August is the time when some old boys and girls come to say goodbye every year, because they are going abroad – most commonly to the United States – for graduate studies. Some of the most intelligent and decent people are among them: a few years ago there were Mayuri Mukherjee and Nishant Kamath, then there was Arnab Kar, and very recently there was Sanket Roy. Not all of these are engineers, by the way – Mayuri's subject was journalism and Nishant’s is geology, Arnab’s is physics and Sanket’s is economics. Meanwhile many of my best ex-students are being picked up from the top law schools and CA institutes and places like St Stephen’s and JU where they read economics or English by top shot employers for salaries which would sound fabulous to all engineers except IIT toppers (and that too, only from a few select departments). At the same time, old boys like Abhirup Mascharak (into his second master’s at JU) and Soham Mukhopadhyay who has gone to Presidency College have been telling me not only how much they like the ambience but also laughing about how their friends who have gone into (usually third-rate private-) engineering colleges, generally against their will, and generally at great expense, are already turning green with jealousy when they compare notes. And this news article tells everybody who wants to know how bad the general engineering employment scene is. Nothing, of course, that I haven’t been telling young people for years and years – don’t imagine engineering will bring you the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, don’t go into it unless you have a genuine interest in it (rather than the desire to get into just any job somehow), don’t develop the habit of looking for shortcuts and cheating and the tendency to look down upon a lot of subjects they teach in school as useless because you will regret it soon enough, don’t pretend to be ‘interested in science’ when all you want is to get into some B- or C-grade engineering school, because it’s not the same thing at all – eventually you’ll be struggling to switch streams and try to get MBAs or a slot in the civil services anyway – don’t get lost in the herd, because ‘everybody’s doing it’ was never a good idea for making good careers, don’t imagine that what was wise advice in the 1970s still holds good today, and so on (do read in this connection what I wrote in the post titled Engineer or bust some time ago).
It hurts me, as an old teacher, to hear old boys coming over to say ruefully ‘Sir, you were right, I should have listened to you’, because I don’t like to see people getting hurt if I can stop them from being foolish. And it also hurts to see so much talent wasted – so many potential sportsmen, musicians, artists, teachers, judges, soldiers, administrators, lawmakers, moviemakers and businessmen becoming bored, tired, uncommitted and therefore poorly-productive engineers instead: we have millions like that swarming all over this country now, desperate to get into or hang on to very pathetic jobs somehow. As I joke about a certain engineer-turned-private tutor in my town who has been minting money for years now, he found out long ago that engineering doesn’t pay, but coaching confused hordes for the various engineering-entrance examinations pays hand over fist. He and many others like him have made their piles, but is that how a country’s human resources should go on being wasted decade after decade?
Nothing in this post is meant to offend those few of my old boys who are doing well in the engineering profession: if they are making good money, enjoying what they do and contributing to the country’s economic development, they have my best wishes. Indeed, there are quite a few like that who keep in friendly touch with me, and know perfectly well I have nothing against their type. But I have only pity for the much bigger tribe who know now that I was right all along, and who hate me for being right, and who can only stew in their own juice of frustration and failure and imagine they can somehow get their own back by telling me anonymously how much they hate me. Poor sods, they can’t even read, or else they’d have found out long ago (it’s written on this blog itself) that anonymous comments are filtered out automatically, so I don’t even read them, and even if I did, I’d only laugh, not out of true amusement but out of sadness and contempt. But even for them I have my best wishes: maybe it is still not too late to find out how to live a good life and change courses… it is a very sad thing indeed that they feel this obsessive compulsion to keep on visiting my blog (and thereby making me proud to see how fast the counter keeps rising!) and can never think of saying anything other than hurling irrelevant abuse! I, for myself, don’t feel any hatred and jealousy for these people at all; rather, I remind myself again and again of the saying that hell is when a man is burning up with hatred and jealousy inside, about which he can do nothing, because it stems from his own unbearably painful awareness that he has wasted his life.