This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhigya Pandey. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Opting For Engineering Was Like Boarding The Wrong Train, One I Couldn’t Get Off

By Abhigya Pandey:

When I tell people that by qualification I am an engineer, I am often met with the response, “Oh you must be great at Mathematics”. I do nothing but smile coyly. Yes it is true that I spent four precious years of my life in buying (indeed not earning) my degree, which actually is worth nothing. I know little of Mathematics, Science, or remotely anything that may buttress the idea that I am a science graduate. I am guilty of the offence called “mediocrity” and here is my defense:

Photo Credits
Photo Credits

I grew up in the pre -Three Idiots era. The purpose of education was to turn a child into a doctor or an engineer. The common place notion in my family circles was that the hard working and dedicated students, which constituted the creamy layer, would choose to study mathematics or medicine. Either Commerce or Humanities was supposed to be chosen by tier-2 and tier-3 students. (An idea which is as hilarious as it is ironic since the topmost rungs of our administrative services are filled up by these very humanities students. The most revered thinkers and philosophers were those who pursued social sciences. The ideas of Karl Marx revolutionized the way we view each and every dimension of human existence.)

Enter 2006, while all of my batch mates were busy solving problem after problem in the physics class, I was hiding a copy of “Physics for dummies”, underneath my desk. Numbers evaded me and there wasn’t any room for ideas. I failed miserably at figuring out the dynamics of heat, energy, mass, hydrocarbons, integration, differentiation and what not!

A brief glance at my high school mark sheet would have told anybody that I was not cut out for being a science student. However, I could not afford to opt for humanities and be labelled as a loser by everybody, even by my own parents. I was not pressurized, forced, or coerced. Rather, I succumbed to the thrust of my own ego.

My choosing to study science would appear to be a pardonable error to you, once you are acquainted with what transpired next. As I opted for science, I was thinking of the sci-fi fantasies popularized by the mass media. I had dreamt of a world full of laboratories and experiments, of inventions and discoveries, of astronauts and spaceships. And, I thought that I might end up being a scientist someday. A childish fancy it was, because my education was never really about science.

You understand that ‘the apple’ falls from the tree by the virtue of gravity, but no one would care about that if you cannot reproduce the Newton’s laws of motion verbatim in exams. Our education system, with its rigid and theory intensive course structure offered no scope for learning or innovation. And, any hope that remained was smothered by my pursuit of the delusional IIT dream. I joined one of those promising coaching institutions, which I later found out, did nothing more than cashing in on the anxieties of students like me, who are often a part of the race of making it to any of the top notch educational institutions for higher studies.

I, however, resolved to undo the repercussions of my fatal choice(s). I fared poorly in my plus two exams. The stage was set for a rebellion, but again, I was forced to retreat. Even though, I had pitched hard to go for a course of my choice – that would satiate my desire for learning and not just mechanically condition me to participate in the rat race.

But how could I aspire to be anything but a doctor or an engineer? How could I give up? If you accidently board a train headed in the wrong destination, won’t you get down and try to start all over again? No matter what price you might have to pay for it? Isn’t this basic common sense? Alas! In our society such decisions are considered cowardly; you continue to travel in the wrong train even after having realized that you are heading nowhere. This allegory precisely sums up my story. I decided to take up engineering and my life was totally derailed.

Engineering – which was said to be the safe career option, which would warrant stability, affluence, and prestige, could neither impart the necessary skills to land me a job, nor could it add, even a tiny bit to my intellectual accomplishments. Fortunately, experience taught me what the physics lessons at school couldn’t. When life seemed to be a climax to a series of messed up choices, I understood the Newton’s law of inertia – that every attempt towards change is met with immense resistance, unless a strong external force is applied to overcome it. And then, I could use that force to overpower the inertia and take a stand for myself. I could finally get off the wrong train.

You must be to comment.
  1. Monistaf

    Ms. Pandey – You had no passion for science, opted to pursue it to preserve your ego, realized it was not for you and had the courage and determination to get off the “wrong” train. This is great, but why do you have to belittle the true engineers who make it so possible for you to even tell your story, to travel the world, to treat your illnesses and to enjoy a standard of living like no other time in human history. All of this would not have been possible without science, which, is the relentless pursuit of the truth. If we had been stuck with literary greats and their outlandish imaginations, we would all still believe that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth. The passion and courage to stray from someone’s else’s figment of imagination and challenge yourself to uncover what truly makes this world tick should be encouraged and even applauded. It is not for everyone, including yourself, but I cannot imagine this world without engineering and I am thankful to all those people who dared to question, to seek the truth and apply it in innovative ways that has truly made life worth living. We all feel the importance of engineering often when we lose power, when your cell phone does not connect or your car breaks down. Honestly, I have never missed a book on my shelf or a painting on a wall as much as I have the daily conveniences of life that we tend to take for granted.

