Tag: literature

On Completing MA in English

The Catcher in the Rye new book cover

On 14 August 2019, a day before the day when half the people in India began their four-day-long leisure trip to some place and the rest half sat in anticipation to see the prime minister encourage patriotism on television, I successfully completed the Master of Arts in English Literature correspondence course from IGNOU.

A sense of pride and happiness engulfed me when I checked the results on my other computer, which dimmed a little when I calculated the final score (55.56%), a bit less than the first-year figure (60.75%). Not too great for someone who exaggerates his literary interests and reading skills, but still valid enough to justify this write-up.

There is a lot to talk about here, especially because I am originally a STEM student. But I’ll keep it to a few bullet points before I can write a detailed account of how I tackled the MEG programme and what I feel about the course provided by IGNOU, known as the best distance learning course for MA in English in India. Perhaps now tied to the one provided by Mumbai University’s IDOL (after it got the UGC accreditation recently).

  • I signed up for the course in 2017, two years after I graduated as a Bachelor of Engineering from Mumbai University. At that time, it felt overwhelming – no classes, four subjects to tackle in the first year, four assignments that are to be handwritten, and four paper examination in about eight months from that point of time. I was supposed to take it up using the top skill in the world: self-studying
  • I have to admit my interest for the course after registering and paying the fees dwindled considerably as my responsibilities grew at work. Then I received the first set of study materials by mail sometime in February 2018 and so began my actual journey towards diving deep into English literature. By April 2018, I had a fairly good idea about the course and what was required of me if I wanted to crack it
  • The first-year exams went by like a breeze. It was three years since I had experienced the sit-in-a-classroom-for-three-hours-straight ritual that wrecked my right-hand fingers after each paper. Yet I managed to write well as the results proved later in August 2018
  • The exam experience took me back to my diploma and degree days, as I saw myself mimicking my preparation and writing strategy. I have always depended on current affairs and observations around me to enrich my answers and it was no different this time
  • The second-year exams were tougher despite me having selected three electives of my choice (MEG 6, MEG 7, and MEG 11). That last one only because it had an entire chapter on J D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Laughably, I scored the least (50/100) in MEG 11
  • This course gave me a bit of travel experience too as I saw myself exploring the city of Bhiwandi as part of my second-year exams. On account of an error on my side, I chose a college in Bhiwandi as my exam center (because all these towns/cities were categorized as Thane and I chose Thane without realizing it) and it was probably the worst decision I made in 2019. As some of you might know, there is no direct local train from Mumbai/Navi Mumbai and you have to take a detour from Kalyan. It takes about 90 minutes to reach there which is why I had to depend on Uber while going and a combination of the good old Mumbai suburban train and auto rickshaws while coming back
  • One small, good part of this course was all the discussions that I had with a small group of fellow students in a WhatsApp group. When I was growing up and studying, I don’t think I had ever done group study or discussed notes with my friends or classmates. This changed during my MA and I think I enjoyed it
  • Probably the biggest change that this MA degree has brought in me is through its validation of my writing and literary bend. I now am more confident about my writing – as I sometimes do it professionally as a freelancer – which is what I had anticipated before signing up in 2017 even as I received puzzled looks from friends, colleagues, and family about my decision. I did this MA in English to validate and strengthen my experience and I think I got it
  • Lastly, I am a voracious reader now. Before 2019, I used to read less than 5 books a year on an average. In 2019, I have already read 14 books so far.

What Next?

I have been thinking about this for sometime now. Exams ended in June 2019 and I still haven’t decided.

I have always wanted to take a look into journalism and mass media, so it could be something on those lines next. Maybe that, or maybe a change in my full-time job because it’s been more than four years with Publicis now. Need a psychological change.

I also have plans to go over all the study materials of the MA course just to get a better understanding. This will also help me go over the topics that I had skipped during the exams. Could be a great use of my time till 2020 when I sign up for something or the other for sure. TN.

Featured image courtesy: Sean Somics at Creative Commons

Why I Pursued Master of Arts After Bachelor of Engineering

Because I had always wanted to do something in the humanities.

