A common crib in engineering colleges in India goes something like this - 90% of the girls in the country are good looking. The rest are in _________ (fill in the blanks with the name of any college of engineering).

Statistically it may be disproven but the fact is that engineering students are really good at this sort of thing - to quantify the seemingly non-quantifiable. For instance, three of us had calculated to the third decimal place the annual electricity bill for air-conditioning should the entire college campus be covered with a glass dome. Or a couple of us had, while waiting in the first floor corridor overlooking one of the lawns, computed to the accuracy of a thousandth the area of lawn mowed by a buffalo-pulled-mower per unit buffalo dropping.

These may appear simple off-the-cuff calculations. Perceptions, as they say, are misleading. To compute the electricity bill one has to take into account the average temperature, the average length of a day, shift in seasons, reflective and refractive indexes of glass, trend of fluctuating electricity prices, availability of electricity, average metabolic rate of people on campus, average number of people on campus, number of holidays in a year, etc. Let me not get started on the lawn business for even though it appears a simpler exercise the variables in it are much greater. Among many they include the time of day the buffalo is fed, the minimum size of a dropping to be taken into calculation, the location of the lawn, the landscaping features (tapered lawns, for example, tend to make the buffalo produce more dung), the mowing pattern, the season and the number of people in proximity of the buffalo (buffalos are more efficient when they work alone).

You may believe that engineering students have a lot of time on their hands, and whether it is not justified to shorten the duration of the course to three years. Valid arguments, but they miss the point. Some of the best theories have been propounded on hostel walls during a night of frolicking. As an example, did you know that while equations may show that a 2atm air pressure at the 2mm inlet of a cyclone separator will cause sonic velocities that may rip it apart, in actual fact it only works when you apply the said pressure. Of course, since health and safety regulations forbid such experiments in the institute's laboratory, they are carried out in the dead of the night by the back alleys of hostels using a smuggled in air-compressor.

And that brings us to the issue at hand.

Since most of my friends who have been nowhere close to a technical school disagree with the first paragraph, it is safe to assume that engineering students have different parameters of beauty from the rest of the world. Either that or they are just that much better in the fine art of statistics. But we do keep it terribly simple - any woman who gets your rocks off even once is part of the good-looking brigade. Yes, this is a highly flawed mechanism of defining beauty for four years spent in the company of men can seriously lower expectations.

Except for one, all engineering institutes have a 9:1::male:female sex ratio. That means opportunities are extremely low if you are a man and extremely high if you are a woman. Perhaps that makes the men take whatever comes their way and widen the net of acceptable beauty. Who wouldn't be happy with someone who may have a face only a mother could love when the only alternative is to be with your hostel buddy?

But it is not that simple. It just so happens that I was a student in the one engineering college that has a pretty favourable gender ratio. It was 2:1::male:female during my time. Taking the average teenage relationship to last less than two years it meant that at some point or another every guy had an equal opportunity to be with a girl. Yet, we still believed we had the 10% that you do not see in arts colleges. May be we felt the pain of our brethren spread all over the country. May be it was statistically correct. Or may be we were just plain lazy to re-calculate the odds. After all, we did compute that the average time it took to drive down to Delhi was directly proportional to hotness of the girl you were with.

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