Posted in Political

To Be Mastered, Not Tackled: The IIT Curriculum

I am the daughter of a teacher who taught deaf and dumb middle school girls from as far back as 1965. That is over half a century ago. I grew up visiting my mother’s convent many times an year. At that time, we never had fancy names such as ‘hearing & speech impaired’ for these girls. My mother was a kind but strict teacher. She would not spare even her disabled wards if they committed mistakes, without a good spank. In fact I remember her telling us, it was hardest to discipline those born with physical handicap. The teachers achieved this without hurting the ego of their wards, driving home their point  The children were treated like any normal kid. It was permitted in their school and no questions asked. I went to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan myself upto class 5 and from 6th to 12th standards, I attended LS in Mylapore. Upto standard 8, I remember receiving physical punishments in the class at times, even though I was fairly a good and obedient student. Mostly I got punished when whole class got punished. But I remember the erratic ones regularly getting spanked by our teachers. No parent turned up to complain to our school principal. No girl committed suicide. None went into depression.  In fact, we have all made good with our lives now.

In Tamil we say, ‘adi udavara madhiri, annan thambi udavadhu.’ It translates into’ ‘no sibling helps the way a good spanking can.’

Coming from a family of humble teachers whose committed mission was to improve the quality of life for their pupils and cultivate good habits, thoughts and virtues in them, today’s atrocities in the name of freedom giving high hand to students bullying the teaching faculty comes as a shock to me. Emotional blackmail of the teaching staff by errant wards is encouraged by both school management and parents themselves, to the detriment of the younger generation. Whereas my mother never spared the rod those days. My teachers never did. That is why I am here now.

The suicide of Fathima Latheef from Kerala in IIT Chennai is newsheadlines. Political parties and some regional groups that ideologically support terrorism want to give communal hues to the suicide. Not a question on the academic performance or personal life of the girl in question. The suicide note of the girl seems to have become sacrosanct as if sworn under oath. Final authority, uncontested. Not one but three of her professors named, all in a matter of four months, without having to take a single semester exam.

One thing about IITs is that, suicides in the campus haven’t been rare. This is because, entering IITs is not easy. It requires rigorous preparation for years, plus patience, smartness and diligence along with agility. Quick thinking aptitude that can place you ahead of scores of others. You have to have a very sharp mind. You are vying with the best brains in India. What many do to get into IIT is, go by a short-cut enrolling in those programmes like FITJEE that are tailored to ensure you a rank in the IIT entrance but cannot take you farther than that. This is where most IIT aspirants who succeed in getting into nation’s premier tech university fail. They don’t have the pampering spoon-feeding institutes like the FITJEE or Brilliant’s once they start their IIT life. They manage to crack the IIT entrance like a magic that merely opens doors to them. Many cannot take the pressure on to think for themselves once they start the engineering course. For the mentally vulnerable, suicide becomes the escape. After all, high hopes get pinned on these successful candidates who are paragons of prestige and hardwork to the outer world. Already these wards must have invested years of their lives, sacrificing their happy-g0-lucky teen years, for academic pursuits. They are under immense pressure to impress their parents, relatives, peers, etc., etc. including their high school teachers. Now there is no going back. Once you step into an IIT, it is a one-way street for the aspirants. Perform or perish is the mantra. At this level. most IITians are also usually school toppers and high achievers, celebrated in their circles. A downgrade is too much for them to take.

Recently IITs ruled that those who cannot cope up with the syllabus, can graduate with a B.Sc., degree instead of the B.Tech. This could have come as a shock to many. Weaker and unmotivated students and those would gained a backdoor entry through reservation quota without merit, can still have an honourable exit from the IITs.

IIT semester scoring also rests largely on class tests and internal assessments apart from regular exams like with any renowned academic institution around the world. The scoring pattern is different and is based on a variety of analytical factors and individual capacities and potential and executed/accomplished projects. The program is designed to shape you into a wholesome individual. More diversified. The courses are structured to inspire the learners and make them think for themselves. Enriching lives, leaders are borne here not the meekly following sheep. This is why the IITs have carved a niche for themselves within the nation and around the world.

Recently my husband attended a slick management program at XLRI for a mere five days. He is still reeling under its positive effect. Ever since he is in awe about management and business schools in India and of course tech schools. How the individuals are chiseled into super humans virtually in these noble institutions that are doing a fine job. How admission is coveted therefore. You get in only if you fit in in every way. If you manage to sneak in unfit, it could end up a disaster. Various levels of check are in place to filter the uninspired. Only  the meritorious who have earned their way in make it good. Which is why an IIT product like Sundar Pichai is now the CEO of Google. The transformation is wholesome, holistic.

IITs and IIMs of India craft corporate global leaders.

So unless you have a matching mindset, it is not advisable to get into this kind of schools via crooked means. By this I mean those who crack the entrances enrolling themselves in day-night coaching centers for years. Here they learn how to tackle IIT, never to master their subject. Unfortunately, the IITs at undergrad level do not have screening interviews like the management schools.

To what extent this Fathima Latheef fared in mere four months in IIT needs to be looked into. Was she staring already at a quick exit from IIT. Was there parental pressure. Was she too much hyped about where she came from. Was she disappointed to discover her true mettle and worth in the IIT. Four months in a campus is too short a time to contemplate a suicide or judge your professor let alone pin the blame on him for your suicide. You need a scapegoat even in your death so as to be always remembered as the brightest star, is it. A total of three teaching staff have been named.

