Sunday, November 27, 2005

Its a question of focus - silly!!

Varun in this post reports an unfortunate suicide at the IIT-B campus. In the same posts he points to apparant apathy of the administration at the IIT regarding the serious incident.

He later wrote an update on the same issue, which in a way clarified some early judgements that he might have suggested which on closer analysis turned out to be incorrect.

He says that despite this case not being the right example - the system at the IIT is tough for some who ends up being the wrong person in the wrong place pursuing the wrong career.

Well if that is the case - then why blame the IIT or its system. A person is going to be stressed, if he is in a place he doesn't want to be in and he is doing what he doesn't want to. Most of us face times when we are in a similar situation and are hence stressed. The stress leads to something as drastic as suicide if the condition persists and one is helpless, unable to address the situation. The case of this IIT boy belongs to this category(his father it seems does not want him to be popularised for what happened - hence no names or links here).

The question to ask is why do people reach such dead ends ??

In nut shell because of peer pressure, fear of failure and burden of expectations. Too heavy? Let me explain

Peer Pressure
One finds umpteen examples of students taking of careers because their friends chose it and/or that career is considered the 'in' thing. Add to this a lack of awareness of alternative careers among students and parents alike. By the time they realise that they married someone they don't like - its too late. Unlike a bad marriage - a dioverce is next to impossible with a career.

Fear of Failure
It is in our environment. We don't accept failures as a part of life. People who failed at a few things are often branded good for nothing. Thus no one wants to fail - atleast not visibly. So they go on - try hard - not to fail, even when a person feels he/she is not into something that appeals to himself/herself.

Burden of Expectations
A typical child in India grows under the load of expectations of parents, friends, teachers and whoever is around. A very large number of Indian students live their parents' dreams - careers that they could not pursue or achieve. I became an engineer because I was good at math and everybody made me believe thats what I should naturally be doing. I thank God that I never hated Engineering as much - but who knows I might be worth more in some other career. (I eventually found one is a different matter)

Opportunity Cost
There is another very important reason - like a incessant vicious spiral - a person first delays his decision to go back on his commitments to a career gradullay increasing the cost of going back. When he finally decides to go back the opportunity cost seems unsurmountable.

I meet many students who decide to pursue management under the influence of one or more of the above reasons - but find it really difficult to cope with the demands that it heaps upon them in terms of preparation for entrance exams. However by the time they would realise it they might have spent a couple of ten thousands on preparation and another similar figure into applying for various exams and to various colleges. This will push them into somehow cruising along to get selected to an institute/course they never dreamt of. Once out of the B-School isn't it foolish to say - well I don't want to become a manager you see.

Its a question of focus you see. If one is clear about one's objective and does not settle for anything less - he will never commit suicide - even when he fails. Are parents, students and those who blame the system for everything - listening? I hope they do.