The IIT Quality Debate and Why I Find Chetan Bhagat Extremely Irritating

The quality of students entering Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has deteriorated over the years due to the coaching classes that prepare engineering aspirants, said N.R. Narayana Murthy a few days ago.

I don’t know how IIT entrance exams are cracked, having never taken them myself. So I can’t get into the rights or wrongs of the statement. Neither do I know about IIMs, of which Chetan Bhagat — writer of bestsellers, commentator on all issues from here to eternity, and precocious yet unwanted distributor of observations within or out of his grasp — is an alumnus. So if tomorrow someone makes a comment on that, I will be equally at a loss.

But after reading a couple of books of Bhagat, and reading his (worse) columns in newspapers, I seriously doubt the intellect of at least one IIT graduate in our country.

Chetan BhagatChetan Bhagat is dangerously close to being the next Arundhati Roy. Worse, perhaps. Roy at least can write in good prose whatever she writes. Bhagat can’t write to save his life. And yet he is present everywhere — on TV, in newspapers and on bestseller book covers: with his trademark half smile and half-closed eyes, as if he is sneering at all of us from his pedestal at our collective lack of intellect.

Chetan Bhagat writes mediocre books (One Night at a Call Centre was downright stupid), thinks mediocre (read his columns in The Times of India or Hindustan Times) uses a language which is worse than mediocre (to get the undiluted, unedited version of his English, read his blogs and yet he and the media think he is some super-intelligent youth icon.

He has even been ranked by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people. Though I wonder whose lives he influences!

Nevertheless, he thinks he has become an authority to comment on anything happening in and around the country: from the politics in our country, to the values inherent in Indian society, to the Indian corporate system, to the Lokpal Bill, to corruption in India, and right down to the quality of education in IITs. When you don’t see him giving his valuable opinion on TV shows, he is penning them down for his newspaper columns or, scarier still, his blogs.

I am a non-tech person and, again, I don’t have any idea about what Infosys is all about work wise. Chetan Bhagat may be right in calling it a body shop, and again I am not getting into the rights or wrongs of it. But what is extremely irritating is Bhagat’s habit of opening his mouth at the drop of a hat. As an elderly statesman and as the founder of one of the top technology organisations in the country, Murthy has a right to pass comments about the quality of education in the IITs, or any other technology/engineering institutes in the country. He hasn’t said anything personal about anyone and only come down hard on the coaching system.

Why is Chetan Bhagat taking it so personally? Is it because he himself is a product of such a system? We all are loyal to our alma maters, yes, and Bhagat’s grief is understandable. But what is bugging is the way he shoots his mouth off and uses the words that least of all a writer should use.

Even if Infosys is a body shop, what’s wrong in it? Why launch a virtual personal attack? Murthy never claimed it is the best innovating company on the planet.

But Bhagat doesn’t stop here. He then follows it up with downright juvenile “apology”: “Oh and dear Infoscians, I am sorry. You are not a bodyshop. You just have hot bodies. Forgive me. I am an idiot sometimes. Now smile.” (Read: Forgive me, I am an idiot sometimes, says Chetan Bhagat)

Just what kind of language is that? Was he serious? Was he doped? What is wrong with him? As the mother of a child in Class III, all I can say this is third standard level wit and third standard level attitude.

Why has Chetan Bhagat taken Murthy’s comments so personally? Is it because he himself is a product of such a system?

Not long ago Bhagat had created a flutter when he rattled the normally quiet and polite Gulzar to get into a fit of rage. Gulzar was so annoyed with his comments that he asked for the microphone out of turn at a function and said: “Chetan, I am glad that an author like you has liked the song. But I don’t think you have understood the poetry that you are trying to talk about here… Please don’t say things you don’t know about. Comment about things you know.” (Read: Lyricist Gulzar lashes out at Chetan Bhagat)

Chetan Bhagat giving expert comments on Gulzar’s poetry is like the guy teaching my son music commenting on Lata Mangeshkar’s singing prowess! Some people just don’t think, or think they are too smart. Bhagat’s problem is either of these.

Coming back to the issue at hand, what is Chetan Bhagat’s own great achievement and contribution to technology in India? Yes, he perhaps had the intelligence to the crack the exams (and after reading his books and now Murthy’s comments, we know how and why) but he switched track to get into management from there. Then he again switched to work as an investment banker. And finally, he gave all that up to become a writer.

