Sunday, February 10, 2008

B.A, Mechanical Engineering

This post has been a long time coming and I think I really owe myself this explanation. It may come across as a lame excuse for the four years of B.Tech spent in tomfoolery and reckless enjoyment, but its really necessary. I need to evaluate for myself why someone who is still hopelessly addicted to every NGC or Discovery Channel show that involves science and technology, and literally worships all engineering feats was so disillusioned with engineering itself that he feels like running away at the mere mention of it. The person in question is yours truly and here's my story.

Engineering college I discovered was pretty much like school. Solve the 'important' questions and plunge through the papers of the past 3 years and you could pretty much ensure that you were a B. Tech (Honours) graduate if not a topper. It really don't matter if you can't tell the difference between a motor car and a thorn bush because at the end of the day, a degree is just another piece of paper, right? Not that I myself am given to an intensely scientific frame of mind which abhors all practical considerations but this level of apathy was really choking. 90% of the people around me could very much be doing a B. Com (Honours) if that offered them their dream job which in their case was not a job they had dreamed of since childhood but the highest paying job around. And as I would discover soon, this was to be the least of my issues. Well, to tell you the truth I really don't think aiming for a 'dream' job is such a crime. The jobs are there only because you've got the talent to fulfill them.

But what really got my goat was the desperation, the blind ambition and almost criminal tendency to get marks any which way they came! Here were India's best brains who should have been almost vain about their supposed 'superior' mental abilities, but here they were squabbling and scheming over petty things like how to peek into the neighbour's paper, how to smuggle that chit in and to position themselves so that they got the best overall 'view'. Guys burning the midnight oil yet not above grabbing an eyeful of everyone else's paper. It's perfectly okay to feel that strong temptation without yielding to it but the urge to take cheating to a professional level as was evident all around me made me really sick. You know things are really REALLY bad, when Electronics students on the evening before the exam are more focussed on sending a group of girls to the teacher's residence to gain IMPORTANT hints than the last minute panic studying which in my opinion is the only way of dealing with the crisis. I could see for myself perfectly good people around me transform into rats intent on winning this obnoxious rat race for careers, MBAs and IASes. I figured I wasn't born a rat and had absolutely no intention of becoming one now. Success was the only thing worth aspiring for but not at the cost of my integrity.


To my mild amusement I found out that if I tried to implement my set of ethics on everyone else, I would have no friends left. So I settled for what was then the only way out for the rather forlorn me. To live my life on my own idiosyncratic terms, enjoy it (Now that's a resolution that I feel I overemphasized on) and not to tear my hair out over what everyone else was doing. Binary marks in internals were acceptable as long as I made it up by scoring enough in the finals not to flunk the subject. Topics that weren't even part of the syllabus were invariably more fascinating to me but I guess that is a pain that most people have to live with. Getting some marks on the board could hardly inspire me any longer. I understood perfectly that I could get the marks without having an iota of interest in the subject and in fact being uninterested might be the real key to success in the exams.

I will continue to look at engineering as I had always seen it, as a magnificent collation of tiny bits of common sense over the centuries and be awe struck by the achievements of those who really loved their work. I really don't get into all the debate over art, science and their differences. As far as I am concerned, all science is art when pursued with appropriate passion and all art is science when created with sincere dedication. I missed being a Honours graduate in engineering by a whisker (4 more marks in each of the 8 semesters to be exact) but I am obscenely proud of the fact that each and every mark is completely my own! I am certainly not amongst the better engineers in the world, but for the way I admire engineering I wouldn't hesitate to hand myself a B.A, Mechanical Engineering degree. I had to let go of engineering because in the most faux-arty kind of way, I just love it too much!

31 comments:

Rahul Sachdev said...

Great one Roy!!
Whenever you plan to take up our RECKless years onto your canvas it sure comes out really bright. I am more than convinced of the fact that u should make a novel outta this sometime...I really want to teach that Chetan Bhagat a lesson of some sorts!!

anucharan said...

well,this piece of urs reminds me my crazy behaviour(one of the crazy) during our hydraulic class back in college.amidst d class i put forth questions like 1)y engineerin widout a passion??
2) Y not do wat u dream,wat u like?? n surprisingly d answers to those wer again in d form f questions.1) wat happened to u??2) is anything wrong??
A great Blog Roy,Novel idea sounds gr8. giv it a thot man. keep writing

Roy said...

