Of creating and cleverness…

When I was growing up in India, there were only two qualifications that mattered – MBBS and B.E.

In English – doctors and engineers.

Parents slogged day and night to get their kids into Engineering and medical colleges, paying hefty capitation fees, after coaching centres had already made a killing in tuitions. These two professions commanded the highest respect, and the highest dowry (although a respectable person who takes dowry is an oxymoron). Wedding cards proudly displayed “Ramesh Narayan, B.E” or “Suresh Narayan M.B.B.S”, to explicitly demonstrate that the groom in question was a thoroughbred. Life was set, if one became an engineer or a doctor.

Well, I studied engineering too. But none of the above happened to me. Turns out, there were levels in the degree that only the top three colleges reached, with the rest hunting for scraps. Campus placements in REC were legendary, and in our college were a rarity. That I passed out in the same year as the Dotcom bust didn’t help my case.

65 subjects. 8 semesters. 4 years. Engineering is a discipline in itself. Yes, I did pass out with distinction, but I don’t think I was head and shoulders above the rest, just because of it. Everyone who clears Engineering is a winner, because they had the diligence to go through the rigors. They may all have not gine on to win Nobels, or even a high-paying job, but they did learn something.

That something is perseverance.

It does take perseverance to go through a whole lot of varied subjects in four years, sit through 60+ exams and emerge victorious. It takes perseverance to travel by bus everyday, across town in most cases, to attend lectures from professors, many of who are more interested in quasi-advertising for their coaching classes instead. It takes perseverance to stay committed to the constant cycle of exams and practicals…the constant note-making from various books on various subjects, and still stay interested in the damn thing.

Engineering has taught me a lot. But I wish I was a better engineer.

The word “Engineer” has the same roots as ingenuity. Derived from the Latin words ingeniare (to create or devise) and ingenium (cleverness), an engineer uses his intelligence and training to create – bridges, chips, satellites, automobiles, devices and equipment that can change lives and save lives. The world is made a more convenient place because of engineering ingenuity. But of the hundreds and thousands of engineering graduates that pass out every year, how many can truly claim to justify the word?

And so, with great degrees, comes great humility as well. Today is Engineer’s Day, celebrated in honor of India’s most revered engineer Bharat Ratna Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya. Google him to know more about him and his achievements. They will make you glow with pride, and at the same time bring you down to earth (if you think that you have achieved a lot).

A degree is a piece of paper, but behind it is a lot of sweat and sacrifice. Take pride in it, but don’t look down on the rest who may not have got the chance. We are in great company, and leading the pack is the person whose birthday we celebrate as Engineer’s Day!