Friday, July 28, 2006

Where are we going friends?

‘ For years, degree colleges offering pure science courses have had few takers and even the paltry few who join are mainly those who haven’t got an engineering or medical seat. People prefer to get an engineering degree from a mediocre college than a science degree from a reputed one. Who is going to teach science to the next generation? Who is going to carry on research work in our prestigious laboratories? More engineers? Doctors with five years experience are still earning about 15 k while a raw engineer starts at 20 k plus and other benefits. Why blame the kids when the system is bad? IT companies are able to give the young people the motivation in terms of a huge purchasing power and promise of a good life – even if there is nothing beyond it that is still enough compensation for the individuals. But can the system sustain on this lopsided growth – do we plan to become so rich like the gulf nations or some of the western nations which are able to attract immigrants to do other jobs?’

I take the liberty of copying the above paragraph from Usha’s ‘Selling one’s shadow’. This is a question that has been worrying me since the past few years and I am yet to come up with an acceptable answer. I am not talking of universal acceptance. Let me find an answer acceptable to me. I’ll worry about others later.

I have three children as you may have understood. Two are in the IT sector and one is into research. So I tried to talk them into coming out with what was good and bad their respective fields. This was 2 years ago during my last visit to the US. I was interested in the Indian perspective. Working conditions in the US do not apply to Indian ones.

My son in law was quick to respond-
“After the shabby treatment you yourself have received would you ever recommend a teaching career to any one else?”

I was shocked. I had never realized that I was myself at the receiving end. I had not realized that my children had kept a close watch over my career and had expressed their anguish to the new comers in the family fold. And all the while I was under the impression that I was good at projecting the brighter side of things. I prefer to keep my own story as the last example but let me tell you what my son in law said when I questioned the wisdom of giving unrealistically high salaries to fresh graduates. It was like tempting them with money and buying their services.

“ Hasty climbers soon to fall” I concluded “ They should climb one step at a time. Getting too much and too soon is not good for them. ”

“ An IT professional has already struggled enough” he said, “ he struggles for admission to a good school, then for his entrances, exams and finally his job. He appears for rounds and rounds of interviews before he is finally selected. He struggles to stay in his job – lay offs are more a rule than an exception. Why then do you grudge him a salary that he cannot even spend? These are days of cutthroat competition. There is more tension than what you see or perceive. ‘Survival of the fittest’ in its worst form. Money is the least one can give him.”

I was no IT professional and I could not comment. I wondered if the recipients of the largesse, if I may use the term, were happy with what they were doing. I got my answer two years later when my son expressed dissatisfaction over his IT job. He had worked for a year in Chennai and another year and a half in America. He had finished his M.S. in three semesters instead of four and his job was confirmed while he was still in college. He had repaid his student loan. He was only 27 and has a long career ahead. Any one would want to be in his shoes. But he had already reached the saturation point.

“ I want to come back to India and start something on my own” he said, “ I’d rather run an motel on the National Highway than be a highly paid IT clerk. I know I’d struggle to establish it but it would be better than what I’m doing today. It is so monotonous.”

I was not surprised. I knew it would come sooner rather than later. Intelligent minds are bound to revolt. But then, he is in a position to say that. He is not married and has no liabilities. What if it were my son in law saying it instead of my son? Many would like to call it a day and be done with it all. How many could afford to actually do it? Aren’t we parents responsible for the situation in our own way? We want the best for our children that much are clear. Who is to decide what is ‘best’? What is the definition of the term? We taught them to struggle right from the day we coached them for K.G. admission.Now they seem to have no respite.I thought I had an answer but I see I have none.I have more questions now than when I begun.

I turned to my daughter who was into biochemical research. But I’ll keep it for a later post.
(To be continued)


Usha said...

Thanks for the post. Enjoyed it thoroughly.
I perfectly agree with the reasoning of the younger generation - I blame the system for not creating the right respect for the other professions in order to make them as attractive as an IT job. Other wise we would only have expertise in one area and may have to outsource skills for other areas or be left with doctors and teachers of dubious quality.
I am not grudging the salary paid to IT professionals - I am only saying pay as much to the doctors and teachers too as their job is very very crucial.
My second worry is that the money and comfort blunts their vision - not many are willing to take the risk like your son and realise that they re only IT clerks. The comforts and lack of better alternatives makes them settle down into that kind of life where all their creativity and talents just die away - what a waste of some of the creamiest layer of our youth energy!
Policies have to be reconsidered, planners must look ahead and not be content with the short term dollar providing job market, conditions have to be created so that other sectors get equal importance and if necessary incentives provided. IISC used to have a scheme of scholarship for studying pure science for students with exceptional merit. I wonder if it still exists.
Children which natuarlly drift to the sector that has most value ( equated to some degree with earning power) motivated by peer pressure. The system has to check the lopsided through appropriate measures.
Looking forward to more discussions.

Hip Grandma said...

usha:my son has only expressed his desire to may not be easy actually doing it.i know a few who have turned down good offers to return to India.they are apalled at the snobbishness of the NRI children.the way people go out of their way to pamper them.India is not the same they lament.they'd prefer to bring their children up as middle class americans - at least that's what they are right when you say that policies have to be restructured.i've worked on " Identification of High risk behaviour" in Jamshedpur with regards to AIDS.our policy makers avail 5 star facilities and air travel - they haven't paid the pittance that was our due.the report has died a natural death.i sometimes wish i was less sensitive.i cannot help being what i am.

starry said...

Wonderful thought provoking post.true money and comfort does blind a young person.dont know what is take risks or to continue what you studied for and support your family.

Movie Mazaa said...

a few of my nieces are in the IT sector and often I hv heard them whining abt having the worst jobs in the world. more than a few times, i have sat down and talked with them, forcing them to take a look at the brighter side of things. u know, the - u r just 27, and u have travelled across half the world, and u get to spend loads of money as and how u please, and u r enjoying liberty to its fullest - kinda thing. until one of them blankly stared back at my face, and quipped - 'i'd like to live as well.'

that said it all.

Hip Grandma said...

starry nights:you earn money to be able to live a good long as you don't let money rule your life i guess it is i said it is not easy taking risks.

velu:it is good that the younger generation realizes that they need to 'live as well'.they are an intelligent lot and are bound to find a middle path.