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L.Srikumar Pai
B.Sc( Engg.), MIE, MIWWA, MICI
Civil Engineer & CAD Specialist
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A son's dilemma — to be or not to be an Engineer

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Kumaresh Passoupathi: It was my uncertainty whether I would like what I would have to study for the next four years that made me rebel against taking up engineering. But my great-grandfather's favourite phrase, “Things happen only as per your fate” (mind you, he had 13 kids!) came true to haunt me.

My father, who rebelled against his father and went on to Hyderabad to pursue his ECE at JNTU and master's at the Pondicherry University, had a lot of hopes in me as a kid. He was bent upon letting me decide my own career. But when I turned up home one day, with a note from my math teacher who busted me writing limericks in my math note while we were supposed to be solving multiple integrals, my father was disappointed. He called me aside and asked me what plans I had in mind. I declared loudly that I wanted to become a writer. (I still believe that this is what caused his sugar level and blood pressure to shoot up by that weekend)

You cannot mistake that look in your parents' eye when you tell them about your career choice that does not involve the word ‘engineering' or ‘medicine.' My dad had the exact look on his face. (I might as well have told him that I was watching porn on his computer. Wouldn't have made a difference to that mortified look! ) After an hour-long lecture on how it is difficult to survive as a full-time writer, and how very few of that tribe had made it to the top, and making an analogy out of writer Sujatha, who had a day job at BEL, I was somehow coerced into believing that I would make a good engineer.

So, it was a deal. I would study with the top engineering colleges in mind, and that I would take up freelance writing later on. Thousands of rupees spent on IIT-JEE preparatory material, coaching classes, and a room load of books, and a few exams later my father discovered (surprisingly, he was surprised!) that I was short of 10 marks in my XII Board exams to get into a state-run college, and my AIEEE rank was some five digit, and those at the JEE didn't find my score sufficient enough to send a score card!

Again, my devastated dad made me apply for about 10 colleges, and I'm sure we could have rather bought a Plasma TV set with the money wasted on my entrance ‘coaching' and the application forms. I got into a private university that took me for ECE, the same course that my father did.

College was great to start with. A new place, new people, a new start over. The guilt of letting your parents down, (my classmate got into the top medical school and his father taught alongside my father at the same college. And women these days don't just gossip about characters from daily soaps, apparently they have moved on to what college your son goes to!) pumps you up, and drives you! My first semester results were overwhelming. Dad was getting a little optimistic about me. As good as it was, guilt tends to wear off soon. I was back to square one. I bunked classes, started taking tests lightly, and so, my basics of engineering were built upon pretty much loose soil. I scraped through, semester after semester, through courses whose relevance beyond the final exams were a source of mystery.

There are 300 students studying ECE with me. I've spent countless nights trying to understand the universe's motive behind throwing us in the ‘ECE' pool. There are guys who would have been excellent cooks, managers, business owners, writers, ad film makers, animators and musicians, had it not been for the four-year engineering course.

And, finally, it happened. My dad's mother had died a year ago, and I was with my father. After all the funeral rites, he seemed to have been contemplating on his decisions, and finally asked me genuinely if he had made a mistake in convincing me to join engineering. It could've been the sheer solemnness of the context, or my not wanting to see him in pain, or the fact that my mind's been dwelling in uncertainty for long, I do not know what, but I suddenly knew that I wanted to be an engineer — an ECE one just like him, or even better.

Now that the decision was made, and I knew what I wanted to be, keeping up to it was tough. I have only one more year to do it. (Well, I'm through one and three quarters of it already) And now I have to decide again, out of a variety of other choices, and this time I have the freedom to pick my way. Placements are round the corner, GATE's got a few months time, GRE and TOEFL are costly, may be UPSC would be worth a try. Which one should I take?

Or, maybe, I'll just ask dad.

(The writer's email id is )  ( Courtesy: )



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