Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Insignia at IIT

Last 3 days were a bit hectic. Now I was sent from my company to interview graduates for potential job opportunities in my organization. Now! dont raise your eyebrows as mine have already been raised! Yes, me! out of all those intelligent, smart and technically sound people in my very large organization, they chose to send me. Yeah, call those candidates' fate suddenly taking a U turn or their luck itself was bad, they had to put up with me.

I have interviewed lot of people earlier but not IITians. I was more jittery than them.  Gosh! I lack the brains man!! Fine! I thought this would turn out to be a good experience and off I went to IIT-Kanpur. Experience I gained was no different but my impression for sure changed.

Sad to see where our education system is going; most of them believe that the brand name will land them a plum job and so take it easy. Others tend to be so methodical and task oriented that I could not stop thinking about the cows being yoked at a beam and they keeping moving in a circle because they have been taught to. Just deviate a bit and give their brain some cud to chew, they are lost! There were very very few who were really good and learnt things due to passion and for knowledge. Its to do with our society and system; study to get good job. So studying to gain knowledge and learn new things becomes secondary.

Traveling to that part of India was new to me. The winter was harsh and chill; the food was amazing, phulkas, rotis, naan and kulchas with that simple and tasty daal. Not to forget that soft and melting cottage cheese scrambles a.k.a paneer bhurji. Mornings began with sweet and yummylicious jalebis and awesome ginger-cardamom tea.  While we visitors ate their food; the locals gorged on Masala dosa, idli sambhar and uthapam :)

About the place; I did not get a chance to see much as interviewing a dozen candidates took away all my time. Whatever I saw was when I traveled from Lucknow to Kanpur and back. I did laugh at my transliterations of few sign boards I saw like "Bijli Ghar -  Electricity House, "Angrezi Sharab - English Liquor", "Krupya bachche hai - Please kids present". Was helpless without my camera; I wanted to capture so many snaps like those colorful band vehicle with speakers and lights, the amazing kulhads(clay cup) in which tea was served, the colorful rickshaws...............

But it was sad, I felt that part of country is at least 2 decades behind. It was not a pleasant sight to see cycle rickshaws being pulled for measly sum of money. Bad roads, poorly maintained infrastructure, pathetically dirty river Ganga, eons old buildings with no maintenance whatsoever; dusty lanes. Dull looking people, struggling hard to make their ends meet...

Its really really sad. I realized one thing. This part of the country I am living is much much better. I am blessed. I hope things change there for the better. Where has all the money Behenji?


  1. Insignia, My husband and me are working with students and I know very well what you are talking abt. I thought at IIT, it would be different. Here they just mug up things and reproduce. Thinking, creativity - a Big ZERO.

  2. Hahaha i loved the last line. i think behenji investing the money on her jewellery rather then infrastructure ;)

  3. Studying for marks in the most common thing now. They by heart and just re produce nothing goes into the head unfortunately. I have seen that with my sisters young kids. It starts from there and continues.

  4. I studied in India and did not try for IIT. Not because I was scared, I knew I won't be able to afford.

    I thought highly of IIT graduates but my impression changed.

    IIT has nothing to with creativity so as other Engineering college.

    I think we need to start the culture of creativity from schools. Furthermore Internet is not helping to make people creative. New generation is using internet to get the answers rather than thinking through the answers.

  5. chitra,

    Few folks are really good..but the majority are the same. Sad.

  6. Harini,

    Yes. thats sad...really sad.

  7. A,

    I didnt even think of IIT :)
    I agree, it starts from within. One needs to cultivate and there must be passion for creativity

  8. Yesterday evening I went to Thuckalay, a small town in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. Incessant drizzle and heavy traffic made the trip tiresome. Just into Tamil Nadu, I noticed with amazement the number of big yellow college buses coming the other way; Catholic College of E & T, Nurul Islam College of E & T, Marymata College of E & T - I am not exaggerating, but I really counted 9 different E & T College buses, filled with tired and lost looking youngsters on their way home at 1930 - 2000hrs. I am sure these children would have paid whopping capitation fees etc to get admitted. This excessive emphasis on engineering and technology and the mushrooming of self-financed colleges are creating clones of little human machines as you described. When will the world realize that you will need a humanity to apply this technology? I foresee a future of strait-jacketed morons totally alienated from the rest of the world. It is scary - and depressing.

