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Life rewind
Sep 28, 2011 01:18 AM 19726 Views



This book illustrates how students waste their opportunities in college years if they don’t

think straight. Through the story of three friends, the book describes various facets of IIT

life – the academics, the professors, campus life and the rat race to get better grades.


The author is more concerned about what to do after getting admission into an IIT than

the admission process itself. He points out that getting into IIT is not all that difficult as is

made out to be. As he puts it, “If you can lock yourself in a room with books for two

years and throw away the key, you can probably make it here.”

Sheer brilliance

The book brings out the sheer brilliance of IIT students in a very subtle way. One

professor mentions, “The definition of a machine is simple. It is anything that reduces

human effort. Anything. So, see the world around you and it is full of machines.” A

student, Ryan asks: “Sir, what about a gym machine, like a bench press or something?

That doesn’t reduce human effort. In fact, it increases it.” The professor does not know

how to respond. People who have studied in IITs know how students can pose fairly

challenging questions based on their common sense and without any prior knowledge and

unsettle teachers in the class.

Again, when a professor asks students to design a car jack to lift the chassis in case of flat

ties etc. Ryan draws a ‘modified screw-jack, ’ in which one does not have to open

manually and raise the jack. A flat tire does not mean the engine has failed. Hence once

can attach a motor on the traditional jack and hook it up to the car battery. If one switches

on the car ignition, the motor car derives power. Ryan is very happy with the design.

But the professor finds it difficult to accept this original thinking. The conversation

proceeds as follows:

“What is this?”

“Sir, this modified screw-jack, It can be attached to the car’s battery…”

“Is this an electrical engineering class?”

“No sir but the end need is the same…”

“Is this an internal combustion engines class?”

“Sir but…”

“If you don’t want to be in my class or follow my course, you may leave.”

This example shows that many professors at the IITs are totally unequipped to handle the

brilliant students who study there.


The Gaps

The limitations of IITs are brought out vividly in a get-together involving students. Ryan

remarks, “You know guys, this whole IIT system is sick. Because, tell me, how many

great engineers or scientists have come out of IIT? I mean that is supposed to be the best

college in India, the best technology institute for a country of a billion. But has IIT ever

invented anything? Or made any technical contribution to India? Over thirty years of

IITs, yet, all it does is train some bring kids to work in multinationals. I mean look at

MIT in the USA… What is wrong in the system… This system of relative grading and

overburdening the students. I mean it kills the best fun years of your life. But it kills

something else. Where is the room for original though? Where is the time for creativity?

It is not fair.”

The mice race

Competition is intense in the IITs. The pressures which the IIT grading system puts on

students are captured in one professor’s remarks at the end of his class: “Best of luck

once again for your stay here. Remember, as your head of department Prof Cherian says,

the tough workload is by design, to keep you on your toes. And respect the grading

system. You get bad grades, and I assure you – you get no job, no school and no future.

If you do well, the world is your oyster. So, don’t slip, not even once, or there will be no

oyster, just slush.”

The professor’s daughter had found it easier to trust Hari with the letter. She had defied

the professor, lied to him and ignored him just to meet him. Somewhere down the line,

the professor had gone really wrong.

The professor adds, “And that is when I realized that GPAs make a good student, but not

a good person. We judge people here by their GPA. If you are a nine, you are the best. If

you are a five, you are useless. I used to despise the low GPAs so much that when Ryan

submitted a research proposal on lubricants, I judged it without even reading it. But these

boys have something really promising. I saw the proposal the second time. I can tell you,

any investor who invests in this will earn a rainbow."

Hari and Alok join software companies which ironically enough were underrated in the

early 1990s. Alok makes enough money in a few months to pull his family out of the

deep financial crisis they were going through. Ryan ends up becoming a businessman,

thanks to the encouragement of Prof. Veera. A happy ending to a well written book.


The message for IIT students is captured in the professor’s address: “One, believe in

yourself, and don't let a GPA, performance review or promotion in a job define you.

There is more to life than these things - your family, your friends, your internal desires

and goals. And the grades you get in dealing with each of these areas will define you as a


The style of this book is quite different from the book “The IITians” by Sandipen Deb.

But there is a common thread. IIT students should not be made after grades. They must

spend as much time in pursuing extra curriculum activities as on their course work.

Rayan, clearly, is the hero of this book.

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