There are two distinct tribes in India: the one that went to IIT, and the one that did not. If you are wondering, how to tell them apart, I have good news: you do not have to. They would tell you before you can finish your hello. At times all you need is a glance at them, and they are too eager to blurt out, “I am from IIT, and my name is Raju.” And in case you missed the introduction, not to worry. They would repeat the information like the stock ticker: I love Star Wars…I first saw it in IIT…my wife does not get it…she is not from IIT…one day we will have kids…I will send them to IIT…the same IIT I went to…did I tell you I am from IIT?…
The other distinguishing characteristic of this tribe: they are insufferable. So you want to avoid direct interaction such as talking. But as luck would have it, they are easy to spot from far as well – this is the recommended approach. Their tribal songs are everywhere: their license plates, their T-shirts, their coffee mug, their email signature, poster on their bedroom at home and cubicle at work. They are the only ones that put pictures of IIT moments on their desk instead of family photos. I am told while on travel, domestic or international, they would put IIT on their luggage tags. The warnings are everywhere.
The first thing you should notice is that there are two “I”s in IIT, and that is no coincidence. People from IIT have the most inflated egos. Like most primitive tribes, IITs have elaborate initiation rituals called ragging: it is a mixture of juvenile antics and grotesque vulgarity that are presented in the form of degrading and dangerous rituals. IITs claim to be the cradle of greatest minds and free thinkers, and yet its inhabitants adhere to these ridiculous rituals with religious zeal. Despite their inflated ago, and may be because of it, they fail to see the irony, and are extremely proud of it. They swell with pride when they tell about the golden days of glorious ragging to their grandkids.
They are also proud of the tribal name the fellow members gave them; the proper names used by rest of the lesser mortal are too complicated for them to remember. Like a tree dwelling primates in long captivity, they would get into frenzy and holler these names when they locate a fellow member in the wildness outside IIT. Once the eye contacts are established, they would launch into the rite of reciting the glorious days of IIT, no matter how old they are or what the social settings are. They would talk about their favorite hostels, roadside eatery, and all the nauseating details that no one but their fellow tribe members find interesting.
To non tribe members, the first thing they love to talk about is AIR (all India rank), and they are full of it. For IIT students, entrance to IIT is the pinnacle of success, the crowning achievement, and they never stop crowing about it. It is saddening to see balding middle aged IIT students clinging to their AIR past midlife crisis. By the way, IIT students do not graduate: they just pass out. They leave the precious IIT as soon as their oversize ego gets big enough to block blood circulation to their head. They live with that condition for the rest of their lives. They love to say “once an IITan, always an IITan.” I am afraid so: they get out of IIT, they get old, but they never grow out of it to be a grown up.
IIT students have three genders: male, effeminate male, and masculine female. All of them shy away from normal human contact, and feel out of place in a social situation. If normal social situation is crippling for IIT students then girls are their kryptonite. Any girl would do, they do not have to be pretty. This is the only time they cannot form a sentence: they stammer, they stutter, they slobber, they suffocate, but cannot utter a sound – not even to announce that they are from IIT.
If you can live with their arrogance which is annoying; even their ignorance which is irritating; the arrogant display of their ignorance would infuriate you. Here is a banner proudly displayed by IIT students: “Everyone is welcome to IITs…Only throvgh merit.” If that was true, then how did you guys get in? Missing the primary spelling classes must be a prerequisite for IIT entrance. Don’t you think of all English phrases, the phrase “only through merit” deserves to be free of spelling error?
I have seen IIT student proudly wear T-shirts with logos that is baffling. One T-shirt reads: “Former IIT college student. Current Yahoo! Big thinker.” Really? Where is this “IIT college” located? What did you think the middle “I” in IIT stands for? Which big thinker came up with that slogan? In my life, I meet a few MIT students, but never an MIT college student. But then MIT does not claim to be the bastion of big thinkers.
The incubators of great Indian intellectuals and scientific minds are scattered with inspiring words of wisdom. A sign in one of the campus reads “Don’t throw Pooja offering in the lake.” Do I need to remind you that the “T” in IIT stands for technology? I bet Pooja is the cornerstone of scientific principle. The principles of experimentation, observation, and deductive logic are just the western propaganda. I get it, the creation of scientific super geniuses need a hefty dose of superstition. And you need a sign to tell these super geniuses not to dump garbage in a lake.
Indians are proud of their IIT and its inhabitants. In the hierarchy of desirable grooms, IIT students rank third – slightly behind NRI, which is behind the breed of exotic hybrid of IIT graduate who is also an NRI. There are rumors that when someone gets admitted to IIT from a locality the real estate value goes up. I was told this was due to the rarity of the species given a nation of billion. Given the omnipresence of the species, I doubt that is the case. The admiration is deep rooted in the inherent inferiority complex of Indian psyche that equates intelligence with an entrance exam and confines education within the boundary of an institution. Though IIT students have no impact or influence outside IIT, the admiration continues unabated.
Do not get me wrong: IITs have done a great job of producing export quality engineering labors. IITs have continued the Indian tradition of generating migrant workers: mine labors during British rule, farm workers after independence, and now the skilled labors for high-tech industry. In defense of the IIT system, some claim that in this new brave world inflated ego is the soma of these deltas: given the life long tedious mind numbing work they are trained to do, it is only humane to inflate their ego that blocks the blood flow to the brain and dulls the pain. But, considering the second hand suffering the rest of us have to go through was it worth it?
So what is the future of this tribe? Originally, there were five IITs. Each of them claims to be better than the rest. Recently, a few more are added to the pantheon, and there is talk about even more. This caused a furor amongst the tribe: quality not quantity, they said. This is the only time I agree with them. They should stop expanding this hollowed franchise: the world does not need more of these insufferable IIT graduates.