Thursday, June 28, 2007

Alice in Wonderland

Two days ago (on June 26, 2007) - it was farewell party by the 2003-2007 batch EC students of GEC Barton Hill. The fellows had intimated us poor teachers the previous day that the function would begin at 11 am and had asked us not to bring our lunch to college that day. When the function didn't start even by half past twelve, I was telling to myself - "Hmm, I understand vengeance, but it shouldn't have been over food."

Anyway, the function started shortly, and after HoD and one or two people addressed the gathering, the students obliged to serve us the biriyani. (I was committed not to speak before food.) So after the staff had the biriyanis and the students had their ice creams (they wanted to end the party with food, I suppose), it was speeches' time again.

From last evening, I was thinking about what to tell my students on this important occasion. These two weeks, some of my B.Tech batch-mates (Rajeev, Sajith and Me) were having a very serious e-discussion on what Rajeev stated as The need to fundamentally reconcile "work" and "social responsibility". Since the spirit of that discussion was still hurting me, I decided to speak on those lines to my students.

So this is the jist of what I had spoken then - sans the repetitions and with more polished English. [This is noted down from memory. So those of who had heard the speech, please don't expect a transcript.]

Respected colleagues and dear students,

This is an occasion when memories and dreams wage a war to claim the emotional space inside you. Though, I understand that memories have much more chance to win, today I choose to speak more about the dreams.

With in about two to three years from now, most of you are going to make the most important choice in you lives. You are going to choose what you are going to with the rest of your life.

I know most of you are employed and many of you have more than one job to pick from. But I don't really consider that as any choice.

Some of you might have already wondered on what is the purpose of their lives. I don't intent to give an answer to that here. But in that process, some of you might have realised that it is impossible to remain happy when there is no happiness around you. And that you find the most happiness only when those around you too are happy. I'm addressing those who feel so.

Here again I don't have a one word answer on what to do. But there are some options that have come to my mind at different points in time. I'll try to present them here in an order of decreasing risk levels involved.

1. Join Politics

I have great respect to all politicians - except for those who are hand pulled to the chairs of power by their politically powerful parents. Even if it is for money or power, it is still a very courageous route to choose. And if it is to serve the society, then it is the most potential choice to that end. I didn't join politics only because I didn't have the courage for it.

2. Start your own company

India requires much more jobs to be created. If all of you are going to be employees who are going to be the employers for the next generation? Even if the motive is profit, I think you will be contributing to the happiness of your society. But if you can think beyond profit, think of alternative means of ownership and alternative ways of management too.

3. Join an NGO

Non Governmental Organisations still play an important role in most parts of India. The the ideal solution is to empower the local self government institutions, till the ideal solution is reached, I think being in an NGO you can directly help a lot of people.

4. Join a technology provider for the Government.

The centres that governments have set up to provide for its technological needs are finding it quite tough to attract and retain talented engineers. Most of the time, it is this lack of talent that stands in the way of modernisation of government. I don't need to tell to you the amount of effectiveness and efficiency that proper technology can bring to our governments.

5. Become a teacher.

Now we have reached the zero risk point in the gradation list it seems. It is for cowards like me who couldn't choose the higher ranked options. But still, at-least you take solace that you can speak about those options to your students! Here again many at times, many a people would have told you on the good that a good teacher can do to the society. [These days I'm actually wondering more on what bad that a bad/careless/uninformed/... teacher can do to the students].

6. Keep doing (for life) whatever your first employer makes you do.

But here again, try to do some service part-time. Be with the ones on the other cubicles, but then see the men on the street too. My personal experience so far tells me that part time activism doesn't take you that far. But again, I have some friends who have shown that it needn't be so.

I don't believe or advice that anyone of you should take one of the first 5 choices immediately. Each of it requires lot more of learning. Lessons from life and lessons from a relevant higher study. But when that point in life comes when you decide to choose, make the choice from a wide set of choices rather than choosing between this company or that company.

And don't postpone that choice for too long. Not more than 2-3 years. Coz, the constraints on you are only going to increase.

