Education is one of the main things that make life hell. The last college examination I took was about fourteen years ago, but I still have nightmares about exams sometimes. When I told this to my mom, she said that she also has bad dreams about exams in examination season, even if the last exam in which she appeared was about thirty years back. But exams are an integral part of education, which makes a person worth surviving in this highly competitive world, so there is no way around them for anyone. Many great persons such as Tagore and Gandhi have tried to find an alternative, 'human', way of education, but they could not affect the educational system in any way. Education has continued to be more and more time-taking and tough.
I hated going to school and college, but I have generally been a punctual student. I disliked studies, but I used to be good at them. Throughout the time I was in school, I was considered a promising, intelligent student, but since I did not pay much attention to studies, I did not score much in exams. Once or twice, when I worked hard, I scored the top position in my class.
My mother is good at geometry and my father is a reader in physics; they both used to be best students of their respective classes in their academic career. Luckily, I have inherited good things from both of my parents—imagination from mom and calculation from dad; you do not need anything else to be good at science and mathematics, and even arts. Due to my aptitude and readily available assistance from my parents, I was always above average in mathematics and science in school. I remember being called to solve difficult problems when everyone else failed and was considered the most intelligent student of my class by the teachers as well as fellow students not only in the school but also in the college.
As I stepped in college, science and mathematics became more dominant subjects, and due to my aptitude in them, my interest in studies went on increasing. To concentrate on studies and to cover the ever increasing course, I steadily withdrew from my favorite games, such as cricket, badminton, and chess. By the time I was in high school, I outgrew the capabilities of my mother and father in geometry and physics respectively. I remember that once when I was in eighth standard, I requested my father to help me in solving a problem of mathematics, and he asked me to do it myself; I took it to heart, and after that the only problems with which I approached him or my teachers for help were those they also could not crack. On the contrary my father used to ask me problems that were put before him by his students, that were of my standard, and that he could not solve, and I used to solve them for him happily, often easily.
I was selected for the engineering studies through a state-level entrance exam with a good position in my first attempt. Only five to ten percent of all those who get selected in such exams manage to do so in their first attempt. Due to my aptitude and interest in physics, I wanted to pursue higher studies in the subject, but my father disagreed: he said that since job opportunities are better in engineering than they are in physics, I should join the engineering field. Not unwillingly, I agreed to his suggestion and in 1990 joined Madan Mohan Malviya Engineering College, Gorakhpur, UP, India, from where I received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with Honors in 1994.
I remained at the top of my class as long as I took interest in studies, that is about six years of last eight years of college studies. I was not perfect but very good in mathematics—I could solve eighty-five to ninety percent of the most difficult problems on any topic. Whereas, I was almost perfect in science: no problem of physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering was invincible for me. Since I was very good at physics, mechanical engineering was fun for me. Many a time I could derive the formulae of its subjects all by myself, without going through their derivation even once. So the subjects that brought sweat on the forehead of other students, such as geometrical drawing and dynamics of machine, were most entertaining for me.
Throughout my studies I have been requested for help by my classmates in solving problems that they could not crack themselves, and I never let them down. I could solve problems that even my teachers found impossible to conquer. One day, when I was in the first year of intermediate, eleventh class, I was a bit late for the chemistry class. While I was entering the class, I heard the teacher say, 'Students, solve all the problems of this exercise but do not attempt problem number n, because it is an incorrect problem. I have sent a letter to the authors of the book to make necessary corrections.' I sat on my place, and solved it easily in a few minutes, and showed the solution to him. For me that problem of physical chemistry was too simple to be wrong.
I was in the first year in the engineering college. One day, I was studying in my end of the room when one of my my room partners requested my help in a problem of dynamics. I looked at it and laughed loudly, 'It is a very easy problem.' He was so embarrassed that he never ever came to me with any other problem; he used keys to solve difficult problems instead. On a sunny winter morning, a group of my classmates approached me for my help in a problem of geometrical drawing, and when I explained things to them, one of them said in a flattering way, 'Pathak, when God was distributing intelligence, how could you manage to be the first in the line.' It was my turn to feel embarrassed. 'I don't like being appreciated', I said shyly in a hoarse, serious voice.
