Friday, March 13, 2009

Prop culture

It is a Friday evening and I am still working when someone walks past me to the elevator (obviously going home). They look at me and go "Have a good weekend, don't work too hard."
What kind of a sick joke is that? Who says that to a grad student? Don't work too hard. Bah. Good weekend. Bah-er.

Nineteen years in any education system, even the Indian one, should give you some sense of what you like and what you don't in a profession. Though the Indian school system forces its choices on you, it prepares you for everything. Everything including mediocre colleges, dispassionate teachers, unethical attendants and unnecessary bureaucracy. I most certainly sympathize with those who aren't fortunate enough to be pursuing exactly what they want because of financial, academic or familial issues. But for those, who strive and push themselves (and others) hard in college to get an engineering degree and then treat it like a paper napkin while they tuck into money lined management (or other unrelated) jobs, I can only have contempt in its purest form.
No offense to anyone who has found their true calling only after wasting four years in a degree you never were going to use. However, there are others who change their career path after prolonged sessions of "passionate" questioning, cross-questioning and cross-examining a professor in class over a simple amino-acid sequence to a financial fiasco. I am sure they have a fantastic excuse for it. But it is what it is, an excuse. It can never be a reason. Treason? Sure. Reason? Never.

There is some part of me that feels really bad for the banks that are falling all over each other, about talks of the glorious bronze Wall Street bull being replaced by a bear and for people expecting Obama to lift this sobbing child of an economy with his strong Democratic arms overnight. But for the cross-examining ship-jumpers, I have only one thing to say - Ha. Ha. (Like Nelson in the Simpsons)

Academia will never go out of business.

Color: Cinthol soap green
Song: Yaar yaar sivam


Sripathi G. Raj said...

Feeling sorry for banks? The only reason they are being propped up is to prevent the economy from coming to a halt. There's nothing to feel sorry about. The bankers have nothing to complain about. They are not personally affected by this like we are.

Deepu Vasudevan said...


Feeling sorry for the banks as in feeling sorry for the employees therein and the havoc it is creating. Not for the morons who run the place.
And you are kind of missing the point of the post. :P

maneesh said...

i dunno.. i'm probably missing the point too but somehow after 4 years of engineering, i liked engineering, 2.5 years after grad school i don't see the point of fundamental research anymore. its like evasion i'm beginning to think.

and i dunno about the usa, but i see the profs here and i'm sure as hell i don't want any part of it in the future...

avestin said...

"I most certainly sympathize with those who aren't fortunate enough to be pursuing exactly what they want because of financial, academic or familial issues. But for those, who strive and push themselves (and others) hard in college to get an engineering degree and then treat it like a paper napkin while they tuck into money lined management (or other unrelated) jobs, I can only have contempt in its purest form."

Yeah, I also despise myself - doing something I hate (but then again I don't like anything else, nor am particularly good at something) and wasting many years of my life for it. Pathetic, I know.

Janani (used to be Anaztazia) said...

"academics will never be out of business"

and it feels nice for a change to have a secure job.

all that self-destructive cross questions seems worth it after all ;)

my excuse for staying in graduate school is this : i'm not sure what else i can do. and although i feel less competent about my work each day, i feel even less equipped to do anything else. and so... i accept my self(&ill) chosen fate :)

have an ok week, work or attempt to work or whatever. but try not to die in the process ;)

Anonymous said...

When you say that there are those who treat engg. degree as napkin when they join mgmt jobs, you are definitely right, but, to an extent. Contempt is as personal as any other emotion, but I differ here. Engineering really opens up one's mind and changes the horizon of one's mind. People start thinking in a very different manner. So there are definitely chances that he or she may realize his true calling after joining the course. For example if this realization comeas in 1st year, what shall a student do...leave the!!...he has to continue, and onlt then can he shift orbits.
But yes, if this shift is only happening for the sake of money...then I wont be surprised to see their downfall.

Great thoughts lady..n no harm meant to you when I differ in opinion. Everyone has one ;-)

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Maneesh (Kunte?)

Well, the idea is that you don't feign passion.
I think the Indian education system can be blamed for a lot of the confusion we feel. Fundamental research requires a certain compromise with the money you make, the hours you put in and the thanklessness of it all.
No money, tons of hours and zero thanklessness. But I think there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. Thanks for stopping by here too!

