10 January 2008

How important is a degree?

Am sure all the netizens are familiar with Orkut. I too have been guilty of succumbing to its allure sometimes. Wanted to share an incident regarding an interesting person I met on Orkut.

Recently a person with a feminine sounding name added me as a friend on Orkut. Usually I am quite wary of such requests, and mostly reject them, since they are all from people who claim to like my smile, my photo etc. However, since this seemed to be from a 'female' I felt quite safe(?) and accepted it. As is my wont, I promptly forgot about this. Well, the person once started chatting with me on Gtalk while I was in office. And since orkut is not accessible from my office network, I mechanically obliged with a few pleasantaries, still blissfully oblivious to his gender. This continued for some days, and I noticed that it happened only during my lunch break. I assumed that this lady only came online at this time since her baby was sleeping! And then one day, I noticed the photograph. It was definitely male enough for me to notice it! I then asked the person who the photo belonged to. And then it dawned on me that this was a guy after all. I had no option but to keep this little goof-up to myself, for afterall I had been lax in going through his profile carefully.

And so, the pleasantaries continued. He seemed a decent and mature guy. He told me a little bit about his work and interests. He was into interior design and intended to open a new showroom somewhere. He was fond of reading fiction - Sidney Sheldon, Robin Cook, John Grisham etc. His English too was very good, which is rare to find, believe me. One fine day, I asked him where he had been educated. And I got the shock of my life when he said "I will not lie to you, I am illiterate". I was flabbergasted. I asked him if he was joking. He said that no he wasn't. He did not wish to lie, since one lie usually led to other lies. On more probing, it turned out that he had to give up his schooling after matriculation due to "circumstances". He learned English by reading the Times of India and other books and always looked up meaning of new words in dictionary and noted them down. He also learned to use computer and was quite net savvy. The latter was obvious from his speed of typing during chat.

The incident was a eye-opener for me in a couple of ways :-

Firstly, we tend to feel so important that we have an Engineering degree in computer science, get paid the best in the industry, are computer literate, and speak and write fluent English. Whereas here is a person, from a small town, who does it all without having a degree to his name! It was indeed a humbling experience. It told me that there is more to a person than their fluency over English, their graduate degree and the college they got it from and whether they are computer literate or not.

And secondly, if the person had not been honest with me, I'd have continued with my erroneous assumption about his background. That led me to question how much do we really know about our online friends? Isn't it a big risk to befriend a person whom we hardly know anything about? Perhaps it will teach me to be a little more circumspect when using such online forums in future. Amen!

Decision making - an underrated skill

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