Sunday, August 13, 2006

Did IIT teach you something?

This is a very interesting blog entry that I found on this blog. It is a fairly frustrated look at the IITs!

However, I agree with one point. In my interaction with IITians, I am impressed by less than 5% of the people. The rest 95% are average or below average. This ratio is the same for other colleges, so I am forced to conclude that all colleges are created equal. Read the article to get a better idea!

Have you ever wondered whether the university you went to actually taught you something that other universities do not? I've often wondered this. Not so much because I thought the university I went to taught me something special, but because I've run across a group of people who have gone to particular institutions, and who seem to behave as if they did learn something different. What's really piqued my curiosity is the fact that this group of universities is acclaimed as among the best in the world. This particular group, known collectively as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), seems to nurture a common behavior amongst its students. Perhaps it can be termed as IIT culture. Or perhaps calling it culture is being too kind. Regardless, let's explore some of these traits.

One thing you will know about IIT grads is that they are particularly proud of the fact that they managed to spend 4 of the best years of their lives cooped up with other students with an equal lack of understanding about what is really important in life. I mean, do you really want to spend your most youthful, virile years trapped with a group of nerds who get really excited about calculus? Wouldn't you rather be in the company of stylishly dressed, beautiful people, like there are in the nearby fashion institutes, or business colleges? I mean, calculus stays the same whether you are introduced to it at age 18 or age 24. But all the beautiful women get hooked up way before they reach 24. And those that don't are beyond the IIT grads' reach anyway, for they have greater ambitions in life than to be seen roaming around with IIT grads.

So why this particular pride that you are an IIT grad? I would think it should be a source of shame -- an admission that you are totally clueless about what your priorities should be at this particularly important stage in your life. What baffles me is that these IIT grads are very fond of relating this horrendous blunder to everybody. For example, they will make it a point to bring that fact up in any conversation, even if it has nothing to do with education or college. For example, I have actually had this conversation with an IIT grad:

Me: “Hi. How are you doing today?”

IIT Grad: “Back when I was in IIT - Bombay, all the dumb people who didn't get accepted to IIT used to greet us that way. We, of course, had no time for such idle banter, as we had more important pursuits in life, like calculus. So, what university did you go to?”

At this point, if you answer anything other than IIT, chances are the person will look right beyond you, as if you do not exist and it is not worth their time to talk to you, specially about their current state of being. If you, however, happen to be a particularly attractive woman, you may get some response from them, as long as the next words out of your mouth are, “Oooooh, you must be smart.” If you, however, do not seem suitably impressed by this revelation, then you are likely to be branded a bimbo, and not worth their time.

Another thing I've noticed about these IIT grads is that they seem to think they have a particular understanding of the sciences that other grads are not privy to. So they will choose to ignore you in scientific conversations, as if you are incapable of completely grasping the problem. They seem to think that some different laws of physics apply to IIT grads. I wouldn't be surprised if they fully expect to field problems as follows:

Question 1.a. “If a person throws a rock into the air with an angle of trajectory alpha, with an initial velocity of v, then how far will it travel from their location?”

Question 1.b. (extra credit) “How much further will the rock travel if it was thrown by an IIT grad?”

Of course, us mere mortals know that the real answer to 1.b. is 0, because the IIT grad probably couldn't pick up the rock off the ground to begin with. And probably would have made some comment about how it was too menial a task and below his dignity. However, this is a great question to ask a group of IIT grads at a party, in case they are boring you with stories about their experiences living in the dorms. Just ask them this question, and all the IIT grads will take great pleasure in explaining to each other how they figured out the answer, and how that method is far superior to anybody else's method. You, however, will be spared the agony of having to participate in this animated discussion, thankfully, for how could a not-IIT grad possibly have anything to contribute to this conversation?

