By Hema Vaishnavi:
Growing up I’ve read short stories and books that spoke about the vicious circle of life. The whole concept of life being anything close to vicious was unfathomable to me, for life to me was full of optimism and hope. Not at any point of time did I think of life to be unpleasant or sour. But today I find myself in this ‘vicious’ circle, which is not just sour but very stifling.
So how did I get here? Is it me or is it because of the system that I find myself here today? All this stems from my idea of education and the glory behind being educated. Education for better living, for being a better person and for a better understanding of us and nature. The ideal purpose of education.
So, here’s my story. Like most high school graduates in the country, I fancied getting into a good engineering college, for many reasons. My parents also thought it was better for me to get a degree in engineering than either literature or journalism. The train of life was leaving the station and I had to board it quick or I’d be lost among the throng of ‘losers’, and getting onto this train was an expensive affair. So my father and I decided to get a loan from a bank to fund my education. All went well, I got the loan and the train left the station.
As the train was leaving, my mind was filled with thoughts of the wonderful life ahead. Little did I realise that the journey wasn’t meant for me.
I’d somehow assumed that at the end of my course, I’d get a decent paying job and pay off my loan and settled down. It sounded so comforting on paper but as time passed, nothing materialised.
Throughout college, along with the pressure of staying ahead in academics and managing my personal activities, I had to earn to pay for my own expenses. Two years into college, I realised that not everyone is made to have fancy degrees. You have to be rich to have a college life. My loan wasn’t paying for the other fees that the college was collecting, it didn’t pay for my tickets, and neither it did pay for my social activities. So, here I was, with no social life, filled with performance anxiety and the stress of the loan and societal expectations.
The solution to all this was a good paying job at the end of college. So, did I get one? No.
Now, here’s the thing you need to know about having an engineering degree in India. Even if you’re not from IT or Computer Science streams, you often end up getting placed in an IT company. And this is what many engineering graduates do in India. Get a loan to get a degree and get placed in an IT company regardless of what you’ve studied, to pay off the loan. And then finally decide what they need to do in life.
Today, I find myself in a similar predicament. I took a loan, I got a degree, I got placed in an IT firm. And at the end of the day, I often find myself asking, “What is is that I’m truly doing for myself or for people around me?”
I stopped for a moment and thought, “Am I becoming yet another corporate cliché, another engineer fed into this system?”
Growing up, I had always envisaged a bright future ahead of me, one where I had a fancy degree and a great job and a pretty great life. Well, I do have a fancy degree and a job, but where is the good part? Did I lose it somewhere along the way or did the system miss out on giving it to me?
More than anything, has my education made me a better person? Am I happy? Neither am I serving the society nor my parents. The only entity that I’m serving is the corporation that I’m working for.
Is this the kind of education that our generation is deemed to have?