They sell their souls and four years of their life hanging on a promise that they will be bestowed with some kind of world-changing ability of technological mastery, only to realize later (when it is too late) that they have been trapped and are left hanging in a vicious limbo for all eternity with a hollow soul, no discernible skill sets, unsure of who and what they are and what they will do for a living. Casualties of misguided career choices and a victimization industry, they are the B.Tech Victims. I am one. Chances are, many of you who are reading this are too.
But who are they really?
The official government recognized moniker for B.Tech Victim is "Engineer". But in most cases, engineers of today have got to do with engines as much as Akshay Kumar has got to do with sensible movies. B.Tech Victims:
- Spend and waste years hanging around an engineering college trying to get a degree somehow.
- Have almost no subject matter expertise on whatever they have "studied".
- Are not taught what might be required for a job, forget for engineering R&D and stuff.
- Are unemployable to a large extent. That is, they possess no skills which might interest an employer.
- Are frustrated, demoralized, generally lost and have no clue what to do in life or for a career.
- Spend a lot of time just mugging up textbooks and vomiting them on paper for "marks", which they somehow think will redeem them.
- Can waste tons of paper writing exams (not necessarily about the subject).
- Lack any sort of soft skills like communicative abilities, language, general knowledge and presentability, in addition to low self-esteem and confidence levels.
- Know how to operate Windows XP and and the Internetz.
Overall, B.Tech Victims are those who have no clue where they are heading. A soul officially becomes a B.Tech Victim on receipt of a sheet of paper declaring so in some fancy Gothic font.
Overview of the Engineer Engineering Industry.
B.Tech Victims are mass-produced in India through engineering colleges. These engineer-producing factories range from those existing only on paper or set up in warehouses or rented-out buildings or own buildings to huge fully fledged campuses. At last count, there were around 13 lakh engineering seats in about 3200 colleges in India. AP tops with 2.5 lakh seats and TN comes second with 1.5 lakh. Even Kerala has around 40,000 seats. So, you have to work pretty hard if you DON'T want to get into an engineering college today! When this poor soul was trying to become a B.Tech victim in 1999, there were only around 2500 seats open for general quota under merit in Kerala. Today, it has become a free for all. For instance, there are 7 engineering colleges within a 25 km radius of my home today, and I don't even live near any major city!
B.Tech Victims are of different kinds, depending on the type of Engineering College they come from:
- The Indian Institutes of Technology, RECs and such snob places, where you have to be super intelligent to get into and then cram your life away so you can get into IIMs. People also get drunk and smoke up on rooftops here and later become famous in life writing books about it.
- Government/Aided/"High Quality" engineering colleges are the older and more recognized lot of the non-IIT type with better faculty and standards. Admission to these colleges the the purpose of the "entrance rat-race" as their brand value assures at least some semblance of a career.
- Private Engineering Colleges are dime a dozen and form the rest of the lot. They are mostly operations for promoters to make a quick buck and are usually bereft of quality anything. Graduates from these colleges excel at skills like foot-board traveling, movie-watching, assignment copying, chai drinking etc, but are generally unemployable. I would say these are the root cause of the B.Tech malaise.
This post applies to 10% from type 1 colleges above, 50% from type 2 and 90% from type 3, the remaining are the ones who actually achieved something from the entire process maybe by some quirk of fate. Sideline: Then there are these type of colleges. Especially those in TN, with their cruel and draconian rules "preventing" the totally outrageous practice of girl-boy mingling. This cruelty destroys the best lives of a generation of poor kids, killing any chance of having a meaningful relationship in their lifetime... These colleges spend more time and resources playing moral police and acting as virginity keepers rather than imparting education.
The Origin and Evolution of a B.Tech Victim
After 12 years of mastering the art of reading, writing and useless Trigonometry, high school graduates will be told to acquire some kind of professional certificate that can be bartered (hopefully) for them to earn a living. And of course, no one really thinks that "learning" anything has got to do anything with this. Some "Degree" is enough! Clueless kids and parents will look around to find an easy way out, and come to the conclusion: "B.Tech!" Why the hell not? Even in these globalized days, most people, especially elders in India believe acquiring a "degree" is the key to a job, career, love, riches, SUVs, green cards and world domination. Of course, The fancier the degree is, the more your chances are!
- Everyone you know is an "engineer" or is in the process of becoming one.
- Parents. They think making their kid (who obviously has other passions) an engineer is the "in-thing" to talk in their social circles and to relatives, and some even think that an "engineering" degree will land them an assured confirmed seat in the next Emirates flight to San Francisco (via Dubai)
- With a gazillion seats available, becoming an engineer looks pretty easy!
- B.Tech promises no risk or much work, a guaranteed certificate and some "software" job.
- "A degree for the sake of a degree" people. B.Tech is decidedly more glamorous than, say, a B.Com.
- There are other more interesting career paths, but why take the risk? This is what everyone does!
- A B.Tech degree will of course increase your value in the marriage market.
- And there are also a large lot who believe by become an engineer they are going to acquire masterly powers for technological wizardry that is going to change the world and all that.
Agents armed with glossy brochures showing victims seated at rows of post-expiry date computers, bored seniors run out of ragging victims, "know-it-all" elders full of air and "look at Mrs.Nair's son!" type comparison case-studies and the sub-industry of "entrance coaching" all help in the decision-making process of creating B.Tech Victims. Once a seat is ensured either by merit, reservation or exchange of currency, the process starts. Most would-be victims will have no clue what "engineering" they would be doing at end of four years. All they would have is some vague idea that they would be learning something about computers and after four years would be boarding a Volvo bus to work as a "Project Leader" with some "Software MNC" in Bangalore or such. Ah, the delusion! Uninformed parents, the reason many students are pushed into engineering courses despite not being interested in it, will be beaming with pride, convinced that their wards will be inventing the next wheel after four years and pump their entire life savings into the process. What a waste of good money!
