One might get an impression as if I spent the first twenty five years at Kanpur watching films and listening to Hindi film songs. I completed B Tech. At the B Tech my project was designing a beer manufacturing plant. My friend Shankar and I were assigned this project for the first time. The ‘first time’ project means we have to really work hard on the project. We will have to collect the information for the design of the plant. The ‘second’ or ‘third’ time means, prototype of the project is already available. You simply have to take the prototype copy to the typist. The new report will be made in your name. My friend Shankar really wanted to work hard on the project. He was from Meerut and wanted to take up a job in one of the distilleries there. He roped me in. We would go to the National Sugar Institute at Kalyanpur for books and references. We designed the plant from scratch. It was a very satisfying experience. It boosted our image tremendously among classmates. Without drinking a drop of Beer, I graduated from HBTI with reasonably good marks. After BTech I was ready for a job. At least that is what I thought. But there were not many jobs. There were few in remote villages, and that too in alcohol distilleries. Those fortunate few who got jobs in those distilleries gave first-hand description about their jobs. It included measuring sugar and alcohol in the vats from time to time and maintaining inventories. In between, they got plenty of time to guzzle alcohol, an activity both tempting and horrifying. I was not one of the lucky ones to get even this job. Had I got the job, I wonder, what would I have done. There was no other option for me but to do Masters. It assured me a scholarship of Rs 250/- per month. Those days, it was King’s salary. At least that is what I thought. My Master’s research project was on saccharification of cellulose contained in bagasse. My supervisor was a young lecturer, who studied at Jadavpur University. It was an experimental project. But the laboratory for doing the work was in a primitive state. Many times we had to repeat the experiment. We had to follow long analytical procedures for sugar estimation. We used shakers that were not grouted. We started the experiment at one corner of the lab. Next morning we will find them in another corner. I completed MTech in time. Based on our research, we published a paper in one of the Indian journals. It was a proud occasion for me.
The search for a job continued. In front of us were some public sector units. Available were Graduate Engineer Trainee jobs in steel plants, fertilizer units etc. In one of Satyajit Ray films the protagonist of the film appears for an interview. One of the interviewers asks him, what the weight of the moon is. The interviewee wonders what the weight of the moon has to do with this job. One comes across various kinds of interviewers, and they ask an infinite variety of questions. Some interviewers want to know how much a candidate knows. Some interviewers want to tell the candidate and the fellow interviewers, how deep their knowledge is. There are many kinds of job seekers. Some come prepared to face the interview. Some go to visit the city and claim TA. Higher the position, lower is the preparation.
I often think of my first interview that I faced at one of the prestigious Research Centres in Bombay. After reaching the venue, I found hundreds of engineers waiting at the reception hall. Despite the large number of interviewers, there was no chaos. Everything was systematically arranged. We were divided into various groups. My group was sent to the first floor. When my name was called I appeared before the interview committee, consisting of four members. After one or two brief introductory questions, the committee asked me what topic interests me the most. In other words, they wanted to know from which area they should ask me questions. When one is given a choice, taking the decision becomes more difficult. I chose mass and energy balance. Each one of the four experts asked me a few very basic questions. I could reply some and some I couldn’t. I realised that I need to know much more than I know in my subject of choice. I was not among the candidates who were selected for the job, but I must say, it was the best interview I ever faced. This interview prepared me to face future interviews more confidently.