As I sit down to introspect today, I am still not been to clearly spell out my relationship with the practical(s) during the five years of the study of engineering. Whether it was lack of interest, or lack of aptitude, or lack of skills, lack of appreciation of importance of the practical(s) for an engineering professional, I can vaguely define that relationship as the degree of connect only to the extent that I had with all other subjects- be it its theoretical part or the practical part. When I reflect a bit deeper, I can possibly see conditioning of a typical mindset that the environment those days would tend to mold.
In most of the middle and upper lass homes, the atmosphere generally inculcated the belief that during the ‘student’ phase of the life, a growing person had to study as best as the facilities available. The evaluation of the learning normally always gross total of all the marks that a student gets for all the subjects during the studies. The emphasis on studying was so much that the children hardly were given any other assignments that would either develop their aptitude for multi-disciplinary learning. It was the sacrosanct responsibility of the parents and the family to make available best possible resources to help the child pursue the studies, Correspondingly, it was considered to be prime duty of the child to study as much as he/she can, till a particular age or till the family could afford the total cost of study for all the children in the family.
As I had seen, during my Democratic High School (Gomtipur, Ahmadabad – a residential area in the textile mills dominated locality of eastern Ahmadabad) days, the friends who came from working class families, used to double up for many daily family-support chores. However, for the elite student class of the society – to which we belonged at bottom of the pyramid strata – the only activities that could possibly inculcate some aptitude for the practical life was a school picnic her or a short vacation tour there. If any school induced the students to create some kinds of working models or develop any performing art skill was considered to an ‘enlightened’ school. These schools therefore were considered ‘experimental’ schools because they dared (or imagined creating) unusual educational methods that included the practical(s) as well to the historically developed educational model of the school.
The studies till 11th standard those days, generally, was all about theories. The schools that offered multi-disciplinary education during primary, secondary, and higher-secondary stage were far too few. Most of the students of that period would see a laboratory, as part o the regular studies, only when they reached the level of college studies. Even at this stage, the ‘practical(s)’ were treated more a part of a given curriculum. One would study, or teach, the practical as all other subjects were being studies all these years.
As a result, I would tend to conclude that most of the students of those times were hardly aware that the structured studying was as much widening of the learning as it was developing the reasoning.
I, too, was a typical product of that system – certainly somewhat better than the then average – who had reached the level of studying engineering in course of the regular development of the life. That did not necessarily mean that I was attitudinally competent, or ready, to appreciate the importance of ‘the practical(s)’ in the pursuit of the engineering studies. I was not even aware that I will need to consciously cultivate several changes in my natural aptitude in order to really absorb what I was to learn during the course of my engineering studies. As a result, whatever shortcomings came up during the course of studies, my typical response was to accept them as it were rather than try to improve upon it.
In the retrospect, I do realize that It was only when I entered the ‘earning’ phase of the life that I could actually realize the importance what we were made to study during school and college. But that is a subject far beyond the scope of the present endeavor.
My memories and experiences of the practical(s) that will come up in my now to follow narrative should present that side of apathy. I candidly admit that the above disclaimer is not an effort to justify that apathy, but a sincere effort to present my perspective of that reality.
I plan to take my ‘(Mis)connections at the Electical Lab’ in the next episode.