It was 1966 summer; Sunil Singhal was travelling to Kanpur in a train just after clearing Class 12 examination. While he was in train he realized that there were many other students just like him who were on their way to complete their interview process for the most prestigious Institute of India the “Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)”. This was way back when IIT was not a buzzword.
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Singhal never had a plan to join IIT; he always wanted to be a part of Indian Air Force however his parents wished he join the civil services. He wrote the IIT entrance examination just to have a practice for the ultimate goal- civil services. But JEE Main Result changed everything for him.
He recollects, “A fellow passenger asked me what your rank is! I handed him my letter and asked him to check as I had no clue about my rank. To our surprise the letter read I had secured the first rank in Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).”
This event occurred almost 50 years back, but the senior now has completely changed. In fact recently in 2016, the Samarpan Career Institute in Sikar, Rajasthan presented a BMW sedan to one of the student who cleared this examination. Tanmaya Shekhawat secured 11th rank in JEE. Although, the car wasn’t in a brand new condition but was only driven for 1,500 kms by the director of the institute Mr R.L. Poonia. The director said in an interview with Hindustan Times that “Someone from the district had first time secured a rank under 100 in JEE and it was the bare minimum I could offer to facilitate her”.
This incident was just a grand felicitation but, in 2008, the JEE toper Shitikanth Kashyap had to leave his home in Patna and run to Mumbai as huge numbers of coaching institute owners and politicians visited his house every day to praise him for his achievement.
After topping examination students tend to enjoy a lot of these grand felicitation ceremonies for some amount of time. But what happens next? What impact does it leaves on your career? We found solutions to these questions but the answers were quite diverse.
We discovered that a majority of JEE toppers are not present in India, most of them are in America and the rest have returned back to India after playing a successful inning there. One such topper was Arvind Saraf who was a topper of JEE in 1997 he had studied Computer Science in IIT Kanpur but moved to Institute of Technology (MIT) and later decided to come back home (India) and started working for Google. He recalls, “It was way back in 2004, when people were looking for technology and its development.” He further adds “The entrepreneurial set-up is quite different in India which are unseen and new”.
He belongs to a business family and wasn’t sure of joining engineering. Saraf says “The education I was pursuing was in no manner related to my family textile business. It was always a difficult task to avoid the family gatherings in my home town but my parents had an idea that I was preparing for IIT and they supported me”.
All the topers whom we spoke to never anticipated that they would top this examination but they were confident that they would do well. Prasoon Jha topper of IIT JEE 1993 says, “I attempted exam conducted by Agarwal Coaching Classes which was conducted at all India level and secured 5th or 6th rank.” He further adds, “This boosted my confidence but I never imagined I would top JEE.” Jha has always been a good student academically he managed to score 93.6% in 12th boards. Today he works for Visa Engineering as a lead architect there.
Saraf and Jha are the only exceptions who have decided to stay in India as majority of the toppers have migrated to US and have already climbed the ladder of the cooperate world. They are associated with tech giants like Google and Microsoft.
Subhash Khot, Arvind Thiagarajan and Shitikanth Kashyap who topped in 1995, 2001 and 2008 respectively are also settled in US. Khot is a professor at New York University, Thiagarajan works in research department of Amazon whereas Kashyap is completing his PhD in University of Waterloo.
The 1991 IIT toper Rina Panigrahy is working for Google as a research Scientist. He has a master’s from MIT and PhD from Stanford. He says” I have worked in both in industry and academic background but I find academic work to be more theoretical than practical”. But it’s seen most toppers get more attracted towards academic work.
But the main question which arrives here is: Are these boys who are in their early 20s, ready for a success like this which will change their life completely?
Singhal the topper of 1966 gives a vibrant laugh on hearing this question. He says “You never realize that you are topper there (read IIT), I was asked to mention my rank only the time I was ragged. This tag just stays with you for a month and then fades away eventually. There are many perks and disadvantages in topping”.
Even if you top IIT, it does not play a significant role in your resume or Linkedin profile. Nitin Gupta a professor in IIT Kanpur adds to this by saying “There is not a much difference if you secure 1st or 50th rank in IIT. Your career depends on how well you learn after you enter IIT.”
Till the year 1994, there were just 5 IITs in India. In 2001, further two more IITs were opened. In the year 2008-2009, 8 new IITs were added to the list as the government decided to increase the number of these institutes for students to decrease the competition.
Over 1.1 millions of students have taken this examination this year. JEE conducts two examinations in order to screen the students. The first is Mains and second is Advance. A student should clear both this examination and only then he/she is eligible to enter into IIT.
The coaching institutes are set up in various locations of India help students in their preparation for IIT by providing a perfect foundation.
With this rapid growth of coaching institutes more students are performing better in this examination. But IIT Madras director, M.S. Ananth disagrees to this.He says “Coaching institutes only help you in mastering the question paper pattern and not helps you gain knowledge.”
But in the end it doesn’t matter what your rank is, doing well in your life only matters. All the aluminous of IIT did not choose a job in the field of engineering, Biswapati Sarkar, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Chetan Bhagat are few of the famous person who made it big in their respective career despite taking job in their field. The common factor among these people was the zeal to learn new things and master them.