In the summer of last year, I was done with my Btech degree and was enjoying holidays with my family in Aurangabad. As usual in the evening, I went to play badminton at Tapdiya hall (there were 2 big halls, one was badminton court and the other one was big auditorium). I parked the car and went to play inside. When I came out, I couldn’t get the car out because the entire parking area was full. There were cars in all directions and there was no way that I could get out (The great Indian Planning :D). I didn’t have anything to do and had to wait till that program is over. This forced me to attend the program which was going on in the auditorium. It was about IIT Preparation for 5th to 10th standard students.
One of the teacher was giving a lecture about how to study. He said, “STOP TV and STOP playing sports if you want to get into an IIT!” And then I saw some parents looking at their child – see what I told you. That poor kid (age around 13-14), was getting annoyed. Then teacher continued – “See our students are at top institutes like Bansal and Ramaiah Coaching.” So this coaching was to prepare kids to get into the top coaching of IIT. Oh come on… Are we not spoiling the beautiful childhood and creativity of kids? Yes, every parent wants to see their child as a successful and respectable human in the society. And yes, they have every right to force discipline and culture on their child. Certainly parents have seen the world, they know the competition and future of the world better than kids do. But the question is to what extent should parents go?
Let’s focus on the life of 5 students A, B, C, D, and E. All these students prepared for engineering entrance during their junior college/10+2 (We can include other streams like medicine, commerce, etc. But I do not have enough exposure and experience to talk about those).
1) Person A was intelligent and hardworking student right from primary school. He used to be amongst toppers in school till matriculation. In next 2 years he worked really hard to crack Engineering Entrance and got into one of the IITs. On the way he got many opportunities and good exposure. He led many organizations in IIT, scored decent CGPA, did all things he was passionate about and finally got a good job at the end of final year which he was satisfied with. He is doing what he likes to do. Fast forward 10 years – Now he is a senior manager/employee at a MNC, earns more than enough, spends evenings and weekends with his family.
2) Person B was exactly like person A and he too got into one of the IITs. On the way he got many opportunities and a good amount of exposure. He led in many organizations in IIT, scored good CGPA, did all things he was passionate about and finally got a job at the end of final year. But he wasn’t satisfied with it. He changed a few companies, did MS/MBA/PhD to get a better job, or launched his own startup. Fast forward 10 years – now he is a CEO of MNC/or a professor at some university, earns more than enough, spends evenings and weekends with his family.
3) Person C was exactly like person A, B and he too got into one of the IITs. On the way he got many opportunities and a good amount of exposure. But he failed to notice the importance and grab those opportunities. Anyway he got the job in final year but he wasn’t satisfied with it. He did not score a good CGPA in IIT or did anything substantial in things he was passionate about. That is why it was harder for him to convince Universities for MS/MBA, convince other companies to get the job that he liked or give enough confidence to himself to do anything out of box (may be start-up or start writing, etc). He had to work very hard to assure himself that he can start-up or improve his profile. Finally after 2-3 years he got the opportunity of doing what he liked to do. Fast forward 10 years – now he is a CEO of MNC/or a professor at some university, earns more than enough, spends evenings, weekends and holidays with his family.
4) Person D was exactly like person A, B and C. He too was intelligent and hardworking but he could not get a seat in IIT. He also could not get a seat in NIT or BITS. Instead he had to go to some other engineering college. On the way, he did not get as many opportunities as people in IITs did. But he was stubborn, worked harder and acquired skills that he liked, did things that he had passion for and scored decent CGPA in his college. It was little hard for him to get good opportunities. But after (extra) struggle of 2-3 years he finally got a job at MNC/MS-MBA in the university that he wanted. Fast forward 10 years – now he is a senior manager/employee at MNC, officer in PSU, or a professor at some university, earns more than enough, spends evenings and weekends with his family.
5) Person E was exactly like person A, B, C and D. He too was intelligent and hardworking but he could not get a seat in IIT, NIT or BITS. Instead he had to go to some other engineering college. It was impossible for him to learn things that he wanted to in that college. It was also very hard for him to learn them on his own. He was frustrated with the system and had very hard time in believing that other students of same intelligence are doing so well. He barely passed his engineering. He had to struggle and face many problems in life to do what he wanted to do. But after (extra) struggle of 4-5 years he finally got the job at MNC/MS-MBA in the university that he wanted. Fast forward 10 years – now he is a senior manager/employee at MNC, earns more than enough, spends evenings and weekends with his family.
These models may seem too simplistic. This is not to say that decisions and circumstances have no role to play in one’s life. They obviously do as they lay foundations for our like, which could be positive or negative. But it is up to us on how we use them. Slowly but surely we must consolidate the positive ones and work away the negatives. Believe me, I know people from all walks of life with degrees from different institutions who are enjoying their life. I have smart people around me who are not from IITs. Doing arithmetic 4 into 4 equals 16 in 1 second instead of 10 second doesn’t make one very smart. In India, we were taught how to do calculations faster but we were never taught where to use them effectively in life. Some people do these calculations slower and use it in life and some can do it faster but never use it. Marks, Ranking, CGPA, Degree, IIT -these terms are exaggerated. Yes, I agree that probability of getting more opportunities is more if you score more marks, if you are from good university but at the end of the day, it’s still is a probability. Thus, there is always a chance to fail or succeed. No one can assure you a “successful life” even if you go to world’s top university and no one can assure you a “failed life” if you don’t go to these universities. Finally what was common in life of person A, B C, D and E was hard work! They may have got lucky at some point in life but “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
What do I mean by successful life? The one who is doing what he wants to do (of course legally whatever he can do), what he likes to do, earns enough to feed his family – is enjoying successful life. Let’s look at few successful people in India – Lakshmi Mittal, Azim Premji, Sunil Mittal, Roshni Nadar, kiran mazumdar-shaw, Narayana Murthy, Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, Jayaprakash Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Gautam Radhakrishna Desiraju, K. Radhakrishnan, Sujoy K. Guha, Arun Netravali, APJ Abdul Kalam, Narendra Karmarkar, Nagendra Kumar Singh, Sandip Trivedi, M. S. Swaminathan, Saina Nehwal, Sachin Tendulkar, Chitra Ramakrishna, C. N. R. Rao, Jayant Narlikar, etc. This list includes scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, politicians, activists, etc. How many of them are from IITs?
A degree or University reputation is definitely useful in short term but not necessarily have an impact in long term. According to me, one should try hard to get into top institutions (if he is going to get opportunities that he wants), but should keep in mind that – that’s not the only way. So, all parents it may be that – I’m saying too much as inexperienced young guy, but let your kid enjoy his life, let him be creative, don’t force him to do what he may not like in the future. And all students like me – world is not over yet, work hard and we may get what we want. All successful people out there – don’t underestimate anyone. That class mate of yours, who failed at some stage, where you had topped – is set to become CEO of the MNC, top writer of the year, top scientist of the country or top sports player. One may struggle for few more years than others but still end up doing well in life. At the end if we work hard enough, we will always have food to eat, land to sleep and people to love. Whatever we get on top of this is the dessert. So, are you guys ready to enjoy this beautiful ride of life?