What has been contribution other than wasting two precious seats in premium state-funded institutions? Isn’t it what we call a waste of subsidy? And why do we need valuable opinion from a person who has made bad English, worse writing style and pathetic plots a virtue?

 

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About Mom-Lady

Anusuya likes to think of herself as the Mom-Lady, the one with a "mind scrambling eyeball ray" that forces the victim, as Calvin in his Stupendous Man avatar puts it, "to do her nefarious bidding". Or she wishes she had. For, 36 hours a day she is busy raising a devil of a child who is the flesh and blood version of Bill Waterson’s creation. Rest of the time she dabbles in the boring world of markets and finances to earn her bread and butter.
26 comments
reluctant optimist
reluctant optimist

Our country happens to suffer from the delusion that any body who cracks JEE/IIM should be elevated to a God like status. Chetan is a talentless narcissistic idiot who suffers from a grossly elevated sense of self entitlement. Whats worse is that the media is fueling his ego even further. As far his writing is concerned,  the guy has no skills whatsoever and can't write a single page without making a million grammatical errors. People seem to think he deserves the fame he has today because he's called out on our countries system. What they dont realize is that people like him aren't interested to change the country, they're just invested in selfish interests and making money out of our angst. Every tom, dick and harry can point out the flaws of our system. What makes a man great is what he does to fix it. Get a better idol to worship ,people. 

SanjayKumar2
SanjayKumar2

I heard chetan bhagat's face off with ramdev on you tube and Chetan talks like a stupid. 

i heard him (Chetan) for first time and he spoke like a fool ...even a framer will give respect and talk ..he became defensive in a discussion ....  

komal prasad
komal prasad

well go ahead to prepare for even 1 question  in JEE, just get a peek into the amount of intellect it takes to crack it,and then comment on sum1 who is way ahead in gray matter, since he cleared for the top most IIT, and is an ex-employee of Goldman-Sachs,is an alumnus of IIM,therefore has sharper brains than most of the indians,and not all commercial authors( endless lists of durjoy duttas,nikita singhs, etc.) make it to TIMES! 


arnie41178
arnie41178 moderator

Can't agree more with Abhesh regarding Mr. Murthy's comments...but regarding Mr. Bhagat's comments you must agree (fan of his writing or not) that he has made the idiotic comments as a super-imbecile (body shop and hot-body). After this I would surely know when to switch the TV channel when someone starts speaking non-sense!!!!

deepa krishnan
deepa krishnan

very well written article. true about there being no necessity to get personal

Faruq Hassan Khan
Faruq Hassan Khan

Agree every bit with the writer. Some people should just keep quiet, lips sealed and stuff, because they don't know what hell will come crashing down every time they open it. Chetan Bhagat is one such character. I shudder to think of the IQ level of the television news channel decision-makers who call him for his opinion: they are worse imbeciles!

Chetan could be famous, as surely most unintelligent things are, simply because the Indian masses are unintelligent and do not want to waste their gray cells, but I do not think that gives him the authority to comment on all sorts of issues. And definitely not as a "writer" or "author", as his calling card surely says.

And do us all a favour, Mr Bhagat, will you? Just when you itch to bitch about something or someone, go to the washroom and wash your face. It helps!!

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

I think Chetan Bhagat writes an easy to understand English and his novels are easy to follow. If you think only way to write English novels is to fill it with pompous words ... then I'm sure millions would disagree.. Chetan is famous because he's able to connect with people with his simple and straightforward writing style. His comments about Murthy may be a little uncalled for but Mr. Murthy commenting about quality of students entering IITs was equally uncalled for.... I would suggest that you go and check facts about these entrance exams and then you'll realize what implications Murthy's comments have ....

In your article, it seems as if you are trying to defame Chetan Bhagat .. may be due to some personal grudge... in that case this forum is not the right place to do it....

Manjuri Sinha Roy
Manjuri Sinha Roy

Awesome article.... exactly my thoughts too... have never understood y people like his writing....since he can't write....( if u know what i mean)...

vyankatesh
vyankatesh

I agree with every bit of your opinion.

If his comment against NRN was silly, his apology was an absolute non sense. What on the earth does he mean by a hot body??

deepa krishnan
deepa krishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi Murthy's comments on the entrance exams will have positive implications only. all he is trying to say is instead of making the exams a system where cracking the exam would just involve, solving a set of questions which the coaching class has trained you in (more like donkeys work), make it something where the person truly needs to use his intellect to get in. thats how you get quality in. that real intellect and encouragement to innovative thinking. whats wrong in his comment? As an industry person whose company and many other companies are potential employers and looking for good personnel, he has put forth a comment that will help the IIT's churn out better talent. Instead of spitting fire at Murthy, Chetan if he is so interested can get the alumni to suggest changes that would make the students from IIT be more in sync with industry requirements. after all IITans are obviously going to be working with these companies once they are out of campus right?

