Without further ado: here is email one, followed by my own response. My commentary will follow after the two separate mail posts.
(My friend Abhi writes)
maza bhacha atta 12 wi zala. tyala engg. shivay vegale kahi karayache ahe. [My nephew just finished HSC and he wants to do something other than engineering] i mean BSC -> MSC -> and higher education
mee tyala Chemistry ghe ase suchawale ahe. [I suggested Chemistry to him] ani higher educationla he will have multiple options. so he is starting with PCM and then he can decide but another option is Chemistry, BioChemistry and Botony (he is not interested in Botony - so after 1st year he will drop botony)
what is your view? any guidance tip?
My answer is long (please excuse the small letters)
first of all, give this young man my 2 thumbs up!! in so many years, so many came to ask about where/how to do engg. this is the first time someone asked me about something else. he must have an independent mind and a strong will to search for what he likes/ dislikes. i will highly encourage him and his parents to allow him to follow his instincts and liking.
unfortunately, there are few options for good undergraduate education in India. colleges and univs are not great and syllabi are limiting. if you see what international univs offer to students, it is a shame we don't have anything close to that for intelligent students like your nephew :-( the same is true about engg education, btw, BITS/ IITs notwithstanding.
the only few places who offer some semblance of quality: Xavior's (Mumbai), Stephen's (Delhi) and Presidency (Kolkata). in pune, there is a new IISER, where I have a couple of close friends (xxxx e.g.). there are are some good profs scattered everywhere: Prof Kulkarni at Fergusson, Prof Watve at Garware, for example. The main problem is: students are left to themselves to devise ways to learn, no innovative teaching, etc. i am trying to give you a complete picture, to allow him to choose carefully.
this should not discourage him, with a couple of good friends, he will do quite well. remember, I had Shrirang throughout my BSc and then great friends in MSc. so, my advice is to choose a college like Fergusson with a decent library (and a handful of profs in area of interest), make 'good friends', and connect with interested profs from other places (IISER, IUCAA, Pune Univ, etc.) he should read book by Krishnamegh kunte for some inspiration (that 'failed student' is in Harvard now):
now the BIG QUESTION is: what does this man like? he should not think that only science is his destiny, even a good economist is equally valuable (and earns a lot higher salary in the market). he has to find, out on his own, what he likes and would like doing for a large part of his life. of course, he could do something else later on, but for now he has to have something in his mind. no one can help with this, unfortunately -- `ghode ko paani koi nahin pila sakta'.
he has to explore a bit: surprisingly BITS/IITs offer him other variety of courses at undergraduate level, so there is more exposure possible. this option does not exist in most univs/ colleges. i am not sure how IISER does this either. the only way to know if he likes economics (in a place like Fergusson) is to meet other students from economics and learn from them. it is not desirable but not avoidable. i could not do that, and i wish i had read economics earlier in my life (as well as neuro-biology and Marathi literature).
but, all said and done, his honesty and decision to look elsewhere is commendable. He needs to be open minded and brave, only those do exceptionally well in today's world. If he can write more about what he wants to do, or his inclinations, it would help me write a little more detail.