An admission letter from the Indian Institute of Technology

This year, as is the case each year, there will be crazed competition among teenagers, in which they will fight each other to the finish for a grand prize. Yes, I’m talking about the Hunger Games, also known as the Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Exam (IIT JEE) – in which hundreds of thousands of contestants from all over the country will take each other on, in a riveting drama and spectacle watched by the population at large – for the privilege of entering the hallowed portals of learning at the dozen IIT campuses in the country. Last year, less than 1% of aspirants were admitted, making this easily the most competitive race in the world. Compare with Harvard which accepted 7% of applicants last year.

From: The Director of Admissions, IIT JEE

To: “Hunger Games” Winner, Class of 2016

Dear Winner,

Congratulations. You’ve made it!

First, I salute your parents’ dogged determination and single-minded focus in making sure that you got in. I tip my hat to your grandparents for their prayers, and to your siblings for intuitively grasping the significance of the stakes and staying out of your hair as you prepared for the ordeal. I commend your school in advance for its annual report, which they will publish shortly, carrying 4×6 photos of winners like yourself. I would salute you, but we all know that you had nothing to do with this.

Let me share details about the class of 2016. This year, we have one successful aspirant who neither attended Kota nor comes from the city of Hyderabad. We’re investigating the reasons for this anomaly. For security reasons, I must keep her name confidential. The boy-girl ratio in the class of 2016 will continue to resemble that of armed forces. My advice: Learn Telugu. And, start practising your pick-up lines.

Over the next four years, you will have an opportunity to demonstrate your repressed truculence towards absorbing any education whatsoever, and most of you will seize it. More than half our faculty is not looking forward to your presence on campus, as they are fully aware of the disregard you will demonstrate towards gentlemen named Maxwell, Gauss and Lorentz. Indeed, you will be blind to the joys of science and engineering which you never had in the first place.

You’re now a life member of the most exclusive club in the world. Allow me point out some of the exciting benefits that await you.

– You will be sought after throughout your life. You will have opportunities to enter varied and unconnected universes in investment banking, angel investing, optimizing search algorithms, designing the next Angry Birds app, increasing pre-paid SIM card sales in Assam and creating powerpoint presentations for the next desktop operating system. Sadly, a miniscule percent of your class will “engineer” anything of value.

– You will be a member of various google and yahoo alumni groups, the primary purpose of which will be to find jobs for all of your relatives.

– You will be enrolled into a lifelong email relationship with our alumni association, whose idea of robust engagement is to invite you to a re-union twenty five long years after you’ve left the campus.

– You will be presented opportunities to obtain enormous power. Some of you will use this responsibly to enable social empowerment by implementing national ID systems. Yet others will use it to make shady deals with Sri Lankan day traders. Most of you will prove yourselves to be incapable of receiving or handling this and fade into obscurity.

– You will spend most of your life “living upto your potential”, advancing your career, competing with rather than winning friends, and in having unreasonably high expectations of the world at large. It’s likely that disillusionment will hold you in its uncomfortably tight embrace by the time you enter your forties. At that point, a number of you will embark on a search for “the meaning of happiness”, whatever that means.

Fret not. The picture is not entirely dire. It’s entirely possible that the “IIT education”, which you spent your energies assiduously avoiding, may have actually penetrated your consciousness without your knowledge. Some of you will wake up to the wonders of learning and creativity at some distant point in time. And an even smaller fraction of your class will finally get to bask in the bliss of comprehending the insignificance of it all.

Welcome to IIT and God speed!

Best regards.

If you liked this, you might also like Weighted Average – a campus tale.

IIT Delhi unveils Theory of Unintelligent Design

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi unveiled a radically new “Theory of Unintelligent Design“, which they said was inspired by the bitter feud waged over the years between the theory of evolution and the theory of intelligent design. Providing evidence in support of the new theory, they introduced Exhibit A “Digvijay Singh“. However, Prof. Malhotra from IIT-Delhi, although a die-hard proponent of the new theory, warned, “People, don’t put your stock in just one theory. Even this concept, as powerful as it is, cannot possibly explain everything Diggy does or says. The unified theory of unintelligent design continues to be our Holy Grail”

IN OTHER NEWS

In a rare appearance on national television, Sonia Gandhi offered an upbeat assessment of her son’s fortunes. When quizzed by a television anchor on the crown prince’s recent snafus and plummeting approval, she said, “His numbers were not that great to begin with anyway. So, things are working well for him”. When asked for her opinion on Mr. A. Raja and his incarceration without bail, she responded, “From what I gather, he gets three square meals a day and plays squash twice a week. Things are working well for him”. Responding to concerns about instability in Pakistan related to Asif Al Zardari’s deteriorating health, she said, “Things are working well for them”

