Who are We?

“Taking jobs to build up your resume is the same as saving up sex for old age.”

Warren Buffett

Do you believe in God? Let me tell you why I ask.

‘Who are you? What in the hell have you done till now in your life?!’ So asked the seniors. These informal “intros”, back in first year, were supposed to be good for us. Looking back, “Who are you” was never a question about yourself = the “you” here is about what is valuable enough that it can serve as a placeholder for the self.

We did not say it, but we had something that all of us really valued that we now thought of as our identity. That number. That rank. We held our ranks on our collars. We judged our peers on the basis of what was on theirs. The number was what we believed in. Our rank was “us”.

As those first couple of weeks passed in IIIT, that number didn’t suffice. We had to look for something more. Something greater. Something that differentiated ourselves from the next person. We pressed that reset button that college gave us. We had the chance to relive parts of our lives and forge our own identities afresh.

We redefined ourselves, first by associating ourselves with our branch. Then house, a club, a skill. Some of us were called CPro bond, others were the to-be dassi’s. How can we forget the budding guitarist in every batch? Our identities were starting to be forged. We believed in ourselves and reached out for whatever life offered us, and grabbed it with both hands! The possibilities were innumerable, the options endless and the sky the limit. We were also extremely confused, but confident. We were so audacious that we started asking the big question. What is my purpose ?

Role models are good. We all have them. A lot of first years look up to seniors as role models. The seniors are those who do things in the campus. They are the ones running the show. But that is not what attracts us to them. It is their sense of purpose and clarity that draws us to them. They all seem to be going somewhere while we are moving in circles.

Among these role models are some of those whose achievements we had learned of and admired before even stepping onto the campus. I am talking about those of GSoC and ICPC fame. I am talking about those that grabbed that 2 crore package at Facebook or Google. Or those that got that PPO at that company somewhere in the US. They are high priest of our microcosm. Their doing, the stuff college legends are made of.

Who coined these legends anyway?

We are unbelievers, initially. We don’t believe that we can be them. But there is something magnetic about “the” path that they are on. Or is “a path”?

We want to create ourselves in their image. Role is something one plays and model is idealisation of the reality.  We wanted to follow in the footsteps of our role models. We hear the choir mill of society churn out talk of the promised land. We peer our eyes as far as we can see, and before us in the distance is the city on the hill. The path lay before us. All that was left now was the running. We want everything they had and do what they did. We borrow their book, and religiously follow the 10 commandments that come with it.

Who wrote the book anyway?

In them we trust and these great people shepherd us through the ups and downs of our college life. But what forges the strong bond of respect we have for them is that they give us purpose. We work hard, follow the rules and, most importantly, keep faith. After all we want to join our heroes at the Elysium.

It was not easy to follow the rules. But we persisted. By the time we reached 3rd year we had many internships under our belt. We knew our codeforces colour and those of our peers. Yes, Agni and Vayu were still there, just the way they were earlier, but they didn’t matter anymore. We got our priorities right, and paid our tithes. The guitar sat in the corner and gathered dust. Events were just to see from the window and wave to them as they passed by. These sacrifices had to be made.

We skipped one class for a contest. What did that buddha teach anyway, right? Assignments are something of a nuisance, we know what we need to focus on. The faculty are like any other incorrigible pagans – they are all philosophy and no pragmatism. Sometimes we wondered why the faculty thinks the way they do. Are they not proud of the alumni. They never try to understand their best students.

Then we skipped the club meet. The attendance is low anyway. Then the day of extracurricular volunteering . This was, in fact, something that we were passionate about, wasn’t it? How foolish we were. The enthusiasm that was initially beginning to shape our identities switched itself with a yearning to achieve a certain definition of bondiyat. In this pursuit of bondiyat we gave up the false sense of invincibility we had in our 1st year. We became humbled by reality. The ideals of yesteryears were a distant memory, to think like what we did then is childish.

We became dedicated to our purpose, everything in life was to be measured against the yardstick of bondiyat. “What is the use of this in real life?” we found ourself asking. What we didn’t think that often is what is meant by “ real life “ is “ how will it help me get a job/internship? ” Somehow the things that don’t end up helping us get a job are somehow unreal.

“Who are you? What in the hell have you done till now in your life?!”. “Who are you” is not a question about yourself. It is the judgement that awaits us at the end of four years. All our actions small and big are meticulously recorded in the ledger, the almost holy parchment, the resume. What will you have in it when the day of reckoning comes? The investor angels at the gate will see the resume, cross question you thoroughly. But they are impartial judges, showing neither favour nor discrimination. Your success will depend upon how well you followed the rules. Did you do good deeds and fill the resume.

In that moment of truth everything makes sense. You finally have an answer to that question. Resume. I am my resume. This is what I have done in my life till now.

Let’s say you have a few words to describe yourself. The words you choose, that one phrase is a glimpse into your life that you offer people. It is how you identify yourself. It is your identity. It is “you”. The identity of a person is how that person sees themselves. It’s their reflection of themselves to the world. It is very personal, yet public. Identity is how you define who you are to society. It is your raison d’etre. .

It is very difficult to express one’s identity in words. Anyone who has tried to make a resume would know. That is why in daily conversation we use shorthand called stereotypes to define ourselves. And sometimes unknowingly these stereotypes creep back into our personality. Because it’s not just you who shapes your identity, but also your perceived identity that shapes you.

O Resume! Thou holy parchment! Thy beauty of bits and bytes, how I love thee. Thou art unblemished and pure. In prayer I sing for thy glory and through thee I seek redemption.

Now, do you believe in God ?

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Dushyant Goel

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