It was exam season in second or third year, and the time was around midnight. I was bored and exhausted with the day long study, so I decided to go to some other room to chat with similarly bored friends and become fresh. These friends belonged to computer engineering department, and they were discussing a problem of logic, which was expected to appear in the paper of artificial intelligence the next day. Every student of the department had tried to solve it but was unsuccessful. This aroused my interest, and I asked them to let me see it. One of them said, 'Nah, don't see it. It is a wrong problem. It is useless for you to try it and waste your time on it.' I said, 'Let me at least see it.' After some convincing they were ready to show it to me, saying, 'If you are able to crack it, we will give you a party.' I returned to my room with the problem, and after some time I went back to them with its solution to claim the party.
I have been a thinker from early age. I have spent a good part of my life just thinking over matters and trying to find solutions of complex personal, social, political, and scientific problems. I am gifted in terms of insight and depth of understanding, and this is what makes me different from most other people. Due to my thoughtfulness and insight, I have been good at arts too. Though I have always hated cramming, which is required more in arts than it is in sciences, I was good at memorizing things too; and I thoroughly enjoyed studying geography, polity, literature, and even history. I was good at writing essays and used to get appreciation and highest marks for them throughout my studies.
Once, in high school, the principal of my college was so impressed with an essay of mine that later he said to my father, "Mr Pathak, your son will do whatever he wishes to do, and he will succeed in whatever he does." This statement can not be true for anyone, but it has always been encouraging for me.
In the first year of engineering college, we had to study English in the first semester. Every week during the tutorials, our teacher used to give us an essay assignment on a random topic to be completed and submitted in about forty minutes; I always used to get the highest marks in those assignments. Once somebody felt that the teacher was being partial to me and he questioned him, 'Why do you always give him the best marks?' The teacher replied, 'You read his essays and find out yourself.' I think it was the originality and depth of my thought, which had been reaching maturity by that time, that he was rewarding.
Throughout my college years, more was going on inside me than was happening on the surface. I have been reading books and articles on main topics of my interest such as spirituality, yoag, occult, and philosophy and experimenting on meditation, truth, desire, selfless work, ego, doubt, and feelings in my effort to achieve my main aim at the time: the highest spiritual state. During these efforts, while I was trying to become totally free from doubt or state of indecision, I realized that the decisions we make in any particular situation are predestined and subsequently became convinced scientifically that whatever happens in the universe, including whatever happens in our lives, is predestined and unchangeable. This realization, which occurred between second and third year of my engineering studies, was the initial inspiration for my book God and Destiny.
By the time I was in second year, my main concern was how I could pursue my quest and experimentation in spirituality full time, which I felt was the main purpose of my life. Mechanical engineering was neither interesting nor challenging enough for me. I never wanted to or dreamt of becoming an engineer; I would rather become a physicist, a film-maker, or a writer.
For first two years in the college I studied diligently because I was experimenting with selfless work. As I realized that selfless or desireless work is a deceptive concept, I stopped the experiment and simultaneously the efforts I was putting into studies were reduced drastically. This resulted in the reduction of my marks, but I was so ahead of the classmate at the second position that it took me two semesters, that is, one year, to recede behind him. Though I was disinterested in studies, I somehow managed to pass the exams, held fourth or fifth position at the end, and achieved a bachelor's degree with Honors (79% marks).
Since I was not interested in pursuing an engineering career, there was no point in trying to join a post graduate course in engineering. I had decided that that was the end of my formal education. So, as I left the college premises after the last paper, the feeling of freedom I had was overwhelming. Although, whenever I look back, I feel that the years I spent in the engineering college were the most important years of my life. They were full of tension, conflict, experiments, and achievements at mental level and interesting, funny, horrible, and exciting events of college life, many of which I was just a witness to and many of which I participated in.
Written on June 28-29, 2008
You are at vivakepathak.com, the official website of Vivake Pathak who is the author of God and Destiny.