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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Confessions of an (failed) Engineer

The first time I read the title of the book – Wasted in Engineering Story of India's Youth, I thought it was another Engineering college story involving the usual ingredients - romance, friendship and campus life. But as I began reading the book I was pleasantly surprised.

The book speaks about students who take up engineering without having any interest in it and parents who compel them to do so. The author himself studied electrical engineering with little interest in engineering. He was more drawn towards languages and humanities. He was interested in the societal problems. He never pursued a career in engineering. He ran a news analysis website few years earlier while working for a technology consulting firm. Presently he works for a national auditing organization in a financial position.

The message which the author wants to convey is that you should study the subject which you like. So though the writer choses to call the book a guide book for frustrated engineering students, the book has universal appeal. In the author's own words this book is not about any success story. It reflects his failure as an engineering graduate; failures from which the readers can hopefully learn. According to him the intention of the book is to tell that in many cases studying engineering is a total waste of time, energy and resources.

The writing is simple. The writing is credible as it is coming from the very mouth of the horse. The premise of the book is that students learn engineering to earn money. The writer narrates many examples to show how this premise is wrong. So you will be shocked to learn that watchmen and gatekeepers in an IT company draw the same salary as engineers working in that company and even many IGNOU graduates earn more than engineers. Not only the gatekeepers and watchmen, the writer says even beggars earn more than engineers. Engineering by itself does not guarantee you a well paying job. Rather even with an engineering degree and an MBA appended to it, finding a job is still difficult. Many BPO's spurt out in their advertisement that engineers need not apply. It is only the graduates from the top ten colleges take home those eye balls grabbing pay packages.

When it comes to application of the knowledge gained in an engineering college the author candidly narrates how he was unable to assemble an electric motor at his grandfather's place and an electrician had to be called upon to do the same. He says that many electricians know more than an electrical engineer and many mechanics know more than a mechanical engineer.

While discussing pros and cons of engineering course the authors discusses internal marking system, the IIT trap, IIM course and also the most fundamental question whether to take up commerce or science stream. The book is divided in to small chapters devoted to each of these sub-topics. The author also expresses his opinions about dress code for women, separate sitting arrangement in libraries and canteens for girl students in engineering colleges. Now this stands true for non-engineering colleges as well, particularly those in Tier II and III cities. The author is unhappy that students have to write their answers in a given limited space for writing answers. According to him engineering students are not kindergarten students and limited space crushes their originality. But can't original answers be written in the given space? The writer seems to be oblivious to the fact that most Indian students carry the impression that the more they write the more marks they will fetch. Limited space makes the students answer precise and to the point. The author stretches it too far when he says that children dump their parents into old age homes because they had forced them to join engineering college without their consent. There are no facts and figures to support this bare statement. He refers to it as parental karma. It would have been better if the writer had refrained from making such bold, unsubstantiated statements. He also raises his voice against the way the private institutes raise money through fees and don't account for the same.

The writer says “Doing what makes one happy is never considered a failure” and “While optimism and a positive outlook towards life is important, don't let them blind your eyes,” in the same breath. I feel that he contradicts his own statements. In my opinion on page 144 the word “incase” is wrongly spelt. It should have been “in case”.

Then too the book is a delightful read for the lines like “ You don't have to quit your job, but don't quit your dreams either,” “It is better to fail at doing what we like than win at doing what we don't like” and “ Study what you love and not what gives you money. Study a degree that increases your happiness not the one that increases your bank balance.”

You don't require a rocket scientist to tell you that you should pursue your career in the field which you really like. But it is better said than done. Number of students succumb to parental pressures and lose the joy of their lives; many lose their lives as well. So the message which the book wants to convey should reach each and every student and parent. That will lead to happier society and efficient work force. That is the reason why I welcome this maiden attempt of the author. 


  1. What an off-beat topic for a book. I think, parents should read this more than children. Maybe there is some connection between forced engineering and old age homes? :P

    Destination Infinity

    1. Both parents and children should read it. Even students hanker to become engineers (without any interest in the subject) after seeing high salary earning engineers around them. Thanks for your comment destination infinity

  2. Interesting! True, so many students pursue courses which dont interest them at all, but they do it anyway because of parental pressure. I am sure this should be read not only by all students but parents too!