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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

O tempora! o mores!

The mania for becoming doctors and engineers has been giving the expression ‘at all costs’ a new meaning of late.

There are factory-scale cram shops in different parts of India (Kota, Delhi, Hyderabad prominently among them) which annually send around touts to small towns like mine to hunt for potential ‘students’. It is part of their strategy to find out the names and addresses of well-known schools and tutors in the town, and approach them with offers of ‘commissions’ in return for persuading their current pupils to join those tutorials to be ‘coached’ for various engineering- and medical-entrance examinations. I have often been visited by such touts myself, that’s how I know. I also happen to know that they have many takers…

A few years ago an old boy, who was then studying in a certain private engineering college down south (let us mention no names, for they are all alike), came to see me, and said he was looking for some ways to make money, his dad finding it difficult to support him on a government salary. At first I was enthusiastic, for I have been fending for myself from a very early age, and encourage young people to sit lightly on their parents’ shoulders once they are past school. But then he turned me off by saying that he had become one of those touts himself, as the college had promised to give him hefty concessions on his own fees if he could rustle up a certain number of freshmen in his turn, and he offered me so many thousand per candidate if I could help him in this ‘job’. I shooed him away without much ado, telling him that in my book crooked wheeling-dealing was not the same as doing honest business. He couldn’t make out why I was so furious. I wonder what he is doing now.

I was reminded of this incident by this news item in today’s newspaper, which says that now things have come to such a pass that one such student-cum-‘recruiter’ has been killed by members of a rival gang, who had earlier kidnapped one of his newly-recruited milch cows!

And still the parents of my current pupils will not listen when I keep telling them that they need not utterly ruin their children’s bodies and minds all through teenage by pressurizing them to ‘study hard’ (which has come to mean merely turning them into dull, disenchanted and dishonest robots who can only cram and then cheat in examinations, excusing themselves with the plea that they are all doing it), seeing that – so long as they can pay – their wards cannot be poor enough students that they cannot become engineers these days! 


Anirvan Choudhury said...

Respected Sir,

This is a real eye opener. Shocking and disgusting by all means. I was not aware of such co-curricular activities in todays budding engineers. I was just wondering if that student of yours belonged to one such 'Doomed'(Sorry I meant Deemed) Universities in Kapil Sibal's list. Actually this is a good prelude to gather some good marketing skills for them. After all, a lot many of them won't survive in a real technical environment and still must do something for a living.



Shilpi said...

Suvro da,
I don't understand how the management claims that it has nothing to do with the racket - but then there are all kinds of slick liars in this world.

That last sentence of yours is perfect. But really, why do parents force their children to 'study' so hard....is it because the parents themselves don't know what else to do with their time apart from nagging their children?

I can't believe that that boy came to you to help him in his 'job'. I don't know whether to laugh or to simply shake my head.

The whole thing is more than bizarre. I don't think I've heard of anything like this before. Doctors killing patients, engineers being slack and taking commissions, dud professors and teachers, mad students on a rampage, ragging in colleges - but this. I can't think of anything comparable...

Good heavens.
Take care.

Arijit said...

Respected Sir,
Wishing your blog a Happy birthday.
Another trend is that now a days there are a lots of MBA's in the market.Some parents think themselves to be very clever, SO when there child don't take up engineering as a carrier they do force their child to be a MBA.There are lots of carriers far better than it, but the fact is they are unknown to these carrier options, for e.g,Company Secretary course is far better than MBA, still parents force to take up MBA.When I was telling about this course to a friend of mine he told me "Tu kabhi is course ko pass hi nahi kar payega, is liye MBA parho beta."-("You wont be able to pass this course, so better be a MBA.")

Mayuri said...

Dear Sir,

This is shameful and like everybody else who has commented here, I am equally shocked -- not so much by the fact that such rackets exist, but by the terrible form that they have taken.

And while others decide if to blame college management or the student-touts, I am glad you pointed a finger to the students seeking admission and their parents, who make such rackets possible, in the first place!

If you cannot accept the fact that your child is not good enough to make it on his own merit and you are willing to give into corruption, then you are just as much a part of the problem as the other parties. And more importantly, you should be prepared for the day your son or daughter will be a victim of similar gang-rivalry; today's freshmen are tomorrow's outgoing seniors.

Also, I must add that Shilpi-di's statement, "But really, why do parents force their children to 'study' so hard....is it because the parents themselves don't know what else to do with their time apart from nagging their children?" is particularly thought provoking.
Perhaps, they are just idle minds or perhaps they themselves know no better...?


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Anirvan, though it is true that things have gotten worse since the time when you went to engineering college, I happen to know as a teacher that there was a great deal of under-the-table hanky panky going on even in your days, and a huge number of people got admitted to engineering and medical school who by no stretch of the imagination can be called intelligent people, leave alone 'talented'... which is why I worry so much about how India is faring, now that those people are all working somewhere or the other!

Shilpi, all this springs from the fact that there is a huge market for engineering and medical degrees, no matter how ill-gotten or worthless they are, and a lot of shady businessmen have been cashing in on it. Education has become the biggest get-rich-quick racket in India.

