Wednesday, November 30, 2005


“I don’t want to become an engineer’, shouted Raj to his father. His father was a stern military man of few words. A self-made man, he had escaped the humdrum of a village life to join the Army. He had been accepted at IIT, but didn’t have enough money to pay even its heavily subsidized tuition. He had immersed himself in education and got a job at a small business in Delhi. Tired of its daily routine and in search of something bigger, he had enrolled in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) just as the war clouds with China were gathering. The war was over by the time he got out, but he did well in the military and rose to the rank of a General. He aspired for his son something that he could not do himself...join IIT.

Raj Singh was in awe of his father Gen. Singh, but he knew one thing – he did not want to become his father. Growing up in army cantonements all over India, he had a deep love for the outdoors and though brilliant in academics, did not like to spend any more time with books than he had to.

A tall strapping boy, with liquid brown eyes and sandy hair, at 16, he was at an age when he was discovering girls and they were discovering him. His friends called him “Charlie”, a play on words for someone who has been with four women. Not that it was true, but Raj had no intention of denying the rumors. The idea that he had been with four women while most of his classmates had not even touched a girl, made him something of an icon at school.

Today was one of those days. He had missed another one of those IIT study classes last night and his father was livid. Things had started tense early in the morning, and now at 7:30 AM, they had already progressed to a stage when father-son were already yelling at each other.

“If not an engineer, what are you going to do? become a jamadar?” asked Gen Singh. “I want to get into Commerce section. I want to do business.” shouted back Raj. He had seen his friends, sons of businessmen driving around in their brand new Maruti 1000s, going to night clubs and buying their girlfriends fancy gifts. To him, being in business symbolized everything that was lacking in a military family. Money, peace of mind, and a control over your destiny.

Commerce students are a dime a dozen, no one cares for them, came the quick reply. And on and on the argument went. Not that this was a new argument. Every single day, the father and son had the exact same argument, to no effect. They might as well have been talking to the walls.