I am not finding appropriate words for the book The Great Indian Obsession: The Untold Stories of Engineers by Adhitya Iyer. I am still feeling numb and shocked after finishing the book. It is nothing such that stories told and facts stated in the book are unknown or unheard of but the missing dots which the author has joined to bring out the whole picture doesn’t fits in the mindsets of average Indian conscious mind so these analysis and facts are simply ignored to non-existent.
First time the plights of engineers and IITians specially became public when Chetan Bhagat wrote the book Five Point Someone based on his own life and experience at IIT as a student. After that many books were written on Engineering in India and many debates were held along with the release of a blockbuster movie 3 Idiots. The Great Indian Obsession is also another addition in the long list but somehow it stands out in the crowd.
It is a hard hitting book and it hits at places it matters the most, at the core of the things. Pathetic government school conditions, expensive private schools and colleges, donations, uselessness of primary education, flourishing tuition centers, reservation issue, importance of caste over merit, never ending pressure from parents and society all these are not only proving detrimental for the education culture in the country but also pounding immense pressure on the young shoulders right from the beginning. Pushing them towards depression, taking extreme steps like ending life and many a times forcing them to give up their dreams as, according to parents and society, that will not fetch a better luxurious life.
While reading the book a thought crossed my mind. 80% Indians’s ancestors were farmers. Many of them has seen extreme poverty. Each generation wanted a better life for their children. This could be one reason why parents goes crazy about the education of their children. As they think this is the only way their children could have an assured better life than their own.
Adhitya digs deep into the history to understand this obsession for engineering and its effect. He takes us back to the times of Thomas Babington Macaulay famous British historian and politician of 1800’s who was responsible for the introduction of western culture and English in India. He was also responsible to lay the first brick of engineering in India.
Then comes our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who in his famous speeches stressed the need and role of engineers to build this country. This led to the formation of IIT institute in India. The author shared many interesting anecdotes related to the IITs.
IITs paved the way to another industry which is the coaching centers in order to crack various engineering exams along with the high secondary board exams. How the famous Bansal of Kota and other coaching center came into existence? Adhitya has given insightful details about these coaching centers which many engineer students will read constantly nodding their head in affirmation.
Adhitya has drawn an interesting analogy between factory and school. I was completely stunned and dumbfounded after reading it. I read that portion several times just to make sure that what my eyes were reading and what my brain comprehending was correct. It was mindblowing.
Adhitya has written the book in the most simplest free flowing uncomplicated manner. He depicted the story of Engineering in India right from its beginning to till date in the most politest yet blunt manner. There was no aggressiveness in his writing but a tinge of sadness was their throughout the book which every reader will feel in his/her heart as well.
This book is, no doubt, a fantastic endeavor by the author Adhitya Iyer bringing out the darker sides of the education in our country. We all are aware of it but some how don’t accept it and does don’t feel the need to do something about it.
I think with this book I take a pledge to give my offspring a freedom to choose a career of their choice, to allow them to follow their dreams and aspirations, to let them pursue their aspirations and not my or society’s obsession, to let them go.
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