Book Review: Wasted in Engineering By Prabhu S.

was“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question almost all of us have faced as kids. I remember myself giving amusing answers to this question. A child’s mind is full of imagination and, he sees the world as a magical place. But, the same question demands a concrete answer with the passage of time, a child begins to grow up with the world slowly unwrapping its magical veil.

The conundrum starts as the parents want to reflect their unfulfilled dreams, unattainable ambitions through the child. A happy child slowly becomes a victim; of the society and the education system of this country.

Prabhu Swaminathan, in his debut publication, “Wasted in Engineering: Story of India’s Youth” has raised his voice on behalf of millions of Indian children for whom education is no more a way to be enlightened, a path to acquire knowledge, a joyous learning process, but, a merely mechanical way of life.

Prabhu has rightly pointed out in the Introduction of the book, that, in our country children seldom have the opportunity to study the subjects they love. Rather, they study what their parents want and, eventually the parents vote for engineering! True enough, in India, most of the families prefer their kids to be branded as engineers. The author says,

“An engineering degree is seen as a financial and social investment.”

In the next 15 chapters of the book, Prabhu has done a wonderful analysis of the education system and, how a student unknowingly becomes a victim.

Beginning from the school level, he says, the focus is to produce engineers and doctors. Nobody pays a heed if a student wants otherwise. If a meritorious student expresses her/his desire to become a journalist or a fashion designer, often they are despised over their decision. Many times, students are forced to opt for the science stream even when they have no interest in the concerned subjects. Then they are further pushed to go for a B.E. degree and becomes one of the millions of unhappy engineers who wanted to be something else.

The social structure and the mindset of parents are responsible. Prabhu goes further by citing the examples of sports quota in engineering colleges. Very aptly he has raised the question that is it not the responsibility of the parents as well as the government to encourage a successful player so that he can continue the sport he excels in? It’s not a fruitful idea to admit him to an engineering course. The same seat can be allotted to a student who genuinely wants to study engineering but has financial hindrance. Alternatively, the sports quota student can be given a scholarship for a degree in Bachelors of Physical Education in some reputed college.

There are several simple and absolutely feasible solutions to many such problems in the book.

The choice of colleges, the vicious circle of coaching centers-teachers-admission to colleges, women study issues, and even the scams of extorting capitation fees- the author has explored all the topics, logically and analytically. I particularly liked the way he has criticised the role of the private engineering colleges as moral guardians.Most of the students are sagacious enough to understand and respect the reputation of an educational institution. Discipline is necessary but, often the colleges set rules that are controversial.

The crux of the book is one should not blindly follow the crowd. Students often succumb to the societal and parental pressure, but even then they should try to follow their passion. The author being an electrical engineer himself, never actually enjoyed the course, the method of learning and wanted to be something else in his life. His words and advice can be a good lesson to other students who are in the same dilemma.

Prabhu wants everyone to think more than once before taking the decision when it comes to career. And, we all know, it’s always wise to follow your passion for making it a profession. Don’t just join the apocryphal engineering course for being under pressure.

The book has thrown light on the actual scenario of engineering education in India. A must read for all parents and budding engineers.

Quotes From the Author

• Only a robot thinks in a straight line.
• While optimism and a positive outlook towards life are important, don’t let them blind your eyes.
• Successful people are not the people with money; they
are the ones with the information they need and the
ability to process the information to achieve their goal.

From my side, it’s 4/5

Buy Links: Amazon IN

About the Author

Prabhu studied electrical engineering in one of the leading engineering colleges in his state but like many others he never pursued a career in engineering. He ran a news analysis website 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 media organisation.
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.
His other interests include photography and travelling. He lives in Chennai.

You can contact him at

[ This review was commissioned by the author. Views are my own and honest.]

40 responses to “Book Review: Wasted in Engineering By Prabhu S.

  1. Thanks for sharing this book with me, Mani. I have always thought IT was what many Indians strived to do. Never knew engineering was also up there as well. Completely understand when the book and you mentioned how Indian students are pushed to to science streams in schools. When I lived in Singapore, this was the case and in my year, studying more then one humanities subject was not an option – only an option for maths and sciences subjects.

    • I fail to understand why Asian countries have such a fanaticism with science! At the end of the day, at some point, all branches of studies are interconnected. WE can’t survive without science nor we can have a healthy mental life without humanities.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Mabel. I just couldn’t resist myself sharing the review with you. 🙂

  2. it is a burning question and also a changing scenario in indian metros…the book indeed would be a great read for parents🙂 super review bestie🙂

  3. इंसान को वही बनना चाहिए, जो वो खुद बनना चाहता है। बहुत बढिया प्रस्तुति।

  4. Hi Maniparna! I like the way this has some serious thoughts given. It is hard for me to say how others may raise their children but giving suggestions, along with aptitude testing helps to show strengths and weaknesses. Good review!🙂

  5. Sometimes parents need to be educated to, the world is different from when they were young, with different goals and thoughts and freedoms in most cases.

    When children love to learn and pick lives for themselves, the creative drive often creates something wonderful and this world needs that more than ever these days.

  6. Unable to understand who to blame , Parents , Education System or Engineering degree itself ? . I think education in any form help a person to get perspective of things and no one bounds you to take any career path even after engineering degree or pursue your goal along with it .

    I think MBA and Engg. are two courses which every writer loves to blame and unfortunately most of the readers agree to their view point .

  7. Hi Mani,
    Your review is quite focussed and is a good reminder for many ambitious parents. Thanks for sharing.
    While I agree with the writer’s assumption and have seen many parents who push their children into courses of their own choice, I have also seen that many students don’t know what their passion is and many just follow their peer group, without seriously considering whether they want to study that particular course. Only those who don’t know their direction and can’t spell it out till they finish their school get pushed.

    Some students are all-rounders and are confused even after taking aptitude tests. Isn’t it better if they are suggested the right stream for them rather than let them stray away till they get mature enough to decide for themselves? Eventually they do arrive at their own decisions and change their course but they have a professional degree to fall back on!

  8. I’ve been browsing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.

    It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the
    net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  9. Atlast someone has highlighted the issue. Even the college-coachingclass nexus is terrible. The poor child has no time to even daydream let alone go out and meet friends or play. Even a drop year is not encouraged here. I am also seeing so many engineers, who go on to do PG in Finance and then work on basic Excel data entry.
    Apologies for the rant.. but the topic has hit home.

    • It’s not a rant, Lata, you have said the truth. I have seen this in my own family as well, happening with my cousin. It’s a pity that in this country following the passion is so under-rated…
      Thanks for your valuable inputs…🙂

  10. As usual, a well review, Maniparna. At intermediate level, mathematics means engineer, biology means doctor, commerce means CA, and any arts subject means IAS. This is the typical Indian mindset. Not only in India, I found almost same mentality everywhere. Paulo Coelho was admitted to mental asylum, from which he escaped three times before being released finally at the age of 20, because he didn’t want to become an engineer but a writer.

  11. A book with a pertinent topic. Actually Engineering is seen like an insurance due to the placement opportunities at the end of 4 years. That creates a bias towards the course. Of course not a desirable scene.

  12. Wow it sounds like a great book for any parents and kids facing this should think about reading it. Loved the qoutes by the author.

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