Alma matters

Table of Content


Alma Matters is a Netflix documentary series that tries to explore and disclose what goes on inside India’s most prestigious and aspirational institution, the IITs.

When India celebrated and revered the IITs as India’s gateway to success. This glorification has also made IITs the epicenter of all Indian engineer’s dreams.

Despite all this worshiping, how much do we know about the IIT life?

Do we have a clue on what an IITian goes through in his or her engineering journey?

What Pratik Patra and Prashant Raj, the directors of this documentary attempt to do here is to show the interior pictures of struggle and torments rather than the glamorous exteriors we are all familiar with.

They spread the documentary across three episodes.

Episode 1: Independent Variable

An institution that requires no introduction but it would still be strange to start the documentary without a proper introduction. The first episode is dedicated purely to give you an introduction to the IIT from an insider perspective.

The episode stroll through different (and independent) issues the students at IIT face.

The IITs when conceived were designed to train India’s brightest minds as Engineers and able Technocrats meeting global standards to prove what this developing independent nation was capable of. Seventy years later, today what happens in IIT is what this episode is about. How an institution meant to achieve brilliance ended up as an arena for the rat race.

Chapter 1: Randomized process

This chapter talks about the fundamental flaw in IIT, to create the best engineers intelligence alone is not enough, you need passion. Something that IITs never looked at. The people coming to IITs are people who have cleared India’s toughest public exam but who are also pretty clueless about their passion and which engineering stream to choose. Ultimately, your college and streams will be decided by your rank in JEE, nothing else matters.

Chapter 2: Astray

This chapter talks about how the freedom and resources provided by the IIT meant for empowering its student sent them astray.

The years of rigorous and miserable training these students went through to crack JEE have deprived them of any kind of happiness. When they do finally get experience all this freedom and entertainment that they been so cruelly deprived of, how can the students not go astray?

The faculties are also helpless as they need to handle more students than what they are equipped for.

Chapter 3: Identity

This chapter points out what is the sense of identity people have at IIT. It may seem strange at first but makes more sense as you look more deeply. Since the IITians spent more time in their hostels than in their departments, the sense of identity they form is of the hall they belong to than the department itself.

Chapter 4: 1:9

This is the ratio of the number of girls to the number of boys in IIT. This means of out of 10 students, 9 will be male and only one female.

The result is a male-dominated society that doesn’t know that it is sexist.

It is hard to digest that people at IIT can be sexist. Maybe that is why India hasn’t changed as well.

Episode 2: Escape Velocity

Let’s just be honest for a moment and acknowledge the fact that the real reason why people work so hard to get an admission into these IITs is not out of love for engineering or saving humanity, it’s for the placement they offer and the package they deliver.

How disappointed and inauthentic this documentary would be if they excluded the placement experience when talking about the IIT life.

So they dedicated the whole second episode to depicting the fine details of what goes on inside IIT placements.

It’s not the high-fives or applauds that you will see in this episode but an intensely pressured, helpless, and most importantly desperate young engineers that are all struggling to meet the humongous expectation that they didn’t ask for.

This is the point where you get lost in the depth of what you could have become and what you became.

It is heartening to see that even in the IITs, with a plethora of courses on offer, still everyone eventually ends up in a coding job. At the same time reassuring the universal truth that IITs are the fastest way for an Indian to make money.

IITs give the middle-class Indians the escape velocity needed to break out of poverty.

Episode 3: Young’s Modulus

The last episode that talks about all the extremes.

The extremely fond memories you have at the IITs, the extremely heart-wrenching moments at IITs, and the moment you feel closest to the institution, which is when you realize it is all about to end.

These are what make up the last episode. The episode tries to draw the stress-strain graph of the IIT experience, pointing out the yield strength and fracture point, measuring their temperament.

Review of Alma Matters

You know this documentary is made pretty much exclusively for engineers if you have even read the names of the episodes,

I’m not saying non-engineers won’t get this, but the sheer amount of relatability and memories that an engineer feels won’t be felt by a non-engineer.

What the most striking and frightening part for me was how similar the IITian’s journey was to my own. It is shocking that despite the difference in scale and size, the fundamental experience of engineering in India is pretty much the same.

We are all the same clueless young adults trying to keep up with our peers, doing things we are not sure of doing, competing only because we don’t want to be left behind.

Personally, this documentary was the revival of all my memories back in my college days. I think that the people who loved this documentary must have seen themselves in this documentary. That is why they loved it.

It is not because it is the IITian’s story that you loved it; it is because it is your story too.

This documentary really cracked the IIT.

Verdict of Alma Matters

If you had no idea what I was babbling about until this point, then you shouldn’t watch Alma matters as this is exactly how you will feel when you watch it too.

But for those who get what I’m talking about, go watch it. It is worth your memories.



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