Whatever it is you are doing, you aren't doing it for the wrong reasons. So it is very acceptable to me. And pathetic is something I'd apply to ship-jumpers, not to oyu. For you, I think I have a lot of respect for the science you do. Believe it or not.

That is/was my thought process exactly when I joined grad school. I know I like what I do. And I know I don't want to do anything else. But why am I not doing what I can do as well as I can?:D

I've checked up with people, we aren't the only ones. ;)

Thank you for stopping by. I agree with you that some people just suffer through engineering while realizing that their calling lies else where. I really sympathize with them. But as I told Saffy above, money as a motive sucks.

Sandeep said...

Why do you think everyone would know what they want to pursue? In fact, a majority, about 90% or more, would have no idea what they want to do. So, in some ways the forced choices might be a blessing for the lost soul.
It is a totally different argument that if she were not forced, she might explore lots of things and might get to know what she wants to do, and pursue.

Also, it might be possible that want you want changes with time. There is nothing wrong about being materialistic. You get a BE to land in a well paying job, and later realize you might earn better if you have a management degree. There are many people who don't care what they do if they get what they want (say money) in the end.

Change is constant.

Deepu Vasudevan said...

I think we are exposed to quite a variety of things before we get into college and even after, hence my thinking that we must have SOME idea of what we like. And I make the exception for those who meet the love of their career after getting married to engineering school. A lot of it is because Indian education is about getting on the bandwagon and doing the 'in' thing.

And I completely understand wanting money etc. but there are other undergraduate degrees you can do before management. No point in throwing away four years of technical education. If you spent ten minutes in my class in college, you'd understand what I am saying. People were so passionate about waht they were learning- why? Just so you could throw it out the window and surrender to green?

Sandeep said...

You know what's with we above-average-but-not-genius Indians, we can do a variety of things..
we are smart enough to scratch our brains to solve a complex differential equation or a puzzle.. we can also also do non-analytic or monotonous work, which doesn't need lot of thinking, with equal ease..
So, we'd be excited enough to show interest in class to anything that is thrown in.. and choose a well paying job some time later.

Graduating as BE in India is like graduating high school in US. We all need basic education :)
We'll see what we need to do later, if we have time :))

Deepu Vasudevan said...


That is an almost acceptable answer. But I still have reservations about these people.
Most of all for IITians.

Sandeep said...

IITians are not very different. Really. ok, at least not all :)

Mathangi said...

So why is money such a dirty word all of sudden? We dont do all that badly as grad students now, do we?

I think of engineering college simply as a place where you learn how to think in a scientific, analytical manner: a skill which one is free to use in whichever way h/she deems fit. And God knows we need to be able to do that and do it right:)

Anonymous said...

12 years in the Indian school system gave me a sense that there were a whole lot of things I did not want to be doing - starting with engineering (or, better put, anything remotely related to mathematics) and medicine.

A further 3 years of college had me questioning whether the path I had chosen was indeed what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. By then, the one thing that the Indian educational system DID drive into me was that I did not want to be a part of it any more. So, off to working life.

Oh, the one other thing it gave me is an enormous amount of respect for those (particularly from none-too-rich families) who choose to pursue a career in the arts.

I guess this is turning out to be another of those comments that are besides the point of your post. So rather than add anything new, I'll just say I agree with Sandeep above that an undergraduate degree in India is like basic education. :)

The Indian schooling system prepares and pushes you mostly towards an engineering or a medical degree - that people then pursue with enthusiasm because they worked so hard to get into whatever colleges that they did get into.

It's after a couple of years of working, and a degree of financial independence, that maybe, just maybe, you do get to explore what you want to be doing.

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Sandeep, Rohan, Mathangi

I agree that engineering is like basic education in India and that to a large extent our parents and the "society" shove us into stereotypical careers. My gripe is not with those who use with a clear mind decide to use engineering to do what they want, or decide during the course of engineering that money is their priority - but with those who claim to be passionate about what they do but turns out not for the love of the subject but only because it leads to an unrelated but money-making job. This is probably not a practical viewpoint but it is what it is.

Thanks for Stopping by
Good girl, thank you for commenting.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, Deepu. Your blog makes interesting reading. Came here through a search for Raymond Chandler, though. :)

Deepu Vasudevan said...


Raymond Chandler?!
Google/Yahoo has weird ways of searching. You keep a nice blog too!