To tell you the truth that's a thought that has been consuming all my waking hours during the past 2 years! Let's see how it goes. At the moment let's just call it a WIP!

Mahima said...

Yet another awesome piece sirji.. Totally agree with you here.. both as the damned (though much reluctant) hint-seeker and as the fluke of an engineer that I am!!

But "every mark is my own"?? says a resident of the land of Dikshit Gargs?? Ahem Ahem.. ;)

Karthik said...

hi Roy...if u remember this is MK,ur junior in college,here...One of the best blog entries ive read in the recent past!!Amazing piece dude..cheers!!

Roy said...

Well, its true Mahima, however unbelievable that might seem to you! And yes, I remember that I wrote the same damn thing for all 3 sessionals even though the questions were completely different! But I never cared enough to bother sneaking a look at anyone else's paper!

Mahima said...

Hey sire.. Din realize it was that easy to 'hurt ur feelings' (I realize that counts as more sarcasm but I'm really beyond cure n I'm genuinely sorry!) :P

But seriously din mean the copying thingy in particular.. was referring in general to the overall 'mechanchi' aura that your elite race carried (and still does from what I hear!).. I'm the last person with a right to incriminate someone for copying.. what with my own set of fond memories of fraternal group exercises in the name of sessionals.. :D

Jerrin said...

very well put Roy-boy!
still remember the futile exercise of an internal..a big joke!
glad to know that there were other ppl in coll with ethics...i personally loved handing over a blank paper and walking out...the sense of pride which u felt on being original and not copied!
count me also in for the first copies of that book you writing!:)

Ground Zero!! said...

Great post Roy!! totally agree with you...an art is a science and science is an art...both just need a vision to fulfill......grt piece.!!!..ohh.....n that sessionals....i still remember grping at kunal's room to get things clear at the last minute!!.....
me too....waiting for your first copies....as an after thought lets teach that CB the "the famous Danda dance!! by 6N".....by writing "6N book"...u all agree chaps!!??

goldspot said...

Hmmm. What more can I say Mr. Roy? Though I never tried reading a Chetan Bhagat but I'm seriously looking forward to your first one..Your In'k'sanity forced me to post a comment after years!! Great Going..

Bhavik said...

an amazing blog post, Roy Sir...
as one of my current Profs here at UF, truly says that more imp than getting grades is to be able to appreciate the beauty of an idea someone, someday thought of... to tell u d truth i had similar plans of not goin behind grades but i did a few times give in to the temptation of sneaking into a neighbor's paper... another thing i believe in, is that its more imp to understand and appreciate stuff rather than rot-learn it.. which most ppl in India have been doin nd still do... i can though with some sense of pride say that I have rarely done such stuff... anyways... i wil continue to follow ur posts... nd i hope u wil continue to write them for ppl like me... :)

Manav Davar said...

Good one Roy!

Can I suggest something - Once u r done with ur book(s), y not tk it a step fwd n actually create something to show ppl d right way to do things, n d fact that d right way actually works? India has had far too many intellectuals who have stopped at writing and speakin abt stuff.....n den we wonder y a nation of gr8 minds lags behind :)

My opinion is dat most ppl chose d wrong way coz dey think dat d right one is either too painful or doesn't exist at all.....they cud do wid sm help 4m d blessed ones :)

dj_recker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dj_recker said...

nice one roy..it reminds me of getting a honors degree after having less than 70...he he Add more stuff about bhang, holi

Kumar Bibek said...

Had I cut my alcohol intake, or at the least, cut my cigarette count by one a day, I would have got an Honor's degree. To be frank, I never cared about marks. Well, if you ask if I repent, I will say sometimes, but then when I think of the fun that we I had in college days, I am happy that I wan't one of the toppers. :) It's another matter that I could never have been a topper.

But, I guess, everyone knows, and knows these facts well enough. 3 idiots didn't day anything new, but rather it was a sort of rejuvenation of those ideas. The movie portrays an idealistic Amir Khan, who seems to be always right. In today's world, if you don't have a degree, you don't get a job. It's that simple. :( :( :(

I don't want to do an MBA, but for THE DEGREE....

Scarface said...

Great one Roy....But was very discomforting to me.
I was never the Mr.Integrity in the college and I don't take pride in saying it.
I have tried my best to not break my integrity after college though and these days I feel better.