Was Fathima any quota candidate. Did she grow up in the Gulf states where the wards’ capabilities are highly exaggerated by the NRI community. Was she overrated, led to believe she was the best.

NOW LEAVE THIS ALL ALONE. THE PRESSURE OR HIGH STRESS IS FOR TECH UNDER GRADS AND POST GRADS. OUR GIRL WAS PURSUING HUMANITIES IN IIT. ALTHOUGH IIT ian, STILL NOT REALLY AN IIT ian NOT IN THE TRUE SENSE. SO STOP THIS HYPE NOW YOU SENSELESS MEDIA! Reminds me of how the same non-tech guys raised slogans for Sri Lankan political issue years back and the same was flashed as uprising in IIT, Chennai by national and local tv channels. Anything to mar the famed institution. Anything to slur and defile the renowned school of technology. Allegedly, Marxist Christians have a presence in IIT Madras by backdoor means who are on a conversion mission feeding on feeble minds. This angle needs to be investigated.

Well, truly I do not know the actual facts about the Fathima case except for bits and pieces I garnered from media. Neither does the media have an idea, I am sure. Shameless Tamil media. Are these guys not even ashamed how they are twisting and turning the case. Is this a trial by media. Framing a teacher who is doing his work just because a crazy student mentioned his name in her suicide note. Shame on Tamil politicians trying to gain political mileage out of this tragedy. Both Indian media and Tamil politicians are fit only to work as janitors in IIT toilets. They cannot be any better. Story of the sour grapes!

What kind of professionals is India producing. Those who do not even have the mental strength if the professor or teacher singles you out in the class for your inadequacy. For your incompetence. For your mistake. For your misdeed. This is nonsense.

Very unfair. This is very much a wrong precedent. Anyone can be similarly framed which is not right.

Who are those who are trying to make a big case out of Fathima’s. Investigate their terror links. Investigate their church links. Investigate their source of funds. This will suffice if it comes to exposing their true colours. Shame on Fathima’s parents. In your moment of grief, you still wouldn’t want to admit to your ineptitude, your daughter’s failures but would like to place a noose around a teacher’s neck because he did his job. Is that justified. You cannot expect your darling daughter to be petted and pampered in IIT. In university, reality kicks in. That you are no more a big fish in a small pond but a small fish in a big pond. Accepting the reality is issue for some weak mentality students.

I happened to look at Fathima’s letters in social media posts. Why this vendetta to see that the professors are punished. Is this what you can do in your life’s worst distraught moments. No attempt to find a solution but fixated on bringing someone to books. It is apparent that the girl’s dreams got crushed. For whatever reasons. IIT is not for the weak hearted. Especially those kids growing up in Middle East attending Indian schools with their papers evaluated by not-so-professional teachers who may/may not have earned their B.Ed., fall with a thud to ground reality when they return to India. Gone are the paraphernalia that meant nothing. What glares at you is naked truth. There is the big question of living upto your image and matching your parents’ unrealistic expectations. I know this first hand because right now I am based in Middle East. I know of the spoilt Indian kids growing up here all scoring over 9.5 CGPA yet who cannot make up even 7.0 GPA in their engineering school semesters back in India. The adjustment can be such an ordeal. The competitiveness of kids growing up in Indian environment is matchless. Their adaptability and quick thinking cannot be mastered easily by kids growing up outside India.

I have known these so-called brightest kids with highest CGPAs in board 12 who joined undergrad courses in America straight after higher secondary schooling in Middle East. One left Georgia-Tech in a month under heavy distress after securing a very tough admission. Another who was in Pen State Univ for two years finally called it a day and returned to India to start an engineering degree afresh. Near suicide cases. Parental pressure had a big role to play in these sad cases.

Whatever sympathy you may feel for the loss of a young life gets stamped out thanks to the media. The girl’s parents may have tough time resigning themselves to reality and coming to terms with their teenager’s inconsiderate decision. Even if you give the girl the benefit of doubt, there are still women’s commissions, women’s forum, women police etc., etc., to look into any grievance in a big metro like Chennai Why the girl took the extreme step is a mystery. . But that is no reason for the distraught parents to point fingers at any innocent man,

Looks like, the professors allegedly discriminating on the basis of faith are actually communists! That probably saved their day! Does any single Tamil media house or national media house have the honesty to point this out in their coverage. Why the coverage in the first place.

How many suicides in the IIT every year? Why extra coverage for this case. Is it because the girl is a muslim. Are you guys looking for a chance to ignite things. Chance to get back at BJP, Hindus? Are you guys looking for a chance to improve your TRP ratings.

Let this be the last and final case when an undergrad/grad/research fellow caves in under intense stress and societal pressure. This scenario is unhealthy. Finally if we in India cannot make mentally stronger young people, what kind of nation are we building. Breaking up, cracking up so easily under duress. No willpower to fight it out. No inspiration. No motivation. No wonder we were invaded and occupied for thousands of years in history.

No words of solace for Fathima’s parents. We are all mothers and fathers here. We have grown-up kids with dreams. It is an irreparable loss no doubt.


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