Why things need to change

Heads up, this is a serious article.

If there’s one thing about Bajaj above others that really cannot be praised to any end, it is the faculty; especially some of the visiting lecturers. To give you an example, Mr. Nani Palkivala used to teach in our college till the early 90’s. Probably the most respected lawyer in post-independence India used to teach a law-related subject (I’m guessing business law) in the third semester. When I heard that, I got gooseflesh.

I, like most of us, grew up in an education system that places undue emphasis on theoretical correctness rather than imaginative understanding. I conformed, because I was not courageous enough to rebel. Like a coward, I copped out of doing a degree in literature and got into engineering, knowing full well that it was writing where my heart lay. I dragged through four years, and would have been intellectually dead had I not discovered quizzing. I’m sure many of us have been on this same assembly line, and I was fortunate to not have been burdened with that final fixture of working as an anonymous software engineer in a mass recruiting giant. We’re all products of a messed up system that makes every effort to stifle imagination and develop an army of ‘employable’ clones.

Once I came to Bajaj however, I was determined not to repeat my mistakes and I’ve tried to do things I want to, and not things I should ideally do. An MBA college can also become an assembly line of another kind, if you let it; knowledge can become subservient to placements. But nowhere else is this point driven home as strongly as during the lectures of the visiting faculty. There are industry captains, most of them our own alumni; people who hold positions we can only aspire to hold.

And they don’t touch a single textbook during any of their lectures.

What they teach is the practical reality, which is not as black and white as theory. Almost all of them exhort us to understand basic concepts, but to not confine ourselves to the books; to look at the big picture, and not fret over the accuracy of minor details. As managers, we will need to go by feeling and gut sometimes, and can’t refer to theory for every little detail. We will need to take a call on things and stand by our decision even if things go south. The people who teach us have done all this, and come out on top.

When I look at these people, I feel unfortunate. Because I seriously doubt that I or any of our generation has the ability to achieve what they have achieved. Not exactly for lack of potential- although some of these teachers seem to be straight geniuses- but because of our mentality. I’m sure there are some of my classmates that have it in them to be great people, but the system has gotten our priorities skewed. We’re worried about winning competitions, not enjoying the process of participation. We’re studying for marks, not for learning. And all of this to ‘build our CV’.

Something tells me that these successful people didn’t worry too much about the trappings of success; they just wanted to be as learned as possible. Success then came to them. I too want to make a conscious effort to do the same, and am sure my batch mates also feel the same way. In a way, this above everything else will be our true learning in these lectures. I hope I have not harped on too long over this, but I felt I should share some of the simultaneous awe for the lecturers, and disappointments with our own lot that I sometimes feel.

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