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The Rat Race

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Winning or achieving by bringing another down, An evil grin resulting from someone’s frown, Chopping off a King’s head to snatch the crown, Floating on the water by making one drown, Gives what satisfaction? Compared to a smile from a clown, Or making our own chocolate cake in a rich brown, Or stitching for our mother a hand made gown, Or laying down one’s life for saving a whole town!

Cover Photo by Pankaj Tottada

​Welcome to India. The land of spicy food, sarees, billions of Gods, Bollywood, unique culture and what not. We have basically everything here! Well, almost. But what we do have, and something which I am personally very proud of since I’m a part of it, are the IITs, the Indian Institutes of Technology. They are the best Engineering colleges in India without hesitation and definitely one among the best in the world. Many in the country want to be a part of these institutes at some part in their lifetime or the other. But the number of IITs are only 16 with a cumulative take-in of nearly 11,000 per year. Since our population is around 120 crores, it is clear that not everyone gets the IIT brand on them.

This leads to the next obvious question: Who are those few? The answer to this is the JEE, arguably the toughest exam in the world. Children now are made to start preparing for it from as early as the 6th grade, when they probably don’t even know the expansion of the acronym IIT! This leads to immense cut-throat competition amongst the children to scramble to become one amongst the top 11,000 of the country. The word ‘topper’ becomes a nickname of sorts which is desired by all but is destined to be given to only one, with the others left in a fit of anger and revenge on that person. It leads to the destruction of many friendships and relationships. The innocent and fragile mind of a child is made to work against their peers and develop a feeling of selfishness. The children go to really extreme measures due to their immaturity, such as telling a peer that an assignment which was supposed to be given that day has been postponed and that undoubting peer doesn’t submit his paper and loses marks. Another few may also distract their peers during the whole day and prevent them from studying on the eve of an exam but they themselves may have already prepared for the same. Such criminal ideas are not their own, they are induced upon them by parents, teachers and many other factors. Later on, when they become adults and start working, competitiveness to get a promotion before one’s colleagues, office politics, trying to score brownie points with the boss by foul-mouthing fellow employees and other such things are all the result of the competitive rat race mentality. Human beings are the only animals who can effectively communicate with each other at such a highly sophisticated level. But we, instead of working together to improve the world around us, are working against each other to come up on top. The extent of this mentality is so pathetic and sadistic that some section of people believe in deriving pleasure from the failure of the other person, even at the cost of their own failure. Can it seriously get any worse! The term “Survival of the fittest” is slowly being turned into “Survival of the contest!” I understand that not everyone gets everything they want in life, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let others have it! Instead of wasting your energy on messing up that person’s life, if you put a part of that energy in developing and improving your own life and trying to achieve what you want, you will get it! Where there is a will, there will be a way! You just have to look around properly! Have faith in yourself! You can do it! I made it into IIT Bombay in spite of millions of obstacles like bad friends, girls, movies, Facebook, gaming, texting, WhatsApp, mood swings and every other possible distraction for a teenager, but I made it in the end! If I can, so can you! Nothing is impossible until you decide it is, and your decisions aren’t valid until you’ve tried! So go for it, don’t think about what the others are up to, you decide for yourself what is right and what is not. Achieving something by suppressing someone has no high in it, but struggling hard, losing blood, sweat, food and sleep over it and finally achieving it has that feeling with it which is greater than the achievement itself!



This contribution is edited by Sreekar Ayyagari & photographed by Pankaj Tottada.



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