Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Golden Cage

It all starts when a smart young guy or gal who has been scoring above 80% all throughout his life decided to do a professional degree over a regular degree. Some go for engineering (like I did), some become accountants, doctors and lawyers. Then begins the rat race to get into a “Prestigious Technical Institute” as most advertisements in a job supplement of a national daily mention, as almost every engineering aspirant knows that if they go to a B level engineering college, their dreams of making it big are almost screwed. Two years or more are usually spent by kids shuttling between school, tuitions and coaching classes. Meals are skipped, outings are avoided, and sleeping hours are sacrificed till the most coveted exams are done with.

Then starts the anxiety for the results, and once they make it through to a prestigious college, there are several “mithai ka dibbas” which do the rounds of the neighborhood with echoes of phrases like “ladka engineer bann gaya “– (your son is an engineer now). When you enter an engineering institute, no matter it is an IIT, NIT, some govt college or a private institute you realize that just like you there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands bright boys and girls from unknown parts of the country who have also made it to the several institutes of repute. You realize that it is just the first filter paper over a funnel that filtered you out for mixing you with several qualified enough bright young boys and girls who will continue to run in the rat race.

I met all kind of people at a reputed engineering institute during my undergraduate days. There were guys who were sheer geniuses and there were drunkards (even they are bright). I made friends with almost all. There are some of my friends who always considered that those who are in socially unacceptable practices of doping/smoking/excessive drinking are not good people and over and above that not good engineers or professionals. I always beg to differ, as I have seen some of the brightest minds in this world being discarded by the society for a choice that is too personal for anyone to frown upon.

Four years of engineering or for that matter any other professional degree are full of exams. Literally and metaphorically, and mind you not everyone passes all exams. Actually no one passes all exams. You need to fail in atleast one exam to learn that life is not a bed of roses. Most engineers I knew (including IITians/NITians) that their institute was “Jaali” or fraud. Their degrees are not good enough. I wonder what did they have in their minds when they came to an engineering college.
Gone is the era of radical inventions that most of us read about in school. Today even a small variation in a big machine needs to have years of research behind it. Life has become competitive. You don’t hear anything being invented so often as you might have in the industrial age. Most senior engineering students think that they wasted their years in engineering and that to pass an exam all you need is learn the notes you photocopied from your batch topper. They forget that engineering is also an art. A place where you learn to appreciate the intricacies of a machine and its working. Most of them end up clearing their degrees and ending up with jobs which have no relation to their fields of expertise. Textile engineers/instrumentation engineers/mechanical engineers working in a IT software company. The recent boom in the Indian software economy has led to the downfall of Indian engineers.

The self proclaimed “Jaali Engineers” never realize that had they not been good enough no profit oriented organization would have picked them up fresh as a hot cookie from the oven to work for them. Oh and I almost forgot how do most of the students decide what company to work and what domain to go. Just follow where the “Moolah” is going. Money is important especially in a semi hyper inflationary world where almost everything costs two times of what it was 5 years ago.
A middle class boy or a girl is often forced to go for such professional courses so that they fare better financially, they get a good match and that they are able to afford a two BHK flat in a suburban area of a big metropolis , by paying exorbitant prices to builders who are barely high secondary passed. So that they have an A+/B category car in their car park and enough money in their pension plan which will last them a decent living for a lifetime. For this most bright gals and guys I knew spent some 6-7 years right from teenage till they are eligible to marry and drink inside their books. Engineers especially never realize the sheer importance of their profession and often believe that engineering is a waste of time.

But if you ask an electronics engineer about a logic gate after 10 years of his degree he will say he doesn’t remember it. That is what happens when almost all of us are studying to get jobs and not education. Few engineers remain engineers these days, most of them end up as IT major employees where you have no engineering work (see the resumes of almost any of them after 10 years, they all have the same shitty jargons which an HR wont understand and would apply a JD filter to it). They end up as Ctrl C+Ctrl V key pressers to copy snippets from IT junkies from the 90s to mammoth codes written by sheer genius coders who never had a college degree. Few get better salaries than others, few work in back end offices of large multinational firms and most of them don’t even know who founded the company they are working for. A large chunk end up in the ever increasing ranks of MBAs (read Mediocre but Arrogant) and end up doing jobs in a bank or a company selling soaps or toothpastes.
I never appreciated the movie “3 Idiots” for the fact that it didn’t do justice to the novel “Five Point Someone” but one point I will always appreciate that in this race to buy the 2BHK flat and probably a happier life most of us forget what the race is for excellence and not success. Success always follows Excellence.

I guess had we been doctors where lives were at stake, we would have been more serious about our work and our education's importance.


Dhiraj said...

Nicely written though there are points i would beg to differ but then had a lot of provoking thoughts.

Sugarcoated Quinine said...

amazing, never thought this way....but i believe something...even if u win the rat race u r still a rat at the end of the race.........

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