[All names, characters and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. Identification with actual persons, places and products is neither intended nor should be inferred. If you tend to do so, chances are that your inference could be purely coincidental. However, if your sense-of-identification is a notch too strong and you start accusing this author of blatant plagiarism, it is probable that you suffer from a severe case of cognitive dissonance and/or you are a conspiracy theorist. Should the aforementioned situation arise; the author strongly recommends you to consult a psychiatrist pronto.]
Once, a child was born in the country of India. Now, that’s nothing new, for; more than a hundred thousand children take birth each day in the ghettos of this country. This child (henceforth christened ‘X’) however was better off than a good number of his 99,999 contemporaries, his parents being highly-successful and renowned engineers. Eons before X was even conceived, his parents had lofty ambitions about him. Together, they dreamt about their would-be son ‘Engineer X’ pioneering NASA’s pilot, manned-mission to Mars some thirty years down the line. X would marry an engineer and their children would also be engineers (who would first set foot on Jupiter, at 2090!) They cherished the very thought of originating a true-blue engineer family-tree. In a bid to entrench their son’s NASA-future, X’s parents actually played a (scratchy) videotape recording of Armstrong’s & Aldrin’s “Small step for man & Giant leap for mankind” exactly when X was being conceived (possibly to give a bombastic start to his résumé!)
Pangs of having been subjected to the moon-mission video in the primal phase of his embryonic avatar perhaps, our friend was not exactly brilliant by modern parlance, where brilliance is often synonymous with an eminent academic record. He was more of your average, buck-toothed, next-door-geek. Though he had an unassailable memory and an IQ of 129, he despised the very idea of sitting long hours before the books, mugging facts and figures. X was obsessed with analytical and logical problems since childhood. Right from his pre-teen years, he made friends with the computer. When his friends would spend long hours playing NFS or Counter Strike, X would be busy coding. X’s parents did not particularly endorse this trait of his. They argued that his coding skills, which might eventually induce a host of problems ranging from myopia to cyber crime, would be detrimental to his NASA admission. Consequently X witnessed a massacre of his Gatesian dreams, dutifully aided by his dad’s multi-encrypted passwords on the PC which steadfastly resisted his frail brute force attacks.
To help X obtain the best possible school education, his parents admitted him to a Jesuit-run boys’ school – de facto acknowledged as home to the crème de la crème in town. By the time X passed his tenth grade with a heartening 87%, his parents had shed much of their astronomical (pardon the pun) dreams, fully realizing that their son wasn’t exactly NASA material. Nonetheless, they believed he was brimming with potential and started crafting IIT dreams for him.
X was obligingly enrolled for Engineering-Entrance-exam coaching classes at the start of his 11th grade. X wasn’t too enamored, but he gave in realizing that as an engineer he could specialize in his cynosure; computers. Before long, X understood that he wasn’t exactly IIT material. His course material was demanding; he had to put in hours of untiring ‘work’ (read mugging) on a daily basis to crack JEE, the Holy Grail of all entrance exams; not to mention a dozen others. Initially, he did his best to comply with the haranguing schedule, but soon he realized that he was wearing himself out to near-death. Brickbats from parents and instructors alike destroyed his peace of mind. Gradually, X saw a stubborn reluctance to work (mug) cultivate within. He began resorting to rather inventive methods to deceive his tormentors to his favor. To top it all, he developed an obsessive attraction to a stunningly-beautiful girl in one of the coaching classes. Ergo, a once-highly-ranked X saw his position dip to abysmal lows, never to bounce back again.
The retribution came along with X’s results. Our IIT Aspirant secured a measly 82% for his boards, qualifying only in his state entrance exams and that too with an appalling 2000+ rank! X’s parents, who almost expected their son to top the JEE were dismayed beyond proportion. Pipe dreams about their son ruined, they blamed him for bringing all their reputations to peril. Though, with time they more-or-less reconciled with their son’s fate, the debacle saw a pernicious strain build up in the parent-child relationship. Things were worse for X; his classmates, most of them not even half as intelligent as he, bade him goodbye to join prestigious institutions. What’s more, he even ‘lost’ his girl, who probably never knew X existed despite his best ‘efforts’. Besides, X wasn’t quite sure whether the girl would accept his ‘proposal’ going by his looks which were unpalatable even by conservative standards.
After a delayed, three month-long ‘counseling’ process, X got admitted to a mid-ranked Govt. Engineering college in town. X was alacritous when he was allotted the trade Information Technology. Finally, he could dabble with computers! Gatesian dreams returned in full throttle, which saw him pouring over dictionaries coining names for his soon-to-be-launched start-up firm. Sadly for him, it was only the beginning of what would be the worst-phase of his life. The first shock came when he stepped into the portals of the college which looked more like the quintessential primary school, complete with tiled-roofs and ramshackle walls, exactly like those one gets to see in third-world ghettos. After his first month in college, X’s notions about his alma-mater meliorated nevertheless. He realized that beneath the unassuming tiled roofs, functioned a robust institution which could brag about some of the best teaching faculty, infrastructure & campus placements in the state. The elation, albeit was ephemeral. His course material, though engrossing to some extent, required zilch intellect and maximum mugging! The recognition came with the marks of his first internal examinations for which his performance was dismal in all subjects but Mathematics. Constant reprimands from his Lecturers became part-of-life for X.