Given worsening economic climate and the Congress leadership coming under increasing scrutiny for corruption, the BJP confessed that it was looking for as many ways as possible to squander the opportunity and lose the next general elections. A high level committee comprising L K Advani, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari has been formed to ensure that the party does not fare well at the hustings. “We’re being given an opportunity on a silver platter. While it’s still too early to think about losing elections, we nevertheless remain focused on identifying an uninspiring PM candidate”, Gadkari confided. ” If we execute this well, that’s the only position that a BJP party member can expect to win”, he added.

In a stunning revelation, a government spokesperson admitted that the recent impassioned speech in Parliament in favor of FDI-in-retail was in fact not given by the Prime Minister, but by a look-alike plastic blow up doll. An elated Congress party worker said, “Man, the toy hit it out of the park”. Parts of the public were not amused. Said one voter, “This is not funny. If I wanted an inanimate object up there, I’d have voted for John Abraham”

In a clever move in tune with its conservative bent, and simultaneously aimed at capitalizing on a burgeoning opportunity, India has legalized gay divorce with immediate effect. An Infosys spokesperson applauded the move and commented, “We’ve been keeping a close eye on gay marriages in the US and Canada. When those marriages go south, we’ll offer a low-cost gay divorce destination here in India. We have no idea why we need engineers for this, but we’ve already hired 4,000 of them in anticipation. We’re also pleased to announce that Kim Kardashian has joined us as senior VP to lead this”

In other news, a careful inspection of George W Bush’s memoirs revealed that US invasion of Iraq was a result of a Microsoft Word auto-spell-check-and-correct feature. “It was supposed to be Iran”, the former President’s spokesperson admitted.

Angry West Indian fans, upset by the drubbing of their team in India, have threatened to boycott the team “unless they start taking steroids immediately”. Responding with alacrity, the Caribbean cricket board has roped in Ben Johnson, the former Jamaican sprinter, to lead their performance enhancement efforts.

ZEN MOMENT OF THE WEEK

In a bearish sign that does not bode well for the Indian economy, the RBI governor, Dr. D. Subbarao, allegedly left a restaurant without paying the bill for his soup. According to an eye witness account, the governor was nervous and fidgety after getting the bill, and first attempted to pay in Iraqi dinars citing the weakness of the Indian rupee. When that failed, he gave the staff the slip and vanished without a trace. Addressing newsmen, Kolaveri Raja, a soup boy at Saravana Bhavan in Chennai, sang an eloquent version of the incident as follows –

Yo boys, I am sing song. Soup song. Flop song.

Why me. Why this. Why this Kolaveri Raja- di?

Empty hotel-u, Governor come-u. Life reverse gear-u. 

soup eat-u. bill avoid-u. my future dark-u.

I gave him bill-u, but he gave me bouv-vu.

God-u, I am dying now-u. He is happy, how-u?

cow-u cow-u, holy cow-u, i want to know now-u

This song for soup boys-u. We don’t have choice-u. 

Why me. why this Kolaveri Kolaveri Raja a-di?

Take two, folks and check out Kolaveri video to the right-top of this page. Enjoy!

The What Ho! Report: Headlines, baseless rumors and no news whatsoever. We read Times of India so you shouldn’t have to.

Weighted Average

Ever wonder what the statute of limitations on a college degree should be? I mean, how long should a college degree be allowed to be valid? Is a college degree really worth anything, say a decade from when you are out of college? Laughing Gas recommendation is to render all college degrees that are ten years or older, null and void. But, we digress.

Memories of lessons learnt in a classroom bleach and fade from acid tests in the real world in due course of time. And, all that’s left are memories, selectively picked and retained from the fondest trove.

Presented this week is a nugget from the author’s pensieve of campus memories, the first of hopefully more to come in the Campus Tales series. As with any campus tale, this has been embellished and artfully embroidered for maximum effect.

Weighted Average

Everyone experiences these moments. You know, the moments of shock. They are sometimes preceded by profound bliss, with singing birds, brilliant sunshine or fluorescent rainbows in the background. And then, without so much of a warning, the music stops.

“Aren’t the IIT results out this week?”, the steady penetrating voice of a relative puncturing my bliss into abrupt nothingness.

