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Full Name – Baba Shajee Jurangpathy
Birthday – 1st October 1995
Father – Fazeer Jurangpathy
Mother – Fareena Jurangpathy
Siblings – One sibling, Fazmina Jurangpathy (now Samat)
School – Lakeland Inter-American School, Ratmalana

Speak Out For Engineering (SOFE), is a global competition organized annually by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) UK which is an independent engineering society that represents the Mechanical Engineers and the profession. This competition is aimed at developing the verbal and visual communication skills of engineers to effectively describe and explain technical mechanical engineering subjects such that both engineers and non-engineers can understand.

The IMechE operates around the world in 8 regions namely UK, Europe, Americas, Middle East and Africa, Southern Asia, North East Asia, South East Asia and Oceania. Within each region countries that have initiated an IMechE group work to develop the engineers within their respective region.

Shajee Jurangpathy, an Undergraduate at the Open University of Sri Lanka won the country level SOFE competition and represented Sri Lanka at the regional level finals in Ramna, Dhaka, held on 22nd September 2017, competing with winners of other countries in the same region namely India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. After facing some stiff competition, Shajee was able to bring glory to Sri Lanka by emerging as the champion of the competition.

Shajee will now represent Sri Lanka as well as the South Asian Region at the Global Finals to be held in New Zealand in 2018. caught up with Shajee to talk about the competition, his experiences as well as his views on being a Malay.

So, you’ve been in the limelight in the recent past for your achievement at the South Asian SOFE (Speak Out For Engineers) Competition 2017. Tell us what it’s been like.

  • How did you get to know about the competition?

I first got to know about SOFE last year when I began to get a big interest in the IMechE and their activities after the Moratuwa University brought fame to Sri Lanka with their Formula 1 car which was a part of another competition hosted by the IMechE.

  • How hard did you practice?

To be frank, A LOT! But it was never consistent practices but rather occasional short bursts.

  • Who were the people behind your success?

Behind my success were very key individuals who have been constantly supporting me, being my critics and motivating me throughout this journey. I’ll never forget my parents of course who have always supported my dreams (which are often never ending and exhausting) no matter what. When it comes to these types of things they won’t think twice of providing me with what I need with their love and that truly means a lot. My sister and brother in law have always been very supportive of me and have constantly been telling me “You can do it” and of course my friends have been supportive too and encouraging.

Apart from family, none of this would be possible had it not been for me meeting my academic coordinator Mr. Ravindu Lokuliyana who led the charge in establishing an IMechE student chapter at the Open University. He gave the initial push and support to give me the confidence in presenting well, from sending me tutorials to organizing the entire faculty board to be my judges so that I can improve my presentation. With him I also thank Ms. Nadeera Meedin who in fact is a Malay and is a lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who led me into the University’s newly established Toastmasters club where I was coached by Ms. Srianthie Salgado, an experienced Toastmaster. And finally, Mr. Chanaka Wanniarachchi and Mr. Russel De Zilwa who are the Chairman and SOFE coordinator of IMechE Sri Lanka respectively who have always lent me their support. Mr. Chanaka introduced me to his company’s toastmasters to help refine my skills and I owe a great big thanks to them as well. I hope I got everyone included.

  • Did you expect to win all along or did it come as a surprise?

Actually, I didn’t expect it at all. Even in the heats I was intimidated as I was competing against undergraduates from Moratuwa University who are well known for engineering and in fact produced the only other SAR winner back in 2014. But I’m good at hiding it so people rarely know if I’m actually nervous or not unless I tell them. To me expecting to win is a bad formula, you tend to underperform while your mind says you are the best so I removed all those thoughts in my head and told myself just be your best and impress the crowd.

  • How has the response been with your family and friends after the win?

It was truly overwhelming! It felt as if we all shared the win which is a really beautiful thing to me. Seeing everyone happy and proud is a feeling that is hard to describe and you want to keep doing it. Also I felt a bit like a celebrity with everyone wanting to take pictures and even calling me that, those who supported me went on to share it everywhere. Now having tasted a glimpse of that, I find that too much fame isn’t really my thing.

  • What are your plans for the Grand Finale?

I plan on continuing what I have been doing all along throughout the competition. I love my support structure as all it led me to was success. The Grand Finale means competing against regional winners so I will need to refine my presentation and presentation skills even more and always look for improvement. I will simply do what I’ve been doing all along and enjoy the experience and the opportunity to visit a new place and meet new people.

Let’s talk about your passion for public speaking.

  • Were you interested in public speaking from a young age?

Yes I was. There’s a part of me that loves the thrill of walking on stage and delivering a message to others or performing music or even acting (though I never really stuck with the acting bit like my cousins).

  • Have you participated in similar competitions before?

Yes I have. During school for minor competitions in speech and drama and last year at Speech Master. I didn’t even pass the first round! How things can change though.

  • What motivates you to speak out?

I speak out on various topics that effects the lives of others as well as the environment. In the words of Edmund Burke “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. Albert Einstein tells a similar quote and while it is regarding something about evil or destruction, it can be used in many situations. I believe that I have no right to complain once something occurs if I did nothing to prevent it when I could. I use this to express my presentation at SOFE which is about saving the world by changing our refrigerators to something that doesn’t harm the environment. I believe a well said word can move mountains and change lives without a break of sweat.

  • Public speaking is not your only passion, what are the other activities you are involved in?

As a hobby I love playing the guitar and I have a small band who love to sing and play wherever we decide to. We used to perform at a Café in Mount Lavinia but sadly it is no longer there. I am involved in the National Youth Model United Nations (NYMUN) as I was part of the first executive committee that started it and besides all that a lot of my time simply goes to university studies and activities. I tend to apply to things that interest me and then see where it takes me, you can never know where you’ll end up being and who you will end up meeting.

To be more relevant to our website, tell us more about your ethnicity.

  • How has it been to grow up in a Malay family?

I am always grateful that I was born to a Malay family. It is unique in Sri Lanka, our people have our own language, culture, food and customs, we have been here for generations and we have made an impact historically.

  • What are your views about Malays of your generation?

I think my answer is pretty common nowadays, that the number of young Malays that speak the language are decreasing. A lot of the culture is around language and when that dies, the culture follows.

  • Do you speak Malay?

Yes, I do. Though not as fluent as the elders, sometimes I surprise them with how much I know. In truth it is the lack of interaction in the language that makes us tend to forget.

  • How important do you think it is to preserve the Malay language and culture?

Being a Malay in Sri Lanka is a unique identity, it gives us a sense of belonging and a culture not shared with others in the country. Having been here for centuries a lot has changed from where we originally came from. The Malay language and culture in the Malaysian subcontinent differs in varying degrees when compared with what’s here. Preservation starts with the youth and with the language, perhaps a formal school could change everything. The youth must be taught the value of the language, I remember back in the basketball courts during my school days my best friend and I were rarely on the same team as we were both Malay and tend to communicate in Malay while we play confusing the opposing team with what we are going to do next. I hope the youth that follows will do things similar to that. Those were fun times to me.

  • Final standard question, what are your plans for the future?

Like I mentioned before my dreams can be said to be never ending or exhausting. There’s so much I want to try and things I want to do but in the end, I’ll accept what Allah gives me. I am happy to be pursuing my dream of becoming a mechanical engineer and besides that I would love to travel, visit different parts of the world and try to make a good difference in the lives of others.

Amrit Singalaxana
Undergraduate in the field of Marine Engineering. Seafarer by profession, philosopher by choice. "All those who wander are not lost" are words I live by.

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