And if any of you decide to choose any of the first five options or for that matter, anything except the sixth, do leave me a note. I would love to share your joy.

Keep in touch. Keep mailing. Keep blogging.


Post Script: [From Alice in Wonderland]
'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,'
'I don’t know where. . .'
'Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,'


anoopne said...

sir this anoop here of batch 2005 nasia s batch.wat u say is really true. because even after completing one year of my MBA , i am still thinking is this the path which i wanted to traverse

Deepak said...

Nasia, did u see this? How our anoop qualifies your batch - "nasia's batch". You owe him a treat nasia.

Anoop, I don't need a further clue if i see the "ne".

Sometimes i feel that life is made worth living by all these questions that don't have answers.

Aravind said...

Nice one da. But you really think 2-3 years after studies, those decisions have to be made? I feel (in the order of risk) the time to chose those options should come later on in your life. Mainly because one should not take those decisions out of exuberance, but out of experience.

nasia said...

btw.. loved the alice in wonderland line.. beautifully interlinked with ur theme

nasia said...

Nasia's Batch.hahaha. I m Honoured. Anoop doesnt know, how sharp ur memory is..
I m Glad you shared this piece of info for your students who were not present during the occassion.
Finding out life's purpose, just happens to each one of us. Its sort of like an ullvili(malayalam)which has to happen to each person individually. The lucky ones like you get it at an early age.hope the rest of us are not too late when we realise it

Deepak said...

Aravinde (I believe this is booto), I put it as 2-3 years thinking that your higher studies plans (whether to, what to, where to) may have to be based on what path you wish to take in the long run. And i was thinking more than 2-3 years is a bit late to go in for higher studies.

Deepak said...

Nasia, "Ulvili" - I'm not sure how dependable a savior it is. I feel making real choices is a very unpleasant thing which you have to untiringly go through yourselves. It is a sacrifice of the present for the future. Waiting for someone (from inside or outside you) to make that choice and present to you sounds romantic but i don't know how practical it is. Thats why I don't like the Alchemist philosophy.

Aravind said...

Atheda this is Booto. My point was just that taking the decision of joining politics or starting your own firm should happen after you realize that you could do it. I mean not everyone would have the capability to do such things. Once you prove it to yourselves that you can do something of that kind, then probably so it for real for a larger group. Do you agree?

Jojish said...


Good one. You always had a prediliction to put politicians up in front. In a sense that is right also. Personally I would like it to be something along the lines of the Israeli model, people who are coming to politics have already proved themselves in some other walks of life. Most Israeli politicians are former generals or career diplomats. It brings depth and capability to political system as a whole.

You could also give people more than 2 - 3 years to make the final decision about turning employers. First let each one learn the ropes of running an organisation then when he is confident let him take the plunge.

But the choice gets harder each passing year. But I feel the yearning to find the true way of life would also get harder each passing year for that discerning individual.

In case someone wants to make a difference with a novel idea it is best to start early, but for the brute majority of people that idea is not there yet.

Being an employer part time is something which can be experimented. Depending on the economic sense of the idea a group of people can offer their services or talents in a part time job format. This could later be turned into a full fledged organisation.
Some how I think it mitigates some risk and yet leaves some way to find happiness:-)

Well that is about it. Beautiful
thoughts to give to your students.

Only emphasises the need to have visionary teachers.

Wish you a long and happy way to go.

Hari said...

Sir.... I missed that day! [:(] Heard that you delivered a really Inspiring speech as always.. And great to see u putting a Gist of it up here! And the post Script from Alice in Wonderland really made me thinking!

Deepak said...

Ya booto, i agree that one of the high risk options do need a lot of experience. And i'm ready to admit that 2-3 years may not be enough time to make that choice for every one. But some vestige of helplessness inside me says that you should choose "what" before its too late. The "how", "with whom", "when" and "where" can wait. And i didn't understand ur last sentence.

Deepak said...

Joji, a quote for you (and me) from André Gide

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

But i also know that quotes always talk of extremes. May be the truth is a fine shade of gray.

