Indian Education System – an insider’s view

Indian students are generally forced to choose between one of the two fields – engineering or medical. “3 Idiots” is an Indian movie which has depicted this fact beautifully. One of the dialogues in that movie goes like this – “My father wants to know the sex of the unborn child as he wants to know whether there will be an engineer in the house or a doctor. If it’s a boy, he will be an engineer and if it’s a girl, she will be a doctor”. Although it might sound funny to people who are not used to statements like these, believe me, when I say that it’s one of the most commonly-held sentiments in an average Indian family.

The general view of the masses is that only an engineer/doctor can bring prosperity to the house. People (especially boys) who want to pursue a life in arts/humanities are typically termed “losers” and in order to succeed, they not only have to compete against their peers but the society (social stigma) as well. Considering the fact that India is the second most populous country in the world, one does not need the brains of an Einstein to figure out the immense cut-throat competition that a child has to go through to survive the first twenty years of his/her conscious existence.

However, there is a positive side to this as well. The individual who comes out of this highly pressurized system is ready to face any challenge that is thrown at him/her. Irrespective of the stream that he/she has followed, once he/she emerges successfully out of this “system”, he/she becomes an asset to the company/firm that he/she joins. He/She can hold his/her own against the toughest of opponents and the hardest of situations. It would not be wrong to say that he/she is the “coal” that has metamorphosed under immense pressure and strain to become what the world cherishes – a “diamond”. Thus, although this kind of an “education” system might be unbalanced and painful for those in it, in the long run, it does benefit the individual, in particular and the society at large.

My first few days in the US

I landed in the US for the first time on August 4, 2010 and the first thing I remember seeing outside the JFK airport in New York were sparrows hopping around on the ground. Since this was a site that I was very used to in India, it somehow made me feel happy and I felt that life here would be as enjoyable as it was back there; and I was not mistaken. I reached Blacksburg in the evening and one of my seniors from my undergraduate college took me to his place for the night. I met my roommates the next day and moved into our apartments (which we had booked earlier), the day after.

We learnt so much in those first few days. None of us knew how to cook properly. Each time we went to buy grocery, we converted dollars to rupees (currency of India) and concluded nothing was worth buying (too expensive). I remember spending the first few nights on ramen brought from India. The attitude of the people was even more astonishing. Total strangers would greet you on the streets; cars would wait for you to cross the road, all-in-all, it was a totally different experience. Even the weather felt so appealing. There was bright sunshine, with a pleasant breeze and no sweat, a trio that people who have lived in the tropics can only dream of.

I bought a laptop in the third week of August and once we got internet at our home, we knew we were in for the time of our lives. Classes began soon after that and it was then that we realized more than ever before, how convenient a fast internet connection can be when it comes to knowledge transfer. I got so immersed in learning cooking, solving assignments, and going out to parties with my lab-mates that I never realized when I began to think of this place as my home.