Finishing Off, In Style!: Naman Kumar
An epitome of endurance and disarming simplicity, Naman Kumar is a name that is both known and revered by every last cricket buff of NITR. An immaculate academician from the Department of Civil Engineering with an enviable CG and a placement offer from KEC International under his belt, he served as the Captain of the Institute Cricket Team for the year 2015-16 and was a key member of the team this year as they put an end to 4 years of dry spell with a stunning victory in Inter-NIT Cricket tournament. From making people around him laugh till their stomachs hurt with his jokes to keeping his cool at times of crisis, there’s something every NITRian could learn from him. Bowling people over with his ineffable charm and disarming simplicity, he has inspired people with his relentless dedication, tireless enthusiasm, staggering genius and the undying optimism which he induces in others with a mere smile. On a breezy evening, Team MM caught up with this phenomenal man of few words and many virtues, as his innings at NITR comes to a close.
MM: Introduce us to your life before NITR.
NK: I was born in Bihar, but due to my father’s job in RSP, Rourkela is the place where I was raised. Upon completion of my high school, I was sent to Kota for two years of coaching. So, I believe it’s safe to say that I’ve experienced my fair share of cultural diversity during my schooling itself. (chuckles)
I did most part of my schooling in Delhi Public School, Rourkela, where I was enrolled as a tiny tot and went on to complete my high school. I was a very active student back in school. I would play sports and had the reputation of a mischievous fellow, just like every other school-goer. Recess was the time I would wait for the most every day in school, just so that we could escape the classroom and have some fun. There was seldom a day in my school life when my tiffin box was not empty by the time the recess bell rang! Every day after school, the first thing I would do was call up my friends and go play cricket. Upon returning after playing, I’d study for some 2 or 3 hours. That was my daily routine.
Moving to Kota brought about a lot of changes in the way I perceived life and things in general. That was the first time I was away from home, and to be honest, going to Kota was not even something I had planned well in advance like most of the other engineering aspirants. There’s actually a story behind it: It was the month of December, and my friend was filling up the form for Bansal’s in Kota. Just to give him company, I filled the form too. We appeared for the exam and cleared it with flying colours. Then came the month of April, when we had our Inter-school cricket tournament. On the day of the match, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to Kota, to which I replied that I was still unsure about it. We ended up losing the match that day. Dejected, I decided there was no point being in Rourkela anymore, and the next thing I know, I was en route to Kota.
The initial two months were a nightmare; I was homesick and faced several difficulties getting accustomed to hostel life and the horrendous food. That phase ended quickly, and it was a smooth journey thereafter.
MM: Was ending up in the Department of Civil Engineering a choice or a chance of fate?
NK: I was initially allotted Mining in NITR in the third round of counselling, before which I wasn’t allotted a seat at all here. I, however, particularly wanted to study in NITR because of its proximity to my house. I wanted a core branch and had filled in Chemical, Metallurgy and Civil as my other options, as I knew Mechanical was quite out of my reach. As for Electrical, I had heard that it involved a great deal of cramming and hence decided against applying for it.
I see it this way: Initially allotted Mining in the third round, I was ‘under the ground’, after which I was allotted Metallurgy in the fourth round. I thought, alright! I’m at least on the ground now! And finally, I ended up getting Civil Dual, which involved designing structures that stand ‘above the ground’. It might sound peculiar to you, but it felt like a promotion of sorts to me at that time. (laughs)
MM: What clubs were you an active part of, and what inspired you to join them?
NK: I was only ever part of two clubs, and that is only if you consider Institute Cricket Team as a club (chuckles). Cricket was something I used to console myself with, as I was initially really dejected with myself for not clearing IIT-JEE. I would tell myself,
There are 7 IITs, which means only 7 of them participate in Inter-IIT cricket tournament. But here, we have 30 NITs playing in Inter-NIT tournament.
Hence, right from the first year, I played cricket. Although not a part of the institute team at that point, I made it a point to play cricket actively after classes on a daily basis.
The other club, actually the only club I was a part of, was CEST. The reason behind joining CEST was that I wanted to explore what my branch had to offer. The club was in a nascent stage at that time, and it really helped me learn how to manage things in an effective manner. Together, we put in tremendous efforts to take the club to the next level. I was an active member of CEST till my 3rd year and conducted two events, one of which was TechKhoj. I also helped organise Bridge Design.
MM: You are known to have an excellent CGPA of 9.45. You’ve also been instrumental in taking the Institute Cricket Team to where it stands today. How did you juggle your time between studies and cricket?
NK: I actually started out with a CGPA of 8.3 in the first semester, after which it went on increasing every consecutive semester. My real game only started when branch subjects came into the picture.
Contrary to what most people say, I believe it is not all tough to strike a balance between studies and extra-curricular activities. It’s but a myth that if you are actively involved in sports or any other activity, you cannot do well in academics. If you really enjoy what you’re doing, then there is no such thing as wastage of time. Think of the activities you’re pursuing as recreation for yourself; an escape after a long, tiring day of lectures and labs. Enjoy the 3 hours where you play; you need not worry about anything in the world during those hours. Similarly, you need not study for 7-8 hours daily. Study for 2 or 3 hours, but make sure you concentrate well. Once you train your mind to focus on what you’re doing, you are sure to end up giving everything you do your best.
MM: Speaking of cricket, you joined the Institute Cricket Team in your sophomore year and went on to serve as its Captain in your fourth year. How was the overall experience?
NK: Frankly speaking, when I entered the team in my sophomore year, I had never thought that I’ll be made the Captain one day. My only goal right from the moment I joined the team was to touch the zenith of excellence and bring laurels to the institute. I had to play, and I had to play as well as possible. In my sophomore year, we played as the defending champions, since the team had won the Inter-NIT tournament the previous year. I played my best innings till date in that tournament, in a match against NIT Warangal. I still remember every bit of that match till date, and it strengthened my belief that I belonged to that team; something I was very apprehensive of initially. Although we played fairly well, we lost that tournament.
I took charge as the Captain of the team in my fourth year. I cannot be more thankful to my seniors for entrusting me with this huge responsibility, and I truly hope I’ve done justice to it.
MM: Walk us through your journey as a member of CEST.
NK: As I mentioned earlier, CEST was in its nascent stage when I was inducted. Our batch was the first ones to be inducted, since the club had been founded by two of our branch seniors the previous year. One noticeable member from our initial days in CEST was Shiba bhai, who was at the helm of things. His relentless work and support really motivated us to feel for CEST and register it as one of the successful technical clubs of NITR. He made me realise that I did not have to do a lot of things, but whatever things I decide to undertake, I have to deliver. I organised TechKhoj, which was a huge success both in my second and third year. Then came Bridge Design, where the same simple, typical design was being redone year after year, with the same designs being copied every time. I decided to bring about some changes to that. We introduced the concept of a suspension bridge, which was highly attractive and ended up pulling in masses from outside NITR as well. Other than these two events, I regularly contributed for the CEST blog. It was only in my fourth year that I became inactive, since I had to prepare for GATE.
CEST, as a club, really helped me learn more about the intricacies of Civil engineering, which I was completely unaware of before joining the club. If not for CEST, I wouldn’t have developed as much interest in my branch as I have now.
MM: You got placed in KEC International. Share with us your experience through the entire placement procedure.
NK: I actually wanted to go into public sector by joining a PSU, but since that could not happen due to certain companies not recruiting from campus this year. I was as nervous as anyone could be! Being a placement coordinator did not help with the nervousness in any way, but only added to my worries, since I was also responsible for looking after the HRs and their needs. I cleared the test, and later appeared for GD, which went fine in my opinion. I was the last person to be called for PI, and I was extremely anxious by that time. Usually, a certain benchmark is set by the time the last person is called, and that really scared me. However, I had a really good day, and came out victorious from the PI, with a job offer in my bag!
MM: How was your experience as a Student Placement Coordinator?
NK: It was a really enriching and enthralling experience, all at the same time. Of all the people at NITR, I had honestly never expected to serve as a PC. I was kept in probation for 3 months by my seniors for this position, and I really feel that I gave it my best. Being a placement coordinator allowed me to communicate with a huge number of people. It involves conversing with people you’ve never met before and convincing them- something that I had never done before. In the first semester, I tried to call up as many companies as possible. I personally believe that NIT Rourkela can do much better on the placement front since people are still skeptical of us because of factors such as our location. I’ll just carry a list of companies with me to the office and call up every last company on that list. It did not matter what their answer was; the goal was to let them know that we are here and that we are as good as anyone else in the game, if not better. I was told by the placement committee that the telephone bill that time was the highest they had ever witnessed.
MM: What are the major changes in NITR that have gained your attention in these 4 years?
NK: I’m an out and out foodie, and of all the things, food is the first thing that comes to my mind. Earlier we had only Hexagon. Then came Jo’z, and now we have a string of options to choose from every time we decide upon skipping the mess food. Infrastructure has definitely changed for the better, with a number of new constructions lined up and many more in the pipeline. As for the academics, I have immense faith in our new Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas, who has some really great plans for the institute. Give it some time and I’m positive that a lot of reforms will be brought about in the way things work here in NITR.
Cricket is one area where I’ve been actively engaged. Since the last 3 years, we’ve been hosting Inter-NIT tournaments here, which I believe has really aided us in gaining the attention of the officials here. Generally, the attitude of the SAC officials towards our needs is very passive. They would previously dismiss our requirements of a proper stadium and quality equipments as needless expenses. This has really helped us improve the sports infrastructure in NITR. Hence, I think we’re on the right track in every aspect, and there will come a time when we will be at par with the best of the country.
MM: If asked, how would you define the ultimate goal for “Naman Kumar”?
NK: I’ve never really had an ultimate goal, per se. I believe in breaking every target up into smaller pieces, and achieving those smaller goals one at a time, which then collectively yield the final result. Very much like the concept of Finite Element Method! (chuckles)
But, at the end of the day, I just want to make my parents proud and happy. They have inspired me and been there for me in times of dire need. Nothing means to me more than their happiness.
My father leaves for work early in the morning every day, and returns home late in the evening. Yet, he always has this smile of contentment on his face. I wish to imbibe that from him, for being content in today’s world is a true virtue, in my opinion.
MM: What have been some of your most significant struggles here at NITR, that you believe have shaped your personality?
NK: This might come as a surprising statement on my part, but I never really felt that NITR was a struggle for me, partly because I have my home here. Whenever I was distraught or stressed out, I turned to my parents for counsel. Thus, being a localite, I had certain luxuries which not many of us get to enjoy here in college.
Of all the experiences that I’ve had in NITR or before, I wouldn’t term any “struggle” per se. I believe if you want to achieve something in life, you need to treat every struggle as if it’s just another experience. Once you do that, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals. Thus, I cannot really pinpoint anything particularly as a life-shaping struggle.
MM: Where do you see yourself after this, five or ten years down the line?
NK: Few years from now, I see myself working for the Government of India. More than anything else, I have an inclination towards the Public sector because it will allow me to return back to the Government and society what I have received from them. I aspire to do something which people will remember me for. Being remembered for my good deeds is all that I want, and I believe holding a Government position would help me achieve that.
MM: What legacy would you like to leave behind?
NK: I once read this in an interview, and it has stayed with me ever since: There’s a lot of empty space in our lives; we just need to utilise it very well. That is my mantra. When others sleep, you need to get up and get the job done.
For me, the happiness of people around me matters the most. I like to make them laugh. I want to spread happiness and laughter, and be remembered for that.
At the end of the day, your grades will be but a piece of paper; the only thing that will truly matter is how good a person you were, and what you did for people.