Of IITs and Attitudes

When I entered IIT Bombay as a freshman, I was welcomed by the sight of people wearing bright colored T-shirts with the following tagline:

You say it’s attitude, we say it’s superiority – IIT Bombay

attitude problem?

This was too much “attitude” for me (even with my freshie AIR induced air), and I thought IIT transforms everyone into arrogant individuals.

I was so wrong…

4 years at IIT Bombay, did just the opposite – they HUMBLED me! at regular intervals!

There was no other option. All around me I could see people who could do fantastic things, better than me in almost every field! From the guitarist who could pull-off a slash lick with unnatural ease; to those Inter-IIT footballers who could effortlessly tackle the ball like pros; to the guy who would make sense of numbers as if he were Neo in Matrix; to my neighbor who is going to be the next big thing in hedge-funds; to his roommate who could spend the whole morning sleeping in the classroom, spend the entire day watching FRIENDS episodes (with me 🙂 ) and still score an AA in that exam; to the friend who can start at 4:00 am with nothing but a few nuts and bolts and a can of shaving gel and single-handedly make a working machine by 8:00 am; to our department topper who could do all of the above!; till the start-up guy whose company he founded in the second year made waves across the globe while he was still in college – I was surrounded by people every single one of whom I could idolize!

For me and a lot of other classmates, all school and college toppers, this was the first realization, that we were so AVERAGE! Yes, part of the Elite/Cream, and yet average**. Whenever we thought, we were better than the rest at ANYTHING, we were brought back to the ground by meeting people who had outdone us at that! The best part was, that this was not depressing or discouraging in any way – instead it motivated us by giving us a goal – to better ourselves; and showing us that it is indeed possible!

We used to hear this saying very often “Abe, Hawa main main ud!” [don’t try to fly in the air!] and maybe it is the sentiment that it echoes that kept us firmly rooted, humbled! I think thus being part of this “average elite” was a very good position to be in: instead of being arrogant elitists, we became confident and humble.

We had the confidence to say

I don’t understand a single word of what you’re talking, but give me a deadline and I’ll get it done by that time!

But,  at the back of your mind, you know,

there are 600 other batchmates who could do just the same, maybe differently, but probably better!

* Ojas, a batchmate, pointed out that he had posted on a similar thought. More proof that other batchmates think on similar lines.  Read the post here here (I recommend you have a look at other posts on the blog too! Fascinating perspective and very honest posts!)

**Anyway, average IS the new exceptional 🙂 If you don’t believe me, watch this:

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5 thoughts on “Of IITs and Attitudes

    • Hey thanks for pointing that out Ojas! An excellent example of the fact that this thought is indeed shared by a majority of the students here. I am adding your link to the post.

  1. Could not agree with you more on this. And, I think that’s an important life lesson. The challenge is to retain the humility, I guess! 🙂

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