As I asked Siddharth what his passion is, he took a while to think. He mentioned to me that it’s not something that he really thinks about that often. Siddharth is a graduate student in the field of computer science and engineering. Though he enjoys computers and computer science is an interesting topic, it’s not what he’s passionate about. After much deliberation, Siddharth told me that his main passion is the unknown. He’s the kind of guy who absolutely loves learning. Being passionate about the unknown leads to an obsessive sort of nature to make the unknown, known.
On the topic of learning, I asked Siddharth why he came from India to the states for grad school. He said that that is really two separate questions: Why grad school? and Why the US? He decided to go to grad school because he wanted to broaden his career options and continue learning. He chose the US because he was in the field of computer science and the United States has some of the best computer science graduate programs in the world so it was more or less the obvious choice. From here, his plans are to continue into a PhD program. To Siddharth, this is an obvious decision. He wants to continue his education and he also wants to put himself in a position where he won’t have to work in a company job. He doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do with his life quite yet, but he knows that there comes a point where he will have to take all the learning he has been doing and redirect it into some sort of application so that he can give back to the world. His main career goal is to do something where he will have a significant amount of freedom, where he will do something different every day, and also where he will be in a position to influence and better the lives of others. The career paths that fit Siddharth’s goal are limited but one option that came up was working as a professor. Professors govern multi-million dollar research projects, are constantly learning, and have the daily opportunity to influence a young person’s life in a positive way. This kind of job seems to perfectly fit Siddharth’s goals. However, he hasn’t thought too much into this possibility.
Going back to the PhD, it is important to note that Siddharth doesn’t want to get a doctorate in computer science. He doesn’t want to stay in such a narrow field. Doing five years of research to solve a problem in a field other that computer science will certainly expand his horizons. As for the specific field he plans to get his doctorate in, he doesn’t know. When the time comes closer, it’ll be a matter of what problem Siddharth decides to solve.
A Life Changing Transition
When I asked Siddharth if there was a moment, person, or event that changed his life, he responded that there wasn’t anything in particular. The closest thing to a life changing event was the transition from being ignorant to all there is to understanding the vastness of the unknown. I connected with Siddharth on this point and we agreed that the more you learn, the more aware you are at the vastness of all possible knowledge. Siddharth said that this change was a gradual one and he can’t really recall a definitive Eureka moment. He later told me that this is probably because for the past 5 years or so, he hasn’t really put any focus on people or events. What is important is the ideas that come from the people or events. To Siddharth, it is the ideas that have the potential to be life changing.
Some examples of these ideas resonate in some books that Siddharth suggested: Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden and A Pale Blue Dot as well as the famous fiction novel The Stranger by Albert Camus. Siddharth also made a note that Carl Sagan is one of the most influential factors in him deciding to take a career in the sciences.
Siddharth is not a religious person and doesn’t waste time worrying about religion either way. It’s as simple as that.
However, since Siddharth is from India, I wanted to get a peek into the religious culture in India. Siddharth told me that religion is much more mainstream in India than it is in the United States. Probably 9 out of every 10 people in India are devoutly religious. The most dominant religions from Siddharth’s viewpoint are Hinduism, Islam, and then probably Christianity. I was surprised to learn that even though Buddhism originated in India, Siddharth doesn’t know a single Buddhist. That’s not to say they don’t exist. It’s just that Buddhism doesn’t even fall into the top 4 or 5 most popular religions in India. Another surprising religious tidbit about India is that religion and politics are more or less different names for the same thing in India. In the US, I sometimes get frustrated with religion impacting political decisions and for some reason, I imagined India’s politics and Hinduism to be kept separately. However, it seems that religion in politics in the states isn’t really as bad as us Americans like to think it is.
Another interesting thing that Siddharth mentioned about religion is that he thinks that one of the reasons why religion is so prevalent in India is because it is still a developing country and many people are not educated. His view is that religion is natural for someone who doesn’t know any different. However, through education, a logical way of thinking about things develops. In Siddharth’s opinion, logic and reasoning show that a lot of main religious beliefs lack logic and reasoning consistent with today’s knowledge. This naturally causes a cessation of religious following. This made me wonder whether or not this is a reason behind organized religion fading in the US. College education is almost a necessity in today’s society and if there is indeed a correlation there, it would make sense. Definitely something to think about.
A Short Note on Culture
Because I’ve only ever lived in the United States, I asked Siddharth to elaborate a little bit on some cultural differences between the United States and India. The first one he mentioned is that they don’t tip in India. There’s no obligation to tip in India like there is in the United States. Occasionally, people do leave tips, but it’s completely up to the customer when in the United States it really isn’t. On a more serious note, he said that the Americans are more respectful towards their civic duties. His example was driving. Apparently drivers in the U.S. are more respectful towards the laws and towards each other compared to India. This is such a different perspective because I can confidently say that every American will tell you that U.S. drivers frankly don’t care for anyone but themselves. Another thing he noted about culture is that there is a lot more poverty in India. The country is giant and there are tons of people. On top of that, it is still a developing country. It’s a prime candidate for poverty. Siddharth also said that it’s hard to come up with generalizations for the country because it’s so large and he’s only experienced a small subset of India itself.
Aesthetically, India is a beautiful and colorful country. There is a lot to see and experience there and Siddharth said that it is completely safe to travel through.
Until next time, Siddharth.