“Sir, I have sent you a link. It’s from Texas University.”
“Thanks. I will read it.”
“No sir, this is not for your reading. I have applied for a course there. I need you to recommend me.”
“What do you want me to write there?”
“Sir, please write that I was one of the best students in the batch. That I was disciplined. I used to be regular in class and I used to take initiative in every activity”.
“But….err… That’s a lie. You were just the opposite of what you are asking me write. You hardly came to class, never attended lectures even if you were on campus and never took any initiative for any of the co-curricular activities on campus.”
“Yes sir, I know. But can you please fill up that online form? Kindly send me a screenshot for reference please.”
The last line was curt and “screenshot” was put on bold.
It was a whatsapp conversation between a student and me. She had passed a couple of years back and decided to seek admission in a good university in the US.
She wanted me to lie on her admission form because that would help her in getting an admission. It never struck her that she was keeping the university in the dark about how she was as a student which is one of the primary parameters for getting an admission.
Welcome to the world of new-age students who have a radically different value system. A value system which doesn’t differentiate between right or wrong, as long as it is for business. As Shah Rukh Khan in Raees would say…. “koi dhanda chota nahi hota aur dhande se bada koi dharm nahi hota.”
I am not generalising them but their numbers are increasing alarmingly.
I didn’t lie on that form that day; just highlighted some of her good qualities and kept quiet about her chronic tendency of bunking classes. I decided that if there’s a specific enquiry from the university, I was not going to lie about her.
Being associated with a postgraduate college has taught me a lot in the past three years and the most important lesson was that the younger crop are a different species than what we used to be in college.
They come every year. A group of young, bubbly, twenty somethings who are happy and high on life. They fill my corridors with laughters, whispers and endless gossips. They are life and they bring in life into my college.
After spending years and years inside the icy-cold newsrooms of a corporate media house, these fresh faces seem like warm sunshine. When I look at them, they remind me that I used to have a life like them too. It makes me happy.
I won’t lie, I hoped to shake off a few years from my mind and body when I joined a reputed college in Mumbai as a teacher. I was doing it part-time but I knew that I am going to take up a job in the college soon. Yes, I liked being around these young minds so much.
“It just can’t get better than this. I will gain some friends for life,” I told myself.
Some of my college teachers (I was close to quite a few) still command the same degree of respect and love that they used to get when I was in college.
I still know that I can call them anytime and there will be a hot lunch plate waiting me for on their dinner tables, if they know that I am in the vicinity.
But then a lot has changed and it took me two years to realise that. This is not the 1990s. We have moved on. Twenty five years later, the students are still there but they are not us. The difference between us and them is quite drastic.
They still come to me and knock on the doors of my cabin. Pretty much what I would have done in my college too.
But you see, we are talking about students who are generations ahead of me. Now, the education system and goals of studying in a college have changed. And I am sorry it took me two more years to realise this.
These students who fill my corridors with laughter is not who we used to be. They are different animals of a different part of the jungle.
As I was saying, they still come to my cabin, knock on my door and flash their pearlies when they ask for permission to sit down.
“How are you, sir?”
They then ask how I am, talk a bit about the weather or something irrelevant. They they will speak a few words about mine or their social media post. Mostly irrelevant talk again.
Before you convince yourself that they actually came to find out how you are or your family members are: They get to the point.
From there on, the conversation follows a fixed pattern. It’s about cold, hard numbers.
It can be a phone number of a contact, it can be data that I have access to, it can be a recommendation letter or a question about how or when they are getting their marksheets.
It’s all about them, it’s all about their purpose. There is no conversation, mostly because they didn’t have a conversation in their minds in the first place.
That time the faces change, the emotion changes, the smile vanishes and the same feeling of negotiating a corporate deal emerges.
I was uncomfortable about this. These sudden attitudinal changes baffled me. It took me two years to realise that….
The student today, are the most selfish beings that I have seen in a lifetime. They engage in small talk with you for a specific reason and it can vary from as simple as a permission to a recommendation letter. The student today, doesn’t view you as a teacher but as a “facilitator”. Somebody who facilitates their journey from a student to a professional. The student today views you as a “contact”. To keep you in their address book and get more people out of your address book into their own address book.
The student today is not part of your extended family. They might behave like one, they might act like one. But they are not. They are not in college to create something or break something down, these students are in college to build a career. That’s why they knocked your door in the first place.
Those heartwarming conversations with teachers in the staffrooms of St Xaviers and Presidency College are stuff of folklore. They created dreams for me. My students do not dream, they would rather ‘utilise’ the time.
My students would forget that you exist the moment they step out of the college.
My students have only word that can describe them. And that word is ‘Selfish’.
Of course, now you will bring in specific examples of students who have been friends with you or who have been your extended family even after passing out of the campus.
Now, put that sub-set against the absolute figures of the batch count. Also compare the numbers against how many students have reached out to you in the garb of creating a warm personal equation.
Now we are talking. It’s hard math. Numbers won’t lie, you see.
That my heart won’t hear the truth is a completely different story.