Saturday, June 21, 2008

The ‘education’ paradigm

MAITRI AND VIKAS have been together for almost five years now. Maitri works for an ad agency while Vikas is a freelance photographer who has his own studio in the city. After half a decade of closely knit courtship, they finally decided to tie the knot. Despite the fact that they had lived together for almost three years, they felt the need to officially solemnize the relationship with the seal of matrimony. I have also been invited to the festivities and I hope to make it there to wish them both a world of happiness and bliss.

Now, what does Maitri and Vikas have in common? Except the fact that they are seriously mad about each other – nothing. They come from ridiculously different backgrounds. She is the quintessential Gujju (short for Gujrati) girl steeped in various cultural variations of her own roots which include a monthly visit to Swami Narayan temples with her family. He, on the other very distant hand, is an atheist who finds the concept of God and religion a complete hoax. Despite being bred in a fairly orthodox Iyengar family, Vikas found his Almighty in his photographs. He neither worships anyone else nor intends to. Well – maybe with the fair exception of Maitri.

There is one more strand, apart from these concrete platforms these two stand on, that tell them apart – their education. Maitri has a decorated MBA from one of the finest Universities of the country while Vikas never even finished college. My conservatively liberal upbringing let out a spark when this fact breezed by me. As someone who has been fed on a rich diet of the clichéd - ‘Arranged Marriage Good / Love Marriage Bad’ – I could not help but wonder what it would have been like had these two met under different circumstances. For instance, had they interacted with each other through a regular marriage alliance or a matrimonial website? I can wager quite confidently that Maitri would have declined Vikas’ proposal. Reason – he wasn’t educated enough to match her intellectual prowess and hence would harm her family’s sense of pride.

There was something about this possibility that bothered me. Considering that the concept of arranged marriages is most prevalent in countries like India, how much value do the others – read Americans, English, Europeans et al who do not consider the semantics of the other person for love and hopefully more – really give the formal education of their partner? Does it even matter? As I spoke to one of my Italian colleagues, she almost laughed at the question. ‘As long as he is a good man and knows how to treat a woman’ she said with an air of assurance that almost made me blush. I could not help but head back to the hundreds of profiles of prospective brides I had seen in the past few months where a girl with Bachelors in Commerce was looking for a doctor or an M.D or in some cases a PhD holder! I could not quite fathom the logic behind this sense of match making. If one looks at the relationship from a purely financial point of view, then there is some room for the argument that a person with a higher qualification stands a bright chance for a better job – hence translating into better income which then equates itself into wonderful living.


But does it really mean that a person with a PhD is a better human being than someone with a BCA degree or even just a diploma? Hardly. From experience if there is one thing I have learnt is that the most irrational and outrageous behaviors come from highly qualified individuals. Not to belittle their accomplishments – since I know some wonderful human beings with advanced degrees as well – but their educational milestones are rarely a reflection of their personality. I was reminded of Muniyappa, one of the ground staff who used to work with my father when he was in the Central government. During my three years in Chennai, I had never met a man – apart from my father of course – more affectionate than him. My father used to joke that maybe he was a woman in his past life since there was no other explanation to his deep sense of kindness, gratitude, humbleness and above all - honesty. He was happily married and fathered three wonderful children. He was truly an image of what a human being should believe in and follow as a principle in making the world a better place. As it turned out, Muniyappa had stopped his education after the tenth grade.

There are several such examples where a person with lesser exposure to academia has turned out to be the ideal person one wishes for while someone with illustrative multiple degrees attached to their shoulder turns out to be the biggest imbeciles one could ever meet.

I do not debate the fact that education is definitely a must if a society has to grow and prosper, but my reservation is with gauging a person’s character based on his education. Ideally one would think the two would be directly proportional – but the reality is that they are not. Education is merely one tool that helps bring awareness and knowledge to a person but it is not the only tool. There are so many more parameters that shape an individual’s character. Some of it is experience, some is the hardship one has gone through while others include understanding what love means and how to respect the opposite sex. If people fail in these vital categories, no amount of education helps.

As I get ready to wish Maitri and Vikas on their joyous day, the words of Aristotle ring true – ‘Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses and avoids.’ So the next time you meet someone with lesser intellectual milestones than yourself, try not to walk away too soon. You might be about to meet a true gift to mankind or who knows … even a life partner!


7 reflections:

Sneha said...

Well said & Well put,Shashi..

shakri said...


Thank you. I am glad you found some reality in the piece.


ಸ್ವರ said...

hmm .. good one.. hmmm..

ಸ್ವರ said...

its a wider picture alveno.. even a guy without property, huge cash could make a better groom if he is good enuf to take care of the girl.. its just fate dont u think..

shakri said...


Fate does play a good role but again - it is still not enough to answer why it is that Indians hinge so much on the education of the groom being >= education of the bride. My issue is with that concept. And true - a person without any financial big bucks backing him up can also take care of the girl equally well.

As I said - it is all about his character eventually and not what he has stored up as academic milestones.

Thanks for the response. Good to see you here.


Madhura said...

The proportionality of educational qualification/profession to the character of a person lies only in the mind set of the people in India. Which is agian directly proportional to better salaries and better lifestyle. It's true, money can buy a world of material pleasures and make life comfortable but the most important things in life: Love and peace cannot be bought at any cost. The sadest part is, in the process of match making the human values that he/she holds are not at all recognised, they all are traded for money. Though our society appears to be modernised, traditional thinking still exist. Qualification is more valued than the character of a person. It's strange that his/her qualification is still considered as a major criteria for marraige.

Innocent Warrior said...

Nice thoughts!!!

Educational institutes are one of the means of getting Moral Values, but practically this is not the case at least in India.