Arijit, quite right. As I often say publicly, every paanwallah and government clerk's moronic son is going to be an MBA by 2020. The craze, as you have rightly pointed out, stems from the fact that unlike with getting a CA or law degree, or even a bachelor's in any real subject, be it history or physics, it doesn't require you to learn much beyond what a clever boy in class 8 already knows! My revenge would be seeing that 90% of these morons will be selling stuff from door to door, or walking the floor in shopping malls, or telemarketing from BPO companies or at best manning tellers' counters in banks 12 hours or more a day for a pittance. Which is why I keep telling my daughter that she will be far better off in every way even if she became a reasonably successful private tutor like me!

Which brings me to your comment, Mayuri: it has long become history that one had to be a 'good' student to get into engg or med college in this country. And yes, today's parents by and large have no lives outside their office-work, TV and parties, and so they obsess over their kids' 'achievements' (no matter how paltry) as though the world's future depends on it. And things are definitely getting worse in this respect with every passing decade! The way they talk, it is quite clear that the boy getting into engg or med school is just another feather in the cap like a new car or a new flat...

Amit parag said...

This sort of vulgarity prevails all over India and is protean enough to not to be restricted only to the animal tribe which currently calls itself " students ". These morons know deep down in their hearts that they are pretty much useless lumps of flesh having their entire lives dedicated to the proposition that one should altogether stop being a philosophical man. What these cretins fail to notice is that they will forever be mere playthings in the hands of those who use them to gain their ends ( college deans now, and some business men afterwards).

Even if I assume the fiction that they study in colleges, to be true, and that they commit these acts in their leisure time, then it brings me to the topic of how should one utilize their leisure time. Being educated also means that one should know how to utilize his free time( that is, the time when he is not making money) intelligently. This is in fact what Bertrand Russell and Bernard Shaw have harped upon in their essays, " In praise of Idleness, and "A treatise on Parents and Children". "The whole of what we call civilization is very much due to the work that men did in their leisure", says Russell in his aforementioned essay.
Precisely this is what the contemporary generation does not know, and this lack of knowledge often manifests itself in the form of grumblings of the blue collared class who think that they ought to be given time for solitude. What they need is rest( solution of fatigue) and not solitude, the need of an intelligent mind.
But these types of men will always be found in large numbers. Centuries back( in Rome) men used to love to see men tearing each other up, and now they have devised other forms of cheap entertainment.
The modes of killing time may have changed but men have remained the same morally and mentally amoeba they were years back.
Maybe those cheap men do not deserve a place in this blog.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Notice, Amit, how few comments have come in here. This despite the fact that most of my ex-students are either doctors and engineers now, or becoming so, or are doing something else only because they couldn't clear those entrance tests!

Arijit said...

Latest news! A greedy father demands 2Olakhs for his son's marriage. Occupation of son : Engineer of DPL (Durgapur Projects Limited).
Another man compares Engineer's with Albert Einstien.
O tempora! O mores!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Ah, don't get so excited, Arijit. You have only found out that Sir was right, that's all: it's hardly news to me.

Greed and stupidity, like water, find their own levels. That father, I can assure you, will find many takers, seeing that he is selling his son cheap (twenty lakhs is peanuts these days), and so many million parents India 'dream' of having an engineer for a son in law (even if he is a fool and a rascal)! That kind of father is definitely not going to ask something like that from a daughter's father like me, knowing full well that he will get a very painful kick in the pants from both me and my daughter - but they don't have to care, do they, seeing that there are so many like themselves around them!

As for the other part of the comment, silence is the only option. Faced with imbecility of monumental proportions, one is robbed of speech...

Chitra said...

This is appalling and I am shocked that such caveman tactics must happen in the field of education. Or have I been too naive to have believed that gurus and institutions of learning, that are supposed to teach us right from wrong, are incapable of such underhand behaviour.

This also reminds me of an incident that happened when I was in my 12th grade. Our accountancy professor at St. Michael’s School was very keen that each one of us must try and get an admission in Symbiosis College, Pune. He also told us that at a very nominal fee (which I think was about 4000!) he could reserve a seat for us in advance. The episode was completely erased from my memory, until now. Thankfully, no one was interested in his offer but I am also sure nobody ever second guessed his intentions.

- Chitra

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Oh, I assure you you are quite mistaken, Chitra: a lot of us knew perfectly well what he was up to!

debotosh said...

few educated engineers,doctors, business students of the present age would have liked to believe it :
they simply cannot imagine anything beyond ICSE,CBSE,HS ,JEE,MBA and a fat pay cheque ! people now have started calling me a "boring" guy after seeing my posts on facebook ; according to them i am tarnishing the trendiness of facebook ! sad!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Which article exactly did you have in mind, Debotosh?

By the way, it amuses me greatly in this context to see Birla Sun Life Insurance advertising lately on TV about how parents can support their children who 'don't just want jobs these days, but are determined to follow their passion'. If people in this country knew what passion meant, and were really determined to follow their hearts regardless of the cost, India would already have been a great nation today! Michael Faraday was passionate about chemistry, James Murray about words, Satyajit Ray about films and Ramkinkar Baij about painting... and such people have never needed parents to mollycoddle their so-called dreams into fruition.