My Engineering Daze

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I called my friend yesterday evening only to notice that he had cancelled my call and added me into a Whatsapp call with a set of old CET (College of Engineering, Trivandrum) friends. We were discussing such weighty topics such as playing 56 bluff online and the source code for such programs. A guy who doesn’t know how to boil milk was weighing on how to bake the ideal cake. Of course, the conversation soon veered to COVID and its origins. Each theory was more bizarre than the other. I was admiring my friends for their creativity, as Picasso says “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

In the middle of the conversations, my friend asked me why I called him. To which I said, ” I was finishing my blog on college and wanted to do a last-minute check whether we had a subject called humanities in our engineering curriculum”. I told him since you are the only one to my knowledge who attended most of the classes it was always appropriate to check with you rather with my other CET mates.

Every morning, throughout the week, we make it a point to wake up our elder daughter at 6.45 AM before she snoozes the alarm clock. One day we noticed that the online class was on but she was head down (sleeping) in front of the laptop.  The best person to deal with such situations are always moms from my experience. My wife later said, ” I feel pity that she has to learn statistics at 7 AM”. To that statement, I said, ” My biggest head down class was Humanities”. I used to wonder why we needed Humanities in Engineering?

I was reminded of my engineering college days last week when CET celebrated 81 years. A top executive, who happened to be from an older batch of CET, shared some pictures on WhatsApp  So I decided to rewind that tape of life 26 years. It was time to share some “CET” tales.

My father wanted me to become an engineer. My mother encouraged me to pursue that track. My grandfather always mentioned Electrical Engineering and told me stories about the first engineering college. I had a set of school friends who were also pursuing admission into Engineering. Back in those days, the common joke was if someone asks you why you got into engineering, the immediate response was “I did not get into medical.” Looking back, connecting those dots, I was reminded of this Les Brown quote, ” you have to believe in someone’s belief in you before your beliefs start kicking in“.

CET with its heritage of 81 years stands out as one of the best Engineering Institutions in Kerala. I made a lot of professional connections just because I had the  Institutional tag. I had to excuse myself also in my professional conversations when it used to go deeper into engineering subjects! We had a large campus and I was always a curious explorer. My days in CET were all about minimum daily studies and maximum last-minute learnings for exams. That habit still persists. In fact, my mother-in-law once asked my wife “Can we plan a trip in the next 3 months”. My wife’s immediate response was, ” Be prepared for some last-minute changes”.

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One of the dreams I cherished was to get down the CET college bus from a bus stop close to my house and I wanted to walk with that T Scale to my house and show the world. Some facts about engineers are just meant to be.

We did have our set of problems of living within a budget for petrol, food, and entertainment but we engineered our own solutions. We are in a WhatsApp world where we are connected more than before and I am glad that our college communities are very active in different spheres from social causes to health, and entrepreneurship. Once in a while, I do contact our Bangalore CET proxy mates. If I laugh out loud (LOL) my wife and kids will still tell me ” We know you have been speaking to your engineering mates.” During the lockdown, we did have our zoom meetings and kept the spirits alive and thriving. We can deal with problems, engineer solutions and on the way have a lot of fun.

Esprit de corps is a feeling of loyalty and pride that is shared by the members of a group who consider themselves to be different from other people in some special way. That is what I felt about being in CET and of course with the Royal Mechs (as we Mechanical Engineers called ourselves). My campus anecdotes are dotted with fun, frolic, and enjoyment. I have to admit how lightly we took things and that’s where I developed sarcasm as an offshoot, thanks to my proxy mates. Proxy mates are friends who are there for us in the class, whenever our roll numbers are called to the extent that I used to forget my roll number and remember others’. Our Edutainment in college was one of the motivating factors to smell the coffee every day, kick start my bike, and land in the campus.

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On reflection, I do have the answer to why we were taught humanities in engineering college. As they say, “If they master the humanities, it can provide tools for extending their shelf life.” One of the most important aspects of engineering is effective communication, both verbal and written. Humanities study can strengthen the ability of engineers to work and communicate with others. That was on display when we met last year to celebrate our silver jubilee. The kind of effort our organizers put in was commendable and the common thread was love, care, and support which is the building block of humanity. Today in these times the world needs it more than ever. Humanity in engineering stopped me in my tracks. In today’s world, all the front line workers are engineering humanity and saving lives.

My friends forever from college campus became part of my life as well. Out of the CET gate, we responded to my father’s, grandfather’s and mother’s wish with not one but three CETians. My brother in law from the same batch and my sister from 2000 batch.

Hail my ALMA MATER  CET for giving me creative friends for life. Live it up for CET for being that bus in my life, for making me good enough, for making me aware that there is a world out there for me to find.

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