Thursday, November 24, 2005

Update: Suicide at IIT Bombay

The event might've ended as a mere ripple in the ocean, but the blogsphere is following it up promptly. Various IIT alumni have responded to the sorry event by writing about it on their blogs.

Nakula's close friend, Harsh Vardhan, writes about Nakula and events & situation which might have pushed him over the edge. Being a close friend, he provides an insight to the man, Nakula and the problems he was facing during his last days. The fact comes out that Nakula was a wrong guy in the wrong branch; while his passion lied in computers, he was a student of Engineering Physics branch which didn't give him any kicks.

BD talks about the ToI report and how insensitive & irresponsible it is on their part to make the identity public. Nikhil Jha, who appears to be a current student at IIT Bombay, tears apart the farcical ToI report. Not only the ToI folks are twisting stories to introduce a glamorous words like "hacking", they have stooped to such low levels as to misquote IIT professors! Shame on them! Desi Pundit has a small info-post.

Ritesh has done an analysis over the issue. Computers aren't to be blamed for such event - an introvert will be an introvert, be it among computers or books. Though computers certainly have provided the students with a whole lot of new options to kill time - FRIENDS episodes, movies and all. The system needs some shake-up, more on it later.

Vivek, an IITB alumni himself, draws parallels between Nakula's situation and his own final year. Further, he stresses upon the urgent issue, that is the need to find a solution for the problem.

Update: Inhas writes about the rat race prevalent in IITs. Its all so meaningless in the end, of course. Here's phoenix's take on the issue.

***

While, this particular case seems like a wrong impulsive decision on Nakula's part, it only brings forth a basic flaw in our education system. Last generation's middle class (including the parents of most IITians) have an impression, which was of course true, that very few professional courses can ensure a prosperous life for their children, e.g. Doctors, engineers, etc. Remember how the arts and commerece students were (are) scoffed in school? Only recently India has witnessed that success can come through many other unconventional ways; one need not be just a doctor or an engineer to be successful. Still, the examples are still very few but the wheel is set rolling. So, the pressure still exists to take up the conventional career path. Now, narrowing it down to the IITs - the IITs have come up as a huge brand in themselves over time. A degree from an IIT can gurantee one good job and prospects (preference in futher studies, great demand in industry). But the seats are limited and the number of aspirants has really gone through the roof - that means not all students willing to study in a particular branch can get admission in that branch. Nakula was such a case - he didn't get admission in the computer science department, so he took up what he could get - Engineering Physics. There was an inherent contradiction between what he wanted to do and what he had to do for good grades, better future.

One solution is to let them decide about their branch after spending some time (~ 1 year) studying basic engineering courses. Still what if there are more students willing to go in a particular branch? The numbers have reduced but the problem is the same. Another solution is to have huge number of electives, spread over different branches. Have something like a major-minor system. Students who feel they are more inclined towards some other branch can opt for the courses of their interest in other branches. As of now IITs, IITB atleast, allows students to apply for a branch change at the end of first year. Students can apply for a branch of their choice and if they fulfil the criteria (which is based on their academic performance in the first year) they are granted the branch change. Of course, there must be many more solutions, only if professors & authorities at IITs would stand up and face the issue constructively.

14 comments:

Nikhil said...

Yup I am 3rd year here in IITB.Same hostel the unfortunate incident took place.

And yes I support you on the electives thing.Each branch can be linked to every other through those electives,much like I think we have in US universities.
Would make things a lot easier.A lot of people (including me) are clueless after getting JEE,and end up studying something we never had wanted to in the first place.This would help to bridge the gap.

Pankaj Jain said...

My advise to the people who feel stressed out is that even the worst performer at an IIT (by the totally useless standards of CPI etc) is capable of SO MUCH that no point feeling disappointed by those lousy grades. and yeah this is no chauvanism.

About those electives and all.... yeah it will be good to keep ur conscious happy that u did learn something. but just spending thoses 4/5 great years are enuff to prepare one to face the world. In the long run i think that is what matters. "U will be ready to face the world."
My favouraites in those tell me about urself is "I learnt to learn" :)

Varun Singh said...

We have no dearth of examples ;-). Yeh "I learnt to learn" kisi to interview mein bol ke aaya tha.. wahin pe "I bite more than I can chew" bhi diya tha.. chamka nahi shayad kisi ko :-).

Ritesh said...

Still what if there are more students willing to go in a particular branch? The numbers have reduced but the problem is the same.

The problem is little different in the sense that now the student has more option. He has taken courses in Computers, Physics as well as, say maybe, Architecture. If computers seats are not enough, he can choose other interesting branches too. May be he likes Architecture more than Physics and will be happy to learn more about something that he likes now - more than physics, but less than computers.

