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!