Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Book Review - Wasted In Engineering

Author – Prabhu Swaminathan
Publisher – NotionPress
Pages – 172
Price - Rs. 180

First Impressions
Since I avoid looking at the back cover blurb for this section, when I looked at the cover, I thought it to be nothing more than just another 5 point someone. A light fiction based at an engineering college. Little did I know the pages inside would take me down the memory lane.

My View
Being an engineer, like most of his friends, papa too secretly wished to see his daughter follow his footsteps. While I was never pressurised to follow a particular field of study, when I look back and reflect, I realise the conditioned affinity towards science stream was hinted at fulfilling this dream. I on the other hand, had harboured a different set of dreams altogether and engineering came nowhere close. Finally, when the IIT JEE forms were out, my parents were shocked at my decision not to appear for the exam. Despite several futile attempts, papa finally applied for me to appear for the Delhi College Of Engineering entrance test, hoping for a miracle. But so crystal clear was I in my mind that I knew the outcome of the exam even before entering the examination hall!

Years later when I read this wonderful and unique book from Prabhu, I knew what would have happened to me had I not put my foot down that day. 

The book made all the more sense to me, due to the recent Board exam results and many instances of Kota suicides. No matter how much relevance career counselling and child psychology is given, for majority of Indian parents, their child's career is a way to fulfilment of their own ambitions. Prabhu's book gives the perspective of a child who has been mercilessly burdened under his parents' ambitions. I loved book for its raw honesty. One gets a flavour of rebellion from the first page itself, where the author thanks his parents, teachers and relatives for messing up his life by making him study engineering. 

"Engineering padicha nalla future" (If you study engineering, you will have a good future) is an emotion parents echo unanimously across the length and breadth of the country. Just the language changes. The mentality remains same, to brainwash kids into pursuing engineering which is is considered the gateway to money and success, atleast amongst majority of parents.

Nostalgia surrounds us as we set out to witness the arduous journey of the child who couldn't say No to his parents' pushy demands. Prabhu beautifully captures each stage of the journey, right from the time of choosing stream after class 10th, to the choice of college, and the readers are more than happy to go with the flow. We go "me too" when he talks about the parents' favouritism for the science stream; feel angry for students who waste engineering seat when they are cut out to be future sportsmen/women or harbour dreams of a premier school MBA; smile at the efforts on reading the well curated list of engineering students who went on to become future authors, musicians, actors, even politicians. 

While taking us through his journey, the author questions the norms at each stage, a must read for parents and teachers since more often than not, they are the decision makers of a child's future and not the child himself. 

The book is a must read for all engineering aspirants, for it gives a sneak peak into the hype behind the BE degree - the flaws in college rules, coping up with engineering syllabus etc. But if you are thinking its just a prospectus about general life at engineering colleges, you are gravely mistaken. For, the second half is all about remedial actions - What to do if you are already stuck with a course that isn't of your choice? How to cope up and still chase your dreams without denting your parents' aspirations? There is problem, symptoms and remedy too!

The final sections are a must read for all parents and teachers for the author talks about the changes required in educations system, from the perspective of a student, the one who ACTUALLY studies the course and whose life is shaped by the choice of career.

In case you are a student all inspired to ditch the degree for your passions, the author is ready with his experience giving the real not so rosy picture. There are also case studies of famous and not so famous people who didn't let engineering eclipse their long term dreams in life.

At many instances, the narrative sounded so much like Rancho (Amir Khan's character in the movie 3 idiots). One feels like having a conversation with the author and nodding in affirmation after every chapter.

Why it is a thumbs up from me -

  • This book is a must read for all engineering aspirants, for it shows both sides of the coin, covering all aspects of the life of an engineering student.
  • If you are already stuck with engineering, there are ways to cope up and make the most out of what is left.
  • Author's emphasis on application based curriculum (he gives various examples and suggestions for effective implementation)
  • The language is simple and one can glide through book in no time

But then, ummm...
The last few pages begin to smell of preachiness. But then, students reading the book need it, don't they?

About the author
Prabhu studied electrical engineering in one of the leading engineering colleges in his state but like many of you he never pursued a career in engineering. He ran a news analysis website for few years earlier while working for a technology consulting firm. He took part in the Jagriti Yatra, during his college days and now he works for a national auditing organisation in a financial position. His first job, however, was at a bookstore where he worked to pay for his arrear re-evaluation and to read books for free. He also holds a diploma in journalism and this is Prabhu's first book. He lives in Chennai.

My Rating

I received the book from the author for an honest review.


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