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What would you like to become: A doctor or an engineer?

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K S S Pillai
My grandson Raj has been facing this question from all and sundry ever since he joined his higher secondary classes two years ago.
No one used to ask such questions when I was in his position. The field of higher studies depended on the marks scored at the qualifying examination and one’s financial condition. There were neither entrance tests for various courses nor a bevy of coaching classes vying with one another to attract students. Students and their parents never thought of spending a year or two for the preparation for umpteen entrance tests.
Things have changed over the years. Now, most parents think that there should be at least one doctor in the family. The engineering profession seems to have lost its lustre. The market is overflowing with unemployed and underemployed engineers. Several colleges that were started to stem the flow of students to other states and charged hefty fees are on the verge of closure.
I fail to understand why certain professions are the preferred choices when there are hundreds to choose from, except that they are more money-making. However, there are several other such professions with the additional attraction that they provide one with a peaceful sleep at night.
I see a crowd of waiting customers at my barber’s shop till late in the night and a long queue of vehicles at the mechanic’s workshop. If it is all about money, I would surely choose one such profession. No midnight calls to attend to patients, no thrashing from the angry relatives of dead patients. Above all, no fear of contracting deadly diseases from new-found viruses.
For two years, Raj was required to shuttle between his school and a coaching class that displayed photographs of its students who got admission to medical colleges. He had to burn the midnight oil and write tests after tests.
And then came the results of his qualifying examination. As is the specialty of Raj, his score was neither too low nor too high, and kept all of us on tenterhooks. Ever since the results were announced, we have been going through all kinds of data about last year’s admission to various courses with a fine-tooth comb. Unlike in the distant past, a student is awarded marks in percentage and percentile.
My son explains the difference between the two, but I am still confused about the latter. We search for the ‘cut-off’ marks at different colleges, fee structure for ‘free seats’, government quota, the management quota, and the NRI quota. Since the management quota seems to be a distant possibility, we also enquire about the terms and conditions for getting educational loans from banks.
Another possibility is to get a seat under the NRI quota, but all our relatives and friends that reside in foreign countries have gone incommunicado after Raj’s results were declared.
We have been breaking our piggy banks and counting the savings, checking the balance in the mutual funds, provident fund, fixed deposits, shares, and other investments. Gold ornaments have already been weighed and their value estimated. One silver line has been the current upward trend in the price of gold, and we have been praying for its continuance at least till Raj is admitted to a college.
(The author is a retired professor of English. His articles have been published by The Kashmir Vision, the New Indian Express, the Tribune, The Hans India, and elsewhere)

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