Mom-Lady
Mom-Lady

@AbheshKumarTripathi I have no personal issues with Chetan Bhagat. I am just too small to have a personal grudge against him. MY problem here is.... see you have a view about Chetan bhagat and I have one. lets says u are Bhagat and I am MUrthy and the Chetan Bhagat in the article is IIT. So when I criticise Bhagat's writing style in the article, it is alright for you to come and make your points like a gentleman, which you have done. Now, what would have been objectionable if you had said something like I have opened a body shop or I have a hot body -- never mind, I don't anyway :) -- or some stupid inane words like that.

Murthy used some words which you can or cannot take in the right spirit. We can argue for or against it. My point is why does Bhagat use stupid words? He is supposed to be a writer, he should be a master of language if nothing else, so why use words like unlettered sadak chaap people? JUst what did he mean by "you have hot bodies?"

The problem with bhagat is he thinks he is too smart.... and hence that incident with Gulzar, a man normally not given to controversies or ill temper. You read the links I have given in the article, Bhagat comments on everytuing -- what does he know about policis in india or the corporate system in india or indian values or lokpal bill? do you mean to say he is something great statesman who is an expert on everything? and please dont say One Night @ a call centre was a good book. I am sure even Bhagat himself doesnt defend it.

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

@deepa krishnan I don't have experience working with donkeys.. So I won't be able to comment on that.... but let me state a few facts "out of almost 5 lac students who appear for JEE, only a few thousand make it ... and these 5 lac students appearing are just a fraction of students attending coaching classes...."

Attending a coaching class doesn't ensure you a seat in IITs... it's the level of intellect and gray matter in your head that takes you there. IITs still get the cream talent. But if you have not gone through this process it's very unlikely for you to appreciate this fact.... I am sure Mr. Murthy is well aware of this fact despite that he has passed on such a comment is in fact very sad.

It'll be a good exercise for you to go and find out how many IITians are working with Infosys before saying that Infosys is a prospective employer for IITians. You'll not find it even one percent....

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

@SowgandhikaKrishnan

--->

so now i should understand the two statements given in the article made by Chetan as the IITians have successfully made infy a body shop?

---->

I think this comment by you convinced me that you are not ready to understand what I am trying to say whatever may be the reason...

I am not a good teacher, so I am not sure if I'll be able to help you any further on this...

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi well im not an IITian probably thats why i cant comprehend personal insults and telling others to fix the system as talking about all the flaws in the system and what needs to be done. wonder why the hell Bhagat has to write 300 pages books - he can just put it in a few words next time like "this is about life of an average guy in the IIT's" for five point someone, or "wanted to write something so wrote on a call centre excuse me guys" for the night in call centre book etc. an author cant express himself and supporters in the form of batchmates or seniors or juniors expect others to read between lines just because their high pedestal is being threatened.

so now i should understand the two statements given in the article made by Chetan as the IITians have successfully made infy a body shop? please tell me im reading between the lines now -

"It is ironic when someone who runs a body shopping company and calls it hi-tech, makes sweeping comments on the quality of IIT students," and the next statement

"IITians have made a great contribution in making Infosys what it is. "

thanks for telling someone from the teaching profession as to how much is being done to improve the system and also for informing me that brain drain is another genre altogether - im not an IITian but i definitely have more IQ than a houseplant.

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

@SowgandhikaKrishnan You don't have to assume that, it's evident. I don't know why you are not able to comprehend it. And When he says, "Fix the system", he's not saying that "hello Mr Murhty.. you are the person responsible to fix it ...I don't have anything to do it" ... read in between the lines "System needs to be fixed"... And I can certainly tell you, alot is being done to improve the system...

Also brain drain is a different debate altogether... you can express your ideas in this forum and I'll certainly oblige you with my inputs..