    1. Abhigya

      With all due respect sir,not for once did I mean to trivialise the contribution that science has made to the welfare of mankind.As you must have been able to comprehend that this is an honest narration of my personal experiences and the prejudices held in our society.I have immense faith in the miracles of Science and the competence of engineering(refer to this post for further clarifications-http://www.quora.com/How-is-electronics-and-telecommunications-engineering-better-than-others/answer/Abhigya-Pandey).
      What bothers me is the way Science is being taught in the engineering colleges mushrooming in every nook and cranny of our country(specially Delhi and Ncr) .A closer look will reveal that there are n numbers of colleges where students like me(exactly-who do not have a passion for science)are engaged in a process of buying a degree.Some do it as a result of sheer ignorance,some for the promise of guaranteed placements.In this very process Science is smothered to death.

    2. Monistaf

      @Abhigya, thank you for taking the time to respond. The “topmost rungs of our administrative services and the most revered thinkers are those who pursue humanities and social sciences” made me come to the conclusion in my previous comment. While I am not exactly proud of our administrative services, I do have a lot of respect for the contributions made by thinkers and philosophers like Marx. What I was trying to impress upon is that a lot of us in the general public overlook and take for granted the contribution made by those who dared to question, those who dared to seek the truth and those who changed the course of mankind because of it. One of the most important discoveries ever made was Penicillin. By some estimates, half the population would not be here today, if not for the discovery of antibiotics. How many of us think about it? Even in the London Olympics, it bothered me that the pride of England was displayed by “Harry Potter” and Elton John, but they never thought of paying tribute to any of the other greats like James Watt or Alexander Fleming.

  2. Jigsaw

    Good.

  3. Vaibhav Agarwal

    Even for me why does everyone in india want to become an engineer????

    1. TheSeeker

      It’s the herd mentality of indians. We all want to be accepted, but make an impression at the same time. Same, yet different. And then there are always “those” people who will manipulate and influence your decisions without you even realising it.
      On the other hand you must agree that every developing country needs engineers for their progress. No other profession can compete with it in india due to this reason.

  4. Kunal Dhodi

    Something people always think of but seldom express and do. We live far away from our actual self in the stigma of what people think but the fact is do what you want and u will never regret @Abhigya….Cheers for living to what you wanted!!!

  5. Shikhar

    “I was not pressurized, forced, or coerced. Rather, I succumbed to the thrust of my own ego”. This is the second case i have seen of opting engineering because of thrust of ego ( first being me):p:p. (Others are generally forced).

  6. Rajeev Newar

    In my opinion the problem is with the selection process and criteria which is too much rigorous and cumbersome. Most of the students feel burnt out and actually lose interest in science and mathematics while preparing for JEE and +2 exams. Then most or rather almost all the students, who are barely 18 years old and without any experience of the real world outside school and tution centres, have no idea as to what exactly is engineering and the various streams as well as the medical stream. They are coaxed and tutored by their parents, teachers and elders that this is the best choice and a gateway to an esteemed and comfortable future. Without knowing about their aptitude, interests and expectations , young teenagers are pushed into a stream which is not suitable for many of them. Then after a couple of semesters these students start losing interest in studies and fall into depression. Many such students develop psychological problems and suicidal tendencies. Some fall into substance abuse and other vices. Most of the engineering graduates actually lose interest in engineering when they pass out.
    Its really surprising that even after almost seven decades of independence our policy makers have failed to have a student friendly education system where learners are encouraged to learn and boost their knowledge and skills. Recent modifications in our education policy has made it even more elitist, rigorous, pressurising and demotivating to our students.
    There should be a change in approach towards education by our government and this needs to be done immediately. Selection to engineering and medical courses should not be so rigorous. Rather than an elimination test procedure , those genuinely interested should be encouraged. Credit system should be introduced so that students from any college in India can seek transfer to any other course of his/her choice and even to other colleges.
    Also it is vital to have more of good and learned teachers in our educational institutes.
    There are many people who were unable to take admission is IITs or NITs and took a different stream because of various reasons and have now started working but have a keen interest for engineering and medical studies and also have some great ideas/ innovation in their mind. But due to lack of options such people cannot study engineering or medicine and cannot contribute in growth and development in a manner they could have done.
    The situation is alarming and government should immediately address these issues and with a practical approach so that our teenagers and youth can have a better, happy and fulfilling life.

More from Abhigya Pandey

Similar Posts

By Birbal Jha

By Snigdha Gupta

By Anisha Reddy

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below