As time goes on, many students quickly get bored with pointless subjects and meaningless assignments. The really uninterested just ignore it all and pile up backpapers, some as a way to get back at the system that pushed the burden on B.Tech upon them. Some take solace thinking that maybe things will get interesting later. But as time progresses, frustration much sets in, with questions like "What the fuck am I doing here?" will be repeated to the self and to birds in the air with increasing frequency. As time still goes on, the smarter ones will realize the futility of it all, and the devastating feeling of having become a B.Tech Victim slowly sets in. Those who realize that all this is a waste of time turn towards the finer pleasures of life because why not enjoy atleast something, because in the end the "topper" is not going to be any better off than they are.
Sometime during the third year, around 2 months become the year exams, an engineering student will wake up one not-so-fine morning and look back on the past three years with horror and towards the future in terror. In around a year plus he/she will be an "engineer" and they still don't know shit about any engineering or anything else that could make them bearable for any employer. They realize that the fun is almost over, and a frantic search for "what to do next" ensues. However, the more enlightened of the lot know it is all futile again, and reach for that next peg. The total simpletons, still unaware, will continue to wallow in their bliss of ignorance. This goes on until the day it is all over, and a fresh batch of B.Tech victims are spat out into the big bad world. The realization soon hits them hard that they are utterly useless and don't know anything else but to stare blankly, and they are at par with liberal arts and commerce degree holders. Out of those who pass, that is. Only 15% of B.Tech students pass in the first attempt and the others toil on for more years to clear off their back papers, ending up in a quagmire and a death trap.
Career Options for B.Tech Victims
Every year, lakhs of zombified masses are turned off the B.Tech assembly line, and a whopping 78% out of these are estimated to be unemployable. Even after spending 4 years (some, more) of cramming pointless, outdated and indigestible subjects down the throat, B.Tech Victims still lack any sort of skills which may appeal to an employer. At the same time, they are stripped of their natural talents, their brains are stiff and minds numb that most will not acquire any reasonable skills in their lifetime. What skills can you acquire by mugging up "tailor made" textbooks and vomiting them on answer sheets? That just does not work.
Most B.Tech Victims are easy fodder for institutes like NIIT, where they spend tens of thousands of bucks more and 6 months trying to find the soul of Java or C++, after which they can settle down to become code-coolies. Many get through to some companies by merit or sheer hard-work and even get trained by them! But those employers are not dumb. They make sure that the Victims are totally utilized till the last drop of life blood is squeezed out of them. Then there is MBA, which is another scam altogether and the same story all over again, after which the B.Tech Victim will become a B.Tech+MBA Victim, and make excellent peddlers of personal loans and pre-paid SIM cards. Then there are BPOs/Call centers, various sales jobs, teaching and a plethora of other non-engineer-y options to make a living.
But believe it of not, there is a silver lining to all this.
Since B.Tech victims are not going to exactly create the next engineering masterpiece such as inventing the next wheel or build the next Google, Taj Mahal, Boeing Jet or Space Shuttle or maybe anything related to "engineering", the world is their oyster! They can choose to do anything you want! For example, I know a civil engineer managing mobile advertising products, a computer engineer selling loan products, a mechanical engineer who is a JAVA wizard, another computer engineer being a BPO team lead, a chemical engineer who is a bank branch manager and so on. Which other course offers such a wide array of career options? Let me know some if you know in the comments...
It may be important to get an education and a job. But not as important as getting a degree! This "Degree Fixation" is one of the colonial hangovers the British have left us, along with Cricket, the (creaking) Railways, "do the needful", Fair & Lovely and Victorian Culture (which people today mistake as 'Indian Culture'). A generation ago, a degree, maybe B.A., was considered the thing to have made it in life. Only that today it has shifted to B.Tech. If we think our parents were frustrated that they did not achieve anything in life because of useless education and we are doing it differently, we are wrong. We are going exactly the same way. We are all just Kittunnis who are Elephant B.A.s.
Many people were of the opinion that students of "engineering" are too complacent themselves, with no effort being put into doing real projects or putting real effort into acquiring subject knowledge. Well, take these below into account, which are the real reasons for so many B.Tech Victims:
- Uninformed parents forcing kids (who have other passions) into engineering streams thinking easy job/made life
- Uninterested kids somehow trying to finish the course and get the hell out
- Colleges with no trained faculty, no facilities and no infrastructure other than fleets of government reject buses
- No real knowledge imparted, bought out projects and mugged up degrees.
As 80% of students have no interest in the subject and somehow try to finish the course, the remaining who have some interest will be affected by the same complacency. And even if thy do have some spirit and interest in the subject, there are no adequate support systems including knowledgeable faculty members (who are usually ex-students of the same college, joining after they just graduated) to help them materialize their ideas. As a result, B.Tech Victims who after spending 4 years in these concentration camps emerge in some cases with no skills, no ideas, no talents and their souls dead and in some cases with serious relationship issues and some even become alcoholics. And parents, of course, blame the kids. However, reports that tens of thousands of seats are going vacant across the country is welcome news.
So what can you do? Make most of your time there.
In any case, there are some things that B.Tech Victims take away from their college, which are the fun that they have, the friends they make and the pleasures of the finer things in life. So all B.tech Victims, make the most of your time there and have fun while you can. Go around a bit, explore the country, get a girlfriend/boyfriend, laugh a lot, have fun. Because you won't be having any after those four years.
Also, Make good plans for your future, what you initially wanted to become. Do not let your dreams die in those morose building,s there is still time. Treat these four years as a black hole in your life.