Guest Article: Failure in Engineering. Remarkable Success Elsewhere.

Posted on August 5, 2010

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In his first guest article in this repository, our  author,  Prof.  M.N. Faruqui , very affectionately recalls an ususual story of  a drop out student of whom he is very proud of now.  Prof.   Faruqui  can be approached at  naseem.faruqui AT gmail.com

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Tejinder Singh got into Engineering at IIT Kharagpur through the toughest Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and showed that he was, that year, amongst top 2000 students in India. His career started well and was noticed in Hall activities like Dramatics, Music and other activities. But by the time he came to second year he was in the wrong company. I was Dean of Students and his problems landed on my table. His father was employed in Railways and posted at Kharagpur. By and by his plus points were getting lost into failure in examinations and numerous ‘reported’ troubles. He had to repeat the year. Naturally his parents were very upset and his mother met my wife and me repeatedly. I tried my level best to get him to perform but it did not help him much. He could not go beyond the third year and had to leave the IIT as a failure. I used to tell him that unless he studied and got out of the company of his ‘friends’ he would be good for nothing. He would be found selling peanuts at the Kharagpur railway station.

In front of me he was always very polite and submissive, though he admitted once that he was not finding interest in Engineering. He always promised dutifully that he would make all efforts and would do well next time. That next time never came and he had to say goodbye to Kharagpur.

A few years later I came across him at Howrah station concourse at 12.30 in the night. People who have been to Howrah station beyond midnight may be knowing that once the local trains have left the station concourse is taken over by thousands of large size rats. It is quite a sight. They even jump over people sleeping on the floor. I was waiting for my wife whose train from Lucknow was 2 hours late. I was surprised to see him and asked him about what were his current activities and what was he doing at this time of the night at Howrah station. He said he was working in the well known Telegraph newspaper in Calcutta in the editorial department. I asked him whether he liked what he was doing and he said that he has now found out that journalism was his actual interest. We sat down on a bench amongst the rats all around and chit chatted about his job and about IIT.

The tea available at the station is undrinkable because it is prepared from the Hooghly water that is salty. I said as much but he said that he knows a tea stall outside the station that serves tea made from good well water. Despite my protests he went out and brought two cups of good quality tea. I felt happy that he was enjoying his work at last. It was really a chance meeting and completely out of the way.

A few years later he landed up one day in my house where he had come specially to meet me. He was accompanied by his European wife and on enquiry he told me that he was the Editor of an English magazine at Athens – Greece. It was really impressive. He was happy editing the magazine and was enjoying life.

Last year,  I was at Lucknow when I got a call from a student at IIT Kanpur that a gentleman named Tejinder wants to meet me and wants to know whether he can come and meet me at Lucknow. I was overjoyed to hear him and he did drive down from Kanpur to Lucknow – a drive of two hours. He is a Sikh but now he had lost all his hairs and is bald. He was now in Brussels and Chief Editor of an International magazine. He could hardly stay for an hour because he had to drive back. He was still the same Tejinder but now was a European boss of an organisation.

Boys at IIT Kanpur had compiled a list of IIT students who could not complete their studies at their Institution but had done well in later life. These boys had hit on his name and had invited him to Kanpur. He jokingly said that my prophecy about selling peanuts was wrong. He always felt obligated to me though I really could not do anything for him finally. I remarked as such but then he said that out of the whole lot of people at Kharagpur I was the only person who listened and even sympathised with him though I fired him many times. From another angle through his struggles and hard work he succeeded in a career of his choice. I will call him a ‘Success’ story though he gave lot of worries and heart burn to his parents and well wishers in the beginning. Finally he made us proud of his exploits.

– Prof. M.N. Faruqui

(The author studied and worked at IIT Kharagpur, India,  for almost all his working life.  There, among various positions held by him, he was  the  Dean of students and later the  Deputy Director).

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