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!


Maj said...

Very well written...made excellent reading.

Matter of Choice said...

thankx maj for dropping in


silverine said...

This has to be one of your best posts. Made great reading and I read it all in one go.Guess you have been through the first day butterflies yourself to be able to so observantly write about the tumultous emotions of a new batch in an Institute.

Great post.

Jiby said...

Too good, man!! I still cant supress my mouth from opening wide whenever i meet an iit alum...they surely deserve that...after three questions attempted to solve in the russian physics book, irodov..i gave up my iit dreams...but still took the exams for the heck of it! yeah and i wud get offended easily at being slighted until sometime back...these days i sort of realize these petty things dont matter anymore!once again thats a great comeback post!

Chaos said...

Thanks for visiting my blog .

You do havta admire the effort these people put in. But it's just plain hard work that's the deciding factor in IIT's. After getting in , it's a different atmosphere for most of the kids, away from home , total freedom and they end up like most of the kids from other Engineering colleges.

hope and love said...

that was an excellent post..!! very humane..
you should write more frequently..!!

Matter of Choice said...

@silverine: thankx :), yeah i have been through the first day butterflies myself. i guess everyone goes through that when one joins a new institution, job etc..u might even feel it when u have ur PKC :))

@jiby: me tooo...totally in awe of the ppl who crack JEE. i went for jee coz my dad promised me some pocket money..wanted to leave half an hour after the exam my horror found out that they dont let people out untill after the entire exam time is over. didnt return for the post lunch session :))

@sanjiv: yeah they are just like normal kids who put in extraordinary efforts. and to a lot of them getting thru jee is the pinnacle of their childhood ambitions. no wonder some of them feel a bit lost after achieving that. btwn u got a wonderful post out there

@hope and love: thankx a lot doc. humane is high praise coming from you. i have enjoyed each one of your post especially the ones where u write about ur experiences as a doc. u are in a mighty profession where everyday u have the opportunity to make a big difference to people, unlike us poor mortals!.

Praveen said...

Hey Anish, nice to see you back writing. This is one amazing post. Really made for great reading and to top is off it had the quote from Edison. Getting into IIT really does require slogging hard, no question about that.

Talking of IIT, there was a book written by an IITian called "Five Point Someone" about life in IIT. Read it if you havent already. Nice book.

Matter of Choice said...

Hi Praveen,

thankx for dropping in. yeah its been a long time :).
yep read the book in one sitting (while on the bus from blr to chennai). really liked the book. i think each and every iit aspirant shuld be made to read it :)


silverine said...

@matterofchoice: Since I am nowhere near to a PKC guess it will be you who will go through it first. So I will wait for that post ;)

Jithu said...

well preparing for IIT ruins one's invaluable life as a teen-ager is a matter of discussion, i also feel that life at IIT is not that butt-off type as it is perceived by the outside world. no first hand experience, but if one want to slog one can and if one doesnt want, he/she may not..

once i read this book called 5 point someone by Chetan Bhagat who is also an alum of our institute, wrote abt his days at IIT Delhi. considering his credentials here, i dont think he was doing exactly the same during IIT days, but it gives a gist of what can happen at these places :-)

flaashgordon said...

Hi man..

Interesting one this. Read 5 point someone only recently.(u might b surprised ; tho i dont know him i know quite a lot more abt the writer actually whch im not supposed to reveal);-))btw he used to work with my co: tho in HK

Btw talkin of IITians i met a dude last day at the Badminton court; we were playing doubles. And the other team ws smashing us around .Tho this guy was worse than me and ws missing more than i did ; he ws giving me all gyan about how two of us should move like a fulcrum ; fwd n back left n right doubles. So i asked him after the game..."So;u an IITian?" He ws shockd. How dd u know...i said" Yeah, it kinda figures!"

Well have stayed in IIT hostels -both Mumbai and Madras during engg summers; u find all types; cool dudes, nerds, arty ones...neway hav to admit they do hav some aura abt them and regard everyone as also rans!Beating IITians in quiz or so (even if not their best team ); ws hence so big for us; avg joes.

Keep writing man

Matter of Choice said...

@jithu: yeah, agree with you, there are lotsa misconceptions floating abt the IIT's and other premier institutes. If chetan's book cleared up a few all the better

@flaash: well i have met befriended lotsa IITians..lots of them are really nice ppl with no hangups.there might be bad apples..but thats bound to be there in any group!

@silverine: keep waiting :))

Deepak George said...

Well written..really amused :-)
My impression on IIT ians also changed after mingling with couple of them ...

wacky-weird-woman said...

Stumbled upon your blog once accidently and have continued visiting. This visit yielded something. Good Post. Well-written. I have 3 very good friends from IIT, (Madras, KGP and Kanpur). All I can say is that 'they are different'. And with them I have always shared something interesting (be it eating, talking, debating, reading or simply being)....Saw in your comments a mention of the book 'Five Point Someone'...Good read..well written by a fellow called Chetan Pandit (if I mistake not)...After reading that book, and knowing 3 IITians all I can say is that I do not get all that smitten and intimidated by IITians anymore. :)

Pradeep said...

Anish, a good post. It made real good reading. Hope to see more of such posts.

the-think said...

Btw, have you noticed that mallus have a very strong community sense? :) hehe
Anyways, thanks a lot for coming by...see you around more ;)

Matter of Choice said...

@deepak: are u the "ponnan"? if u are shame on u for not writing more...(i know..u are saying "look whos talking"). if you are not...well..i have a close friend by the name..thankx for dropping in

@wacky: ah well its the loss of IITians and the gain of non-IITians :))

@pradeep: thankx a lot..coming from you..this is high praise indeed!

@the-think: ah well...i sure have noticed it :)). the community spirit..and yeah u will surely see me more :))

Parna said...

great post. good insight i must say. and true about the mallu fellow who thought you were from the college too. am sure with years he will learn. hopefully.