It was ‘Profession Week’ at the son’s pre-school. It is at times like this that you feel like a celebrity if you are a fire-fighter or a policeman. Imagine drawing up to the school-yard in your impressive red fire-truck and talking about your average day to a bunch of star-struck toddlers. I would have loved to do that. Only I am neither a fire-fighter nor a policeman. I work as a software engineer and as far as glamour appeal goes, computer engineer is as low as it can get on the toddler ladder of professions.
It did not help matters that another computer engineer had already been in to see them the previous day. The son told me that they ‘already knew all about laptops’. What, he wondered, could I have to say that they did not already know in the field of Computer Science? I felt my spirits sink a bit.
Let’s suppose you are practicing to perform at a concert. You spend a good amount of time getting your voice modulation and crescendos just right for that perfect rendition of ‘Let It Go!’. You then gingerly move on to the stage, hoping that your confidence will build up with the song’s tempo, and belt out your best attempt of the sensational ‘Let it go!’. You survey the audience (100-watt bulbs pale in comparison) as you beam around, only to find that the audience is slightly scornful and mutinous. You then learn that three performers before you had already rendered that very song. The first one got a thunderous applause, the second a warm hand because, well, who doesn’t like an encore? The third : a polite, but appreciative nod, and the fourth absolutely gets the bird. The fifth will probably get eggs and potatoes. The whole thing reminds me of an excellent short story penned by P.G.Wodehouse on these very lines: Sonny Boy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggs,_Beans_and_Crumpets)
Judging by the response I got, I was in the position of the lucky fourth performer and not the fifth. I beamed around the class and spoke to them about all the wonderful uses of computers and how even their toys and favorite movies are made using computers. I gasped to make them gasp. I spiced up my lines. I threw in guffaws. I went on about how computers are used to send rockets to outer space and some children were mildly impressed. I got to tell you, this was a hard group.
My brow was beginning to sweat a bit. I mean, every place in the talk where I thought I would get an impressive-something was a complete washout. I felt like a sad stand-up comedian getting no laughs out there. It was brutal.
“So, anyone wants to be a Computer Engineer when they grow up?” I asked, with that falsetto ring of cheeriness.
One boy put up his hand. I pounced on the gesture with enthusiasm. I said, “Oh wonderful! There he is. He wants to become an engineer. That is great!”
An older child might have humored me and let things be, but not this boy. He shrugged and said, “NO!” (I really don’t think that vehemence was necessary) “I want to be a super-hero!”
I gulped a bit looking quite the ass. I mean, my ecstatic smile was frozen on my face and I tried to salvage the situ. by laughing some more. But it came out sounding like a dog learning to laugh from a hyena.
One child, bless her, raised her hand. “Yes! She has something to say. Do you want to become a computer engineer dear?”
She turned away, with a bored expression on her face and said , “Policemen save lives.”
I mean if you are looking for nobility….
The teacher must’ve taken pity on me for she said that doctors, policemen and super-heroes use computers to help them . It was at this point I noticed the other teacher straightening some of the kids saying, “We want to sit on our bottoms and listen to her, not lie down on our tummies.”
I tottered out. Dreams of inspiring the younger generation forsooth! I mean to say, in a 10 minute talk, I was already getting otherwise active 3-year old children to lie down? How their teachers managed to keep them interested and learning for the whole day is beyond me. You want to know who the true super-heroes are? Those teachers. If I were in a profession that wore a hat, I would tip it to Teachers.
P.S: The irony is probably half that class will land up becoming Engineers of some sort.