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Age is just a number. 18 till I die. Don’t they just love to say that! While one has absolutely nothing against that attitude, one just wonders if there is a little more than the happy-go-lucky, full-of-life connotation to those sayings. Can it so happen that a person, despite having celebrated more birthdays, has failed to develop a reasonably endurable personality and an ability to think objectively? And I am not even talking about the weirdoes. Even in the average population – and let’s say for the time being that they are not weirdoes – does age necessarily make one smarter? More mature? Does seeing more summers unquestionably add more meaning, more substance to one’s existence?

Here at IITM, – as I’m sure, at a lot of other colleges – juniors attach a lot of significance to a senior’s opinion. Be it academics or some co-curricular activity or sports or indeed, elections. And it makes a lot of sense too. People who have spent more time in the institute obviously know more about the place and the way things work there. But it would be imprudent to deny that just as the good things pass down the batches, so do the bad ones. Because sadly, most of the people who love to shower free advice are the ones who have, quite frankly, screwed up in their time and have, in their self-centered brains, developed extremely biased viewpoints.

I have a friend who, in his first week in the institute, was completely brainwashed by a certain group of seniors who convinced him that his branch was worthless. So much so that he was seriously contemplating quitting IIT. You can’t blame the poor guy – imagine his plight as a scared fresher away from home for the first time, going from one group of seniors to another as he underwent the ‘personality development’ process. But you can blame the seniors. They were not even from the same branch. Nor were they mature enough to tell him that his education in such a premier institute would be – if he were adequately receptive – much more than what he would learn in the classroom. Today, three years hence, he is doing rather well and I assume he is happy. What a tragedy it would have been if he had gone through with that impulse!

We learn a number of awesome things from our parents and we can probably never thank them enough. However, if we leave sentiments aside for a moment, it isn’t such a long shot to claim that our upbringing is also responsible for a lot of the flaws in our personalities and what’s worse, in our characters. The classic rishwat- dena-toh-khud-papa-ne-sikhaya: ‘thoda chai pani toh dena hi padta hai yaar’; our innate propensity to cut the queue at the mall or at the ticket counter at the railway station; our nonchalance towards cleanliness: ‘sabhi toh thukte hain yaar, kya fark padta hai’; our incredible ability to lose that plastic wrapper in the middle of the road when there is a dustbin hardly a dozen feet away; the ubiquitous importance to results rather than the process – are all by products of our growing up. And we don’t even realize the impact this attitude has on our society as a whole. We do all these things almost subconsciously. We have seen people – people older than us – do the same things all around us and it has been imbibed into our very beings. And you can’t even blame these people because they themselves have learned it from their ‘seniors’!

Among the numerous A4 sheets adorning the off-white dust laden walls of my (rather well organized) hostel room, there is a paper with a list of sentences beginning with “I have learned…” I found it on one of my ‘get inspired’ explorations that I embark on from time to time. I read it every once in a while and I relate to different points every time. This one struck a chord today:

I have learned that maturity has more to do with the types of experiences one has had and what one has learnt from them and less to do with the number of birthdays one has celebrated.

The rest, as the saying doesn’t go, is a blog post.