‘We entered the year you passed out’, she said.
‘I figured that out when you said you guys are in your third year’, I replied like an ass-hole. Even when I hadn’t really figured that out. Not that I had bothered to. The girl to whom I replied did not speak much thereafter. In fact, she moved away to some place in the back row. Her friend, seated next to me, kept sitting though. And we chatted for a while.
Lemme throw in li’l background. This was PanIIT 2010. Two IITD girls had chosen to sit next to me. May be because when they had taken their seats, I was not sitting over the chair over which I would sit later. Only my camera had been lying on the chair then. I was generally roaming around. When I took my seat, I noticed a hindi poem book in the hands of the girl sitting next to the girl sitting next to me. I asked her what in this world was that book about. She passed to me the book. It was a Hindi translation of poems originally written in some obscure foreign language by a poet I had never heard of. I haven’t heard of too many poets anyway. My bad. And then this book lender asked me if I was an IITian. I told her yes I was. I had passed out in 2008. Which year were they in? Third year is what she said. And then she made that intelligent remark about them entering and me passing out. And felt very pleased at that. Until I responded of course. Like an ass-hole.
So the book-lender left while her friend stayed back. I was almost 25 when I had passed out of IIT. People are typically 18 when they enter IIT (I was a bit old to enter at 20). So this girl sitting next to me was basically a kid to me. The kid told me she was from the Civil Engineering Department. I said – hi5. And then she asked me grave questions. And I gave funny replies.
‘I hate stral*. I mean I just don’t understand it. Do you think Civil Engineering is for me?’
‘I hated stral so much that I didn’t write the end-sem for the first time. In fact I had stopped attending the classes themselves. More than the course, I hated the prof who taught that course. I wrote it later when some other prof came to teach it and cleared it. And I am not doing too bad today, am I? But of course, I am not an engineer any more’.
‘How much do CGs matter during placements?’
‘How much is yours?’
‘I was just 7+. And I am not doing too bad, am I? But of course I am not an engineer any more. CG’s obviously matter if you are taking a job in a core company. But no one doing Civil Engineering takes a job in a core company anyway so I don’t think CG matters much. At least not if it is over 8 anyway. Chill in life.’
‘What do you think about start-ups?’
‘One of my friends left his job at HUL to start a start-up. He is getting married soon. I guess he is happy. A junior had started working for a start-up venture when he had passed out. Last I met him he was fed up with that and had joined Coke. So I don’t think I have any answer to your question. Start-ups might work. They might not. Do whatever you feel like doing. Hardly matters. Everything’s cool. I didn’t go for a start-up. And I am not doing too bad today, am I? But of course, I am not an engineer anymore.’
And then her friend – the book lender – gave her a phone call. She probably wanted her dear friend to join her on the back row. So she left. Before leaving, she told her name was Parul. And that it was nice meeting me. I think I told her the same. And then Nandan Nilekani stole all the show that there was.
*stral – for non CE folks, stral stands for Structural Analysis