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Breaking stereotype




Yesterday evening, as I rode my elder daughter (aged 11.5 yrs) on my mom's 2-wheeler to a shop, she questioned “Amma, what is that you wanted to become as a child?”

It was a simple question but it created a churn in my mind as I am not currently working. Not working was not a voluntary decision. Circumstances had forced it on me. Just to get her off my back regarding this question of hers, I told “That’s past baby, why do we have to think on that. Let’s focus on now. Right now, at this moment I am extremely happy. I do what I really want to, not because somebody else wants me to. And that is what matters.”

From the rare view mirror, I noticed that she was not convinced, or probably I can put it this way – she did not realize the depth of the words. I asked her “What is that you want to become?”

She said “I don’t know. Sometimes I think of this and sometimes I think of that. I am not sure. Only thing I am sure of is that I don’t want to become a computer engineer.”

With a smile, I said “Its ok to not know what you want to become in the future. You will gradually figure it out. For now just do the work in your hand with all your heart.”

We continued with other talks while my mind was still churning her simple question. Did I really want to be an engineer? Or was it a social obligation? Was I happy being an engineer and serving a software firm for more than 10 years? Yes, certainly there were many moments I cherished like being part of a production fix for Dell, having got a chance to hear Michael Dell (its for for few seconds, yet) on one such production call. Many such cherish-able memories. But what value add did that fix bring about to the man kind? Wasn’t I just helping Dell and my firm make more money? (Of-course, I also also working for money.) But is engineering all about money making and engineers all about status quo? The question had stirred my mind and in turn given rise to a lot more questions. It seldom agreed to settle.

By night the rate of churning had lowered but yet not stopped. I picked the newspaper to deviate my attention. But a thinking mind always captures what’s on thoughts and I ended up spotting this article in the newspaper.


The article had managed to get the cream out of my several hours of mind churning. This guy Sawhney redefined engineering for me. He made me realize that outer engineering is of some value only when the inner engineering has a value system in place. His engineering had a purpose to serve the bottom of the pyramid. He might make some money in the process but that’s secondary when the primary goal of value add to mankind is met.


It also reminded me of a dear friend who is developing a software application to provide medical services (mainly Indian style – ayurvedic) to the people at the bottom of the pyramid at a very reasonable cost. However, it is at a very early stage and he was looking out for some funding. (I am sure someday I would be writing about his effort on the road less traveled) With his struggle for fund raising I thought, though money may not be everything, it is many things. Probably people can think of value system when their basic needs are met and they are comfortably doing OK on financial front. The other side of it is also true, not everybody in an affordable state think of adding value to mankind.

I told myself, God has been very kind to me. I have traveled from a life in asbestos sheeted house to a flat in 14th floor. It has been a gradual growth but a very thankful one. I thanked god and promised myself that after this involuntary break from IT, I would pick up something that would be of value add, though not on a big scale but in all small ways possible.

As the stereotype of engineers and engineering was breaking in my mind, my younger daughter (aged 7 years) came in. She hugged me and said “Meema (as she fondly calls me), can we play the phonetics flash card game?”

I kissed her fondly not just as a reply for her hug but for the fact that my churn had stopped and I relished the cream from the churn. I was more than thankful to God for all that happened and all that is.

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