  9. Nice post as always. It is nice to visit universities on a recruitment trip. Beats the boredom at work.

    You took my words. Many students think that brand name will land them a plum job. Not just IIT. Even Stanford U. I have seen many mediocre students coming out of Stanford.

  10. Well, Can't agree more with you on IIT.

    I dropped my thought of doing master here in India. Same reason. I have been to premier institutes and have seen situation of faculties as well.

    Anyway, on later part of your post I guess, you need to see more of INDIA then world I guess.

    What say? :)

  11. Completely disagree to whatever you have mentioned in this post.

    Firstly, try not to generalize things working on a small sample space especially in your case it would be a number which can be counted on fingers.

    Secondly if you doubt the creativity kindly get hold of the placement brochure which was sent to you. You will find a real good professional one there , prepared by 2-3 members of the placement committee.

    Thirdly,Companies recruit people from IIT because they can learn well and even if they may seem complacent, at the end of the day these are the guys which take their jobs to heart and do it. The few methodical guys which you found are a result of the grueling pressure which molds them so.

    Finally , every city has a flavor of its own , India cannot survive if every city is Banglore, for gods sake there are nothing but malls in Bang. In simple economic terms the cost of living at Kanpur is very less than Banglore so that place seems so , it is nothing about being few decades behind, every thing is relative but at one moment you need to accept an equlibria.

  12. Bala,

    You should have realized by now that education is a hugely profit making business. Would you believe that a KG admission goes over a lakh? Add to that the fees, transportation food and other expenses. I did my schooling from a very good convent for just under 500 Rs a year which was paid towards 3 pairs of uniforms, books, shoes, socks and fees. They didnt trouble us for anything else! And yeah what do the young kids learn? Not much unless they take special interest. Its really scary.

  13. SG,

    Thank you. It was a different thing to do apart from regular work.
    Yes, it happens there as well isnt it? Sad.

  14. Nice post...:)

    Well,blame it on the world scenario now or our education system,but everyone now is more interested in making money,rather than understanding what is being taught.
    Thats why we get Chemical engineers working in banks,and Aeronautical engineers running TIME centres :P

  15. Makk,

    :-) Yes, I dont want to do Masters for the same apprehensions.
    Hahaha you figured that out!! I need to see more of India than what I have seen outside. Cant agree more.

    I might just end up touring north in Feb/March :)

  16. Abhinav,

    Firstly, welcome. Next, its nice to see someone disagreeing.
    Readers always agree to whatever I say :) and it gets boring without a debate.

    Hmm, I agree that the numbers could be well counted within my fingers multiplied by 7. But such analysis are always done on a sample space and generalized. I did not mention every other candidate was so and so. Every rule has an exception; so what I say may not completely hold true in all cases. I said I saw very smart folks as well; but very very few.

    Well, do you mean to say there is 100% creativity? No sir, I dont agree.

    Irrespective of whether they are from IIT or an infamous college, recruitment is done for only those candidates who demonstrate their ability to learn and ramp up. It depends on the individuals and not because they are from IIT. Those are the guys who take their jobs to heart? So others dont? Sir, thats umbrageous. I am not from IIT but I take my job to heart. I dont deny the pressure on them; thats what I am blaming; the system! But smart enough people they are; why bow down to pressure and get methodical?

    Aww aww you should be a IITian from Kanpur. Isnt it? :-) I really appreciate your love towards the place and whoever said Bangalore is all nice?

    I know the old Bangalore; now it has gone to the dogs!! What I am talking about is the infrastructure and the life of people. Having a mall or a swanky club is not modernization; when i said decades old; I talked about the development that lacks there!

    Anyway thanks much for your views. I appreciate it.

  17. Anu,

    Thank you :) and welcome to B Log
    Thats the sad part. I agree with you. Electrical Engineers having done awesome research works trying to get into Software company. Thats what happened yesterday.

  18. nice of u to share such wonderful insights..ya, india is a land of extremes in the social structure....c the way scams aare unfolding..before people could forget one, another lands on the table..super...hey i said, v blog friends r all proud of u ya..

  19. ah well, the brand name story is everywhere..when I say I am a lawyer, people ask me whether i did it from government law college or not..I feel like inviting them to GLC!!

    as for the roads, people and infrastructure, i believe 90% of India is like this..very few developed cities are around..sad state honestly!

    so madam Recruiter, when is IIT powai going to be on cards? :)

  20. @ Anu : " Thats why we get Chemical engineers working in banks,and Aeronautical engineers running TIME centres :P"

    Totally a layman statement.