Even so, X demanded immense respect and bonhomie from his college mates who were enamored with his refined, euphonic, affable and Jesuit-perfected self. An acclaimed singer and part-time wordsmith, X won numerous accolades in intercollegiate festivals. His Gatesian dreams bought him an entire fan following. Some even acted Venture-Capitalists, agreeing to cough-up money to foot his dreams. For the first time in his life he was being loved and respected for the facets of his life that did not pertain to academics. Throughout the first year of his college life, X worked on improving himself. He got hooked to the habit of reading, devouring almost one book a day. He followed developments in and around the world through television, internet and newspapers and would debate tirelessly on sundry topics from Bush’s incompetence to the perennially-doomed nuclear deal. Having broken into the computer with an indigenous key-logger code snippet, X honed his once-lost coding skills to perfection. X began writing too: his works encouraged by friends & prizes in essay writing competitions.
University exams approached fast. X’s buddies dusted open their long-closed books and got down to some serious studying while our friend didn’t even bother. By now, he had totally repudiated the idea of mugging. He spent hours daily with his old friend, the computer. He was in a totally different world; his study skills in abeyance, perniciously rotting in his hedonism. By the time he woke up from his cocoon, it was way too late. With hardly three days left for the exams, there was nothing he could do. His weak, impenitent attempts at pulling himself back to track failed miserably. X was still in blissful idyll, capriciously reaffirming his last-minute-study skills. The exam season lasted a month. The last day of the examinations was a breather for X, haggard after all the pressure they had on him. He knew his scores would be abject in entirety. But for Engineering mathematics & graphics, the content in almost all other papers were based solely on his general knowledge! Had he paid attention a notch more, he could have done better! Dejected, X vowed that he would work hard the next time.
Promises and vows are always made to be broken. The new-broom-sweeps-clean phenomenon didn’t last long in X’s case either. By early third semester, X was back to his old self. His academics did show remarkable improvement all the same, thanks to his proficiency in logic and computers. He topped papers in programming and logic, once more bathing in false glory. Meanwhile, X’s ‘startup-firm’ kick started itself to action. A few successful projects and some money under his belt, X bought his own website-domain and server space. Within months, http://www.thexworld.com/ became a virtual sensation in the World Wide Web. The fully Search Engine Optimized portal saw X’s Google Ad sense account adding zeroes to the right. The geeky Mr. X within no time turned into the hottest kid on the block!
The initial surprise and empathy of his friends gradually boiled down to ridicule. When they came to visit X at the hospital with their sardonic glances camouflaged amid sympathies, X realized the true essence of the (refurbished) proverb: “Marks maketh man!” To make things worse, the cheap hosting company which hosted his website went bankrupt, taking his website with it. X even got a life-ban from Google Ad Sense; the geeks at Google had finally realized that those thousand-odd clicks in their ads were the product of a brilliant PHP code! The fiasco shattered X, who for the first time in his life started contemplating suicide.
What happened to X after this juncture is purely immaterial. Of course, X gave up his suicide plans; a fit of self-imposed determination and will being the cause. After a month of recuperation, X appeared for his third semester exams, well-equipped this time. He did reasonably well, compared to his classmates for whom it was literal-drubbing. Nevertheless, the relationship with his parents suffered major (and permanent) fallout; they permanently lost faith in their son. The once-hottest-kid-on-the-block regained his geek-next-door avatar.
Hey, that was just the hors’d’ oeuvre!! Time for some food for thought!
Food for thought | Moral(s) of this story
- Unless a school/college student in India has significant mastery over the art of rote-learning, he doesn’t stand a chance of getting ahead in the rat-race! Even the field of engineering, which demands an agile mind, requires a significant (if not total) amount of skill of memorizing concepts and theory spread out in pages of text. Nonetheless, it’s a moot point whether a high-score in such exams, which are more of memory tests, would signify professional competence in one’s field of study.
- Though X is an intelligent guy, he fell backward in the rat race solely because the art of mugging was way above him. Had he tackled his exams with more grit and drive, he could easily have mastered his subjects and scored high. Who knows, had he given more impetus to his preparations in his school days, he might even have crossed the hallowed portals of IIT with some luck. Fate, it is! X alone is responsible for the fiasco. In a premise where marks turn out to be the most substantial employability/knowledge gauge, people like X, though competent, would perennially remain at the bottom of the ladder.
- Had X’s parents allowed him to join a career of his choice, they would have prevented much heartburn. True that X might get a swanky job by the time he passes out with his computer and language skills; but he might have done better, had he pursued another course of his choice. Their obsession with ‘originating a true-blue engineer family tree’ resulted in the birth another Six Point someone, oh yes, with three back papers!