The last few months have been a period of turmoil in the family. My son has reached that phase where he has to take one the most important decisions of his life. No, I am not talking about selecting a life partner; or even deciding upon the right job or career. The question is: Should he or should he not enrol in one of those guaranteed-for-success institutes for IIT-JEE coaching like all his friends have done?
He having decided that he was not going to follow in my footsteps and become a doctor, engineering was the only other obvious choice. In his teenager lingo, doctors have such a “sad life,” meaning “too much hard work.” I did not argue with him; he did have a point! I am a prime example!
The boy just having completed Standard X and not being experienced in taking such life-changing decisions, it was left to my wife and me to give him the direction.
I started my research on the subject — the primary source being my equally ‘sad’ colleagues in the hospital. One disgruntled chap recounted how the entire family got into ‘war mode’ in preparation for his elder son’s grand entry into the hallowed portals of the IIT. They all woke up well before dawn, the father to drop him at a popular coaching centre at the other end of the city which boasted of a sure-fire formula for success, the mother to cajole her child into eating something to nourish those grey cells while he mugged up all those theorems in algebra and trigonometry and the younger son, curious about what he would get into if his parents chose the same third degree for him too later on.
In a show of solidarity with the boy, for those two years, TV and all other forms of entertainment were strictly banned. The family had an early dinner and went to bed by 9 p.m. So it was indeed heartbreaking when despite all this, the boy missed a seat in the IIT and with that an opportunity of being among those chosen few. The family went into mourning for a full month.
The boy subsequently got into another equally reputed engineering institute and is none the worse for wear (though apparently even now he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and starts dressing up — muttering something about having to attend his coaching class). My colleague now swears against this type of coaching and is dead against his younger son repeating the same mistake.
On the other hand, two of his colleagues from the same department swear by this method of regimented training. “This is the only way of getting into IIT” – they say knowledgeably. The son of one of them obtained the top rank in the State following the same modus operandi. Sacrificing two years in the prime of his life for the sake of a guaranteed future they say is quite acceptable and they have no reservations about recommending this system of education to others.
But something bothered me.
If students are going to spend two years focussing only on the methodology of cracking the IIT-JEE, what about knowledge and intellectual growth they are supposed to imbibe in these crucial years of their development? Does getting into an IIT indeed guarantee a great future for all and sundry? Do students from other colleges not excel in engineering?
I am still mulling over some of these questions. In the meantime, my son plays basketball in the evening and watches television at night.
And I continue to wake up after sunrise!
(The writer is a consultant Head and Neck Oncologist, Apollo Health Centre, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. Email: drumanathnayak@ gmail.com)