Ranks, Reverence and Awe

I’m writing this post as a break from a Political Thought/Theory assignment. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that my project/assignment has begun to bore me. I was unable to focus, and that is all.

I’m quite against a hierarchy system with respect to universities & colleges. Especially if people consider the university you study at as a measure of your intellect – specifically if they believe the higher the quality of the institution and/or the tougher the exam, the smarter you are, for studying there.

Indian families are gross propounders of such a baseless claim. An IIT-Bombay student is considered a genius, while an IIT-Guwahati student, less so. The question from your families is never, why IIT-Guwahati, but rather, why not IIT-Bombay? And then with a sheepish expression, you’ll respond with “Rank didn’t work out” or a string of words that resemble what I’ve just said.

Imagine if college essays for KCL asked you, Why not Oxford?

What would you write?

That’s exactly what’s wrong with our system. We don’t respect the ability of a given university to offer it’s own unique experience to a student. We don’t appreciate the concept of specialities at the undergraduate level. Maybe Mech Engg. is better at IIT-B, maybe Chem Engg. is better at IIT-G. I’m just hypothesizing, but it serves the purpose, doesn’t it?

I understand the fallacies inherent to my offered comparison. Oxford doesn’t use a rank system to filter students, there’s no “Oxford family”, etc. But what if it did? What if you were allotted a college within the University based on a rank on an entrance examination – based on some weird ranking of colleges. What if I told you that the ranking would stay constant – rather, the perceived rank would stay constant – embedded in students’ minds, even if the real ranks changed?

That’s exactly how entrances are in India. Especially with Law.

The disgusting part about such a claim is that students are labelled prior to attending university. It’s like the Enlightenment phase all over again. Science was supposed to be emancipatory, but ended up becoming dogmatic. Students go to college to discover themselves, but we prevent them from doing so by classifying and labeling their abilities. It’s a sick, sick notion. One we need to dispel.

The above might appear to come off as “sore-loser”ish to some. “He didn’t get NLSIU, so he writes these things from behind a 15.6″ computer screen.”

That’s absurd. I don’t doubt the hard work the people who got into NLS via CLAT put in prior to the exam. Nor do I discount the sheer brilliance of the institution that is the NLSIU.

I am, however, of the opinion that my college has things to offer, which perhaps the NLS doesn’t. Things that people should factor in, very carefully, even while they write the exam & choose their preferences. The notion that there exists a hierarchy of schools which provide you a similar education is ridiculous when it is based on arbitrary grounds like “age” of the institution, and “reputation”. You need to realize that the older universities will, inherently possess a better reputation (why? Think of Hardik Pandya bowling that last over against Bangladesh. Now think about Zaheer Khan bowling that same over. Who’d you have more faith in?). They would, also have a better alumni base.

But new institutions have their strengths, and I think it’s time we give credit where credit is due. Especially within society.

And those dumb ranks.

Anyway. This was merely for context.I’m going to pretty much contradict the entire stance I took above.

I’m against the hierarchy culture, but prior to joining a university, I revered the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. I had visited the campus sufficient times to be smitten by it’s coziness, and to be enthralled by the wisdom the inhabitants possessed.

It’s true. It’s what made me think about studying Law.

I am forever amazed by the story and the tradition of the NLSIU. The marvel of Prof. N.R. Madhava Menon, the thought of sitting where Rhodes Scholars, eminent senior counsels and advocates, and some incredible professors sat, and being taught by the same faculty. It was, and is, something else.

I’m attracted to tradition and legacy. I love places with stories, because all places have stories, but a documentation of such a story entices me more.

NLS is one such place.

You can imagine what I felt when I found out Prof. V.S. Mallar would deliver a lecture here at college. I was as excited as I was when India won the 2011 World Cup. More, maybe.

Okay, not more.

But maybe the same amount.

Definitely the same amount.

He delivered a fabulous lecture. A wonderful discourse on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. His lecture was perfect. Structured, perfectly paced, methodically explained and dissected, with some hilarious anecdotes from his own past.

If you have parents like mine, you’d know what their professors at college looked and spoke like. Maybe a checked formal shirt, or even a plain formal shirt, button down, with brown/fading black trousers. Maybe with a watch on one hand. Maybe wearing chappals with the toe-holder that screams out “1990’s Bata”. Maybe with those square-rimmed glasses (that look “Hep”) and a single sheet, from which they read.

That was Prof. V.S. Mallar.

He looked like a simpleton. I could imagine him reading a folded up paper with a small glass tumbler filled with tea or filter coffee.

He spoke like the genius he is.

He inspired me today.

And I think that’s one of the fundamental reasons to appreciate the older institutions. The fact that faculty there are so, so experienced. You’re bound to be inspired.

I’m lucky to study in one of these older institutions. I’m privileged to be inspired by Professors & Guest lecturers.

Prof V.S. Mallar, I’m in awe, sir. Thank you.

Must get back to that project now.

Curd rice, out.




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