Thus far, we have had three quite divergent experiences/ views, ranging from dazzling to frightening or even or confusing, about the first year. However, very rare must be a case who would have given up the pursuit of graduation engineering study for such reasons.
I am on records, in the earlier episode of these memoirs, that I to had joined engineering studies more because I could, rightly or wrongly – I would never now know, foresee that I was not possibly a good material for study of medical sciences.
My admission to the engineering was in Electrical Engineering. In those days, that was considered as the second choice, the first one being mechanical engineering, I believe that reason simply was the possible career prospects. To me, at that point of time, that hardly mattered, I was happy to be in ‘engineering’, whether it was mechanical or electrical or for that matter x or y or z. As it is I had next to no knowledge of what any of these disciplines meant in so far as the studies are concerned or the kind of work that one would take up after the studies. I did have two maternal uncles – husbands of sisters of mother – who were civil engineers, but I had never seen what kind of work they did when at office. Till that phase of my studies, there never was on occasion where I would have sought their guidance, or they saw ant need to offer me some.
Our subjects for the theory part of mechanical engineering were the fundamental like strength of material, applied mechanics, and even Engineering Drawing. On the other hand, on the practical side, at the Mechanical Workshops, there were carpenter’s tools like chisel or (carpenter’s) hacksaw or a half-a- pound hammer or there was a rough file, a smooth file, a or a right-angle for ‘fitting’ or there were lathes or shapers and some kind of cutting-tools to be used along with these machines. Or at The Engineering Drawing Hall, there were pencils with numbers like 2H or 4H (which I was to know later on that these were numbers designating the hardness of the graphite material used in a pencil). We were told what is to be done and if we asked, we were also told what to use and if further asked, we were also told how to use them, however we neither asked nor it was explained as to why this had to be done.
In so far as Electrical Engineering was considered we started learning the theoretical aspect of connecting a resistor, an inductor and/or a capacitor in ‘parallel’ circuit or a ‘series’ circuit. If we were taught why a resistor was a resistor or an inductor an inductor, I perhaps may not have comprehended that aspect. I even do not now remember whether we did study that aspect even as part of the study of Physics in the earlier years. However, in the electrical engineering lab, I could ‘see’ that a resistor was a bank of incandescent lamps, an inductor was a sleeve wound with wires and I do not even remember what a capacitor actually looked like then. However even bigger surprise was the fact that what was seen juxtaposed in a small circuit diagram was actually strewn across the large floor space of the lab.
Somehow, that realization led my mind to compare electrical engineering with medical science – if one needed creative imagination to envisage what the reality would like when seen on a diagram, the other one required great deal of memory power that can instantly recall names of medicines for so many diseases.
As a result, for the first time, I was now worried – how will I be able to surmount the challenges of learning the further detailed advances of theory of electrical engineering and put that learning into practice with my so weak connecting link of imagination?
Somehow, I had a feeling that I may be more comfortable with mechanical engineering, even with my known poor record of performing art at the Industry or Drawing classes at Virani High School. I had harrowing time to pull out a cotton thread with the help of hand-held spindle or was a t total loss to draw a boy flying a kite (I could not even draw a kite in that picture!).
On almost a parallel track, the importance of another very basic feature of true learning was to get imbibed in my unconscious self. Immediately after, my admission to the engineering was confirmed, I had gone to my maternal uncle who was Chief Engineer, Western Railway at Baroda (as it was then called) to collect various tools like engineering drawing board and related accessories and a slide rule. These were the instruments which his elder son had used during his study of civil engineering and now I can use them too. During a very informal chat, he told me that in next couple of years when I had studied enough of electrical engineering I should explain to him, in pure layman’s language, how a circuit having a power source and a few resistors was able to light a lamp and how a similar circuit was able to run an electric motor or how a similar circuit made a radio work. He further explained what his query was with the example of his own field f engineering wherein they- the railway engineers- were able to explain to their uneducated labourers some very basic issues of the work which they were expected to perform, without committing any error.
At that time, I had thought that he is simply checking what I had learned. But after the above narrated experience at the electrical Lab and such similar occasions later on, I realised that he was really emphasising the importance of understanding the basics well if you really want to gainfully apply your knowledge to any practical challenge in the real world.
So, unconsciously, I was to gain two insights – one related to the importance of ability to translate your knowledge into the practice, and vice versa, and the second was developing ability to communicate about your knowledge-based expectations and requirements with the other person who may happen to be from a totally unrelated field or culture and also to conversely convert other person’s expectations and requirements as source of enhancing your knowledge..
Also, unconsciously I was to realise that first was the area where I was inherently weak and second was the area that I should always strengthen in my all pursuits in the future.
There was, thus, a direction set out for the future, but not the aid*s) that can help me chart a path in that direction.
However, I did have a ray that did give me some hope – that I could physically see what I was learning and clearly understand what I was not able to learn.
The lady luck also turned a benign eye towards me. By the end of first year, we had a window of in the form of opting for another branch. I grabbed that chance and opted for mechanical engineering… and even could succeed in securing berth in that discipline.
So, I was now destined to become a mechanical engineer, after all!
My experiences with the practical side of the engineering studies during these five years of studies is a chapter in itself. So is the story of how my career path took a definitive turn – in the last year of engineering. However, I propose to take them in little later.
I plan to take up the subject of Commuting – to and from the college- next.