There it was, a long brass bar held up as if it was the One. Chosen from a bunch as if it had some mystical powers attached to it, the lab assistant held up the hexagonal bar for students of all “Ratti-fication” ability to see, reminding me of Rafiki revealing Simba at Pride Rock to the jungle. However, the story of the hexagon became less akin to the Lion King and more like The Hunger Games as it developed. The brass bar was a tribute; “selected” for the great sacrifice. The lab technician, after explaining to the audience (us; the clueless students) the specifics of the bar and stuck it inside the lathe machine. Metal hands ensured that the bar did not move. It was now time to face the bar, smoothing out the ends of the bar,and ridding it of all unwanted and differentiating traits it had.
With the machine turned on and the bar spinning 2500 times a minute, the technician inched the facing bit closer to the end of the bar like an assassin silently approaching his victim with a sharp knife. The anticipation was slowly building on what exactly would happen when the bit meets the hexagon and I don’t think that anyone of us was quite ready for the climax. We were greeted with the cries of the molecules as they were ground off the bar; the sheer sound was terrifying and made many of us cringe, but the technician remained unfazed, like Hannibal Lector, meticulously and slowly dismembering the brass bar and ridding it of its identity i.e. its distinct ends.
The machine was stopped and out came a brass bar that now had sparkly but somewhat plain looking ends. It was now fit for its purpose. A few more rounds on the lathe machine later, the part had no resemblance to the bar it once was, barring the head of course. The part was now to be threaded, so it could have a “purpose”. To do so, the technician used a threading tool. Fastening the part into yet another clamp, the technician started to carve in the grooves. He pushed the threading tool down onto the part and slowly started to turn the tool which while carving it generated noises which can only be compared to screams of terror in war zones but the technician remained calm signaling to us that these sounds were ‘normal and part of the process’. The technician then went on to say:
“Be very careful and do not apply too much force or you will break this part, and remove the waste material once the threading is complete”.
Once the bolt was complete, it was then fit into a housing built for it where both parts came together as if it was its organic destiny. But was it meant to be its destiny?
By now most of you would think that I have lost my mind but I would like for you to step back and look at this process. Does this process not portray what students face daily when they attend university?
If we look at this process metaphorically we can see how the brass bars could be students before entering the educational system, where they are “selected” and then “faced” which in itself could be metaphor of homogenizing the diverse lot of students, with all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, to a group of people who fit the description of what an ideal student, engineer, academic, or employee should look and act like. The “technicians” could be the people who are responsible for providing the finished parts, which serve a single mindless purpose in the larger machine that is society. While the waste material could be the ideas, beliefs, and aspirations held by those students when they came into the lathe machine.
While it is alarming that I have considered the process of machining in such depth (which could be a sign of dwindling mental health too). What is equally alarming is that the grinding, the machining, and the noises reminded me of university. Which begs the question: are we at the end of the day akin to brass bars; without purpose, useless, until we are fundamentally changed? Is this the purpose of an educational institute; to rid society of deviants? If not, then why do we see institutes in this here society go down such a path.
It is very important that we take a good, long, hard look at the state of the educational system especially here in Pakistan and ask ourselves of what education means and what it aims to achieve because acquiring education without knowing the purpose of education could be more damaging than not having education at all and appreciating the fruits it can bear.