Thanks for the long and thoughtful comment. We will have a discussion over this the next time we meet in person.

sreeja said...

hello sir..this is sreeja..i hope u remember me...or i can make u remeber by saying am from nasia's batch or ne's batch..:-)))

your speech is really inspiring and well crafted as always....many of us r kinda stuck here wasting most of the time thinking what to do next....and i think its high time we decided something abt it...but making a decision is always a difficult task...and tht too making the right decision which decides what u r gona b for the rest of your life is even more difficult...but we don have a moves on depending on what u decide for it good or bad....

Deepak said...

Ya sreeja, I do remember you.And nice to get the comment.

Nagasubramanian said...

Two comments, Deepak sir.

1. On the blog.
a)After politics should come joining a rights based activist organisation. (MKSS, NBA, and a host of others in North/Central India). Of course there are the not so good ones and they might be the majority but then so too is the case in politics. If today, we are talking abt RTI, NREGA or Rehabilitation for the project affected then its thanks to their unflinching commitment.

b) Just after teacher, may be, but definitely before "first employer", I would say make yourselves employable for a co-operative organisation. AMUL, India's largest such badly needs quality people in their rank and file. So let's not talk abt the next bests..

c)What's this discussion with Rajeev/Sajith?

2.On the speech.
Brilliant. Did you make it in English? I stand back and admire!!


Deepak said...


1.a) The sorting was only in (my perceived) order of risk, not social relevance. But even there, i do understand the risk in joining a rights based organisation. But i'm not that clear on what is it that such an organisation can do, that a political party cannot.

1.b) Ya, we do need people to strengthen the co-operative sector movements. Those who can understand it as "the way to go" rather than "another of the ways to go" when you think of development.

1.c) Since only sajith, I and rajeev were participating in that discussion on the mail that i posted to inquilab on June 12, titled "Making a career with free software, that discussion was moved off inquilab and into a private discussion between us three.

2. The speech was 80% English and 20% Malayalam. And what you see on the blog is a much refined version of it. Thank you.

For others,

Naga is my batch (2002) CETian, Mechanical Engineering graduate, CET college union general secretary. 2005-07 batch IRMAn. Now working for AKRSP in Ahmedabad and Bihar. So he is much more entitled to speak of NGOs and rural service than me.

Nagasubramanian said...

Again two comments...(they say its two to tango!!)..

1. I broadly agree with you on 1 a).The major disagreement that I had with activists of NBA was also on why they are continuing to be apollitical. It defies logic. I want to point out that MKSS fights the Panchayat elections in Rajasthan. But that's another story. May be its a Gandhian style; the path he suggested for the Congress after our independence. So I wouldn't want the 1st slot to be tinkered with. But this I felt, could be one more in the list.

2. The last part was avoidable.


akhil said...

another, sunscreen speech?
amazing! sir ...
it was inspiring :)
i'm inspired!

Parasuram....Let Truth Be Your Guide said...

Sir great speech I wanted t say so much soon I realised my comments were becoming too large so I converted it into a blog When Life Meets dreams hope you read eagerly awaiting your comments

Jineesh said...


I am Jineesh George, an MTech student in IIT Madras, on deputation from Min of defence.

I hopped over to your blog through a mail from one of my friends asking me not to miss this blog.

Brilliant speech!! is the only comment I can think of now!

At present I belong to both the 4th and 6th groups as per your classification where I am doing what my first employer, the Ministry of Defence, asked me to do. I enjoy it nevertheless. However I am planning to switch to the coward's way of teaching in near future in four or five years.

I am so glad that I have great teachers like you as my role models! And I will definitely leave a note when I switch to path 5.

well, here is more about me:
and orkut home:


Jishnu A said...

I had read your nice talk and at that time itself i thought i should try my hands on a similar situation. Then forgot about it completely, till i saw you blog again now in a printed form with Raghu. So now i wrote a blog "if i have delivered it.."(

john said...

happy married life

Be unique in all the ways u lead.........have a great endaveour