Remember that Hit Movie of so long ago? Madhuri Dixit dancing in weddings with her didi‘s devar? Remember the dialogue where she’s telling someone what she’s studying? No? Well, she gushes with a “Compyuuuuterrrrsssss” and that zillion-watt smile of hers, and everyone around her also gushes with pride, and fawn admiringly over her. Well, Bond and I watched that scene not very long ago for the gazillionth time, and used to give that gushing dialogue every time we were asked about our career interests till we felt sick of it. Er, no, it was actually coz the people asking us about our career interests turned out to be potential employers.
Flashback not very long ago. Remember that Bobby Deol-Ajay Devgan flick called Tango Charlie? It had Deol going bride-seeing. His dad asks for dowry. Her dad says hell, I’ve educated my daughter, what more do you want? He says so what, I’m better at stuff than you are. She says I can beat you at most things: Tum Microsoft Word jaante ho? He replies, Haan, pata hai… woh kaun hai?. She smirks. He says he can beat her at goli chalaana, he’s a decorated army officer. She says You Wish. Takes him to a game console. He can’t handle the joystick. She wins. No dahej.
When I was fifteen, every aunt and uncle told me to get into Computer Science. Great field for girls, they said. I had slightly different plans back then. At age seventeen, they said much the same things, apart from raving about the excellent pay and opportunities to go abroad, apart from the easy career path. But now, when I’ve chosen the IT path, they’re saying the same thing about a career in Finances/Marketing/Whatever job it is that an MBA from IIMB [it’s ten minutes from home, so it’s considered an excellent option for me to consider] guarantees you. One aunt had even taken to hounding me at family gatherings and extracting oaths from me to write CAT!
IT for women seemed perfect, dinnit… the world’s first programmer was a woman [Ada Lovelace], the original programmers of ENIAC were women…. the field didn’t deal with heavy machinery, needed a fine hand far as hardware was concerned and a fine mind where software was, size did not matter [smaller devices meant faster computing, and that was discovered by a woman – the Amazing Grace Hopper], wasn’t physically demanding…. basically most of the excuses that kept women out of jobs didn’t apply here, so why aren’t there more women in computing than there are? And I don’t mean in services.. in R&D and teaching [not counting the ALs of NITK], though at school level, 90% of the teachers happen to be women.
And… I don’t see the point of instituting an Anita Borg-esque scholarship for women in computing in Indian colleges as long as the education system maintains its tilt towards rote learning.
On a different tangent, for all the celebrations of India being the next big thing in IT, there’s not much original research coming from Indian institutions [that does not include Microsoft, IBM and Google] … not as much as there should be, anyway. There’s hell lot of scope for innovations in Natural Language Processing, how come there’s not that many people taking notice? Maybe this sounds like gibberish, maybe this isn’t a well-informed statement, but I feel as long as high-paying IT product and services jobs abound in India, it’s gonna kill, or at the very least, maim original research. It feels like second-wave colonialism to me. In 1890, “computer” was a government post, and I guess the job desc would have been a human calculator. Things don’t seem to have changed much. Correct me if I’m wrong there.