Monday, May 15, 2006

The undervalued Xaviers education

When I was in Xaviers, doing a BSc, I was amazed at how undervalued the education was. Most people thought that people did a BSc solely because they couldn't get into an Engineering college. I actually chose to get into Xaviers. My brother was in an Engineering college, and he said that I should visit his college one day, and then visit Xaviers. And then decide for myself. This is the best possible advice anyone has given me. I went to his college, looked around for a day, saw some students, and some professors (yow!). Then I went to Xaviers, and met some students. My brother was around, and this was the first time that even he had visited Xaviers. It was a nice experience. Didn't meet any professors, but that was ok. The place spoke for itself.

I met some real hackers at Xaviers: pure brilliance in Mathematics (which is what I was studying). Three students that I saw there were sparkling genius, and everyone knew that. Not only did I meet peers, but during Malhar I met some super hackers who were much older than me. And when I went back there after graduating, I met some lovely people much younger than me. The youth and verve of the place is astonishing. At the time I didn't appreciate it much, and wasn't as socially capable as I am now. But to think back, I wouldn't have been this socially capable if it wasn't for Xaviers.

I still remember the first day of class. The first class was by Felix Almeida. He spent the entire first class telling us how we shouldn't be disappointed that we didn't get into Engineering or Medicine, and that there were lots of avenues after BSc. He also told us that he was going to take us from the point of complete indifference towards Math to a point where we'd love the subject so much that we'd have trouble sleeping till we had done some Math in the day. I remember smirking, back in the last bench. After all, who was Felix to break me. But he did. By the third year, I really loved Math, and had developed a crazy interest in the world. It was astonishing. Felix remains a good friend, and he always makes his old students talk to his current students, which I think is a great idea. When I was a student, I appreciated the alumni talking to us about the "real" world.

Now that I look back, I wouldn't change those three years at all. I spent two years with the damn race: 11th and 12th. It was the most miserable time: I met very few interesting people: everyone was interested in the stupid 12th standard exams: the teachers were terrible, and the students were equally bad. Nobody was interested in learning: Just in getting those all important marks. I shudder to think of four more years of that in terms of an Engineering degree. And the Junior College I was in was way better than nearly all Engineering institutes in Bombay in terms of both students and teachers.

So if you're in Xaviers, give yourself a pat in the back. Respect the Math faculty, both Almeida and Gurjar are true cats. And make sure you have fun! If you're making your mind: just visit the options yourself. Don't take my word for it. Two hours in an Engineering institute should have you pulling your teeth out in despair if you are sane.

Thanks to Ruchi for sneaking me into Xaviers at the right time. It was great!