LDV-II said...

Only one reason why I would like to comment on your blog... I am one of those who fall in your category. And I know, that this group of people who never really cared about the marks that evaluate a human being, is really shrinking in size. And hence, I bow down to you as you raised the voice so emphatically and effectively. I am so 'gay' to say that I have fallen in love with you, just after reading this piece of blog, not for the language, not for the writing skills inherent to you, but for the basic thing you wished to articulate, the simple thing you wanted to express, - that came from the depth of your heart and touched mine. And inspired by you, let me say in tune with you, "I was a 6 point someone in my college, but I am obscenely proud of the fact that each and every mark is completely my own!"

Roy said...

@MK, Jerrin, Goldspot & Ground Zero (Who are you BTW Goldspot & Ground Zero): Thanks! Glad you liked it.

Roy said...

@Bhavik: Thanks. I on the other hand have not been guilty of cheating but have been guilty of rote learning a number of times in my engineering years. It's very hard to be idealistic but the least I can do is try very hard!

Roy said...

@Davar: Agree completely with you that we as a people talk too much and do very little. That said, sticking to your principles amidst all the corruption that goes on around is a tough tough job. There's absolutely no perks on offer for being ethical. It's difficult to convince anyone of the benefits of not stealing or not cheating. Unless it comes from within, no one can teach it to you.

Roy said...

@Guy who commented after Psycho & before DJRecker: Sorry, I mistakenly deleted your comment before reading it. If you ever come back, please be kind enough to repost it.

@DJ Recker (a.k.a Deepu): Thanks! Sadly I never got to try 'bhang' on Holi in all my 4 years (though every time I was in KKR and soaked in mud). Nonetheless, Holi deserves a seperate post!

Roy said...

@Psycho: Honestly, if all one is interested in is a high paid job (whatever line of work that might be and whatever ethical compromises it might take just because everyone else is doing it), then I say go ahead. If an attitude like that doesn't sound like something wrong or seem like a road to eventual personal & national disaster, there's actually nothing I can say!

Roy said...

@Manvi: I didn't intend to point fingers and make anyone feel uncomfortable. Nobody is perfect and we have our own ways of dealing with life's challenges. But am really glad that you feel that it was something wrong. Most people I know don't even feel that sense of guilt. Feeling a strong regret every time a situation forces you to deviate from what is right is 99% of the job done.

Roy said...

@LDV-II: Thanks. To tell you the truth, I actually did care for marks for a significant portion of my life (my school life), but I just couldn't keep up the 'nautanki' any longer. And EEEEEEEKS! Don't be so 'gay'. Love my writing but please please please don't profess your love for 'me'... ever!

Sandeep Chincholkar said...

Roy...i tht u wud ve guessed by now..who cud talk abt Danda Dance...aft u, jerrin n sachdev...

-Chinch....

On Da Rox said...

Brilliantly penned, once again! of course, i can't relate to it, since i was one of the 99% who chose the easier path. After all these years, it really feels like that the sum total of those four years's "effort" was just a piece of paper , & m really glad for all the non-academics (ie daaru, sutta, bakch***,GT, events etc etc) that i indulged in, otherwise those four years wouldve been nothing more than blanks.
Awaiting your novel eagerly :)

Sugarcube said...

I don't know why I am commenting, coz there is simply no way u'll read ur old posts now...anyway that doesn't matter.

I just want to say that I somehow understand what you tried to say here and I really appreciate your courage. :)

Roy said...

@Sugarcube: Coincidentally, this old post is one which a lot of people have commented on over the last 2 years, so I do keep a tab on it. Glad you liked it!

Sugarcube said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shubhajit said...

Very well written on a topic that we all "engineers" can relate to. Indeed, we weren't born rats, so why turn into one now? (That's a rhetorical question, of course). I guess that's the problem with education system here - you do stuff not because you want to do them but because you have to do them. And I guess that was the reason why Pink Floyd sang that immortal song, "I don't need no education". Cheers!

Roy said...

@Shubhajit: Thanks buddy! Well, I sure hope that the rat question is not a rhetorical question though! :P I'd like to think that we are indeed more than just fast breeding rodents sent here for a greater purpose than winning a race. No one has a plausible, easily practicable alternative yet it is quite important to keep asking this presently irresolvable question.