I was at a family gathering that evening, which had turned out to be not so unpleasant after all. Until, voices started firing bullets at my blissful insouciance.

“Holy cow”, I sat up straight. The relative was right. I was a mere seventy two hours away from judgment day.

“Wait. Why am I panicking?”, I thought to myself. “It is possible that I might just get through”, hope springing to the fore.

“I read that over one lakh students wrote the JEE this year. I am sure you have done well. Haven’t you?”, the penetrating voice continued remorselessly.

I nodded and smiled weakly, my optimism rapidly receding as I re-calculated the odds. All conversations stopped. Heads turned. The wheels of time creaked to a clanging halt. The birds had stopped singing. There was no more the brilliant sunshine. The entire universe paused for a moment to enjoy my discomfiture.

The power of fortune is understood only by the unfortunate, for the lucky have no reason to analyze it.  So I realized as I awaited the verdict. Seventy two hours later, I discovered that I had a ticket to travel to the end of the rainbow with the rumored pot of gold. And, so began an incredible ride.

A few weeks later

After having completed admission formalities, we were in line for the medical examination at IIT Madras. The two boys who stood in front in line chatted while we awaited our turns. The little details overheard here and there indicated that they had met on the train from Bangalore to Chennai. They seemed pretty chummy. And, the conversation inevitably veered towards the choice of a branch of study made that morning. It appeared that they had managed to convince themselves that delving into the finer details of Civil Engineering was the best use of their time over the next four years.

“Excuse me”

I inserted myself politely into the conversation. The boys paused and turned to look at me. I had resolved to bring to their attention what, in my mind, was nothing short of a major faux pas.

“How come you guys didn’t consider Metallurgy? Civil engineering is not what it used to be”

I spoke confidently.

The heavier of the two goggled at me first. Then, he goggled at his friend in incomprehension. His friend returned what I can only describe as an understanding glance of acknowledgement.

“Metallurgy? No way. I have no plans to become a welder in a mechanic shop”, he finally blurted.

“Welding? Is that all metallurgists do? Are you kidding me?”

“What else do you think they do?”, his friend piped in.

I had to admit that they had me on this one. I had no idea what metallurgists did. But, it had seemed mysterious and exotic until a few minutes back. The mystery was unraveling already, and the picture did not look pretty.

“Step forward”

A bespectacled man, who sat at the table in front of us, gestured to the heavier of the two boys.

“Come forward. We’ll need to check your height and weight”

“Vinod. Height 175cm, weight 78 kgs”, called out the peon who was doing special duty that day in measuring heights and weights of pimply faced seventeen year olds.

“Seventy eight? Are you sure?”, the bespectacled man got up from his chair. He walked over to look at the needle which seemed to have no such doubts and sat steadily at the 78 mark.

“Next”, he called as he went back to seat himself in his chair and sip his fourth coffee of the day.

The lighter boy stepped nimbly onto the scale.

“Sanjeev. Height 175 cms. Weight 48kg” the peon measuring called out again.

“48? .. are you sure?”, the bespectacled man, again, was not happy with this piece of information. Reluctantly, he got up from his seat to examine for himself. He craned to look closely at the needle which now hovered indecisively around the 48 mark as though it was trying to decide how far it would go in its transgression of truth.

“48kg? That’s 2 kg below the required 50kg weight minimum”, the bespectacled man paused.  He had been weighing adolescent teenagers at IIT Madras for two decades. His mastery of the rules was second to none.

The lighter boy stood there on the scale, digesting this piece of information cautiously. He turned to look at the needle, mentally willing it to move a couple of notches further.

This was riveting drama. All eyes darted to and fro between Sanjeev and the weight recorder and the bespectacled man.

What would they do? Would they deny him admission? After all, he was only 2 kgs under the requirement.

Questions swirled in the air that day.

The bespectacled man stood there, pondering and scratching his chin. As he absently surveyed the crowd assembled there awaiting his judgment, his eyes alighted on the 78kg boy, who, still in the vicinity, was waiting for his lighter friend.

“A-ha!”, the man smiled.

“You are 48kg. And, your friend over there is 78kg. Between you, the average is 63kg. I declare both of you eligible. Welcome to IIT, boys!”, he roared.

The crowd approved smilingly. The sun appeared from behind the clouds. The birds started chirping again. The bespectacled man wiped the sweat off his brow, and smiled in relief and gesticulated to the peon.

“Get me another coffee”. He sat down heavily in his chair and mopped his forehead. Only two out of the two hundred in line were done.  But, he had already accomplished  a great deal that day.