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi you conveniently forgot to copy paste the next line i wrote after the Timbaktu one - will paste it here so that you can understand what im saying "I couldnt care less if the IITian goes abroad and goes to Timbaktu provided he doesnt study in tax payers money and earn revenues for other countries. let him pay full fees for it - after that even if he goes to another planet its immaterial for us." also it looks like you havent heard of Intellectual property. The guys sending money from abroad is not what im talking of - what about the brain drain, the opportunity to make the country self sufficient in technology rather than sending money like "the guy in the city sending a money order to his parents in the village". Since the IITians have collectively decided that infy work is all trash and nothing to do with tech, why not stay back and contribute in making a truly tech company of their own? why use that technical brilliance to sell soaps or work in finance? its a waste of subsidy and seats which could otherwise have been given to guys who would use their education to do something related to their area of work

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi so we are to assume that Chetan is saying something similar although he has only abused Murthy? great, now in this link what has Chetan done - said" fix the system". What is chetan's contribution here other than asking Murthy to fix the system? my point why cant Chetan take up the same at the alumni meet given that this is the second time he has reacted to the statements about IIT. Instead of being an unofficial mouthpiece why cant he show the famed IITian innovation and brains by actually doing something? and you call that saying something similar to what the profs have said albeit in a brazen manner!!! and then you blame me for taking you literally!! its not Murthy's headache as a corporate head to fix the system. its for the IIT's to work out a solution which their alumni can very well help in given that they are busy innovating for the entire world. what is being said is like telling the customer who buys groceries to produce better brinjals and potatoes instead of making the farmer doing something about it. chetans role here is telling the customer to produce better brinjals instead of helping the farmer with tech and innovation, given that he is an IItian, in doing so.

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

@SowgandhikaKrishnan so u two are the same... ok..

First of all I am not putting any word in anyone's mouth. You said

-->

I couldnt care less if the IITian goes abroad and goes to Timbaktu provided he doesnt study in tax payers money and earn revenues for other countries.

-->

I wanted to clarify that a person working outside is also earning revenue for India so all taxpayers' money has not been wasted..

I have also not put in any words in Mr Chetan's mouth. This time you got me wrong. In the article I suggested, some professors of IITs have raised their concerns about Mr Murthy's comment and though Chetan's comment is not mentioned in that article, he is essentially saying something similar may be in somewhat brazen manner...

And don't take me literally when I say primary schooling .. you seem to have a habit of doing that .... but go on and read this

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/nation/north/chetan-bhagat-slams-narayana-murthy-after-iit-comment-452

"Mr Murthy had a point, but wish he wasn't so sweepingly high handed. Fix the system. No point judging students," This is what Mr. Chetan said. I hope it clarifies your doubt.

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi sowgandhika krishnan and deepa krishnan are the same dear abhesh kumar tripathiji. just that id opened a livefyre under the name deepa krishnan first and i continue to use it. so u can address it to either name it will be answered by me

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi I also never said anything about working abroad, dont put words in my mouth. i only said i couldnt care less if the guy worked abroad as long as he pays full fees for the course

SowgandhikaKrishnan
SowgandhikaKrishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi i dont think murthy started the controversy - he made a point, as a corporate honcho he has every right to say things about the quality of prospective labour whether they work for him in the future or not. Murthy and others dont recruit from primary school so they comment about where they recruit from. Its Chetan who made it a controversy, probably wanted to sell his next book, he could instead have put up the issue at an alumni meet and seen how the issue could be solved at the IIT end instead of making personal comments and a non apology of an apology. Where has Chetan even been written about in that link you have given? dont put words in Chetan's mouth, he never spoke of primary schooling or IIT entrance, he just shot back personally. Abusing infosys and its body of work doesnt solve the existing problem. I am for looking at the larger picture, im looking at infy or IIT in reply to your comment about them and not because i cant see the larger picture. please do read the new article howzzit has put up on this issue - it looks at the larger picture

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

@deepa krishnan Sorry for not being able to understand you....I hope you'll forgive me for this sin..

On one side you are talking about larger picture and on other hand you are stuck with IITs and Infosys...looks like you didn't read the link I suggested in earlier comment. IIT professors and alumni groups also agree that there is a problem with the system which Mr Chetan has also emphasized on. It's not just at IIT entrance level but starts at very grass root level of primary schooling. But the solution is not to pass on some vague/general comment and create controversy which is what Mr. Murthy has done. It involves much greater reforms than just some comments.

I am happy that finally you have raised some question in later part of your comment above which show 'larger picture' to some extent.. these are the question which are more important and need immediate attention.

Let me also tell you that innovation and creativity is not limited to any particular field of work. If selling soaps didn't involve any innovation, I am sure those companies wouldn't pay hefty packages to IITians and hire them.

