After passing through A, B, C, D kind of exams (GATE 2007), I applied at IISc (Dept of Instrumentation), IITM (Dept of Aerospace) and IIT Kanpur (Nuclear Technology). Honestly, I am not a supporter of competitions, even if I have been successful in one of them. The discomfort is for various reasons, most prominent of them is that competitions hardly add any social values. The boost in the confidence which I acquired came at the collective loss of confidence of the failed ones. Collectively We stand to loose even when the competitions are fair. And in India, competitions are not fair by most of the standards.
The more perverse thing about the competition is the rise of objective kind of problems Prof. H Narayanan calls them A, B, C, D Exams and I liked the very sound of this notion. The worst thing, It only allows one not to commit more than three mistakes and has the potential to convert a regular idiot into one of the three idiots in an extremely small time. In my case it took only 10-15 minutes. Before the results were announced branding me as one of the 100 percentile, I was like just other guys. It only shows that public is incapable of see the talent by itself and someone has to figure out who is genius. But such discrimination on the basis of merit is unavoidable, and unfortunately, it seems, it is also very necessary. Merit is indispensable for a institute to function; merit and discrimination are the faces of the same coin. Although every society has its own rules to award the merit but you can not have merit unless you discriminate in one sense or in another. Although, I’d ask whether I am perceived as a genius because I was successful in GATE or I succeeded in GATE because I am a genius?
This is also true that in case of India this has not been a fair practice. For last few years, the rise of upper middle class students in IIT is bit troublesome. In fair competition, at least equality of opportunities must be given. Those, who have the resources to spend time in Kota concentrations camps and like centers already have an edge over those are from the lower middle class or from villages. Even if they have the money, it may not necessarily translates in to desired effects since the access to information and resources may be limited. Well, as far as IITs are concerned, they do not have any problem since coaching centers improves skills of their future students. But any student who had an disadvantaged beginning, has to be above average to do average.
A significant portion of students show tremendous decline in their interests in studies and this should not be surprising since if they were made to enroll in these programs under social pressure (the glamor, parent pressures etc), it is bound to happen. Pressure, glamour or awards alone can not sustain enthusiasm, they, however, can make people to make choice they are not naturally inclined for. These unfair competition effectively block IIT’s from those who could have been infinitely better suited for engineering in long term. But again, there is hardly any method available to test candidates for their long term interests. One is forced to used classical methods and hope for the best. Now, we see a lot of students are getting away without doing much of the work in their degree programs (and they still expect that grades must be good else the professor is ‘haramin’) and ‘copy-and-paste’ kind of the thesis is being accepted in Institutes, including in IIT Bombay. When I say ‘work in degree program’ it does not mean to do what have been told, but the ‘idea of scholarship’ is being respected.
I was slightly amazed to find out that some of my classmate (update, 2011: most of them) went through coaching classes for GATE exams. Some even took a year break to do preparation. Well what can I say, Indian middle class have a lot of double standards. What they say, what they think and what they do; hardly have any correlation. If granting reservation to people is not valid, then spending time in coaching classes when most of the other competitors do not have resources to do so is also unethical. See End Note .
I took an Orkut survey which I sometimes appreciate and sometimes regret (it has been my first case of disillusionment with the social networking sites). Asking people which branch is better? The question itself says that I had some sort of ‘grading’ about these programs. Most replies came with the understanding that my ‘grading’ was ‘good-job’ oriented. Good jobs, invariably, mean ‘good-money’. IIT Bombay, Microelectronics and VLSI won over everyone followed by IISc Microlectronics. I had already applied in IISc, reapplying was not possible besides I want to be a teacher so TA jobs in IIT would have been a plus. Three days were left in the closing date of IITB applications process. I printed out the form, filled it, took off my pics from my library card and pasted over it; went to my department, HOD was missing, get his seal, signed it by myself (I plead guilty); got a Demand Draft, posted it; bought a water-melon in Rs 15; came home and ate it. I was skeptical about if the post would read IITB in time since Sunday was one of the day in between. Hopefully it did, and I got the admission.
I was allotted hostel 9 with a room-mate. It was slightly shocking to be put in a shared room at PG level but what can one do when resources are scarce. Fortunately my room mate turned out be a pretty nice friend. He later told me, when I saw our name on the form I thought, ‘Gaye ab to.. 🙂 and he was the first person I met who bought a computer without headphone. He did not like music, movies and games.
I’d tell my Orkut friends that I forgot to apply at IISc in microE. They could not doubt it, there was no reason. I’d give them strangest of strange reason like Inter-IIT sports and blah blah. Who would tell real thing to people besides I’ve learnt something from a chicken in the movie ‘chicken run‘ in which an American Chicken had the habit – "I tell people what they like to hear". One of my friend, she would say , "Tum Bombay ladkiyo ki baah se ja rahe ho naa." (You are going to Bombay for girls) Too hard to argue with normal people. Yes! I’d replied.
