CHENNAI: V B Vignesh was seated in a corner of the room where minutes earlier State Higher Education Minister P Palaniappan handed him his admit card to the College of Engineering Guindy (CEG), in the mechanical engineering stream.
Even as other students in the top-10 list were hounded by television crews for a sound byte, the eighth-ranked boy was content sitting in a chair, patiently trying to take in the ballyhoo around him. But even getting to that hall at Anna University seemed a far cry for this boy as early as this January, when his father’s demise tore his world apart.
“It seemed as if my dreams had ended. I could not focus on my studies,” said the 17-year-old from Tiruttani. “For nearly two months, nothing seemed to move. But by the end of February, I managed to convince myself that studying and scoring marks is the only way to gradually get out of the tight situation my family was forced into,” said Vignesh, who scored 1,162 marks in his Class 12 exams and a perfect cutoff score of 200.
His sister, who works as a school teacher, is now the family’s sole breadwinner. For Vignesh, however, engineering is only a means to achieve his ambition of becoming an IAS officer.
In another corner of the room sat S Sivasankar, showing evident signs of nerves. He had chosen to pursue ECE stream at CEG.
As we put our hands out to introduce ourselves, he pointed out that he struggled to interact with strangers due to his stammering.
The Coimbatore lad, a first generation college goer and son of powerloom workers, revealed that all night he was set on choosing the CSE stream, but changed his mind moments before his number was called. “I thought even Class 12 kids make apps these days. I was asking around what kind of jobs one can hope to get by studying CSE and no one answered me satisfactorily. Also, I wanted to study a bigger concept,” he said.
Sivasankar had already started working in the powerloom his parents operated by the time he was in sixth grade. “He used to go to school and still find time to help us out with the powerloom. Even then, he used to earn `500 a day for family expenses,” said a Stella, Vignesh’s mother.
Working eight to nine hour shifts at the powerloom gradually piqued his interest in machinery, which morphed into a love for circuitry. “I love how one can manipulate the circuit of a television set and create a better technology. I wish to innovate and invent,” said the boy.
Having gotten into their dream institution, one of the boys said though it was prestigious and meant a lot to their respective families, there lay a bigger obstacle that threatened to undo their hard work. The boys, who were educated in the Tamil medium, now face a difficult transition to the English medium of instruction at CEG.
At their current level, the boys said it would be an uphill task to understand the concepts taught in English by the faculty. “My family tells me that it is important I weather the storm,” said Sivasankaran, when told that language problems had been known to complicate things for Tamil medium students. “But I know that I can get through any problem because I have taught myself to face one’s demons,” said Vignesh.