    Working in a bank involves loads of probabilistic analysis. It involves lots of computation be it derivative valuation, or stock history prediction and stuff.All these are the skills which one acquires in whatever stream of engg. one belongs to.

    @ Insignia : Madam , there are millions examples of creativity from the community you are talking about , i just gave a small example. Also you need to get your economics correct to understand the issues of development more clearly and sadly I am not from Kanpur.

  21. Abhinav,

    Alright sir. You have your views and me mine :)

  22. I guess IIT too has nothing new to offer!

    The state of the nation you mentioned is the same from the past few years. Only that people think that they have become more advanced and I don't know on what basis do they claim so.

  23. OMG some Abhinav has lot to say about it. Phew.

    As far as I am concerned, I toh totally love when BIGGIES fail. When Giants fall, its the lilliputs who dance! I love it because I appeared for JEE and failed. And after Engineering I came to know that its a fine line between the name, and your knowledge.

    I am proud of you. Visit smaller lesser known colleges as well. They will be more dumber but even there will be people who crave hard to prove themselves and do it for their passion.

    And UP is sorry state. Nothing can be done. But the place from where you hail is not a gem of a place either. People might not be pulling rikshaws here but there is a slum near every urban locality.


  24. yes you have seen the real India and like your narration

  25. Hi Insignia. It's been a long time since I came here and what an interesting article! Not only did I read the post but all the comments as well and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This comment's going to be long (making up for the lost time you see ;)) so please bear with me :)
    First of all, please tell me when are you coming to IIT Kharagpur? (I'll be siting the next year for placement, so :)
    Secondly I can't help but agree with you on the complacency and mechanical, methodical approach. People here do take things for granted just because they're in IIT and it pains my heart more than anything because that only dilutes the values and creates bad name to what brand has built over decades. But at the same time I'd also say not to generalize what you saw there and let your opinions get changed for that sole matter. There are many talented and smart guys here. I've got friends who are really intelligent and study because they love it. You've got to blame govt., poor faculty and infrastructure, and a mad rush and coaching culture to get into IIT for what you saw there. To tell you one thing, I'm myself disappointed to learn what you said because I always hold IITK in high regards but you shouldn't forget that it's the same institute that produces people like Rajeev Motwani. And society is to blame for giving IITs too much and unnecessary attention. Come to IIT Kgp and you won't be disappointed. One more thing I wanted to ask. How much importance you attach to our cgpa? Because I can personally tell you they don't reflect a person's true knowledge and intelligence. There're many talented guys here but they may not have a good cgpa :))Oh and I am sorry for taking up so much space. :)

  26. Some of you may enjoy the trailer of this film. While it is "Made in USA", the same applies to India, particularly to those coming to IIT. "Race to Nowhere".

    NYT review here:

  27. Ramesh,

    Thanks. Land of extremes is what our country is. :)

  28. Neha,

    Hahaha its the same everywhere. IIT Powai? Next year maybe :)

  29. Enigma,

    I would rather say every place has something to offer, we dont make use of it.
    When our main goal is get a job, passion falls behind.

    Few parts of our nation has a decent standard of living. I am not hinting at modern buildings and luxury, but basic amenities and facilities like drinking water, clean roads, toilets etc. trust me, its not a pleasant sight to see tired and weak men pulling and peddling rickshaws.

  30. Abihinav,

    :-) When I read the comments on my phone, I thought it was you and was like "What happened to him, taken a U turn now"

    It was only later that I realized that this was a new Abhinav.

    You are right, you can succeed wherever you are unless your passion holds you tight. Otherwise its waste to solely survive on brand names.

    You know what? The folks from lesser known colleagues will work more harder and go out of their way to learn and gain as they dont have any brand names to back them up.

    I wouldnt say that the place where I hail from is super. Actually it was super about 15-20 years ago, not anymore. But there are few things that are better here at the least.

    Talk about slums - you would be interested to know that Bangalore's 10% of the population live in slums - a relatively lower proportion for its exploding growth when compared to other cities like Mumbai(50%). This is not something we can celebrate. We all know how crazy the traffic here is...but still few things are better is what I would say.

