Meet Imran Khan, the Man whose Life Drastically Changed After Narendra Modi’s Speech at Wembley
Imran Khan, a primary school maths teacher from Rajasthan’s Alwar district, is a hard man to pin down. When he’s not in the classroom, he’s in and out of crucial meetings; honouring invitations to speak at events; and, often, giving interviews to television channels. After a bit of back and forth, he returns my calls apologetically on a weekday; I can hear squeals of children vying for his attention in the background. “It’s almost like I’m a celebrity,” he jokes. Khan remembers the exact moment his life changed. In November last year, he was half asleep when congratulatory calls from friends and family shook him out of his slumber. In a few hours there were television vans parked outside his house and journalists fighting to get a byte from him. Unbeknownst to Khan, prime minister Narendra Modi had just mentioned him in his speech at London’s Wembley Stadium, thanking him for his tremendous contribution to education. “My India is in that Imran Khan from Alwar,” thundered Modi. He later watched the speech on YouTube to confirm if it was indeed him that the PM had spoken of.
Khan’s gift to education is undoubtedly commendable, but may have gone unnoticed and unappreciated if not for the speech. He has the rare distinction of creating over 50 free education apps that he has dedicated to students. These apps have been downloaded by 2.5 million users. Before he became a serial app developer, he created almost a hundred websites for schools in Alwar. Interestingly, the 34-year old has been teaching in government schools since he was 18, and has never been formally trained in computers. “I started making websites in 2009. My younger brother was an engineering student. He left Alwar when he found a job in another city. When I was emptying out his room, I found all his old books and a desktop. Initially, I used his computer to play games, but then I thought I should make better use of it. I started going through his books, and I found it pretty easy to understand. The first website I made was for my school.”
Impressed by the speed at which Khan was progressing, the then district collector of Alwar, Ashutosh Pednekar, suggested he graduate to developing apps instead. “I had the most basic Nokia phone, which had no apps. Then he [Pednekar] showed me what a smartphone looks like. I googled how to create apps and did a few online courses for three to four months. In 2012, I made my first app — an NCERT Learn Science app for class 9 students,” he recalls. He has since created 52 apps and has several that are almost ready to go live. “But, after the speech I’ve just had no time.” On an average, he spends close to eight hours a day on this project and can create an app in a week.
He almost sounds surprised at the fuss over his achievements, repeatedly reiterating that it’s “pretty easy” to make an app. But, he is delighted when he sees the staff members at his school refer to his apps or when students ask him to help install them on their phones. A few of his students who own televisions also made it a point to see Modi’s speech. His most dear creation is an app called General Science in Hindi. It has about 300 question-and-answers on the subject and aims at simplifying complex scientific concepts for children.
If given a chance, Khan hopes he can do more work in IT development for the government. “But, either way, I’ll keep working for kids and make apps for them. My goal is to create apps in Hindi so they can reach out to more kids. There is already a lot of content in English.” Deeper into the future, he’d like to try his hand at video tutorials as well. “I’m waiting for the internet speed to improve first,” he says hurriedly, before getting pulled into yet another meeting.