28 February, 2021

The Pillars Of Asok

IITians-turned-Americans is the oft-heard story, now the brains that refused to drain

The Pillars Of Asok
At a recent campaign gabfest, presidential contender Gen Wesley Clark suggested to a rather astonished American audience that graduates from India’s Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) should be encouraged to stay permanently in the United States by offering them something like a fast-track Green Card. Considiering the remark came amid a toxic debate about immigration and job loss, you could put it down to the general’s lack of political savvy. On the other hand, you could also attribute it to the cult status IITians have acquired as some sort of ubergeeks—an eminence sufficiently overblown for the cartoonist Scott Adams to mildly deflate (Asok in the Dilbert frames). However, the general’s proposition was simple: American interests would be best served by taking the best minds; and they don’t come better than the now larger-than-life IITians.

It is no surprise then that the rather simple title of Sandipan Deb’s book—The IITians—suggestively incorporates the allusion to titans. When they were established some five decades back, the five IITs (now seven...

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