The point is this system gets pressure off students during JEE (about ranks). It gives them 1 whole year to weigh their choices and take an informed decision (after talking to profs and seniors) rather than a decision taken based upon the branch's market value (which is many times well influenced by your family).

If people don't want their JEE rank to go in vain - maybe a combination of the JEE rank and performance in 1st year can be a criteria.

Ritesh said...

Btw, VERY good post! Very well written last two paragraphs. You said it better than what I could manage to :P

Varun Singh said...

Thanks Ritesh. Even in the current system of branch change at IITB, previous branch is taken into consideration. So JEE ranks somehow manage to affect it. But only 3-5 students are granted branch change, too little.

The debate has to be taken up at the IITs. I heard that IITB local newsgroups are buzzing with such discussions, which is definitely a good news. I've dropped an email to Sharmila, the HSS professor who wrote that email. She hasn't yet replied. I'll keep updating this space.

Anonymous said...

hey i'm a newbie in the blogosphere. anyway i was randomly surfing blogs, came across yours, couldn't resist dropping a comment since i've been reading about this tragic incident for a few days now. The amount of pressure and stress that students deal with in this we-worship-straightA-students-only society keeps mounting on an annual basis. And healthy outlets for these problems seem to be shrinking every year. I don't blame the excessive use of the internet on the IIT campus for this suicide(it is your choice after all), but I know for a fact that it is an addictive albeit passive outlet for pent up emotions, which eventually leads you to feel disconnected with the non-cyber world. regular face-to-face communication becomes more difficult.Suicidal ppl aren't alone, but sometimes they just feel like noone else will understand. They need an understanding ear.

Anonymous said...

Any chance the entire email letter of the prof. in English from ITT could be posted? Are there any follow-ups to her posting in the original mail list? That is, do you have access to what everyone is saying to her note - which is best commentary I have read so far. Courage.

Has there been a general commentary on the ToI article? That is, what do non-IITians think of the sad incident?

Will the IIT director address this issue? Will there be a change in electives, etc.? Will some politician call for a change?

Thanks.

chutki said...

Hey!

I spoke to one of my friends in IIMA when I had gone there this week.He said some of his wingies were Nakula's friends.They say his reasons for suicide were very very different personal reasons and not academic pressure as the media report it to be.Dunno how reliable/questionable media info is on this piece of news but I guess there have been umpteen instances of distorted reports,raising a big question mark oer the credibility of their reports.

AKS said...

Hi! Varun

I happened to read both your posts on the IITB boy's suicide. Somehow I do not agree with your argument of the IIT system being tough - my inputs are long and so I wrote a blog on it. Visit it here

thedq said...

I just read about *another* suicide at IIT (Kanpur this time) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1313842.cms

devindra singh said...

Well,I a student of iitk came acrooss your viewpoint.The problem that you claim have solved is not so simple as it appears from your response.You stated that it is a shear absence of focus, right.
Environment at iit's are entirely differnt.You can't skip any assignment.It's either 0 or 1 not in between.But let me ask you "WHAT MAKES A PERSON TO FOCUS". Do you know how our mind works? How it learns a topic?
And when it refuses to learn something? Well these Questions may not be new but the context in which they are mentioned here is obviously new.

devindra singh said...

Well,I a student of iitk came acrooss your viewpoint.The problem that you claim have solved is not so simple as it appears from your response.You stated that it is a shear absence of focus, right.
Environment at iit's are entirely differnt.You can't skip any assignment.It's either 0 or 1 not in between.But let me ask you "WHAT MAKES A PERSON TO FOCUS". Do you know how our mind works? How it learns a topic?
And when it refuses to learn something? Well these Questions may not be new but the context in which they are mentioned here is obviously new.

Asadullah Ansari said...

Still problem will remain same.

Case 1: Suppose A got CSE and B got
Matalurgy IIT Guwahati. A and B both have intrested of CS only.
>>> In your case B's group people has chance to attempt suicide. Okay I agree..

2. But Now suppose system has been changed.
Now A & B both got IIT Guwahati After 1st semester exam B got CS and A got civil then again A's group people has chance to attempt suicide.

just think which is better. I think 1st option is more better than 2nd. You know why Atleast before taking admission to institute, he will be able to choose branch. But In your case after one year he/she will be able to know about his/her branch. But on that time He/She can'nt do any thing. So Existing system is more better.
To reduce suicide attempt, Mental support is required in Institute.But you can'nt reduce it to zero. It depends oon people also Introvert/Extrovert/Ambivert.