  31. sm,

    I have lot more to see. Thank you

  32. ajay,

    Your comments are welcome. Haha when am I coming there? Hopefully next year :)
    Again I am not generalizing the entire community here. As I said, there are very very few people who are passionate. But most of them sadly dwell on the brand name IIT has to offer. They think their job is done once they get into IIT. You may agree to this. And why is this? Obviously due to what is being taught to us, study to get a good job.

    IITK is a premier institute. I have never ever talked ill about the institute anywhere. All I am disappointed about was those few people who just seemed to study here for the sake of landing job opportunities from multiple companies. Not much importance is given to CGPA. Oh yeah! I interviewed a guy who had his CGPA 10 on 10 and trust me; he was the worse among the lots. So we are aware that CGPA is no big deal. :)

  33. durai amma, yeppo stanford and harvard elam interview eduka poringa :) ! waiting for that experience!

  34. The one thing I'm lucky to not possess is the decency of conformity, be it in my studies and in many ways in later life. Though I have not been a mark scoring machine , I guess I was able to convey my point of view to the satisfaction of at least a few teachers. That was the bane too.
    In today's world it is not love or fascination with the subject or profession that attracts students ,it is in fact the comparative chance of landing with a plum job.
    We will end up having half baked docs, IITians and many . Who cares as long as money comes in!

    And as for the pathetic conditions of northern Indian town - well I also join you in asking where have the money gone?
    Dont you remember that we have Bihar and UP , States that can boasts about towns that are worse than Burkinafasso?

  35. Hary,

    I wouldnt go to those places, would send my juniors :-D

  36. anil,

    Landing in a plum job is what seems to be everyone's goal.

    I agree to your comment on towns in some states having a worse GDP than Sub-Saharan countries.

  37. Rakesh,

    Please leave me your email id. I will surely do all possible to help you. Thank you

  38. "Yes, me! out of all those intelligent, smart and technically sound people in my very large organization, they chose to send me."
    Too much modesty my dear... Too much... I know how brilliant you are in general, and need not say how you apply to that at work.

    I don't know if the IITians are smart or not, but I do know the awesome mouth watering taste of rotis and dal up there. Man! I am so hungry now... Tired of the Egg beaters, and hash browns, sandwiches and oat meals... "Brown or White? Brown please..." Then the chef thinks, "Aaama, moonja paaru, periya health conscious nu nenappu manasula (in spanish of course)" LOL!

    Once in Gorakhpur, a richshaw guy approached me multiple times (not the other way around) while I was waiting for a bus. He sat next to me and had a nice conversation. He told me how he will get money to eat food if I took a ride in his rickshaw. I finally decided to take the ride. After sometime I was so sad to see him pedal, and mind you, my weight is on the higher side. Finally I ended up taking him for a ride. Ha ha! He was so happy to get a royal ride in his own rickshaw. :-)

  39. I don't know much about the tech aspects of this post.

    Most students get in to IIT after many gruelling years of slogging and coaching.There is no doubt,that many of our best students aspire for and finally end up in IITs.They learn under very competitive environment. It is said to be a “perform or perish” environment.

    It is now well known that IITs do not produce many 'engineers'.Only a small proportion of the entrants to IITs actually want to be Engineers, working in India.For some 80% of entrants, admission to an IIT is the route to a good job,not an Engineering job in a factory in India. Most IIT graduates aim to go to the US, join an IIM (Indian Institute of Management) or do whatever, other than becoming an Engineer in India. That is for the second grade guys who couldn’t make it to IIT and joined the RCEs (Regional College of Engineering)!!

    But having said that,I still believe,we have some of our best students at the IITs. If they have problems,it is due to defective training programmes.We can be proud of the caliber of IITans,that majority of them work in prestigious establishments all over the world.And I am sure they don't simply walk in,they go through tough selection methods as well.

  40. every trip taches us something doesnt it..there are so many un explored parts of our country..some great,some hopeless..only if we could change it all..:)

  41. Gautam,

    :-) Thats how capable I am! Its not modesty.

    Oh yeah, dont remind of me those yummy rotis and dal. Hahahaha :-P I am just visualizing a Spanish American chef thinking ""Aaama, moonja paaru, periya health conscious nu nenappu manasula" Oh why! Think of William speaking this. Hahahaha

    Thats so sad Gautam, thats the exact thing I am talking about. People are living so much in poverty. You did a nice thing by treating him like a prince for few minutes at least.

