Who Is An Engineer

Internet Forward, received by Imran: 21 Dec 2015

In normal course of your life, you see a Doctor when you are sick; he is important for you to get well. You accost a Lawyer when you have to defend yourself; he is necessary to get you out of trouble or protect your interests. You engage a chartered Accountant to dress your company’s data into a balance sheet; he is required for your business. To draw a parallel from the Hindu mythology, if you will, they are your protectors like Maha Vishnu.

The Engineer does not belong strictly in the above category! He is a creator, like Brahma. While we worship Maha Vishnu to protect us and pray Lord Shiva to give us Life and energy, we do not seek the blessings of Brahma, as he has already created us; the role he played, is nearly forgotten after we are born, especially without any congenital deformity. (The myth has it that he has a curse on him for not being worshiped!). To me it seems that the lack of gratitude to some extent is built into the scheme of things!

An engineer’s creation or an Architect’s plan is truly omnipresent that we miss it. Every minute of our life we use or enjoy his ‘creation’. Whether you live, in a house, go in a car, sail a ship or ride a plane you are using the product made by him. The refrigerator, fans, air conditioners, lifts are his creations. He brings electricity and water to your home. Go to a movie theater – the cinema hall, the projector, the sound system are his products.

The Engineer established communication between people round the globe with telephones/ mobile phones, brings all visual images though your TV, not to mention the all-pervasive computers which brought the metamorphosis of a change in the efficacy and the ease of human living. Emails and SMS have brought-in new dimensions to communications and messaging, not withstanding junk mails and messages in this era of junk food.

Gone are days of serpentine queues in railway stations to book tickets, thanks to online reservation systems to book your seats in over 5000 trains, from any station to any destination from any place! You could reserve an air ticket from Chennai to go from Paris to Washington on a given future date. These complex software packages were developed by engineers not to demonstrate what is possible, but to make computers useful to common man in his daily life. As Computer Engineering evolved into Computer Science, non-engineers joined and added to this core contribution.

The Jumbo jet, Boeing 747, the supersonic Concorde and more recently the Airbus 380 are engineering marvels. “A small step for a man and a giant leap for the mankind” declared Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to step on the Moon! How did he reach there? Thousands of NASA engineers burnt their mid-night candles for many years planning designing and assembling the rocket, the Lunar landing vehicle and dozens of on-board computers. That very step was also the moment of glory and unprecedented achievement for the Engineers.

We have reached a stage where the frequent launch of Indian satellites boosted by Indian rockets unfailingly joining their pre-determined orbits hardly get noticed; the result of an initiative headed by our past President of India, Honourable Dr. Abdul Kalam as a rocket Engineer, with his focus and devotion, more than a decade ago.

The doctor who made the tele-surgery in the Minneapolis hospital sitting in Boston is in the news and has all the accolades. But who design the instruments, the monitoring systems and enabled the tele-commands to the robotic arm? For early and precise diagnostics we have heard of ECGs, EEGs. and CAT scans and now MRI scans:

These machines were scrupulously designed and produced by Engineers. Why go this far? ; in a conventional operation, the doctors use the surgical instruments made by Engineers to exacting specifications, to make their precise incisions!

The Engineer even in the United States is not a huge tax-payer unlike the lawyers and dentists. Of late, the Indian engineers have reasonably done well for themselves ; they are no more just an aiding tool for the management, but a significant player in value-addition chain – a recognition first from the west, as the product and production technologies became Hi-tech. Not any more is the scenario of an Engineer, after full service, riding a Royal Enfield 350cc Bullet!.

There has been an avalanche effect between the overall contribution of Engineers and the development of Engineering sciences in the last century. Consequently, the ‘bandwidth’ of his contribution has been very large that it has become ubiquitous. So Mr. Engineer, lift up your collar(unless you are wearing collarless a T-Shirt) and be proud.

In lighter vein, let me quote our beloved Prof. Hegde’s joke (with the hope that many of you have not yet heard this): A lawyer, a doctor, a Chartered Accountant(CA) and an Engineer were all destined to Hell. The Doctor pleads with Gabriel that he had saved many lives; he was refused as some died after his operation not to mention bloating his bill in other many cases and therefore directed to hell. The Chartered Accountant was refused entry to the Heaven as he showed many loss making companies as profitable and was assigned to hell. The lawyer argued his case as to how he saved all his genuine clients from being punished or protected their interests. Gabriel’s record showed that he argued for the truly guilty for a fat fee and got them acquitted; he was also therefore sent to hell. With all the arguments, Gabriel and his boss St. peter were weary and tired. They told the last candidate, the Engineer that he is destined to hell. He said `OK, fine!; all I had to know is where i have to go?. Wonder struck, they asked him, ‘Are you not going to argue for your case to go to heaven?’. The Engineer replied, “You are not going to believe my arguments any way; besides, I can make my own heaven in hell!”

We take cognizance of the fact that the fundamental to Engineering, simply put, is practical applications and extrapolations of Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry – and of course application of mind. (I wonder, now, if English could be included in the above list) . A mature Engineer, despite all his contributions and achievements keeps his feet on the ground as he knows that the real Creator is invisible!