So I am having a good time here in Iowa. No no. It does not mean that I am having a good time BECAUSE I am in Iowa. I am just having a good time thats all. Actually, come to think of it, Iowa isn’t a bad place after all. There are many awesome places to see and things to do around it. Just nothing IN it. But I digress.
So I have a job here. And I have a car. And I have a new awesome camera. The immediate and implied consequences of those three facts are what I have been making the best use of. And as a result, I find that I am actually quite happy with my life now. Not needing to worry about money, having the means to travel around, meeting new people and spending good time with them, exploring a new hobby- everything seems to fall perfectly into place right now. And this got me thinking in a different direction altogether.
The good and happy position I find myself in right now is obviously not just restricted to me. Most of my friends with whom I did my undergrad are all similarly well settled in some job somewhere and are having an equally good time, if not better. Which made me ask the question:
What is it about my friends and I that has made it possible for us to be in this position in our lives?
Most of us are bright and smart. And where we are now must be partly attributed to that. Sure, we did make the cut in a few examinations or get admissions to some good foreign universities. But these are not really the sole factors which helped us to get where we are now. What I am trying to get my head around is the very system that facilitates this process.
The one common fact that I observe is the most obvious one. All of us started off in Engineering courses. After we finished our Bachelors in Engineering, we either eventually landed up in some management institute of repute or in some good university for Masters (in India or abroad). Subsequent to that, we found jobs and now we find ourselves in a good position. (Else, continue for a PhD if that is what is your calling.)
The thing that strikes me the most in that process is its ease and convenience. It is almost like there is a perfect flow chart laid out in front of those who study Engineering in India. Follow that flow chart where the primary variables are your effort, intelligence, desire and interest, and you are very likely to come out of the process successful. (Successful may mean more money to you. To your parents, it may mean that it is now easier to find you a suitable bride. If you are a Gult, it means your ‘value’ increases. The last two are for men, obviously. But I digress.)
My point is that in India, as long as you are not dumb, you have a good level of interest and are ready to put in the required effort, you are very likely to get to the position I am talking about – if you are an Engineering student. I am saying that being an engineering student facilitates and/or expedites our journey through the above process. That there are extra advantages to studying Engineering that will help one come out to be financially successful. And I am also saying that not many other disciplines can claim the same.
Maybe it is because of a lack of people I know who have taken up other disciplines that I am unable to arrive at a different conclusion. But simply put, it is a whole lot more difficult for people in disciplines other than engineering to be financially successful to the same degree as their engineering counterparts.
And I do not say that with pride or happiness.
For I myself was a victim of getting brain washed into joining Engineering when my heart lay in pure science. That I eventually found a topic which got me interested and excited equally is what I consider extremely fortunate. But for those who chose to pursue their true interests (when it wasn’t engineering that is), I find it extremely disappointing that they have to tread a much harder AND longer path to be financially successful to the same degree as their engineering counterparts.
At this point, let me make it clear that I am not going to discuss about ‘true satisfaction’ in ‘doing what you really like’ and where your ‘heart lies’ etc. True, people choosing to pursue their interests in different disciplines will probably be more happy studying it. But here, I am only comparing tangible parameters, and specifically financial success. ‘True satisfaction’ and such are subjective ideas and they warrant a different treatment.
People from other disciplines have to study longer, work longer and make decisions filled with a lot more uncertainty before they reach the same level of financial stability and success as we engineering folks do. (And by that time they are likely to be married so it will not count anyway!) I personally find this very discouraging and destructive.
In a society where we require specialists in all fields, this kind of a glaring contrast in the different options available for students to choose their area of specialization is definitely counter-productive. But fact still remains that engineering is indeed the easiest way to get to where you want to go. And though most of the other disciplines do offer ways to get there, you have to almost always tread a harder, longer and more uncertain path.
Make no mistake. I am by no means trying to suggest that Engineering is THE SHIT and that everyone needs to take up Engineering to be successful financially (as if thats not already happening). In fact, I secretly pray everyday (I don’t know to whom though) that people (mainly parents) come to their senses and encourage young students to study their discipline of interest. But the wide gap that presents itself saying Engineering-is-the-easier-way-than-what-you-want-to-study does not help matters. Of course, the way to narrow the gap is not to make the engineering path less easy or convenient, but to make the paths of all other disciplines free of hurdles and unnecessary social stigma.
Which eventually brings me to the title of this post. The Stereotypical Dream. It is a dream every guy has and cannot really deny. Financial freedom and being in a place where there are a lot of things to do and places to see. It is also a dream that every parent has of their children too. And engineering seems to be the only quick, easy and assured way to realize it. Sad but true.
PS: This post is not my attempt at a “In your face Manu Joseph” response. Yes. I read that article and found it amusing to say the least. It is not even worth linking to.