I saw a book, "The Intelligent Indians," at the Computer
History Museum's gift shop, while visiting with my nephew.
The title piqued my interest but not enough to prompt a
purchase. I was more interested in learning why than how
or who among the Indians came to dominate the world's IT
scene. In general, I prefer understanding things bottom-up.
Later, searching for related titles, I ran into one more
promising: "The Great Indian Obsession" by Adhitya Iyer and
bought the kindle version. It was a quick read. I learned a
few things and among them the answer to the why. In summary,
out of great sufferings came the crazy drive and the will to
survive could lead to amazing achievements.
Of course, that's abstract and over-simplification. Now
let's get concrete. After going through the book twice, I
found the following answers.
- IIT-JEE: Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance
Exam (2% admission rate compared with those of Harvard,
MIT and Stanford of 5.9%, 8.9% and 6.63%)
- In India, English has become synonymous with education.
- Most importantly, the fact that Indian engineers have been
the biggest beneficiary of this (IT) revolution and not
the Chinese is only because of our acquaintance with English.
- When you watch your parents fight to meet monthly
expenses, on one hand, but on the other hand, not spare
any expense to get you educated, it makes you want to
listen to them; even if your heart is not in it.*
- So why did Indians ditch their BFF** in favor of the US?
It's time to evoke that good old man Macaulay again.
English played a huge role in the migration of roughly
40,000 Indian engineers from 1966-73. English enabled
Indians to seamlessly blend in with the Americans. Indians
watch the same TV shows, listen to the same rock music and
also watch the same movies. An American acquaintance once
told me that Indians are basically just Americans, who
happen to have brown skin.
- Kids are taught various meditation and breathing
techniques to ease their stress while appearing for the
The book speaks to me. As a Chinese engineer, having
gone through a no-less rigorously selective process, I can
understand almost all the above.
Of course, as in my personal story, the guts come with the
glory albeit at a grand scale. The Indians paid dearly and in
spite of talented engineers, brilliant educators, and awakening
thinkers like the author himself, the book makes one feel
hopeless for the country. But that's a different topic.
* How this reminded me of mom!
** Best Foreign Friend, I think, refering to Russia.