Shafil and Nandagopal, also topped Kerala Engineering entrance exam, but have chosen to follow their heart instead.

They topped IIT-JEE but engineering is not the dream for themImage by arrangement
news Education Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 19:19

There’s a joke in Kerala that goes, if you throw a stone at random, chances are it will fall on either an engineer or a doctor. This sums up the state’s obsession with the two professional degrees.

But what was once an obvious career choice for many in Kerala, appears to be no longer the case.  

Two students who topped the JEE (Advanced) entrance examination proved just that, when they chose not to pursue the IIT dream, that many cling to, deciding instead to go off the beaten path.   

17-year-old Shafil Maheem from Kozhikode, who is state topper for the JEE entrance examination, and ranked fourth in the national level, has opted to study Mathematics, while Nandagopal, from the same district, who was placed 93 All-India, has chosen to pursue Physics.

The two students also topped the Kerala Engineering Agricultural Medical Entrance (KEAM), with Shafil ranking number 1, and Nandagopal securing the fifth rank.

Although the two studied in two different states, they met at a counselling session held in in the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru earlier this month. 

While Shafil was at IISc to join the Mathematics course, Nandagopal applied for the Bachelor in Physics degree. Instead of following the pack, the two toppers chose to follow their heart.     

Speaking to TNM, Shafil says that his love for Mathematics has driven his academic dream. The thought of solving a problem excites this teenager, who aspires to become a Mathematician in the future. 

"As early as Class 1 or 2, I had realized that Math was my favourite subject. Although I thought I would be a doctor like my mother when I grow up, I soon realized that I was more interested in Math than in Biology. While in the earlier days, my love for Maths was limited to scoring well in exams, it was when I was in Class 9 that I began to think of taking up the subject as a profession," Shafil recalls. 

Despite this, the teenager chose to not resist his parents initially, when they suggested he take up engineering as a career. After he completed his Class 10, his family moved from Tirur in Malappuram district to Kozhikode so Shafil could focus on his studies. After his Class 12 board examinations, Shafil appeared for numerous entrance exams, and passed with flying colours.

"I used to study for at least six to seven hours on weekdays and 11-12 hours during the weekend to prepare for the entrance exams," the topper recounts. 

But determined to follow his dreams, Shafil surprised his family when he insisted that he wanted to take up Mathematics rather than engineering.

His father Niyas tells TNM that he had wanted Shafil to study Computer Engineering in IIT and secure a good job eventually. However, the family did not oppose Shafil’s choice.

"Like any parent, we also wanted him to study in the glamorous IIT and thought that was a better option. But we never insisted that he comply by our interests," Niyas says. 

Shafil is now counting the days until he joins IISC Bengaluru on July 24. 

Shafil (Left); Nandagopal (Right)

17-year-old Nandagopal's story is not different from Shafil's. Nandagopal's father Manoj Kumar says that while the idea of engineering was a "safe" and "devoid of risk" route, the family chose to support Nandagopal in his final decision. 

"An engineering course is any day less risky as you would get placed at the end of the four-year course. But now that he has decided to study Physics, we understand that it will take him longer than usual to be settled. He will have to study more to get a job. But that's alright," says Manoj, who works at All India Radio.