It had been warned by one of my Orkut buddy that time that IIT is reserved for her B. Tech. and M. Tech. does not get that kind of treatment. In fact there are few blogs written by Batkas to get a proper insight. One is of course this. On the campus, this is true that M. Techs (Matka) and B. Techs (Bhatka on IITD campus, Batkas on IITB campus) do not mingle very much. And it should not be taken as a disapproving thing. Neither there is any necessity nor there is any thing wrong about it. But B.Tech’s generally consider M.Tech’s hard working (at same time also inferior. Why didn’t they crack JEE otherwise?) as well as give-up, perhaps because of their rough treatment when they discharge their TA jobs. Some of the T.A.s seem to forget their U.G. days or perhaps they also suffer from a common Indian disorder ‘got-power-gotta-flaunt-it‘. Once, I felt like punching my T.A. who was a Ph.D.. Dual Degrees (Dudda) and Matka do a lot of courses and lab-work together and there is quite a harmony among them. Initially there could be a friction, but it soothes out later. This is not to say that they are being measured equally. In fact at the time of our orientation, our Dept. HOD (Prof. Subhasis Chaudhary) said that They (I dont know on whom behalf he was speaking) are proud of their B. Techs students but they have seen some nice M. Tech.’s also. Going through his profile would reveal that he got is UG from IIT.
I do not believe in IQ’s. I believe in enthusiasm and natural inclination. In India, or may be elsewhere, these common-wisdom has taken deep roots. Otherwise how would you explain that a person who can not clear an exam in first attempt can clear it in second or third with really impressive score. Does that mean that a person is suddenly has become super intelligent or does it mean that hard work always pays off? Rank only shows that you are fast. Everyone can be a ‘deep’ but not everyone can be fast enough. So in long run, to master a subject, it does not matter whether you had some ranks or won some accolades, as long as you are ready to hard work and give yourself enough time. If you are ready to give yourself time and still want to become master of some subject, I think you’ll end up fighting and cursing shadows. People who are always in hurry should try semi-literate but highly rewarding professions, such as management or other like wise clerical works.
There is very curious pattern among the Matkas. Most of them do their UG in their home-town or home-state. Living alone and keeping the interest alive in a boring curriculum of engineering is tough if not impossible, and given the fact that a lot of them are forced (socially or psychologically) to take up engineering, it is not surprising. Unfortunately it is more acute in students who are naturally creative for professional courses do not encourage creativity; you just can’t learn deeply when you have to solve a problem in 3 hours. In undergraduate, it is very important that you should not take a very puritan stand, namely, ‘I’ll not move on unless I understand completely’, save this attitude for Ph.D.. Better be safe and have some achievements. So my observation is that we do not see very creative people at PG level (Exception are there, as always!) and in their UG, they are generally ripped off of their creativity, if any. Being in home-town also make them very narrow-minded when it comes to handling different cultures. They tends to react rather than respond, have stronger moralistic arguments than of liberal/balanced arguments. And not to mention doing M. Tech. in IIT means having a seal on your documents to climb the ladder of success — at most in markets, whether of jobs or of marriage.
A few professors – who generally lashes out on UG’s for their lack of enthusiasm in their courses – consider UG’s smarter than PG’s. And this perception is largely true. Unfortunately, IIT’s still could not find a way to retain them. Any Institute which prepares its student for markets will definitely suffer from brain-drain. (PS: In IITB, they have started dual degree program (M.Tech and Ph.D) to retain their M.Tech.). Prof XYZ would tell his (irritating) M. Tech. students, "Don’t do matka-pankti, first understand and then argue." And he has a point. But there are others who admire M.Tech. for their more hard-working nature in academic courses as Swapnil have told me one day, "One of my Prof, He said in class that UG courses are disaster. I am not going to take them.) So there is a pattern of both kinds but in this pattern there is also a pattern. The matka-bashers are generally have their UG degree from IIT’s like XYZ, liberal one are from outside. Most of the Profs are generally neutral. But all of them are of views that if UG stays here for masters, and masters for PhD, the institute will flourish. As to say that UG’s are the best, then PG’s and then our PhD. Anyway, most people come to IIT to get only one degree. U.G. are of-course technically better. They have access to good professors and much better teaching for four years.
I was TA for a lab course, and most of UG I came across became kind of friends. They’d reveal a more forthright pattern. Let me make my stand so you cab be aware of my biases, I hardly liked a typical Matka company and there was a time I avoided all of them. They’d ask very narrowed and boring questions. As I told you, most of them are first time loner and make group perhaps to kill the loneliness and once there is grouping, individuality is gone. This is not to say the UG’s do not make groups. But grouping in UG’s is somewhat different because in UG, people are amenable to a very large extent. Group shapes an Individual. Ask any Prof and he’d tell you that how hard it is to change a P.G. student. That is why the true character of IIT’s (or any other Institute for that matter) can only be reflected by its UG’s in general. Once one of my Batka friend told me that a alumni came to hire and was lecturing the UGs about few things and later He said, "Ye pahle aane nahi dete aur baad main sirf M. Techs bachte hai aur Matka kise chahiye..[pause, after remembering that he is not a student anymore].. No offence, i hope there is not matka here." (They [IIT] do not allow us to come for placement early and later we find only M. Techs and who wants a Matka… [pause ..]…). One of our professors would reveal in class that, "DD’s do not write M. Tech on their resume, they write senior graduate student." Seeing his disapproval of MTechs I’d joke, "He must have caught his wife with a matka." By the way he is a good lecturer and his classes are not boring.
