Does India have a Future?

Yesterday I spend one of the most frustrating half days of my life, and came out tearing my hair and wondering about the answer to the above question. If the future is in the hands of India's youth - Lord help us! I was invited to be a panelist on the admissions panel to a business school in Delhi. While not one of the top schools, it has a decent reputation, and many of the students we met were toppers at their reputed colleges and had high scores in the CAT exam too.

It was a dismaying experience. In the group discussion, very few of the students were able to put coherent words together to express a thought. And few of the thoughts that did get expressed were original. The topic was quite germane and one would have thought these kids would have some ideas, some opinions on the issue since it would have affected all of their lives - that of creating 50% reservations in higher education institutions like IITs and IIMs for OBCs. Some of the candidates didn't even bother to open their mouth so the faculty members on the panel actually stopped the discussion to let these less vociferous types have their moment in the sun. Nothing doing - nothing but cliches and platitudes.

Then we did the actual interviews - and those were worse than the GD. there was a girl from my alma mater, LSR, a topper in BCom who couldn't even explain the difference between incremental and variable cost. Heck that's something even I know and I'm neither good at accounts nor a practicing finance manager. Not even one student could define what the commonweath was or who its head was. One student vaguely guessed that it was some kind of international organisation and that all Asian countries were definitely members , "that I'm sure of", as he said. These boys and girls had lived and studied in Delhi, visited its monuments various times but did not know who built the Qutab Minar or why the pillars there were famous - which is something you can even learn by watching Fanaa. The former president of India was a mysterious individual called Dr. Abdul Kalam Azaad. The controversy about Jodhaa Akbar was apparently that Rajputs weren't shown as fighting the Mughals. Did you know the Rani of Jhansi married the Peshwa of Jhansi? I wonder when he shifted from Pune! One boy claimed to have read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and the message he understood from the book - "I learned about the peoples and the qualities I must imbibe and the valoos I must learn and the people." A girl who had read The Diary of Anne Frank thought the Holocaust referred to the two World Wars. Sir is now a title we use just to show our respect to anybody, as is Lady, as in Lady Shriram College. She was called that because people were polite. Holi is a festival we celebrate, because...

It is amazing that these are the so-called talent pool that awaits India in its next few years, as it struggles to become a developed country. People who know little or nothing about their own country. People who don't even know their own culture, their history or anything outside of Bollywood. Who don't bring an enquiring mind to work because the whole focus is on mugging things that can be regurgitated without change in an exam paper. People who have never learned to think, to debate, to argue or to question. How can we even expect these people to be able to make decisions in a corporate set-up or even their own lives? They were like a bunch of tame sheep, meekly awaiting the ritual shearing. I wanted to walk up to each one of them and slap them or otherwise jolt them out of their stupor and ask them where they hid whatever brains God gave them. The mission of life is not to pass a damn exam or get admission into a damn school but to learn how to think and reason for yourself and become a human being, not a passive farm animal who lets someone herd them. How can we ever expect any change in the way things are run, in society, in anything really, when we have before us a talent pool that has never learned how to think and is as passive as a bunch of zombies...theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die?

Comments

nostalgic chica said…
i can't help laughing at your descriptions of the "youth of India". You are so right about those MBA hungry students, but don't be dismayed. There are many other kinds of young Indians who know all that you're talking about. India has a future. Believe me, it does.
I am shocked and apalled!

I cannot understand why the new generation is lacking in basic information- when the internet is commonly available, and they CAN find out way more than we ever could...
memsaab said…
You could easily be describing the youth of America too, believe me! Not that it's comforting or anything :-)

I LOVE the name of your blog, by the way!!!
bird's eye view said…
nostalgic chica - I'm a huge patriot and I really do hope India has a bright future...but sometimes one gets scared.

Shweta - I wonder the same thing, when google is literally at their fingertips...maybe it's because the questions don't pop into their heads?

memsaab - I know. I once saw an episode of Jay Leno where he asked people standing in front of the White House where Capitol Hill was and they didn't know. The problem is one can no longer smugly think; uff these American youth. It's the same thing here. And thanks for the comment about the name.
rajk said…
Hi, My first time here...Love ur blog..you are on my blogroll now!
BTW, regarding this post, I was wondering, how many other interviewers/panelists felt the way you did? Did they also feel like jolting the young men and women into waking them up or did they find nothing amiss? Maybe one of the reasons that those young people didn't bother to think was that they thought it was not needed. Who would notice? You would, of course, but would anyone else?
bird's eye view said…
Thanks, rajk.

The other panelists were equally upset - they were professors at the business school, but their comments wound up upsetting me more. they said the standards of education had fallen because teachers weren't allowed to hit kids in school any more :0!!!
rajk said…
Wow, they'd have liked to "jolt" the kids in a whole different way! Interesting!
Anonymous said…
Hmmm.. is our Educ system to be blamed?? the one which encourages regurgitation and not creative thinking... thinking which should make the students look beyond the archaic text books.
Nways your rant made interesting reading. Thks. Angela
bird's eye view said…
I do think our education system that encourages rote learning is to be blamed - many of the students we interviewed were univ toppers but didn't even remember their own subject!
Anonymous said…
Very interesting post!! A long time ago, I was in the exact same situation, I did terribly in a group discussion. I was one of the "top" students in my class, am a foundation student first attempt CA and now I realise looking back how little I actually understood what I was studying and reading :( We were so overwhelmed with running to classes, studying for different exams, attending college, articleship and so on...that I dont think I ever had time to sit back and think about what I learnt. Now many years later, after having attended management school and learnt the proper art of public speaking and presentations, I am much more comfortable putting forth my opinions. I regret not having really understood or taken an interest in history and geography and civics (even though it was taught by a teacher who neither had the passion for the subject nor the drive to teach it with enthusiasm) and am making use of my spare time by reading about my country when I am thousand miles away now. Sometimes I see kids here in the US having "Show and tell" and other public speaking opportunities from early on in their school lives and wonder if that makes a difference. But of course there are many many clueless young people here too so maybe its an age thing. Well I have ranted on without really making a statement and hope that you will not hold it against me ("this girl still doesnt know what she is talking abt" ;)
bird's eye view said…
Hey anonymous - your comment is pretty much my point - that our education system teaches learning by rote but suppresses curiosity and even excitement about whatever we are learning. I remember I had a history teacher in college - and I'm a history buff, by the way - who was extremely enthu about her subject but a hopelessly confused communicator. She taught the Delhi Sultanat and made it so boring as a result, that the only thing I remmeber from her class is that Balban's tomb is in Delhi!

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