I had a different idea in mind when I signed up to study mechanical engineering. But after my first semester, I knew that I just dug my own grave. It wasn't what it was supposed to be. Well, maybe that's what you get if you end up studying in an average college. I remember why I decided to do this.
I was just following the crowd. Societal norms. Be a part of the acceptance; glorifying the religion called engineering. I thought once done, I could pursue PG in a foreign university, get hired at a sleek, cool automobile company, get hooked by a gorgeous girl and eventually earn a ton load of money. But that was then and this is now.
I still remember my very first day in college. I was pretty nervous. I sat next to Nasrullah. He was mountain of a man with grizzly hair and loud voice. By the end of the day, he became my friend. Seated behind, I met Murali wearing that innocent-looking specs. During our electrical labs, I met Musthafa - my cute brown buddy. He was annoying because he was the smartest kid in class. He got a whopping 196 cutoff in +2. Damn bro.
Mustafa always asked a lot of questions. Why does the current flows? How does this work? What does the law states? Explain its working? On and on he rammed. Eventually, I found meaning. He wanted to learn. Unlike me who mostly mugged up, Musthafa, on the other hand, wanted to learn. I wanted to study. There's a wide gap between learning and studying. Learning is beautiful. Soon I became his friend.
When I met Mohanaselvam, he pissed me right away. It was on a bus and he said I looked like a dickhead. Yes, that's right, a dickhead! I wanted to punch his face but after that encounter, something changed in him and over the next few weeks, he became quite close. I remember going to pray at the mosque in our college with Asif and Umar, the bais in our class who made sure never to skip their prayers.
Every day around noon, once done with lunch, we would go to pray. The mosque was just a large hall with mats rolled across and tiny ants crawling on the walls. It was hot during summers and sultry in winters. ACs here was just a formality for their existence. We had a lot of memories in this hall. We shared conversations about religion, studies, family problems, dreams, aspirations by the place where we performed our ablutions before prayers.
Our canteen was another hood. Nothing significant about it. Just a large hall with white marble floors and about 20 odd tables and stools. For 30 bucks we scourged like ravaging beasts you see on Nat Geo or Animal Planet for tomato rice. It was too big a task to get the lion's share of the meal. But it was fun. When I look back now, I remember how I always returned to class with stomach full even during days when I forgot to take my lunch from home. My buddies always shared and stuffed me up.
I also have fresh memories of our mechanical labs. Fluid mechanics lab, Thermal Lab, Manufacturing lab... It was hotter here than the mosque. I remember how we got fried up in sweat wearing that thick green lab coat. The instruments were larger and intimidating and it subtly freaked me out, especially during the semester practicals.
What if they made me twist the motor? What if they made me operate the lathe? What if I had to grind that piece of metal? Trust me, I am no Superman and to operate those machines, you need to have at least 1% of strength, which I felt short of 0.99%. But even that, I survived with the help of my friends. I always learned a thing or two from them.
As word got around about my passion for writing, soon everyone started calling me a writer. By this time, I also became really good friends with Raj Rio, Santhosh, Raajiv, Vishnu, Pavithran, Sri Ram, Ranjith and everyone else. They always joked, laughed and had fun around. I loved how they never stopped appreciating my writing. It is moments like this when little compliments push you up and drive you towards your goals. Their pat on my back compounded into a burning desire for me to become a better writer.
I also feel glad that my bus route changed a few months after I got into college. I had to board 21G from home, then get down at Anna University bus stop to board my college bus. I had Monish and Syed Mustafa for company once I settled on my seat. We spoke about movies, books and A-Z.
I learned how to be a great listener with Monish. We spoke about everything on our way to college. He was the first person to know what I wanted to do in life, what I wanted to become. My dreams, my writing goals, everything, he was the first go-to guy to know. He took the time to read all of my drafts. When you have someone who loves you the way you are, who listens to everything that pops out of your head, then you just struck gold. I found a brother in Monish. Now when I hop into a bus, on my way to work, I can't help but look back at our ride to college.
Being an engineering student means having to face obstacles every other day. Obstacles in the form of financial difficulties. The worry to pay your college fees, your bus fees, your exam fees, other-whatever-the-heck-but-we-need-your-money fees. My family made sure that I never had to worry but when you are from a middle-class family, the constant thought of 'how will we pay?' is stuck to your mind like a tumorous lump.
But then I would look at my friends, many first children in their family, who had the ultimate responsibility to take care of their family once graduated. They were less fortunate than I was yet they moved on every other day with grit. I would end up thinking, God they face a lot of shit than I do.
And oh I forgot to talk about other mental tortures every engineering student face. Arrears!! I remember when I got arrear in my third semester for Thermodynamics and Maths. I hated any subjects that had numbers. Nothing works for me if it has numbers. But then I remember how I got pushed by my friends, every day not to lose hope and that this was just a subject and I had far greater failures to mount.
I remember how I had sleepless nights worrying about if this will affect my degree, if it will affect my ability to find a job and if I can clear again. I spent a lot of time in the mosque praying for hope beyond hope. But after the revaluation results came up, I got cleared. I sighed a breath of relief. Miracles do happen. They come in the form of friends.
It was actually a blessing in disguise. I learned what it felt to be branded as a student with arrear. I learned what it felt to be stereotyped as a failure. There is glory in failing high. You become humble. I was glad I came close to getting an arrear, freaking out and letting out a sigh of relief for those months taught me how to man up. I can also never forget about our final year project. Sometimes it scared the shit out of me but then Mohanaselvam would say, 'Take every stumble as a learning curve.' (Yeah the same guy who called me a dickhead). Life comes a full circle.
I have a lot more to say. But here's what matters to me the most. Everyone asks me (not friends) you did engineering but ended up choosing a different career, you became a writer and you just tossed up Rs 5 lakhs of your family. I take a deep breath and relive all those 1460 days of my college. I think about the experience that gave me the edge to become a person, a better writer. My friends played a major part of my life to become someone more. Rs 5 lakhs can't buy that.
They taught me things which Anna University's syllabus cannot cover; how to face pressures with arrears, how to share lunch, how not to cry about fees because everyone has their own shit to handle, how to be a good listener, how to be a man, how sometimes when a day is bad all you need to do is just sleep, how to talk better. My friends taught me this. I will always be an Engineer and a writer at heart. You can't take it away from me. To each and every single friend who made me what I am today, I love you all so much.
- Rayaan writer