You must have seen us poor fellows wandering at dusty construction sites, wearing yellow/white/green helmets, and hurling instructions mixed with abuses, expletives and impossible threats. Any reasonable man would say, What are these blokes out of the 19th century doing? Why so much effort? Don’t we have computers and machines to do that? Some would go even further and call us blots on the modern civilization, stirring up so much dust, botching up the landscape.
What have we done to attract so much disdain, and so much disregard? We are simple minded denizens trudging along, working in the harsh sunny afternoons and biting icy nights, so that you have a road to move on, a place to work in and a haven to return to when you’re done with your work. And when you are sound asleep in your bed at night, some of us are busy overseeing concreting of the roof of a house, so that one day it would offer sanctuary to innocent souls. Don’t we take all these things for granted, as if houses build themselves up and roads grow vine-like day by day, climbing up the city.
And the biggest bullies are the IT engineers. They think since they sit in a fine office working out of their laptops, they are more of an engineer. Dudes you’ve got it completely wrong. The closest you came to applying Newton’s laws of motion was in your board exams. We do it everyday. I give you a barren land, and tell you to make a skyscraper out of it, what will you do? The amount of planning, designing and executing that goes into such a job is pretty herculean. Starting with the geo-technical investigation report, design of foundations based on that, then heading on to choice of structural elements, checking for stresses and strains, creating structural drawings, and finally executing the design at site after a careful choice of the type of aggregates, admixtures, structural and reinforcement steel, design mix, launching methods and so on. These are random exercises which sprang to the mind. The actual number of interrelated activities is mind boggling.
True we don’t have glitz and glamour in our profession, and maybe some brethren might be crying themselves to sleep at night, but you cannot have everything under the sun bro. You are one of the very few blessed with a tangible outcome of their efforts, something measurable and visible even to the naked eye, even to the least interested souls. You might have to wait till you come out of the foundation phase, but when you do, the ramifications are for all to see. I would go further and compare a structure to a musical composition, such as a symphony. The structural designer, the construction planner & the site engineer, all come together to create a masterpiece, like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Burj Khalifa.
Also true is the fact that we don’t have the luxury of stipulated office hours, to provide us the opportunity of running amok after going back, as some of the lucky ones do. Our homes thus remain just a sanctuary for our weary bodies and souls after a typical day at work. But the biggest snag is the fact that civil engineers are not passionate about anything else apart from their work. At least those I came across weren’t. The pursuance of avocation apart from their vocation takes a backseat. It has become more of a culture, to neglect an individual’s passion in the heat of the everyday deadlines. And thus is a lost a possible writer, a singer, a musician or an artist at the altar of construction. And since everyone you meet has suffered a similar fate, no one is there to help you pick up your broken bits and put them together.
Never the less, the biggest reward is the satisfaction achieved after completion of a project. The thing created by our own hands becoming alive after its commissioning. So the next time you come across a civil engineer, don’t judge them by their dust covered faces and sweat covered brows.