There were about thirty of them, the average age of the group being over 50 years. They paraded from the entrance of the long hall to the dais, donning a serious sober look. Holding long poles in hand, they marched to the beat of inspiring music, watched by over 5000 parents, faculty and students like me. Of course, this was not the first time we were seeing these men and women walking past us - they were after all our Deans, Heads of Departments and Board of Directors of the institution - the very people we had waited for, for long hours to get a vacation pass signed, or to get interrogated for disciplinary action and the very people whom we had at various points in time, made fun of, loathed and heard the long boring speeches of.
Watching them pose so dignified, holding flags and draped in silk shawls was pretty unprecedented though. Not that the students themselves were present there in any less a new avatar. The room was filled with over four thousand students, all clad in either an off-white traditional Kerala sari or a white shirt with dhoti, depending on the gender of course. For these students, it was an important day. Period. Nothing, not even the funny men, was going to change that. Why is it so important?, you ask them. They stare back at you in disbelief. What a ridiculous question! Duh! It is my convocation!
Convocation - the day when you finally put a full stop to the long years of study and are aptly rewarded with a glossy degree. Okay, that was the easy part. But whats with the overwhelmed looks,hugs, ,congratulations , "Wow, I am so happy for you"s and ear splitting shrieks of Yeaaaaaayyy.?Frankly, I think I am missing something.
Firstly, it seems to me like you are downgrading your own brain capacity. A wow-I-can't-believe-I-finished-the-course thought - the kind of thought that passes through your head when you see that you have cleared that extremely unfathomable exam for which you generously donated gibberish answers. At the risk of sounding too opinionated, I really think it is no big deal getting a degree these days. I mean, it is not a herculean challenge. I mean it. I have done my engineering and now am doing a humanities course. My classmates here think that Engineering is another planet - a planet full of Grey matter with walking computers, who see the world with the eyes of Maths and Science. Bull Shit. Of course, Engineering is any day more demanding in terms of time and work compared to an arts course. I mean, here you can bullshit with liberation.
Imagine walking into an examination hall totally unprepared and getting your communication theory paper. You stare at the first question.
What is socio-emotional theory?
Of course, you don't know the answer. You were watching Vampire Diaries the whole night. But wait! maybe there is a way out.
It is a theory where we combine the social and emotional aspects of the environment and take it into consideration on predicting the responses of a human.
Bluff. Complete bluff. You might probably still get half a mark. And chances are, if you had even remotely listened to the broad context of the topic, you could write a full 16 marks worth answer. Liberalization, Globalization, Ill effects of advertising, power of media - of course, anyone can spin a yarn on these kind of topics.
Can you imagine doing the same for Mass Transfer or Solid Mechanics?
Explain the Elasticity Quotient.
Elasticity Quotient is a factor in the measurement of elasticity. Elasticity is an important part of life. Rubber bands are elastic. Springs are elastic. Why, even a surgeon's gloves are elastic. One cannot imagine a world without elasticity. Then no girl would be able to tie her hair in a pony tail. Ick! The short form of this can be EQ. EQ also means Emotional Quotient. It is said to be very important in relationship development..
Well, okay, that was a bit exaggerated but you got my point. So, yes, definitely a lot more learning HAS to happen in an Engineering course. Yet that doesn't mean we sit experimenting with engines and computers every waking hour. In fact, what the course really does to you is increase your grasping power, short-term memory and most importantly, your cramming capacity.
Almost 90% of the students I knew at college started to open their books only a few weeks before the exam and from then on, it was a marathon race for the brain, loaded everyday with pages and pages of theorems and logic. And it was enough. Not just enough to clear the paper but also get good enough grades. Ask any Engineering student and he will agree.
The only ones who failed to graduate with their class and kept coming back to write their exams were not the ones who were IQ challenged but those who never cared...never cared about the course, never cared about attendance and never cared about writing exams again with their juniors. And such types would have flunked anywhere anyway, Engineering or Literature. All one needed, hence, was a bit of effort and a bit of conscientiousness. There was hardly any application oriented tasks or immensely challenging process.
So really, what is the big deal of getting a degree in the convocation?
Then, there are those who seethe with an aggressive vengeance, given a chance. I have seen students who, a minute after the final exams, flung their books up in their air with the rigor of a shot-put pro and some others who said they couldn't wait to get back home and throw the notes away; almost as if these poor white sheets which they filled in the first place were demons in disguise who wreaked havoc in a malicious spell. This kind is happy to be saying good bye to studies on the eve of their convocation. The reasoning is clearer in this case, I agree. The burden you loathed is finally out. However, what they do not realize is that learning is not something that can shrugged off after a phase.
No, I am not preaching life-long education and value system and wisdom for living and all that. I am merely tell you the fact that no one can survive in today's competitive job scenario without continuous learning. Maybe it was the concept of 'examination' that posed a torture. A dreadful two weeks without sleep, TV and peace of mind. Of course, that doesn't exist in a career, mostly. Yet, far worse things do.
In my opinion, a convocation is merely a day to bid good-bye. Good-bye to a phase that taught far more things outside the classroom than inside it, a phase where for once people's worth was not measured by the money they took back home and a phase when we could weave beautiful relationships in an atmosphere that imposed no daily pressure to perform and prove ourselves.
It is simply a day to pause and become more aware of the impending transition. Nostalgia? Recommended. Congratulations? For what?!