If you look at start ups, you can find countless IITians working for them and many of them have been started by IITians themselves.

And about working in India/Timbaktu or in Jhumaritalaiya for that matter doesn't mean that you are not working for your country and all the money spent on you has gone down the drain..In current economic setup where a major part of govt revenue comes from remittances sent by Indians abroad and it's increasing every day, this kind of argument doesn't hold good.

deepa krishnan
deepa krishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi you got me wrong once again - i didnt say all IITians should join Infy. I said companies like infy and others - i mean other companies and other industries where their innovation is required. dont know why a comment by someone from a company against the IIT's means all IITians have to gang up and abuse the person and his company without looking at the larger picture. about infy's body of work - looks like technical brains havent heard of service providers and the service industry and the principles on which business is run, guess thats not technical enough a subject to be taught. I thought super brilliant techie guys would have broad vision - everyone seems to be so myopic in their vision and have more of supersize egos than supersize brains so much so they cant take criticism.

IQ levels of IITians is being written off as if all other remaining people in the country have IQ's of a houseplant. btw not all jobs are always innovative - every job has an element of repetition and some element of innovation - the degree varies thats all. one should get the IITians to read up on job design, too difficult to explain basics everytime. With all that collective IQ why dont the IIT's feature in the top 10 institutes at an international level, inspite of the fact that all the IITians are busy contributing to innovation world over. I couldnt care less if the IITian goes abroad and goes to Timbaktu provided he doesnt study in tax payers money and earn revenues for other countries. let him pay full fees for it - after that even if he goes to another planet its immaterial for us. Why dont the IITians become the leaders and entrepreneurs who innovate and create something new?Why always depend on someone else to provide everything for these guys to innovate. truly innovative brains wont depend on others. Selling soaps is more the management guy's job - by taking up those jobs and finance jobs they are proving that they have wasted those seats meant supposedly to create techie brains while denying the others of their rightful area of work. btw that statement about soaps comes from the IIT heads themselves, hope the IITians dont go on an abuse spree about their own profs.

AbheshKumarTripathi
AbheshKumarTripathi

@deepa krishnan If only Infosys worked on some quality work.. many more IITians will be delighted to join it.. but alas that is not true.. the kind of work that is done in Infosys doesn't require a whole lot of grey matter use... Infosys doesn't hire IITians because they can't offer them the quality work which matches with their IQ level. It's not because Infosys doesn't find good enough students in IITs.

As high as 70% IIT grads opt for higher studies abroad because it provides them with the kind of work and intellectual involvement they desire. Infosys has never been and will never be the one to offer them this kind of work so don't judge IITians by the fact that these companies have very less number of IITians working with them. I hope you will not cling to the point of going abroad after studying in India. Because working for country isn't done only by working inside country..moreover this is a different debate altogether.

I suggest you read this post as well

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/murthy-sparks-debateiit-student-quality/451546/

It'll tell you why Chetan Bhagat has objection to Murthy's comment. This kind of comment was not at all called for. Problem lies deep in the education system starting at very basic root. And it requires much more to be done than just comments.

The right way to go forward is not to ask IITians to join technical field or Infosys or any other company for that matter, we need leaders, entrepreneurs who can generate many more jobs. Even if they sell soaps and generate employment, its a job well done..

deepa krishnan
deepa krishnan

@AbheshKumarTripathi Ive been through the maze of competitive exams so im no stranger to it. after years of teaching management students the minimum i understand is that not all who appear for JEE would clear it and that attending a coaching class doesnt ensure an IIT seat. thanks for enlightening me anyway.

looks like you didnt understand my comment on "donkey's work" - its the difference between industry and intelligence. my contention is industry alone doesnt make an IIT grad its mostly intelligence, which we are unfortunately dumbing down with the existing framework. nothing wrong in making a system work better is the point im making. please read this link to know how much the grey mattered fellows are using their grey matter.

http://www.100marks.in/News/students-joining-iits-want-to-sell-soaps-not-become-engineers-iit-heads-echo-murthy/

As for how many IITians are working with infy one percent or more or less - there are IITians there right? if the remaining forget selling soaps probably they could work with infy and many others and do technical stuff they study rather than selling soaps and working in finance related areas.

It sounds like its ok if companies reduce recruitment from the IIT's and one fine day we realise that the IITians are not in demand, but its wrong if someone points out and says there is a problem and it better be rectified earlier so as to avoid seeing that day.