May 28, 2010

Meeting a Madman


How often is it, that we meet people who are classic examples of something?! They are the near-ideal types of a certain stereotype. And what’s better, they even actively justify their position! Consequently, they unabashedly admit to being stuck in a mould, and are very comfortable in their ‘frogs in a well’ condition. Today, this blogger happen to meet one such person!

When it comes to career choices, ‘tradition’ defined success as “qualifying IIT” and “clearing UPSC”. The former meant cracking the uber-tough IIT-JEE, ticket to India’s premier engineering institutes, and latter, becoming an administrator, a somewhat cushy job with official and unofficial perks! This ‘tradition’ still holds VERY true in most parts of this country. Boys [more than girls] are indoctrinated since their tender childhood days to have ‘IIT’ as their target. There are factories set up sleepy towns which unfailingly churn out ‘success stories’ of those who’ve ‘cracked’ it! There are, of course, those who inhabit the periphery and milk moolah from this mania.

Another national hobby is to appear for the awfully famous ‘UPSC’. These set of exams are a window to the almost-good life in INDIA!:P! Not to forget, it surreptitiously authorizes the grooms to demand a hefty dowry in the marriage market. People throng the ‘centres’ of ‘preparation’ in major metros. It has also given rise to a whole industry of ‘coaching classes’ which ‘excel’ in producing ‘toppers’. Everyone’s got their own claim-to-fame students whose passport-size photos are proudly pasted in news-paper advertisements once the final list is announced!

The IIT ‘preparation’ failures lose only about 2-3 years of their early adulthood. The ‘UPSC’ candidates have a bigger window. Their prime is spent in attempting the UPSC and other states’ exams right across till they cross the age limit or finish the stipulated number of attempts. Lucky are those who crack ‘it’ in their first or second attempts. The rest, are…well….just fooling themselves! These ‘traditional’ career choices draw hordes of students to them, in the greed of bettering their life conditions. Very few amongst these are those, who are truly passionate about engineering or being efficient administrators.

The person I met today, is a school teacher in a tier-two capital city. His son qualified for the JEE this year with a rank in the 4900s. He is jubilant! They intend to let him opt for any faculty in the IIT-D campus so that…here’s the big part…he can ‘prepare’ for UPSC!!! [yeah..RIGHT!]

When goaded by the blogger, that once in IIT, it’s a little difficult to devote time for UPSC preps, the teacher replied, My son is a different kind of a guy. He can study for 17-18 hours. Sometimes, even more. Delhi has better options in terms of coaching classes. And he has very few needs. I am sure he’ll be able to manage. And this is what he wants to do, too.”

He went on to humbly rave about the students he had taught. Their success stories in the nationally dreaded ‘board exams’. How his son is highly ‘obedient’. His children do most of their communication to their mother. “A little bit of “fear” is necessary in the minds of students”. And then, very politely, he exhorted my kid-cousin to study hard, so that he can make it to IIT. [HAH! Like there is no better job to do!] By his own admission, We still have a traditional mind-set”.

The resort to ‘tradition’ traces its roots to Indians being highly ‘security-conscious’. Risk avoidance is considered an art, taught right from child-birth. Though, a large section of the upper crust is now exposed to other available options, most of the rest still bask in their ability to fit in the mould. We are hence, mainly content consumers and don’t make much contribution in return. Stifling creativity to trade it for ‘assured-jobs’ has many side-effects. The preference for ‘traditional’ choices has spawned a whole murky network of ill-equipped colleges, astronomical tuition and donation fees and a whole range of wheeler-dealers posing as ‘consultants’ for facilitating admission in mofussil colleges.

As soon as the teacher left, this blogger couldn’t help blurting, “HE IS A MAD GUY! HE RUNS A SMALL-TIME FACTORY AND PRIDES IN THE FACT THAT HE IS PRODUCING ASSES!when said in hindi, this sounds fairly polite!;-)! this, followed by the kid-cousin being assured that he should opt for what HE wants to do, and not what the other so-called well-wishers nee ‘failures’ want him to do. Poor kido, burdened under the unfulfilled dreams of others…not getting to live his own dream!

Disclaimer: this post does not intend to discredit those sincerely passionate students who opt for either of these career choices. it's meant...err...only for the dumb clones!