September 1, 2008.
Almost eight years ago, on this day, I found myself standing with my father at the entrance of Jeppiaar Engineering College. It was my first day of college, the next phase of life. I was a great fan of science during my school days, botany and zoology being my favorite subjects. Hence I took up the first group in my school: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I had always dreamed of becoming a research scientist, the one the way they show in Sci-Fi movies with long white coat, with mask and gloves living in the scientist’s home, the Laboratory. I was an ardent fan of Dexter’s Laboratory. So that’s how I entered college, as a B.Tech, Biotechnology student and with dreams of becoming a scientist, a really famous one.
My father and I were guided towards to the place where fresher’s day was about to take place. Now any Jeppiaarites out there would know that on the first day of first year of college we are actually explained the rules and regulations that we are supposed to be following in the four years to come by our Chairman. Anyone from Chennai would know that it is one the strictest college in Chennai. After the speech and introduction, we students were asked to go to our respective classes where we would be given our notebooks, textbooks and others things required for the first year. I was excited, because at that point I could see myself with a long white coat, specs and gloves working in some far off laboratory on any experiment that would become the breakthrough in Biotech field. But this dream was interrupted when my father took me aside and told me “Ketallo parajhathokke!! Ini enne college-ill varathikarathu. Rules eke follow cheyyanam!” (Translation: Heard what they told. Follow the rules and don’t create any situation that I need to come here.)
As my father waved me goodbye, I went to search for the class which was allotted to 1st year, Biotechnology department. As I soon as I entered the class, I started feeling apprehensive. I did my schooling, right from pre-KG (Oh yeah, I was a naughty kid and hence my parents put me in school at a very tender age L) till 12th standard, in the same school which was exactly twenty feet away from my home. So when I saw that many new faces I was feeling a little tensed. But then a lecturer entered, introduced herself and asked us to introduce ourselves to our class. As I walked to the stage where am supposed to stand and introduce myself, I could see a lot of encouraging smiles. I got most of my best friends from that campus, from that class. The teacher then announced that we were supposed to go to the Mechanical Lab, where we would be given our notebooks and other things required for the first year of the course.
As I stood in line with excitement, I could see myself clearer in the above described dream. Hence when they gave me a few notebooks, four record note books and a calculator, I was confused whether this is a dream. But the biggest shock came when they gave me a very big white wooden board, drafter and a paper holder. I stood there looking alternatively at the things in my hand and the guy who just gave me all this. He too was looking at me confused. It’s when someone behind me shoved a pen into my hand asked me sign in the register which was proof that I had received those items, I realized that this is real indeed. As I dragged the board and other things searching for my father so that I could give him all this, the only thought that was running in my mind was what will a Biotech student do with this? The next was textbooks which we were supposed to get from the library. Already heartbroken, I stood in the line to get my textbooks. As the librarian read out the names of the text books, I asked the person nearby, “Are you from Biotech department too?” Because for a minute, I felt maybe I was with a wrong department.
A couple of hours later I found myself, waiting for our department HOD, in a Devdas-mode. She entered the class and introduced herself and told us that we would actually enter the department only in our 2nd year as the university follows a common syllabus during the first year. The syllabus covers almost all the core subjects an engineer is supposed to know to become an engineer. At that point, the “me” in my dream had undergone a costume change. A girl in salwar, struggling to balance the board and drafter, walking toward home. Well, that’s what actually happened that evening, except a small addition, my father was carrying the board with me.