The long answer is a combination of several interests I racked up over the years since I first signed up for Engineering. I don’t blame the education system, but it was personally a tough call for me to choose what I had wanted to do with my life career-wise at the age of 15. I was living in a bubble to take a wise decision that would capitalize on my inherent talents and interests. So, I did what the rest of the world did. Chose a path that was common and signed up for a four-year diploma course in Industrial Electronics.

This is a short summary listing the different reasons why I chose to pursue MA after doing my Bachelor’s in Engineering (BE).

I Have a Penchant for Writing

The initial years of my diploma were when I first started writing. Thanks to the internet, I was free to write and publish anything without anyone telling me not to. One thing led to another and by the end of the course, I was a seasoned writer. I wrote beautiful trash but at least I was good at publishing it.

It was a few years later that I realized that I had a thing for writing. It came naturally to me once I began blogging. The problem was that I was not reading anything, which made my writing read like a content mill product. No one reads (and still doesn’t) in my family and it would be a cliche if I said I magically caught up with reading since childhood like they show in the movies.

My writing – although looked good to me – was ridiculous from a universal readership’s point of view. I realized this when I got rejected by a couple online magazines where I had pitched for freelance writing gigs. One of the editors was too vocal about the reason why and so I knew.

After the diploma came BE and before the second year was over, I knew I wanted to explore something else. Something other than Engineering.

I Read

My aspiration to be a good writer led to me chasing books. While men (boys?) my age chase something else, which I did give a few tries and enjoyed, I focused on reading. I started reading newspapers, books, magazines – whatever I could get my hands on. I even remember the time I told a job interviewer how I tended to read everything – even the text on sleeves of shampoo containers while taking a bath. He took it seriously and asked me to read his face.

MA after Engineering

I chose literature books over engineering books. / © Nicole Honeywill

I first started reading when one of my maternal uncles handed me a semi-fictional thriller book, Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. I so fondly remember its plot details, and above that, the joy of reading. But, more than the joy, what I took home that day when I completed reading that book was general information. The book gave me a little more idea about espionage, the CIA, how foreign government intelligence works, and who Charles de Gaulle was.

This little conveyance of specific information about specific things in the world from yellowed sheets of paper into my mind made me fall in love with reading. And today, I spend a good time reading every day. Which has directly impacted what I write and the way I do it.

I Want to Know the History of the World

I think it is Marco Polo’s travelogue, an online course titled “The Importance of India”, and my English professors who should collectively be blamed for my healthy interest for the general history of the world. Both reading and writing about random stuff also contributed to it, but I think that course – which I did not complete – was the main reason I began reading more about the history of humanity’s existence and associated activities.

One time I even asked a lady – a friend’s sister – out for coffee so that we could discuss the meaning of life. Maybe it was the way I framed the request but I don’t think I have had a longer conversation with her since then. Maybe you should not use WhatsApp to ask people out.

I want to know more about the origins of religion, money, and many other things. What is the meaning of life, how should I react to a particular incident in life, how do I deal with people I don’t agree with, how to ask women out, why and how is Trump president – everything that makes the world as it is right now. And I believe the only way to do it is to study literature.

Yuval Noah Harari’s account of the history of humankind, Sapiens, is an excellent prologue to the complicated answers to these questions, but I am more interested in the materials that he used to write that account. I would only get closer to them if I did something like this.

I Want to Be Better at My Job

People who know me know that I want to be a copywriter. And my current job also entails some kind of writing. There are several ways to be good at it, and last I checked I am doing all of them simultaneously. Signing up for an MA course was definitely on the list, and about two years ago, I told my mom.

 

And those are some of the biggest reasons why I pursued – or rather, pursuing (I’m in my second year right now) – Master of Arts in English Literature two years after I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. I used those two years to think through the pros and cons of making the career switch and I am glad I made that decision.

(I took the liberty to leave out another big reason – I failed to land an Engineering job that would pay my bills – from this list because let’s try to look at the positive things, shall we?)

People are often stumped when I tell them about this switch, but I think I will send them this article from now onwards. I hope they won’t mind me using WhatsApp. TN.