I think a lot of these people are under the misguided impression that anybody here in the US cares which university they graduated from. I have seen some people try to use this as a pickup line at bars, thinking that this would make a more profound impression on women -- more so than someone who has actually gone to the gym to exercise and stay in shape. Of course, the IIT grads' impression about weight lifting is carrying both volumes of Halliday and Resnick to class everyday (yes, I know most normal people who went to normal universities are not aware that there actually is a second volume of Halliday and Resnick, and the first volume was not all that there is to physics). But rest assured, that does not particularly impress the women at bars either.

Now, at this point, you may well ask, “But what about the women who also go to IIT?” What about them? The first thing to note here is that the ratio of men to women at IIT is not exactly 1:1. There are far fewer women at the IITs. And there is a very good reason for that. It's because women are far smarter than men. They have long figured out that the really successful people in life do not work as engineers. The really successful people in life either sing, or dance, or act, or design clothes, or run motels or sandwich shops. And going to IIT does not help you do any of these better. In fact, what the IIT grads learn are things like computer design and programming, so they can be the slaves in the side businesses funded by the people who either sing, or dance, or act, or design clothes, or run motels or sandwich shops.

And the few women that actually decide to join IIT are even smarter, for they have figured out that they will get much better treatment when there are 199 men vying for every woman's attention. And anybody who has been to Vegas knows those are pretty darn good odds. Of course, the drawback is that your grand prize is another IIT grad.

But surely there must be something that these IIT grads learned in their 4 years of being cooped up with other nerds. To explore this possibility, I decided to observe the IIT grads at work for one whole week. I carefully noted all their actions without them noticing me. That was not hard -- I had already told them I was not an IIT grad, so as far as they were concerned, I did not exist anyway. I noted their irritating habit of wearing slippers to work. I noted their desire to talk about esoteric and inconsequential subjects in the most animated manner, in the vain hope that it would impress all the women in the marketing and sales department. After the end of that week, I spent the following week observing all the other people at work. Then I complied and tabulated and collated all my data. After poring over the results, I did see a trend emerge.

To a person, I noticed that all the IIT grads consistently made really good coffee! No other group of people were nearly as meticulous, in measuring just the right amount of coffee grinds, positioning the coffee pot exactly under the dispenser so as not to spill a single drop, and adding the exact amount of water each time, as the collective group of 5 IIT grads in our company. Why, one of the men actually even mixed equal amounts of cold water and hot water from the bottled water dispenser, so that the coffee maker was consistently being fed water at the same temperature every time. I must say, I really marveled at the thoughtfulness of this person to use the bottled water rather than the tap water. And he felt the sides of the coffee pot to ascertain that the water was indeed at the desired temperature. What this resulted in was coffee that always tasted exactly the same, with no spillage whatsoever, and was consistently good.

So there you have it. Those 4 years of hard work at IIT have indeed enabled these people to claim something that no other place of learning has been able to so consistently impart to all its students. All you other mere mortals keep this fact in mind the next time you need to refill your coffee, and the pot is empty. Go find the nearest IIT grad, and engage him in some conversation as you steer him towards the coffee station. And watch the expert at work. You will need to be creative in order to get the IIT grad to talk to you though. I suggest you ask him some technical question, along the lines of, “If I picked up a rock and threw it into the air with an angle of trajectory alpha, with an initial velocity of v…” This will surely get the IIT grad going, as he gallantly demonstrates to you how elegantly and effortlessly he can solve this problem, and make coffee at the same time!

And this will also give you a good way of responding to one of these creatures in case you happen to run into them at a party. If you happen to ask them how they are, and they respond in the expected fashion by telling you they are from IIT, interrupt them immediately by exclaiming, “Oooooh, you must make really good coffee!”


  1. bahut hi frustaai hui aatma ka lekh hai ye :D he is right to some extent but i think he stretched it a bit too far ;) and ur 95-5 analysis is right :) waise this is generaly governed by that 'perfect picture' of IITians n IIM guys u have in ur mind :D

  2. sahi hai yaar yeh banda !

    abhi kisi IIM wale se mil gaya to iska kya hoga !!