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Not Every IITian is Successful, Not Every Successful Person is IITian.

Last Thursday, another student preparing for IIT/NEET committed suicide in Kota, that’s staggering 28th in this year which is roughly 1 every 12 days. It is becoming a new normal and that’s a big problem.

Why even after coverage of every big media house at national level, education experts / activists' call out at various forums, administration's efforts to check control on kids mental health or even coaching institutes' directors efforts of special counselling sessions for kids have not been able to stop them from taking this extreme step? Why every measure taken by all these power / influence holding authorities is not working. Perhaps pressure is coming from a different source.

I am from Kota and exactly 21 years ago, I was sitting in the very same classrooms, aspiring to become an IITian, attending the same lectures Monday-Saturday, giving the mock tests every Sunday, ranks getting displayed on large boards, batches get reshuffled every time based on the rank scored in the mock tests and you have to be in top batch if you want to study from top faculty. This excruciating cycle kept repeating for 2 years. But finally, just before the IIT Mains exam (now called Advanced), our coaching director Mr. Pramod Maheshwari (arguably one of the best Physics faculties in India at that time) gave us a motivational lecture to boost our moral. And in that lecture, he didn’t say anything about how to crack the exam or how to deal with the pressure, he just emphasized on one thing – Not Every IITian is Successful and Not Every Successful Person is IITian.

We were wondering why he was saying this just before the grand finale. At the age of 17 perhaps we didn’t understand the gravity of those golden words but fast forwarding 21 years now can see crystal clear the wisdom behind each word he said in the class. And that realization didn’t happen in one day, it happened step by step, slowly with the heat of time.

When I got selected in IIT, it felt like I am on top of the world. I was first student at my school who achieved that feat and became an over-night star among students and teachers. The feeling was great, and I was on cloud nine. But the moment I entered the college, I saw that rest of batchmates are like me only. In fact, they were better than me in many aspects, majority of them were school toppers and consistent 90 percenters. So, from cloud nine I came down to cloud eight immediately. Preparing for IIT for 3 years was so exhausting, that in the college, forget about the study with passion, I literally gave up studying. So, I was studying just to get passing marks in each semester and was one of the leading back benchers. Slowly over 4 years my cloud level fell from eight to seven to six to five. Just before placements, our HOD said that Oil & Gas market is bad and only 5 out of 45 will get the job. The cloud got burst and I was about to fall from sky. “Luckily” we all got placed in core sector with decent packages, even students like me who were given up hopes on very first day in the college who were contemplating for going into software industry were also got placed in core. It indeed was a memorable day; we were going from the best college to the best company.

I along with my five other batchmates were recruited in that company, but wait, on the joining day, apart from my 75 years old IIT college, my company also hired engineers from a newly opened private college at the same package, it was their first graduating batch. Which means what we’re thinking about ourselves as “Special” was not true. We were later told that the company does not differentiate between colleges, and it purely cares about the relevant skills. That was a moment of not only another cloud bust but also myth bust. The myth that elite companies hire only from elite colleges is not true.

But we all six were convinced that these non-IITians can never stand a chance in front of we “Smart”, “Intelligent”, and “Hardworking” IITians and soon we will outsmart them in appraisals. But others were also doing the job with equal hard work, passion, and commitment. And all those got equal appraisals like we six and that continued for each year passing by. After several years, they all became our great friends and line between IIT and non-IIT completely vanished. One of my IITian friend even got married with the non-IITian’s sister. All the clouds were gone and it was a clear blue sky.

No one among us talks about the IITs anymore. It has merely become a resume line because even during the interviews we must demonstrate our skills and achievements in previous projects. And now I recall the line of my coaching director - Not Every IITian is Successful and Not Every Successful Person is IITian.

Many of my friends would agree with this, both IITian and non-IITians, that after certain amount of experience, college degree does not matter. We can certainly take pride in what we have achieved academically but that is not a sole parameter of career growth or personal growth.

Now coming back to original problem. Like mine, there are tons of other individual stories which are not popular and hence have not reached those parents and that’s why parents remain in the world which media shows to them. The question arises, why parents want to push their kids to fall in the line of IIT/NEET only? Why not for other career streams like Finance, Law, Sports, Defence, or anything else? The answer is simple, look at these news headlines below…

These headlines are good enough to induce the image of IITian as Gods & Titans in the minds of parents. And if these headlines keep popping up every now and then, slowly it becomes an impression that IITians are gift to the humanity and they are the only ones who are moving the the world, and success is their mistress.

But look at this holistically. The people who write these headlines and publish these stories do it to make the article go viral and that’s why headline must be catchy. Catchy enough that the reader opens the link at least once and that’s exactly what a publication wants – Hits. “IITian” is a very powerful adjective for any headline. Apparently, this way of writing a story is working great so far, but at the same time it is hiding the other part of the truth and that is there are equally appealing success stories which belongs to non-IITians.

There are many non-IITians who gets international placements with crores of packages but they seldom find any place in media. There are many extremely successful startups of which founder are non-IITian. Paytm, Swiggy, OYO, Nykaa, Boat, Freecharge, BookMyShow, CarTrade, Cred, and list is endless.

If we have Sunder Pichai, an IITian CEO, then we also have Satya Nadella, a non-IITian CEO. I can go on and on but the point what I am trying to make is these people whether IITian or non-IITian who make the news are different people who do things differently and that’s why they are successful, and their success does not depend on the college degree.

There are 16000+ IITians graduating from 23 IITs each year but only handful of these make news. But what other remaining are doing. They are ordinary working-class people like me and you doing typical 9-5 job just like any other college graduates. And interestingly, many IITian like me, have even stopped mentioning IIT as our introduction in day-to-day life.

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