Updated: Jan 27
I’m from Bihar, Nalanda District. Where I belong, cracking IIT is a big thing. So I’m the first IITian from my family, and since many of them are engineers, you get a lot of recognition. So here you lost a lot of human capital: nobody tells you what to do after cracking IIT. This is very dangerous as per me.
I’m OBC rank 2800, and got Maths and Computing luckily due to the category. But the kind of experience built in the coaching centres, we were afraid: of freedom, of responsibility. I had left school in class 9 and went to Patna. Luckily I had parents who gave all possible support for my education. I was happy that I had a nice rank, but I didn’t know what I was missing: I did not have soft skills, was not good at English. I didn’t realise that the world existed beyond MCQ’s.
My roommate had an amazing rank, was very fluent in English, I was awkward in communicating with him. I felt isolated in my department. The first day I came to my hostel, I felt the judgement of my roommate’s parents and their dim view of me because of my category. My father came wearing slippers while other’s parents came in shoes, and I’m ashamed to say that I felt embarrassed by my parents. I shouldn’t have, and that was so stupid.
I had come here using a simple keypad phone, and now I had so much internet access. My earlier tight schedule didn’t hold. My ELL100 professor spoke in English too tough for the majority of us to understand; I stopped going to class. Then there was NLN class, which was nothing but an embarrassment. In the same class, you have a guy from Bihar and a guy from an international school. People would clap when I would speak! Self-confidence was utterly finished. Somehow, I got through that. Anyway, I got a little idea on how to speak through that.
At home, nobody was asking how I’m studying, whether I’m studying, since they were all awed that I was in IIT. I couldn’t relate to my roommates talking so much to their parents. In my first year I got a CG 6-7, didn’t know what electives to take since I didn’t have any future plans. For so many years my only plan was to be in IIT, so when you get in there is an ego factor that comes into play. You value people less, you take things for granted. I’ve lost many friends from my hometown and didn’t make any friends here, so I got isolated. There was porn addiction, due to lack of oversight and internet all of a sudden.
My second year was aimless, looking at people in my department I felt that I had no competition with them. I had differentiated myself from them; I had no discussion with them about the studies or anything.
I had a girlfriend from school times. She couldn’t get in IIT, she tried to get in Aligarh Muslim University. I was in love with her, but then that I-am-something complex started taking over. I used to talk to her in a toxic manner, and I understand that you cannot bear a person beyond a point. So she left me.
I understood what was loneliness. I started studying philosophy, metaphysics, nihilism. Watched videos on youtube. I started smoking. Never in my life had I done anything. I was a religious person, I’m from a Muslim background. There was this fear that I might cross a threshold after which I won’t feel that it’s bad. I had now crossed this threshold. People told me to smoke, to try weed. These people gave me a place, asked about my happiness. They may be toxic to me, feeding me bad habits, but they were at least identifying my existence.
I didn’t go to classes. I used to somehow get a 6 grade by studying last moment in mathematics courses, and about 4 in others. With smoking, my analytical skills took a hit. I left studying altogether. There came this semester in 3rd year where I took just 10 credits, including a mini-project. I got an F grade, my health worsened. I had just given up, I believed I had no comparison to these people in my batch.
People in my hometown were expecting big things. I used to talk to them about how big IIT Delhi is; the enormous placements, the facilities, the internships at Goldman Sachs, the university connections. But I was not doing anything at all.
My parents come from a decent financial background. My expenses skyrocketed; I would spend about 10-12 thousand a month. I didn’t eat from the mess at all. I took some coaching, which got me about 5-6 thousand. All my money I would spend freely.
Slowly I started realising that something is not right. At the advent of the fourth year, I took a step back. I thought about who I am, what I want to do, what will be best for me. I would think that IIT holds no hope for me; I will have to leave my degree or something. Then I discovered Actuarial Science; it basically assesses risk for insurance companies. I liked it, and I already had some interest in Maths. Its membership exam is ASAT, and its level is class 12 board level paper. I couldn’t clear it.
I thought, what is this? What has happened to me? I cannot clear a class 12 board level paper? I thought my level is absolutely abysmal. I started doing statistics courses. I did a low number of credits. Somehow, I passed the papers and went for an interview for RBS(Royal Bank of Scotland). I didn’t know coding or English. But I still passed the interview. That gave me confidence, and I started studying more.
When I went for the internship, I was very under-confident, as I didn’t know coding. But I quit smoking, and I got a direction as to where I should work. The internship went well, I learned a lot with the group of people I was with, I got more and more confidence. I pushed my limits at work; I wanted to see how much I can do. I saw a positive aspect to IIT; I felt that I got selected because I was in IIT. They offered me a PPO, which was amazing.
I’m still doing the older courses, like NEN. But now I have much more clarity since I’ve seen how bad things can be. I’ve always been first in my school, always in the limelight. I liked the recognition and appreciation, which I didn’t get here. It took me time to learn that the world will not give you appreciation or recognition easily; you will have to work long times without both. I missed classes 11 and 12, and now I think it’s such a big thing to miss them when I cannot write a paragraph.
Being from OBC, being a category, gives you a lot of inferiority complex. There is segregation in study groups. People stare in disbelief when you get more groups, and you feel that people don’t expect category people to go beyond a certain level. People are amazed if you do something amazing, they have this mentality. I think, if I was to meet a kid like me, I would get him counselling. Laziness and procrastination are symptoms. Maybe the kid is feeling dissociated, feeling alone. It’s a heterogeneous society. From where I come, we have tea stalls, not coffee shops! How are people like us supposed to feel at home?
My MTech project is going amazing, and I think I have the highest grade in my department.
I didn’t have an option to fix my act. I fixed myself because I had to fix myself. I cannot live my life having dropped out; there are things I was born to do. Bringing things into discipline took me time. I am glad I’m graduating this semester, despite whatever I did. There are still uncertainties, but things turned out well.
Interviewed by Vyomesh Tewari