Sunday, June 21, 2009

Purani Jeans - The Chaos of Engineering.

Its been five years since I graduated from Father Agnels; my Engineering college. Of recently, there have been talks about a reunion, and so it seemed fit that there be an article on our days in Engineering. This post has been a long time coming, but it took a final push from a fellow classmate for me, to overcome my laziness and pen down my thoughts. Its a challenge to write such a piece. Its very easy to write an entire book on the subject, but to be able to condense it all into one post, thats a tricky needle to thread. So here is my attempt, and it is dedicated to the class of '04. I truly hope you like it.

Engineering is a testing experience for every person who graduates from Mumbai University. But I speak of a very specific one when I write about my batch of '04 from Agnels, Vashi. It is easy and indeed very tempting, to narrate the whole experience as horror stories akin to those of Nazi concentration camps. And it is easier to turn the whole thing into a teacher-bashing exercise that my fellow class mates would throughly enjoy. But deep inside, we know, it wouldn't be right. For, not all teachers in my college were bad. And so, I am not going to dwell on that unpleasant topic, except to say this; as I look back now, I have nothing but pure sympathy for the few teachers who relished in torturing us. Surely any person who derives such sadist pleasure in the abuse of power and wrongful punishment of helpless students - must have had a rather traumatic childhood.

My story begins in the fall of 2000. I was as naive and green as the rain soaked trees of sector-9A Vashi. Like most recent 12th pass-outs, I was hyper-excited and nervous that first day approaching my college campus. As I neared the iron gates, I saw a group of students to my left, they were laughing and looked happy, and I relaxed, thinking .... this doesn't seem too bad after all. It turned out those students were in fact not from my college, they were from our neighbor's. The mood inside campus was far less jovial, with gaunt, haggard looking students wearing a perpetual expression of distress. Their fervent glances pleading a silent warning: 'This is not for everyone, leave while you can!!' Call it 'Destiny' but I stuck to the place, and to - what would be - the best and the worst times of my student life!

Once the course has started, and the formalities done, you quickly begin to realize, you are in this on your own, the only friendly people you have in the world - are your class mates. And it fosters an intense, duty-bound sense of loyalty and friendship, one that is unique to the stream of Engineering. In just one month, you learn the unwritten survival law, that says, "You may not like your class mates personally, but you WILL help them in every way you can!" There are very few people you can relate to, once your training has started, your friends from before wonder, where is it that you go to - to come back so exhausted, and your parents do not recognize the frustrated individual returning home.

As far as I was concerned, the campus was to be my home. It was my social life, it was my academic, it was the place to study and it was the place for fun. In the middle of our chaos, I found a harmony. It was here that I learnt how to speak in front of a crowd and not flinch. It was here that I leant, how to prioritize and make decisions real-time. It was here, that I laid the foundational concepts of my career. It was here, that I learned to endure stress beyond my limits. And it was in this period that I enjoyed my most untroubled sleep.

There is a distinct quality to Engineers; given any situation, they immediately come to realize what is doable and what is not, they make calls without second guess and they handle events as the situation unfolds. It comes to them naturally. Any person can evaluate and take practical measures, except, Engineers do not feel guilty about the compromises they make. It instills a defiant confidence that remains with you for the rest of your life. And, it has saved me many many times.

At a research meeting, when my professor wanted a paper completed - he gathered my lab mates for a meeting and asked "How much time do you guys need?" My American counterparts answered - two weeks, I simply asked "When is it due??" I did not know how much time would I need, but it was the Agnel-instilled confidence that said - It doesn't matter how much time you need - All that matters is how much time you have!

It is hard to encapsulate the essence of my college and the experience I had, mainly because it doesn't lie in academic transcripts or the courses I studied. It doesn't lie in the concepts I absorbed or the ones I didn't. It is amorphous yet potent. It lies in endless cups of hot coffee over the front steps. It lies in the jokes we wrote and the chits we passed - while we sat day-dreaming and distracted in classes of theory. It lies in the time we spent sitting on stairs, 'bird-watching'. It lies in the distinct sound of that dot-matrix printer on the first floor, which was to us, nothing short of beautiful music. It lies in the intoxicating smell of kerosene and xerox copies. It lies in the suffocating air of notes-littered hallways, as we waited our turn for a viva. It lies in the euphoria of watching all required signatures on our submission sheet. It lies in painful aches and cuts from the workshop of first year - to the carpal tunnel from excessive coding. It lies in our convoluted sense of humor and in our tacit arrogance screaming ... "Yes, we did!"

It is the sum of all parts, greater than the entirety.

It is in the enduring qualities I learnt from my class mates. Every single one of whom - taught me something. They were my team, and I was theirs. Our victories were sweeter because we rejoiced together and our sorrows less painful because we suffered together. They were the support and they were the hope, they were the gems and they were the jewels. They formed the identity of my class, and in some way will always remain a part of me.

The class of '04 and the paragons of my memories! With a salute to all, I offer you these. Come, share a glimpse of my class room, the people who formed me....

Some are not so obvious, they are the silent geniuses like Unmesh Kulkarni.

Some are tall, athletic and capable like Sushant Kadam.

Some are whimsical, albeit pervert in their brilliance, like our very own Ajit.

Some are beautiful, compassionate, generous and have it all, like the beloved Sushma.

Some are the heart of a crowd wherever they go, unmistakably Manavi.

Some are fiery and feisty in everything they did, like Roshan and Nadeem.

Some are flamboyant and larger than life, like Maulik.

Some wont say a lot, but perform proudly, like Amol Gawli.

Some are painfully virtuous, like Tushar.

Some have kept me company and made me smile, Pritam and Priyata.

Some are always up to something, like Sandeep Kaul.

Some you just can't miss, like Divya and Richa.

Some are incredibly talented, like Kripa.

Some are touchingly simple, like Apoorva and Harshada.

And some, will give you a run for your money, like Pankaj.

That is Engineering, these are the people, the paragons of my memories and the best parts of me!

- 100026 (Sanket)

- Sanket


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