The Non-IITian

This is a hilarious take on the sterotype of someone who is a "non-IIT" graduate. How they behave and what they say :) Have fun!

I argue, that with a country/a people obsessed with the IIT brand, a “Non-IITian” is as much of a brand as an “IITian” is. The difference is that its weight is shown in its absence.

In 2014, when Sundar Pichai was made Sr. VP at Google, the headlines spewed “IITian heads Product at Google”. We conclude that a successful IITian is never a surprise because of the undisputed assumptions of intelligence the label carries. So naturally, such a resumé is taken for granted. An IITian could win anything from a pulitzer prize to a horse race, and we shrug “Well, obviously, look at his credentials, he was destined to be successful”.

But for the Non-IITian, success is received with a sprinkle of doubt. The two eyebrows are raised and eyes widened in mild surprise. No headlines says “Non-IITian heads Marketing at Google”. It will instead be “Indian Origin Bloke heads Marketing at Google”; since his success cannot be blamed on a IIT label, it must be his Indian genes.

So what does it feel like to be a Non-IITian? There are different types of “them” and they all feel differently. They also come in 2 types, the secure and the insecure. Like 1000’s of engineers, I am too, a “Non-IITian” (I’m already getting an overdose of that tag as I type it repeatedly). I’ll spare me as an example, because a woman in tech is revered more than an IIT label. Successful women are rationalized with “She must be really shrewd” and women from both labels have equal chances of being either feared or dismissed with a wave of a mental hand. But men don’t have it that straightforward.

So nod your head in a polite hello, to Karthik the “Non-IITian”. Karthik, works hard to create an identity of his own, because he doesn't have a IIT label to shape it for him, and we don’t blame him!

Karthik grew up in Bangalore. He sports a goatee, wears a “Pink Floyd” tshirt and speaks the Queens english. Depending on how insecure he is, his english is either dotted with a foreign accent or he remains true to his identity and sticks to "sHedule" and looks askance at you while he autocorrects ”Dude, it is “Bombay” not “Mumbai”.

We’re not painting a likeable Karthik, unfortunately.

His 1 song guitar skills, announcing his visit to rock concerts, voicing his knowledge of rock bands and not asking you your opinion in return, hints to be invited to his dinner party are ignored because he is too cool for you, are all his feeble attempts at protecting an identity, like a king digging a moat around his fort with his bare hands because he doesn't have the budget to find slaves to do it. At 24, this Non-IITian had long hair, but he is 26 now, has a free spirited girlfriend who has curly hair, a nose-ring, double dose of kajal lined around her eyes and an OM tattoo visible on her left arm.

Karthik is smart but not that smart. If you are lucky to bump into him often, and walk alongside him one day, he will blurt out “I should have taken the JEE. I would have have gotten into an IIT, if only I took the entrance exam”. Again, depending on how less or more he thinks of you, he’ll have a range of excuses for his degree from VishyWashy Institute of Technology, from admitting to having tried and failed the JEE exams, to “If JEE tutorials wasn’t 45 minutes from home and I didn’t have a cold that day, I would have gotten into at least Double E”.

People like Karthik secretly wanted to go to an IIT, but stay calm readers, now he just wants to prove that he’s as smart as “them”. He is competitive, and will argue over “did man really visit the moon?” using wikipedia as a source and will never back down. He needs those brownie points.

Let's leave Karthik alone, shall we? Let me move you to the other side of the secure spectrum, where lying under the cool shade of a tree, reading "Discovery of India", is the non-Karthik non-IITian. The one that doesn't need a label. Some of these Non-Karthik Non-IITians are content with their perceived “incompetence”, perceived quite so because pitifully this world judges you for what you do, and not what you are. While the others are destined to get the worldly recognized labels like Google, Stanford, Wharton, IIMx, McKinsey to name a few.

Life has repeatedly proved that If you’re really good, you will reach your potential, IIT or no IIT. There are benefits of humility (I’m not asking you to forcibly be humble, but the reverse, which is pointing out that humble people are humble because they have the competence and talent). If you’re really capable, you won’t verbally push it to the world. You won’t be the Karthik that ‘would have gotten into IIT’ if he tried.

The secure, never show off, and the insecure justify their incompetence to a society that really doesn't deserve an explanation. You don’t owe anyone why you did not take the JEE or did not get through that Google interview. Many people have stars aligned for them at the right place and time, and just because your stars are a little scattered, don’t do the sour-grapes routine. Your moment of glory hasn’t come yet, so stay patient and focus on what you love. Like everything, it gets better with age, I promise.

So be a non-IITian and Wear it proud.

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