What began as lovely almost 20 years of education on 3rd May 1987 ends tomorrow at 12:45 PM, 8th March 2007. The journey which gave me knowledge, some priceless friends, countless tools, a “PR” and things which I cannot even put into words.
It starts on a warm summer day, May has just arrived and the year is 1987. I got admitted to nursery. Two or three years pass and I encounter chick-pox, no big deal, it gets cured in a couple of days. Results are always very good, for tests, exams, extra-curricular etc. Then, in class 2, I face a fiasco created by three gits as a result of which my section gets changed. Also, I am diagnosed of myopia and have to wear glasses till this day.
We enter 1993 and I skip class 3 to make for my lost year in KG-1. Nothing special happens in class 4 except that I got made head prefect and got second position in one exam instead of getting one.
Then, the most curious thing happens in class 5 and I fail to pass an English test. About time when I started paying attention to my languages. During this year, I also develop the habit of skimming any book I can get my hands on. This means mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, anything at all. Also, I forgot to mention, during these past two years, I have learnt almost every kind of embroidery done in Pakistan, except one.
In class 6, we get a horrible English teacher who knows the only solution to every problem; beat the offender! This none the less improves my English by loads. I lose my father in a heart attack after fighting a losing battle of life and death for three days.
Next year, I get elected as the chief prefect over the entire school because of my spectacular performance and discipline. I also learn when to trust and whom to trust by learning a very good lesson. Two persons who were supposed to my best friends betray me in two entirely different ways and I close those holes in my defense wall forever.
Another year passes; I get top grades in 8th class, scoring 92% highest in entire school and choose biology as the elective subject in 9th class. It is “annus horribilis” for me. I get only “39” marks out of 75 in my Sindhi paper, ruining any hopes of getting into the best intermediate college and adversely affecting my aggregate percentage. Teachers prove to be worthless, I already know more than what they will ever learn in their life. I encounter typhoid, again no big deal, clears off in about a month, with the glorious comments by a class mate:
“Tanveer people usually look pale after recovery but you seem you were on your honey moon and look even healthier than before”.
This year, I finish completely Electrical Technology by B.L. Theraja and also some basic physics and chemistry books.
At last, it is the final year in my school where I recognize the true value of most friends and teachers. Only some prove to be worth remembering. On the academic side, I scrap off enough marks off Pakistan Studies to make up for abysmal Sindhi marks (39). I manage to get A-one grade almost by luck and only 5 marks missing the boundary on low side. This year the new book on my read books list is Human Physiology by Guyton. My mother dies of congestive heart failure, just six days before I could find out my marks.
I am faced with a choice. Having known almost everything subject offered at intermediate level by now, I find it impossible to select which field to pursue on my own. Should it be pre-engineering or shall I become a doctor. Why not choose ICS and go on to BCS? Select commerce and live life as a chartered accountant!
Now, it is time to severe old friendships and form new ones; Seek new teachers, take new subjects, live life in an entirely new universe, named: D.J. Sindh Government Science College. These two years in the college pass as a blur. I get 84% marks in first year, 5th position in my college. In the second year, again grades are deficient as usual and overall percentage falls to 82.58%, putting me at 167th rank in Karachi board.
These two years handed me four very good friends and a very knowledgeable person in the form of my physics teacher. By now, I have read enough mathematics to last a life time, already know how to program in C, C++, know many things about pharmaceutics, things as complicated as particle physics, biochemistry, molecular biology, plant physiology (more than my sister who has a PhD in it) and human physiology. These also teach me where the boundary of selfless friendship lies and if you cross it you are only hurting yourself.
The last act of this educational drama is about to unfold, the university. I am waiting for my intermediate result, hoping I manage to get enough marks to make into some computer-major department simply because private universities were off-limits and not at all up to my personal standard. 3rd August arrives and my aptitude test result tells me that I am getting one seat confirmed at NED. The best minds at college life score less than me because the test was objective, not something you could learn by repeated reading. Then, on 14th November, history repeats itself and I have to select between CISD and BCIT. I choose where all of my friends were going, CISD, a worthy choice now as I see it.
We enter first year of university, freedom in new shapes and unrecognizable forms. Almost all of my college friends are here, both in my department and loads of others too. Lots of new friendships to form, some of them enter my terminate friendship after university list in the first month. By now, there isn’t a new subject for me. C language course teaches me only two new things in the whole year:
Why compiler does not require passing dimension for one dimensional arrays in function declarations and some complications about function pointers.
I amaze my chemistry teacher by answering almost every question before anyone had the chance to even understand what was being said, which makes her ask me whether I spend my earlier years in Pakistan or was taught in some western country.
Results come out and I get 76.66% marks. Most of the teachers in the second year are ignorant of their subject to the point of being horribly wrong. A crucial course (data-structures) is taken up by an idiot who messes up it and some friends still blame it on him as being the reason they lost interest in programming in the first place. This does not affect me at all, because by now I have already read next year’s books too and data-structures were something of a worry only last year. I also perfect my skills in Computer Architecture and Organization in the first two months of this year and Parallel Processing by June.
Again the boring exams and waiting for results, which this time turns out to be exactly 76%. Third year of engineering is the second “annus horribilis” of my life. Every subject belongs to Electrical majors and we are treated like second degree citizens. Databases and Management Systems turns out to be a joke, taught by the same idiot who messed up DS. I have isolated myself by reading C.J. Date’s excellent book on DBMS earlier than he could affect my thinking process. Digital Electronics proves to be a thrilling subject taught by a very able teacher.
Waiting for the results of third year, we arrive at the final year. A year a whole realm unto itself. A project, grand one, 200 marks. Two subjects taught by our feeble chairperson. Third year results surprise me as I am the only one in 140 students who gets grace marks in microprocessor based system design. Whole 3 marks! What an honor! I pray for that teacher to rot in hell forever, for staining my career.
Final year project turns out to be the greatest fiasco I have faced so far. The project is an off-shore project. “Design and implementation of 64 bit SIMD microprocessor”. A project by Avieon. The person who invited us to this project bails out just two days before we have to submit our final project report, saying that he never intended verilog source code to be released. By the way, I still have an NDA about it that clearly says that whatever was acquired before signing it can be released without anyone permissions. Some of the interesting instructions implemented in that processor involved a dot product instruction, saturating arithmetic, special instructions to perform 2 point FFT, an instruction to permute data bytes. If anyone is interested, drop me a line and have that source code for free :)!
During all this hassle, I apply for a job at Microsoft, get through the usual process of phone interview and four interviews in a day by their PMs and get rejected with no apparent reason.
We manage to build our own processor within a month, barely meeting all the deadlines about project submission and presentation. Exams pass in a blur along with their accompanying viva.
Before project’s presentation, I apply for job at many places, receive some replies and select a few worthy ones, whom I give the signal for interview. Before entering January, 2007, I have three job offers waiting at my desk, one from well reputed Software house in Pakistan, Techlogix. Another from a hardware designing local company working in verilog and another from an air force mentored company. I select Techlogix, as their offer is the best, Software is my life and I would have to forget my life if I select that offer from air force mentored company. By the time I receive their offer letter, another company phones me and I refuse their offer by saying I have already been employed. Too late for them.
Now, it is 7th March 2007. The last day of my academic life. By noon tomorrow, I shall cease to be a student.