that coaching centers use to this day. Even when he wasn’t able to teach classes anymore, he worked for over 14 hours a day, formulating math questions. He played a pivotal role in transforming the small industrial Rajasthan town of Kota into the heart of the country’s education map and the center of a Rs 3,000 crore coaching industry.

Teaching in class was when he had the best time of his life. In his words, "Itna hanse, itne gaana gaaya, jitna shayad life me koi nahi gaatha." In that period, he wrote so much that the exercise strengthened the muscles in his hand, enabling him to give firm handshakes.

He stood unwavering in the face of the numerous obstacles he faced, with his perseveration and his family’s support. There’s no cure for muscular dystrophy. Dealing with constant pain and the agony of slowly losing control of his own body wasn’t an easy task. Later, the disease started affecting his vital internal organs, including the lungs and heart. But he didn’t let any of this stop him from teaching his students. He fondly recalled that even when times were so terrible that he couldn’t lift his hand, there was always someone to help. His wife always stood by his side and took care of him with the utmost affection. He lovingly quotes, “If your grandson is helping you, there is nothing like it. No pleasure is greater than this.”

He was utterly dedicated to his profession. He once had a heart attack in the middle of a class and was rushed to the operation theatre. As soon as he regained consciousness after major surgery, he asked the doctor to arrange for his next class. He started teaching one student and gradually took on more students until Bansal Classes became an empire of talented and hardworking students.

Even though he went through multiple surgeries, his desire to teach always gave him the strength to pull through. Additionally, he was always cheerful; he even used to make jokes about his condition. Once, a journalist from the United States sat and observed him in his class because he couldn’t comprehend how an Indian could do so much, whereas people from his own country affected by this disease weren’t able to do anything, despite having access to free medical care.

Shri V K Bansal Ji was known to be a famous and kind-hearted soul. He was always charitable and never hesitated to help someone in need. He encouraged everyone to do the same, at whatever scale possible. He says everyone has difficulties, but the outcome depends solely on your willpower. What’s truly remarkable about Shri V K Bansal Ji was that he never considered his institution a business. He enjoyed teaching, and that was his sole motivation. He used to jokingly say in class that it didn’t matter if they understood his class or not; he was enjoying himself. It was never about the money. In an interview, Shri V K Bansal Ji mentioned that if he had listened to the income tax collectors and bribed them, he could’ve saved several crores, but being the honest citizen he was, he always abided by the rules and was even given several certificates including that of the country’s highest income tax-payer. He was a role model and is beloved by thousands of students all across the country.

“Change does not roll on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”

Although there are numerous coaching centers in Kota, he was considered the guru of every student. He was an exemplary person. Never was he thought to be weak or pitiable. True to his name, he tackled every challenge with a headstrong attitude, always with a smile. Shri V K Bansal Ji left us on the 3rd of May, 2021, after years of fighting his illness. He even fought and recovered from COVID-19, but unfortunately, the damage to his lungs was irreparable. He was the architect of Kota’s coaching industry, and for 35 long years, he did not think about anything other than his students. He may have left this world physically, but he’ll live on forever, in the hearts of millions of students.

This article has been prepared by Nisitha Vallamdasu (Electronics and Communications, 2023)