The curious case of the traveling chairman


NPS Koramangala - Pic courtesy

It was Bangalore Day #5 and our first Friday. I had taken the day off for the express purpose of visiting the top school on our short list – National Public School. In a separate post (Masti ki paathshala), I will discuss our criteria in choosing the right school for our kids and how National Public School (“NPS” for short) captured our imagination. NPS Indiranagar (the first campus) was founded in 1982 by Dr. K. P. Gopalkrishna, and who still serves as the Chairman of the (now) four campuses. NPS Koramangala (started in 2003) and NPS HSR Layout (started in 2007) were our target locations since we were converging on Koramangala as our future neighbourhood.

Since the school year had already started 2+ months ago, a colleague advised me that our best bet was to ‘seek an audience’ with Dr. Gopalkrishna and impress upon him why NPS was our top choice. So off we headed to NPS Koramangala. We got there pretty early but were greeted by a queue of eager parents ahead of us. “Early parent catches the proverbial school seat”, I muttered to myself. I joined the queue while P kept the kids busy in the waiting area. I stated my desire to meet Chairman G and pat came the reply – “the Chairman is traveling”. Attempts to gather an eta proved futile. Dejected, I rounded up the family and we started trooping out.

As we reached the gate, a spanking green Skoda Laura passed us. Like any self-respecting nosy Indian would do, I peered inside the tinted windows. I glimpsed a suited gentleman in the back seat. My Sherlock Holmes instincts on overdrive, I asked the guard if it was Chairman G in the Skoda. He answered in the affirmative. We hurried back inside the school and I got back in line. When I announced that I wanted to meet the ‘recently returned from his travels’ Chairman, the lady (now smiling) asked me how I knew. Purely rhetorical question of course. Now that the cat was out of the bag, she asked me to write down my ‘particulars’ (Indian term for name & purpose). After an additional thirty minutes, we got the audience.

We had no real expectations from this meeting. False! The eternally unrealistic optimist (read “me”) expected the closing lines to sound something like this “Mr. and Mrs. Kuruganti, I am so impressed with your background, credentials and excellent moral standing. Even though the school year started two months ago and our classrooms are full, I’m willing to make an exception for your boys – in whose eyes I can already see their future academic brilliance.”

Ok. So the interview didn’t quite end that way but you knew that, right? We had a really interesting (and at times argumentative) discussion. I’ll save the specifics for a latter addendum. This post has gestated a full 50 days – if I postpone any longer, it won’t see the light of day.

Dec 21 2008 Update: Found this comprehensive and excellent post on Bangalore schools by blogger Chitra Iyer (this is her new blog site):

Feb 21 2009 Update: In late January, out of the blue we got a call from NPS Koramangala that our 3 year old had been accepted into the Montessori program. Apparently the Montessori 2-year program runs parallel to the kindergarden program. We had applied to the kindergarden program yet they considered our son for the Montessori. After thinking about the admission decision for a few days (virtually unheard of based on the reaction of the admission officials), we accepted. We had to pay the entire school year’s tuition 6 months before the school year even began – nice! Then again, this appears to be the standard operating procedure in all Bangalore (perhaps all Indian?) schools.

Apr 18 2009 Update:  Shortly after S wrote the admission test for NPS Koramangala (1st Grade), we made a few trips to both the NPS branches – Koramangala and HSR Layout. Turns out my mind had played a trick and I owe someone an apology. When I wrote this post in mid-Oct 2008 and compared the NPS Koramangala receptionist to folks working in a government office, it was really the NPS HSR Layout receptionist I was thinking about. The receptionist lady at Koramangala, with whom I had several recent cordial conversations recently is a fine and decent woman and I’m sorry I mistakenly maligned her (via this blog post) from Oct ’08 to Apr ’09. I’ve edited the relevant section and moved it below..

——–start retracted portion

If you haven’t been to an Indian government office in quest of [insert_your_favorite_service_here], some background is in order. The person ‘behind the desk’ holds a position of great power. And clearly they never heard of with great power comes great responsibility. Entire tomes can be written about the government peon, the clerk, the hospital compounder (Indian title for a medical assistant) but… suffice it to say that a common operating theme is to infuriate the ‘service requester’. This is not to say that they are all cut from the same cloth. No sir! Their style can range from the bored and the lazy ignorerto the doing_you_a_big_favour to the cant_you_tell_I_am_really_important.

NPS Koramangala HSR Layout is no government office but the lady at the reception desk was an interesting blend of the aforementioned profiles. When it came to my turn, her expression bore a mixture of boredom and mild annoyance.

—- end retracted portion



10 thoughts on “The curious case of the traveling chairman

  1. Great reading your blog vishy! Even though we worked at yahoo and have a lot of common friends, we never got to know each other. I really enjoy reading your blog and hope to see more.

  2. ulaar

    Thanks for your kind comments. I’ll surely keep the posts coming with encouragement like this.

    I agree that it is strange we never met at Yahoo even though our years mostly overlapped & we have so many common friends.
    I had heard from Pranshu that you were doing your own startup. Have you launched?


  3. ulaar

    hi Divya,
    My apologies. For some reason, WordPress Akismet thought your comment was a spam. Today I managed to un-spam it. Great to hear that our tribe (Bay Area->Bangalore migrants) is increasing in Raheja. There’s a 4th couple – also in Pine who moved from the Bay Area. I bet there are more of us lurking in Raheja..

    Will check out your blog too…


  4. mamma17

    Hi Vishy,
    Will it be possible for you to tell if your younger one admission was because of your first meet with chairman? because admission were over in nov, so wondering How did u get a call in jan end ? Did u get admission for yur elder one in NPS or is he still with Greenwood high ?

    also would like to see your blog on conversation with Dr. GK as you said in “I’ll save the specifics for a latter addendum. ” if at all you have posted 9 cudn’t find)

    • ulaar

      Sorry for the belated response..

      > Will it be possible for you to tell if your younger one admission was because of your first meet with chairman?
      Honestly don’t know because the admission process for kids younger than 1st grade is a bit of a black box. We wanted to meet Dr. G (& apparently we got lucky with our 1st attempt) only to satisfy ourselves that we tried every legal avenue open to make the case for his admission. There are all sorts of theories about which criteria are more valuable to NPS in granting admission but the one frequently cited (& was also included on a pre-admissions notice board I’m told) is their preference to families in transferable jobs. I suppose we ‘qualified’ in this regard since we moved back from US after 16 years.

      Regarding the timing of the call, I believe they fill most of the spots by a certain time (Nov I suppose) and then during the remainder of the Nov-May timeframe, as kids transfer to other schools/cities, they start offering spots to kids on the waiting list.

      > Did u get admission for yur elder one in NPS or is he still with Greenwood high ?
      Older one also joined NPS Koramangala 1st grade in Jun ’09. He had to write an ‘entrance examination’ where they tested English & Math — 3 kids were on the A list & 5 on the waiting list (including my son). After a week of waiting, my son was also offered admission (whew!).

      > also would like to see your blog on conversation with Dr. GK as you said in “I’ll save the specifics for a latter addendum.
      I haven’t written that yet. Oh! So many unwritten blogs – will try my best.

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