Saturday, November 26, 2011


A Mulla Nasrudin Story

I love to teach. 

I have encountered two types of students:

Students interested in learning and acquiring genuine knowledge
Students obsessed with marks, grades and acquiring qualifications. 

This second category of exam-oriented ambitious students would often say that I taught beyond the syllabus and what was the use of all this knowledge from the examination point of view (and in getting a "good" job - the "good" refers primarily to the salary).

In today's world it is only the "utility value" of education that is emphasized upon - the quality of an educational institution is determined by the salary its students are offered in campus placements. No one seems to the bothered about the "intrinsic value" of education and knowledge.

Most students don't seem to be bothered about acquiring genuine knowledge in their core profession. The focus seems to be on the "pay packet" and lucrative job offers. That's why we have so many engineers from IITs and premier engineering colleges who never pursue engineering as a career but switch over to lucrative white collar jobs in finance, HR and marketing management (the most sought after being investment banking) which have no connection with engineering and even within the domain of engineering everyone seems to be migrating to high paying and comfortable IT jobs (I have seen metallurgists, chemical, civil and mechanical engineers who don't want to pursue their core specializations and prefer a desk job in IT). 

That's why the primary emphasis is on marks, grades, succeeding in competitive exams like CAT - yes the focus is on those aspects that enable you get an attractive high-paying job and enjoy a lifelong lucrative career. No one seems to bothered about true learning to acquire genuine knowledge and become proficient in one's core profession for which one is studying, especially in engineering and technology.

To these students I would often narrate this classic Mulla Nasrudin story. 

A disciple interrupted Mulla Nasrudin’s sermon on teaching stories and rudely said, “You are talking all nonsense. I cannot understand head or tail of what you are saying. And your so-called “teaching stories” are at best poor jokes – they don’t make sense or have any meaning.”

Mulla Nasrudin calmly removed the diamond studded gold ring on his finger, politely called the man, gave him the ring and told him, “ Go outside to the roadside stalls and ask them the cost of this ring - for how much will they will buy this ring. I want to sell it – the minimum price is One Lakh Rupees. Don’t sell it for less than a lakh of rupees.”

The disciple returned after some time and angrily said, “You have made me a laughing stock. No one is prepared to pay One Lakh Rupees for this ring. They say this ring is not worth more than ten rupees.”

Mulla Nasrudin then told the man, “Now go to the best jeweller in town and ask him.”

After some time the man returned dumbfounded: “Mulla Nasrudin, I just can’t believe it – the jeweller paid Rupees Two Lakhs for your ring.” 

Mulla Nasrudin looked the man in the eye and said, “Just as only a good jeweller can understand the true value of my ring, only the truly wise can understand the true meaning of my teaching stories. Yes, only the truly wise can distinguish between real wisdom and fake wisdom!”

I told this story to a bright young civil engineer who did not to work onsite in the "field" and quit his job in the infrastructure construction industry and joined an IT firm for a well paying comfortable 9 to 5 five-day-week job in a metro. Now he is "bored" with his IT job and is thinking of quitting his IT job too and doing an MBA and wants to become an investment banker. Well, it seems this "inspirational tale" has had no effect on him. Is money the only motivator? If one is not interested in civil engineering then why waste so many years and so much effort studying civil engineering and also deny someone who is interested else the opportunity? I remember a brilliant student of mine - a very bright Electronics and Communications Engineer who possessed an natural aptitude in design and would have made an excellent researcher - who went to an IIM after her B. Tech. and is now an investment banker working abroad.

Hey, I'll stop pontificating. Just read the Mulla Nasrudin Story once again, have a laugh and forget it!

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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