The book offers a perfect “nostalgia trip” for those interested in one. At the same time, the book also has several shortcomings. There is constant ranting and raving about IIT and how great IIT-ians are throughout the book. While this might be acceptable to the reader who is an IIT graduate (though personally, I thought it was a huge overkill), I am not convinced about the non-IITian. I suspect that most would give up quite early on in the process of reading this book.
Given the authors background, the book definitely has a strong journalistic style, that is, reporting style to it. The book is full of “he said so, she said so”. In fact, a handful of individuals have been quoted endlessly throughout the book. One chapter is completely dedicated to a bilious outpouring by one alumni! There are others which capture long emails from friends of the author.
The author, despite being married to an IIT woman seems to have done little research to find out if there are any woman IIT-ians who have become hugely successful. Instead, he chose an easy option and described his meeting with a woman friend from IIT KGP and wrote a chapter about it. After 50 years of IITs, so much for the woman IIT-ian’s perspective. (No offense to the woman IIT-ian mentioned, who I understand was very popular in her times at KGP). It would have been a lot more purposeful had the author done the required research to identify a woman IIT-ian who has had significant success in her career.
“If I had another chance I would spend a lot less time in class,” the second topper from 1986 batch IIT Delhi apparently said. “I learnt very little in class,” said another. Throughout the book, there is an obvious glorification of not focusing on academics, and of this being portrayed as cool. This sends a completely wrong message to new entrants to the IIT system. Besides, there is a “Profs suck, while students are smart” message throughout the book. My personal view is that some Profs were good while some were mediocre. This is common in most institutions. A detailed discussion with one or more IIT grads who are currently successful Profs to gather their insights on this topic and what can be done to improve the system, would have been far more helpful than repeated criticism of IIT faculty, their motivations in clamping down on students, and so on.
“A lot of people just copied in the exams and got through.” This quote attributed to Purnendu Chatterjee (PC) was outright insulting. Firstly, I am surprised that PC even said this. Besides, even if he did, I am surprised that the author did not exercise some editorial restraint and refrain from mentioning this, because it is insulting to thousands of IIT-ians the world over and it is simply untrue.