Curriculum of M.Tech is designed to fill the gap which II-tier institutes creates in their UG’s. That is necessary since almost all of the Matkas are from other colleges. My dept has a tradition of producing good quality research papers, usually published in IEEE. Most of the papers produces are an effort of team, that requires a labor oriented approach with machines which I hated and would go to my Guide, Prof. DKS and say, "Sir, I have compatibility issues with staff. Its not to say they are wrong but I have issues." He would give advice on how to deal with people and get your thing done, which I hardly took and a complete freedom to do what I like which I never missed. Its the Profs that make a institute great, its alumni is only a bi-product of this process.
Being on the IIT for two year was the best thing that happened in my life till now. I was alone and have all the time to think. Breaking away from friends is as rewarding for academic life as maintaining a long list of friends is for professional life. And after being in professional life for a year, it seemed to me that one generally comes at the cost of another. In fact, few argues that personal life also have its own conflict with professional life.
It’s almost impossible to find a Matka, DD, Btech working on his own ideas (and shamefully this might be true for some Ph.D.). At best they are dictated by Professors. Ideas need free time to develop. Free time is equivalent to the time you spend in privacy. Privacy is very alien to India. In childhood you can not stay alone else they will say that you have some mental problem. At homes, there is no privacy. At college, this is also not possible. In fact almost all the time you see a hostel room is either occupied by two or more or empty. Only time you get students alone is on exam time, and this is time to mug-up. I wonder when they get the time to think things over and develop some their own ideas rather than reacting to ‘herd-instincts’.
A widespread disease which has plagued some of the best Institutes in India, most notably civil services, is to glorify oneself at the cost of the Institute one suppose to serve. In Civil Services, a civil servant can easily been seen criticizing his/her Institute; almost every time to prove that (s)he is a different pattern (Armed forces have been a pleasing exception). I have seen that some of the students of almost every Institute are now showing symptoms of this. They sometime claim that all the badness in them is caused by the Institute but at the same time show very less or no enthusiasm to improve the situation. This is not to say that these people do not suffer. Indian, it seems, tends to greatify themselves rather than building up an Institutes they are part of. For a nation, greatness of an Individual is not as valuable as the greatness of an Institute for individual greatness dies with oneself but an Institute lives on to make few more great people. Had Nehru did the same, we could never had the working Institutes as we have now. Now, it becomes our (somewhat sacred) duty to make our Institutes better rather then using them for personal gains.
IITs are getting much crowd these days. Intimacy is lost between Prof and their students. For UG’s it is not a very big concern since most of the things taught at this level are generic but for Matka’s and Ph.D. this could be a valuable loss. But this does not make an issue among them, till the market is able to consume them, All izzz Well…It is a reasonably good place to build a scholarship, but learn to un-group in advance before making your mind to join any institute. And if some of you can drop your utility point of view about education at home, IITB will be very fortunate to have you else it would be otherwise. Choice is yours. Hope to see you on the campus.
The pinnacle of competitions, IIT/IIM’s knows very well in advance how many students will come from Delhi, how many from Kota, How many from Bomaby… Sanil M. N., an alumnus of university of Hyderabad, has information to share, “According to journalist S. Anand, ‘ironically enough, some of the beneficiaries of reservation in education were the Brahmins. In Madras Presidency College, the British Administration noted that the most natives (only upper caste that time) failed to clear the final examinations in second division (40% marks that time). To ensure that more candidate passed, a third division (33% marks) was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century.’ Now descendent of these incompetent upper caste who benefitted from initial reservation today celebrate the value of merit, while attempting to deprive Dalit students of such reservations.” In spirit He is not wrong. In letter he could be, since reservation is not relaxation of marks. The anti-reservation stand is very selfish. A state Tamilnadu has a long history of giving reservation (69%, before Mandal II). One could have expected that in Chennai, you will see same kind opposition what we saw on AIIMS. It was the most mindless agitation I have ever seen. In Tamilnadu, the difference between GEN and ST categories marks are now is as low as 10%, in 2005. This difference has vanished between GEN and OBC a long ago. It does not matter now. My advice is to upper caste dudes and dudettes, “stop cribbing and start living!”
PS : Please note that I do not modify this blog any longer except for grammar and spelling mistakes. Some of my views of have changed over time. Please consider it as a reflection of a matka that time.