Sunday, August 31, 2014

EXTRACTS FROM THE SPEECH PREPARED FOR MY DAUGHTER: TOPIC - ZEROING IN ON A CAREER

Every student dreams of a professional journey of very high satisfaction and is equally wary about getting into anything else. The one question that always comes up into the mind of a student, is about the career that he would finally want to pursue. That is because, as a single category of activity in our life, it is our career that is going to take up most of our time. And so, a good career can take us to very high levels of professional and emotional satisfaction. Sometimes a student takes up a career because his parents dream of seeing him in a particular position of power, in that career. And after the student takes up that career, many times he or she would find the career engine losing its steam, after a journey of a few years. Only very few hit the success path in this route.

Several years back, very few dared to explore beyond the thresholds of the traditional career choices like Engineering, Medicine, Top Management, the glamourous Civil Services or Chartered Accountancy. In fact to get a good bride or a good groom, one had to be into one of these careers. Although India is seeing a huge wave of change today, these traditional choices still dominate the marriage markets in many places in the country. Over the last decade, our conservative middle class have started opening up to choices like hotel management and fashion. A career with Indian Armed Forces is of course even today something that is taken up after lots of rumination, as there are lot of challenges for the family life in such a career.

Some times a career choice is largely influenced by a business that has been run by the family across generations and it becomes a matter of prestige for the next generation to take up the reins. So here, students go through a forced choice, curtailing their probable opportunities to exhibit capabilities in another field that they would have otherwise been a part of.

Parents have a big role in helping the child in zeroing in on a choice. Many times they could help in a big way by not taking emotional and subjective decisions, but by being very objective, keeping in mind what the child is really passionate about. Sometimes children are influenced by fancy ideas and these could influence their choices too. Parents need to spend time and if possible get them to talk to people working in different fields, so as to understand the pros and cons before making a choice.

Spending a short period, like for e.g. a self driven micro internship during a holiday period can help the student to get a feel of the processes and procedures of an engineering firm, a hospital, an accounting firm or even a few days at the office of a top management executive or a civil services bureaucrat. It will prove to be a good foundation for the career decisions that are made, as the student would get a feel at a very high level, as to whether the profession would suit his interest and temperament, These aspects cannot be decided by just reading a subject in depth or by scoring high marks in a subject.


A career well chosen, will be soaked with so much passion and that will certainly put the student on a fast track towards success, not just in material terms, but by also taking him through a professional journey of lasting satisfaction and fulfilment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

MY ENCOUNTER WITH MACHINES

I remember the first week while I was into college. Mechanical Engineering was not a subject I got into after a lot of dreaming and planning, but something I got after a long wait and little to choose from. Since I was called from a waiting list, I happened to miss out on a few classes, not that my being part of those classes would have made any difference. And while I stood there in the machine shop for the practical class, I think my brain almost stopped all its processing. I was given a piece of metal and asked to machine a small cylindrical peg using a lathe. After my encounter with a cycle, the lathe was the next big machine that I had encountered.


With a cycle I had taken real time and went through some bizarre encounters. While into the monkey pedalling stage, I had ran the cycle right through the legs of a lady flower vendor and earned her vituperous wrath. And when I got promoted to the full pedalling stage, I had knocked a fish vendor and his entire basket of fishes, while driving on a road adjacent to a railway station heading for school. I escaped without earning his retaliation. In another incident, I had a perpendicular collision with another elderly cyclist and the impact was so much that I broke his pedal. But, I think what startled him more was the impact it had on me, as I broke down and started crying loudly and ran home. But my father came down along with me and got the cycle repaired. And that very moment he got me back onto my cycle and asked me to continue. I continued and then rode that cycle for several years. Although there were these initial alarming hurdles, I was able to transcend these eventually and loved cycling.

And while I stood there gaping at the lathe, I saw my classmate Sarkar, very deftly work on the lathe in such unbelievable swiftness as he moved about with the speed of a rat. I was doubly sure I would not be able to reach that level, even if I was given the same number of classes that he had been given. But I was sure, I would be able to do it, if I was given more time. But unfortunately, we never get extra practical classes to practice our skills in the lab, especially in a machine shop. Given the time, I would have persisted and dominated it. 

Once I got into a job, all at home talked about buying the first motorcycle. Although there were 100CCs already then, I was fascinated with the Yezdi and shared this fascination with one of my cousins. He had that flair for bikes I think although he did not have a license that time. When I was at Kerala for a holiday and one of our relatives had came home on an Yezdi, my cousin quickly spoke to him and got the bike and then, exhorted me to start driving it right away. I was already a diffident guy and also one who was extremely wary at taking risks and he was the exact opposite of it. But since he kept nudging me in front of so many relatives, I relented. He briefed me on how to ride and I don't know how much of that registered inside me. The road in front of our native home had paddy fields on both sides for about 50 metres. I remember my cousin starting the bike, setting the gears and getting the bike to move.

The vehicle went ahead and my right hand got clasped on to the accelerator. I could barely sense what was whizzing past me. I remember my cousin helping me take a curve and letting a transport bus pass by from the opposite side. And then came a road which had bushes on either side beyond which again lay the paddy fields. My eyes were already full and I could not judge the road, but I had to move on. We were already at high speed as the only thing I was doing as a reaction to getting tense, was accelerating more and more. I remember him shouting "Brake, Brake. You have to take this turn. Slow down." I don't know what I did, and the next scene was that both of us along with the bike, plummeted right through the bushes at the curve. Lucky for us, that some low running tree branch held us back and that way we did not end up falling into the paddy fields. There were some good bruises then and now, these lasting memories. But after that thrilling take off and two more accidents, through which I sailed through safely, I enjoyed driving the Yezdi for a long time.

The next encounter was with a car and the very sight of it gave me creeps. While into my driving classes in India, although the instructor had his own set of controls, I was so scared that I lost track of what I was doing. The first vehicle that came across while I took off on a car the first time, was a huge truck and I don't know how I went past it. The car moved I think with divine intervention and finally landed up amidst a number of water lorries at the Kilpauk water tank, which is the water treatment centre at Chennai city. And as I struggled to move out of that place, the instructor kept prodding and shouting at me as though I was one of those galley slaves of Rome. It was only at the end of the class I understood, why he meted out a harsh treatment for me while he treated the others like dear children often addressing them "Son","Little Brother" and so on. This was because they gave him pocket money at the end of every day's session. I obtained my Indian license but was never confident enough to drive alone.

Even after we bought a car, years later, I always ventured out with someone on my side. The real challenge opened up in Seattle U.S.A, in 2006 when I ventured for a license. All my friends got their license spending little or no money for driving lessons. But out of sheer apprehension, I took up many driving lessons and spent a lot of money. I had to attempt twice to get the license. The first attempt had to be aborted as soon as it started, as I made a dangerous action and that was the switching on of my left indicator, for taking a left turn, while I stood on the lane heading straight and did not take the left turn lane. And while getting back to the driving school that day, I hit the pavement once. My parallel parking attempt also saw the car finally land up at an angle of sixty degrees to the cars on the road. I was successful on my second attempt months later, although while on my way to the driving license examination centre, my driving instructor saved my life by timely jamming the parallel brakes, while a large truck sped past me like lighting in the opposite direction from downhill when I was about to take a left turn. I had missed out pausing for the main road traffic.

Years have slipped by and today, I am enjoying car driving. I envy the guys who have a flair for machines and their ability to tame them on the first go.

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