The Curious Case of Hariharan Mohanraj


When preparing for the JEE, many are those who don’t pause to wonder if engineering is where their hearts really belong. These IITians are swept along with the crowd into mundane corporate jobs that pay handsomely, or into well-trodden MS paths in Ivy League colleges. It is refreshing to hear of people who branch out and follow their hearts. This is one such story.

#Edit (12/8/11) – A sample of Lolli’s music can be found here.

13748_1305393636487_1279914069_894687_2028409_nI was at my cousin’s wedding last month when I made an interesting observation. Every conversation I had with a relative followed the exact same structure. I’d smile politely, pretend to recognize the person I’m talking to (it’s a big family, I can’t remember everyone), tell them that I just finished my undergrad at IIT Madras [cue gasp], inform them that I plan to go to New York to do my masters, and then spend the next two minutes explaining what audio engineering is.

That’s right. After 14 years of school, including two years of “engineering group” education, and 4 years of college majoring in the hellspawn of the electrical and physics departments (EP), I’m going to NYU to become a Master of Music in Music Technology.

The music business started when I was really young, and still living in the US of A. However, it remained somewhat a hobby (time-pass, that level), until I moved to India in 2001. School band happened, lots of culturals happened, and I started thinking about music as a career choice. My parents had slightly different plans, though. “Get a bachelors somewhere good, just as a back-up. Then do whatever you want,” they said. Where better than IIT, eh? I obliged.

I mean, consider the following comparative study. I’m good at music. I’m good at math and physics. Music industry, low salary (ok, so some people get paid a lot of money, but chances are you’re not going to be one of them). IIT job, high salary. You do the math. Hence, I joined insti. Insti taught me one important lesson. There’s a difference between loving something and being good at it. When you love doing something, you’ll never get tired of it. When you’re good at something, you may enjoy doing it, but that’s only because you’re good at it. Once you reach a point where you’re no longer good at it, you’ll want to shoot yourself.

And so, after four years of WM Solo/Group, Shaastra and Saarang teasers, coordships, and lots of vague acad courses where I had no idea what was going on, Ilearned that engineering was something that I might be good at, but music is something that I love.

There was no single moment of enlightenment. There was no dramatic family crisis. The decision to say bye-bye to our good friend engineering and say hello to a career in the music industry was made gradually over time, and was well accepted. It just seemed natural. My dad made sure that I knew what I was getting into (“What’s the pay like? Not good? What’s the growth like? Not good? Ok, it’s your funeral.”) before letting me get on with it.

Sure, it was tough trying to find out where the best schools are (there aren’t too many people who know about this stuff). And sure, it was tough convincing a music school to accept a student from an engineering background. And yeah, whatever job I get two years from now is probably not going to pay half as good as what insti placements would have given me. At least I know that whatever I’m going to be doing, I’m going to enjoy it.*

* If I don’t enjoy it, please remember me. I may ask you to give me a job.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *