I am Graduating

“I don’t want to go back to college” he said while handing over the tie to his Uncle who was buttoning his collar looking at the mirror.
“But you’re Graduating. You’re not going to attend the college, his Uncle took a jibe at him as he turned around to take the tie.
“The IITian Brothers”, his Uncle continued.

“That’s the precisely the reason”, he didn’t let his Uncle finish the sentence. As I look to the earlier batches, your batches and people before that, about whom I get to read stuff, I find myself engulfed in the sea of disappointments. I haven’t done anything that I should be proud of and yet people think of me as a nerd who can get around his ways if it comes to technical know-how’s. They called it the ‘Golden Era’. It was before the Internet penetrated India. The selection procedure involved solving subjective questions and there was no limit to the number of times you attempt the JEE entrance examination. BBC once made a documentary about it. People outside India still laud us with praises. They’re the one, your people earned it. We are just feeding off from it. I didn’t deserve to be here. A silly bot. A half baked project and a fancy named Position of Responsibility. I don’t think I should be attending the convocation. It is only going to make things worse. We are accused of deteriorating the standards, wasting tax-payer’s money. Accusations sahi bhi toh hai, chachu, agar ek tarah se dekho toh.

“Time’s change,” his Uncle replied. The priorities that we had in our mind back during our days of graduation is very different from what you people have. Getting selected to JEE was very much like being selevted in the UPSC examination. Being set for life. You people begin your life from here. We looked for challenges, Yes, but we also looked for a well settled life, most of us. We knew we were taking the examinations to be Engineers or Academician. Your generation don’t have that luxury. You people are too young. We weren’t that risk takers and merrily a thought of changing field would shiver us down to our spine. Your generation is very different. And different it should be, because the times are changing. We put emphasis on academic degrees. We first accumulated it and then went on to put use to it. Your generation, you pick up a problem first. You go on pursuing an academic degree when you feel that it is required to solve that problem. It is very similar to the way we learn software. We didn’t learn much about software. Ours were more like text book approach. Finishing the chapter first and then coming to the exercises”

“But that doesn’t answer my question. Does it ?” he interrupted

The Uncle unbuttoned his Collar as he premonitored that it will take long to convince the young boy.

“Ah! I was going through Top 10 quotes kind of list. It’s the IPL season and Harsha Bhogle was trending and I found this beautiful line that he said about Dale Steyn once: “It is human nature to underrate the present and grossly overrate the past, but if you outlaw that trait, the time has come to place Steyn among the greatest fast bowlers of the game.” You’re ruining things by comparing everything so bluntly. The very people you’re idolizing are the one who were blamed for Brain Drain. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a father and a son. They had a donkey to help them with their chores. One day, they had to go to another city with their belongings. The Father sat on the Donkey with the belongings while the Son walked. The onlookers used all kinds of harsh words to the Father as he left his son to walk while he himself enjoyed the ride. They switched their place after hearing this. Now, the onlookers then started criticizing the Son. So, they both sat on the Donkey. The onlookers, now, became sympathetic to the animal. They refereed both the Father and the Son to be in human for treating the animal this ruthlessly. Finally, they both decided to walk. A traveler passing laughed at them saying that they’re foolish for not utilizing the donkey as a resource. The truth is that the world around you will always find ways to criticize you. It’s not necessarily bad. It is the way you interpret it that makes it good or bad.”

“But it still remains true that we failed ourselves in some level or other by not meeting the expectations we once set for ourselves.”, his queries didn’t seem to end no matter how much the Uncle tried.

“The lesser number of people were selected. We did good in academic and then we went about with our lives. The students of these days are so enthusiastic about entrepreneurship and starups. A major chunk is coming from your college as well. What makes founding a start-up less magnificent than academic grades or a well coveted job. These start-ups are being operated in India and is directly contributing to the economy. The tax payers money are invested good. The system in place isn’t perfect, I know. It wasn’t in my time. It isn’t in your time. A lot of improvement needs to be done. Be it about teaching standards, the selection procedure, the coursework in every front but you, right now aren’t to be blamed for anything. The only thing that matters is that you do good and the serve the nation in one way or the other once you pass out. We were blamed for brain drain a lot and now when you people are working in the country, you’re being accused of wasting tax-payer’s money by not studying the courses well.”

“Exactly, I mugged the courses a night before. I don’t seem to remember anything now and it feels like cheating that after one more exam, I’ll be called an Engineer which I am very certain that I am not.”, he felt little as he said this.

“You eat your food and then excrete it out. What is the point of eating ?”, asked the Uncle. The very diet you took has now made your flesh and bones strong. The same goes for studying. We read and we forget. Remember, forgetting stuff is a blessing. Being an Engineer is a profession, you might do it or you might not. You’re not getting a certificate as a certified Engineer in your convocation, rather it’s an academic degree, a degree that proves that you’re a graduate. To be or not be is your choice. This discipline of ours, it is very different from other disciplines. It teaches us how to solve problems. Mugging up doesn’t come in that context. So, whatever you are forgetting at this point of time are the unnecessary stuff which had to go away. Think with a broader perspective. Your examinations were a problem posed to you and mugging up was a coping mechanism that you came up with. You made a silly bot but at least you made it yourself. You talk about your Position of Responsibility which had a fancy name. Well, Shakespeare mentioned that the youth seeks bubble reputation and you were doing that while you were involved. We are Problem Solvers. Put us in a Managerial Field, we will solve the problem. Put us in the Banking Sector, in the e-commerece industry or make us the tried and tested Engineers, we will solve the problem. Go get the academic degree. Be happy that at every step of life, you did, what you really wanted to do.

“You came with a problem. Do you have the solution now ?,” asked the Uncle.

Yes ! But I do feel like, I copied the assignment once again, he replied with a grin.

So, now help me making the knot ?, his Uncle asked him.
I don’t know, he replied shyly.

No wonder you were confused about receiving your degree, the Uncle said and both of them burst into laughter.

________________________________________________________

Two weeks later.

The Uncle received a letter which had a photograph of his nephew in the graduation day costume. On the back of the picture, the following was written:

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are —
The equal temper of heroic hearts.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, To seek, To find and not to yield. — Lord Alfred Tennyson