August 17, 2005
When Genius Comes Of Age
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Well..its been a long while since i posted. Unfortunately, i was down with a severe attack of laziness. Medicines couldnt cure it, well-meaning advice from friends also failed, finally somebody kicked my butt real hard and i woke up with a start. so here goes :)
A few weeks back, I had gone to pick up a friend from IIT Madras. That was the day when over 600 freshly minted JEE successes joined the institute for its renowned B.Tech program.
It was great to see those 17-18 year olds (sprinkled with a few older ppl who made it in their second or third chances). The parents were proud, the kids (more like my younger brothers) were nervous but jubiliant. Both had good reasons to feel the way they did. The kids had slogged, they had focused their entire life in the last few years to make it through what probably is the toughest examination in the world. The parents had dreamed about this ever since the kids were born, doled out huge amounts for coaching institutes and stayed right with their kids during the tough times.
Coming from small towns and occasionally even villages, they have been the brightest kids in their class ever since they can remember. Entire communities would have cheered them on (but they did the slogging all alone) and celebrated with them when their efforts were rewarded. Some of them might be disappointed that they did not get their preferred branch but all of them believe, deep in their heart, that they are the BEST in the country (which given the population almost automatically means best in the world too).
So I thought my next blog will be on them. But why? I never managed to get through the JEE. I went to a local engineering college and was totally happy with that. So I never passed through hallowed portals of any IIT’s (except as an occasional visitor). But, later in my life i have had several chances to interact with lots of IITians. Some of them became close friends. Before i met any of them, i had this awe stuck idea of how all of them were geniuses. But after meeting them, i found out this wasnt the case (despite what the media says). So my title is not exactly correct.
But didnt Thomas Edison say that genius is 99% prespiration and 1% inspiration? This quote is so true in this case. In an age when teenagers want to enjoy life before they have earned the right to do so, these guys (and gals) are so extremely focused that normal human beings (read not so focussed individuals) can get psyched out. I remember a close friend, next door roomie for two years, who had topped IIT. Even during our hectic schedule, i often used to go to sleep at around mid night after saying good night to him. He will continue to burn the midnight oil till 3-4 AM and then wake me up at 7 (he often had to run away from the room as a sleep-deprived enraged mallu arose with murder in mind!)
To the class of 2005 at IITM: Some of you will become hotshot investment bankers, others will strategize for corporations, few will sell detergent powder, others will be sucked either into the IT industry or to academics. Very few will become eminent scientists or entrepreneurs, just like it is at any elite institute be it IIM's, IISC's or the ivy leagues. But you guys have made it thus far!. You have entered the hallowed portals of this institute. For the next four years you will be slogging ur butt out. Some of you will find for the first time in life that u may not necessarily top academically in every exam. A few of you will figure out that engineering is not for you. Dont let these things worry you too much, because you have earned the right to be proud. But dont dwell too much on the past successes either, because future is beckoning and increasingly it is a future which demands achievements made yesterday and not four years back.
Finally two incidents occured while i was in the IIT campus which will remain etched in my mind for a while
scene 1: I am talking in mallu with my friend in front of the Brahmaputra hostel. A mom and a soda glass wearing son passes by. They hear the mallu language and the son, desperately trying to become friends with seniors to avoid the inevitable ragging, comes and joins in "chetta keralathil ninnu aano (as if that wasnt obvious!)". we started talking, he introduced himself, he is from a village near thrissur, joining aerospace dept. i was really amazed and congrajulated him. His mom was beaming. my friend introduced himself and the guy greeted him with the required reverence. Then i introduced myself and as soon as he heard that i am just a visitor and did my engg from kerala itself, he turned away with that "proudly arrogant" look. A few years back i would probably have been offended with that look. But today i am much more matured (dont u dare dispute that!) and was just happy for him. He looks just like a kid. so here is wishing you all success in becoming an aerospace engineer!
scene 2: I am leaving the campus at about 10 PM. Near the gate i can see a small family probably from up north of india. Gal (obviously a fresher), Dad and Mom doing the farewells. Dad and Gal were hugging tightly and inconsolably crying. I believe dad was crying louder!!. Mom was standing next to them with a slightly exasperated look. I had one look at the scene and couldnt help smiling. Mom noticed the smile and gave me a "these are both my kids" smile in return.
i smiled right back!