Why Did I Decide To Continue My Higher Studies In India?
Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Update: I am now an undergraduate student at St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, an autonomous college under the University of Calcutta. I am taking a B. Sc. honors course in physics, with my general elective subjects as mathematics and computer science.
I have tried to evade this question for a long time. But now, I think, is the time to reveal the answer. I am honestly tired of people asking me about my future plans and which US university I would like to go to. At one point of time, I wanted to go abroad. But I have decided to complete my undergraduate studies in India, and think about the next phase later, despite the fact that, forgive me for the lack of modesty, there is at least one good US university which would have accepted my application with a good scholarship, had I applied.
True, I have been rather fickle-minded from the very beginning. When I was suffering from ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura), a rare blood disease which results in a decrease in the amount of blood platelets, I, for the the first time, boarded an airplane to visit Vellore (known for its outstanding medical college). (I had to be hospitalized on that occasion, had to get a bone marrow test done, and I have suffered a lot and watched the people around me suffer as well. But it is all part of being human.) I have traveled by air several more times, even entering the cockpit (on request) twice and chatting with the captain. Aviation became my temporary obsession, as anyone who has been following my YouTube channel from the very beginning must know. I started reading about aviation and airplanes (both the physics of flight and aviation as an industry) and even prepared a - for want of a better word - book on aviation. But since I was young at that time, this book was not, of course, fit for publication. I started collecting airplane models and soon had a pretty large collection (you can take a look here). So basically, to the people who know me, I am famous for being fickle-minded, and when I get interested in something, I dive deep into it, but lose interest eventually and move on to something else. The reason I'm saying this is that some people have wondered whether physics is also just a temporary obsession of mine. Well, the answer is no. I have been interested in physics for the last four years, and never for a single moment did my interest waver. Before these four years, I admit I used to hate physics and math. Well, maybe hate is a strong word: I did well in my physics and math exams and could understand what was being taught to me, but I just didn't care whether a braking car would stop after ten seconds or an image would be formed twenty centimeters from the mirror. At that time I was too caught up in neuroscience and consciousness to admire physics (and math). I just couldn't see what some seemingly-abstract mathematical formulas and theories had to do with the real world of human beings. In fact, if you were to tell my four-years-younger self that he will end up writing a book on physics, he would've laughed his head off. But as I started reading popular science books on physics, I began to admire how beautiful and simple physics is. It makes the study of Nature so much easier. And it takes us so much closer to understanding the fundamental nature of reality. I have never found this kind of beauty or simplicity in chemistry or biology. Because unlike chemistry and biology, physics is fundamental.
But then, why did I not choose to pursue the subject abroad, where there is, I admit, much better scope for research? Number one, I felt I am not yet ready to shift to a different country. This may be due to my shortcomings, I don't deny that. But I always keep my mental health above anything else. I know lots of Indians go to the US and other countries for undergraduate education, and in my heart of hearts, I also know that perhaps I could've managed it myself if I really wanted to. But I don't want to, not now, at least. This may turn out to be the biggest blunder of my life, yet I stand firm in my decision. I have work to do in India, I need to spend time with my parents and I admit, I am a bit home-sick. I am just not ready to go abroad now, that's it. Your question is answered. Now, don't get me wrong, I know how the Indian education system is fraught with corruption, and the system is not fair. You can't judge a student just by his performance in a certain examination. And even a good score doesn't guarantee you success, because there is a lot of manipulation. I don't love India. But again, I'm not ready to move to a different country right now. (I won't pretend that I am proud to be an Indian. The current state of the country is despicable. But note that I understand that there are a lot of problems in foreign countries as well.)
Number two, the internet, accept it or not, has put all the information one click away. I regularly correspond with a number of very great scientists, and I believe most of my research can be done online. College can only give you a platform to lift off, but to actually lift off, only the platform will not suffice, you need to have the fuel inside you. As I always say, if you really want to learn and you have the internet, nobody can stop you. (Of course, you need to filter out the junk from the really useful stuff, for there is a lot of junk on the internet.) And number three, I still have time. I still have time to go abroad at a later stage. My undergraduate education is not the final phase of my education. I still am not sure whether this is a wise decision, choosing not to go abroad while most of my (online) friends have done so, but let's see what the future has in store for me.