  42. dr.antony,

    Yes, the pressure is the one that drives them crazy.
    I agree with you, but dont you think best students would be elsewhere as well. Those companies that grab these students dont look out elsewhere. Its upto the students, wherever they are, they need to be passionate to learn something; just not study for gaining a job.

  43. It felt so good reading about Kanpur which was my home for 7 years. Even I wish all the time that someone like Nitish comes there and brings change. and what you said about food is so true, my whole family loves dosas and idli here whereas I long for my jalebis and samosas:)
    All the money is going into satues and parks:)

  44. Renu,

    :-) Thanks. I am glad that having spent some part of your lifetime in Kanpur, you do agree to the state of affairs there.

    Dont remind me of jalebis and samosas..Oh my god! I will go droool right away :)

    Statues and parks..I heard so :)

  45. I don't know about IIT Kanpur, but I have heard that IIT Bombay encourages entrepreneurship and extra curricular activities.

    Hope to see you in Mumbai sometime :)

  46. trust me u guys in south of the vindyas..hav not evn seen d tip of iceberg as to how tough lyf up dre in d north is...ravaged by corruption....UP and bihar...WB lazy and laidback still sucking on d deir glorious culture . donno much of odr states though....n abt dis fact dat u bring up ..abt studyin for money....wat else ...most of dese IITs ur talkin of hail frm remote villages...dey hav been forced to gulp all short cut techniques of integral n diffrencial calculus ... in deir bid to cast poverty outta deir blood deir bid for a set @ IIT

  47. G3,

    Thats awesome. Yeah, I hope to visit IIT Powai :)

  48. Rupam,

    We folks here seriously dont know the real state as you mentioned. Its sad, in terms of life of people. I decided that I should not complain about my city or its infrastructure after seeing the conditions there. Hope it helps.

  49. Not for Posting


    Connecting once again. Happy New Year.

    Our next event interacting with IITK students is on March 13th at IITK. Might you be available and interested in providing feedback to students then.


  50. Gone through the post and all comments. Thanks Rakesh for sharing this.

    @Insignia:- You are hitting at the right areas. I am from Kanpur and I am from IIT Kanpur and I can relate with both the issues that you mentioned in your post. I have met some of the most exceptional guys in IITK when I was there. Now I visited campus as an alumni and as a recruiter and the problem I faced were same mentioned in the post. I know there are some most exceptional guys in every batch but this arrogance of being an IITian is increasing like anything. They are forgetting that with a brand name there comes a huge responsibility of maintaining it.

    @Rakesh:- My thoughts process has become so strong and crystal clear about SAID after reading this. Thanks again for sharing it.

    Ending my day on positive note that things will improve :)

  51. And yes I am sad to hear about kanpur and I am sad to see that there is no change in last few years. I want to do something for my city, for my country and I will do at one point of time in my life.

  52. How to get attention

    1. Target a famous institution (which has a large community of people falling into "grapes are sour" category)

    2. Write an illogical story based on random facts (making a complete fool of yourself .. ruining your credibility)

    3. Have the people from "grapes are sour" community to agree with whatever you say.

    I would have completely agreed with your story if you had done a thorough study/analysis, presented it in a coherent way before jumping onto conclusions.

    From what you have written it just looks like another random blogger trying to grab attention through a smear campaign using random facts and illogical conclusions.

  53. Your about me tells about your IQ level.

  54. Dear Insignia,

    I hope when you are in market you understand that a Brand value can not sustain its reputation if it is not been for its product value, It's just not sustainable. So if the brand value is maintained there must be some reason behind it, right? I hope you are intelligent enough to figure that out!
    Second thing, the candidates you meet depends on your recruiting organization reputation. If you are not just good enough, good candidates don't decide to meet you, am I wrong? I agree to your point that many candidates think that the Brand value would land them up wherever they want.
    Now coming to "creativity", I've worked in three countries and never seen companies as discouraging as Indian companies to candidates in terms of promoting ideas of their employee.
    I am happy for you that you work from your heart. But riddle me this, candidates from same institute when given opportunity starts multi billion $ companies in silicon valley, get nominated for Nobel and starts IT revolution in the country and at the same time being criticized by you for creativity? Well, either there must be something wrong with your analysis or I lost you.
    P.S. I must let you know you the concept of sample space, there are logical explanations that a generalization must be represented by an adequate size of the sample space, otherwise it fails to do represent the results. Basic Statistics!

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