This is a letter I wrote to a friend’s daughter who is leaving for the U.S. to study engineering. Thought it may make an interesting read for many others at the same juncture.
Aanya …. 29 years ago, i was standing at the same place as you are….an 18 year old waiting to join engineering college. There was excitement in the air, a sense of ‘coming of age’, a little bit of apprehension of what the new, unsheltered world would be like, a burden of expectations (i had a brother and 2 cousins in IIT Delhi, and here I was the blacksheep of the family who could only make it to DCE) and a feeling of freedom. I could fly, i could do whatever I wished to.
The next 4 years went pass in a breeze. There is not a lot i remember about classes, because i attended very few. But there was a lot I learnt in those 4 years. Many of these learnings still shape my life today ….
1. Freedom of choice is not a birthright ; it has to be earned – a dispute with my dad over my smoking led to me taking up a job in college, so that i could pay for my own cigarettes! That small argument with my dad taught me in many ways how we cant take what we get for granted, and that adulthood gives us choices, but also means we have to work to get those choices. Life will no longer serve you on a platter.
2. Success is not a choice, it is a compulsion – after having spent 2 years slogging it out in XI and XIIth, i thought the pressure days were over. Soon, however, I realised that i was not smart enough to be an engineer and not creative enough to be an artist in engineering college, so i did what looked the easiest – i devoted my time to college politics and extra curriculars. I realised that it didnt matter what i did, as long as i was amongst the best in the class at it. I got away with an attendance of 1% in the final year, because the college knew that i spent 150% in doing things for the students that nobody else did ! Being successful was critical, not what i was successful at.
3. Hardwork is the foundation of success – there are a few people in college who become the best at everything with little effort. But for me, like most others, success was the result of nights without sleep, of trying and failing and trying again. Nothing came easy, but effort always paid off
4. The best friendships are made in undergrad – i have been fortunate to meet some incredible people in the last 30 years, and have formed close and deep friendships with some, like your parents, but there is something about the friends from engineering college that cant be explained. We may not meet often, not even speak often now, but i know that whenever i need it, they will be there. You dont need 10 such friends, but 1 is not enough either. Find your soulmates, because when everything and everyone has gone afar, they will be the ones still standing by your side
Aanya …. these are some of my learnings and memories of college….and you will have your own. Just remember to fly, to soar and look afar, to live your dreams. And as you do that, be thankful for everything you have.
Wish you all the very best, at work, in life, in love….