Pride...and prejudice...

December 20, 2005

My spouse did his B.Sc at Shillong and later took the “by three” course at IIT Madras. I don’t think this was due to any academic drawback as he topped the European School Certificate when he finished school in Bangalore, and topped the University in his B.Sc. This may sound irrelevant bragging…but wait…it’s relevant…

When we were based in Chennai, he was added on to the IIT Alumni egroup. At the time, we had only one email id which I used to access ( my spouse has never been an active emailer, and I do most of his correspondence for him). I found that the moderator of the IIT egroup seemed a gregarious person, who seemed to have bounced back from a most horrendous brain surgery. I was quite impressed by his joie de vivre.

When some of the jokes on the egroup started getting a little risque, I wrote and said that there might be other women reading the emails and hence he might like to tone it down a little bit. To this I got a reply that he and his wife found it “very strange” that I was accesssing my husband’s email id.(How his wife was reading my email, I don’t know!) Then he asked who my husband was, as he could not place him.

I told him that MH (my husband) had done the “by three” course. I was amazed by the tone of the reply to this. He actually said (after 30 years’ interval!) that he would not have cared to know someone like MH even if he had been in the next room in his hostel, as he was a “by three” student and they didn’t like these people who entered IIT by such means when the others had got in by merit.

I wrote back to him expressing my surprise at the intensity of his response, and let him know that contrary to his reaction to my participating in MH’s alumnus activities/egroups, I had felt so welcome amongst his IIM friends that I had actually started the egroup for their batch. Not one of them looked down on me because I was a non IIT or non IIM person.

It was even more amazing to see his response change immediately. MH the IIT “by three” was not worth knowing, but MH the IIM guy was. He even invited me to be a moderator for the IIT-Global egroup. But having had a taste of the prejudice that persisted after three decades, I withdrew from the correspondence altogether.

I still feel so uncomfortable when faced with this kind of intellectual snobbery. Yes, no doubt the cream of students get into IIT and IIM. But does that mean that those who don’t get in or do different programmes are somehow lesser beings? This is something, I feel, which every intelligent IIT and IIM alumnus must introspect about. I do often see youngsters who are from the IIM’s behaving as though they are somehow superior to non-alumni. Nobody is superior to anyone else because they have more money or brains or looks…this is what I firmly believe. Those who are really accomplished find something good and interesting in every one, no matter how different the background may be. To me, goodness of heart and real humility about oneself are what mark out people who are superior to others.

If I think I am somehow superior to another..I am actually inferior.