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
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
email@example.com ) ( Courtesy: