Saturday, January 04, 2014

Annals of Improbable Careers

We have covered cases of materials engineers (actually, metallurgists -- a word that has gone out of fashion in my tribe) who went on to become an iconic founder of a milk cooperative, a journalist, and a chief minster. Another recent case saw the rise of a mechanical   engineer as Delhi's youngest chief minster.

Now, here's a wonderful essay in Mint by Harikrishna Katragadda on his career in (business) photography after an electrical engineering degree from IIT-M. I'll just have to stop at one extended (but chopped up) quote, but really, the entire essay is worth quoting in full!

I was good at math and physics in school. Which meant that like most good Andhra boys, I was expected to become an “ingineeru”, get a job and get married with a fat dowry. ...

... When I cleared the mother-of-all-engineering-entrance exams, the Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Exam (IIT-JEE), my parents gave me no option but to join electrical engineering at IIT, Madras. I did not want to be an engineer. I had wanted to study physics at IIT.

I got into photography literally by accident. ...

My move from physics to photography baffled my parents. For them, cameras come out of the closet only during weddings and vacations. My maternal grandmother was inconsolable. A proud woman, she had ruled like the feudal mistress of a large mansion in Vijayawada in her day. She refused to accept photography as a legitimate profession, certainly not after an IIT degree. She had grand visions of how I would become CEO of a company after my IIT, and drive her in a Mercedes car. Much to her horror, I was chasing grumpy CEOs for a photo-op and I drove an old beat-up Ford to work. There was also the predicament of “Which Andhra girl would marry a photographer?” Peace returned to the family home after we agreed on my job description as “someone who takes pictures of Americans and foreigners”.