How does one find every single place in this world magical? Well, surely the magic must reside within him/her. Enter Abhipsa Mishra, magical in the truest sense of the word. This bibliophile is a diehard fan of Harry Potter (even that would be a big understatement), she is someone who still expects to receive a letter from Hogwarts. From serving as the Chief Co-ordinator of Team MM 2013-14, current student representative of the ISDC Committee, to being placed at EXL Analytics and recently admitted to IIFT Delhi, she has touched the pinnacles of success (or rather achieved all “Outstanding”s in her NEWTs, as she likes to put it!) in every walk of life. Geeky to the core and a true joy to work with, Team MM caught up with this “witch” of NITR as she zoomed along on her Firebolt.
MM: Tell us something about yourself and share your life before coming to NIT Rourkela.
AM: I hail from Bhubaneswar, but owing to my father’s frequent transfers we used to move every four years or so. As a result, I spent my childhood at five different places in Odisha with my schooling undertaken in five different schools, finally completing in Bhubaneswar. Despite all this moving around or maybe because of it, I still harbour the “new kid in school” feeling, leading to my very prominent introverted nature. My parents always encouraged me to pick up as many extra-curriculars and hobbies as possible at every point of time, always trying to push me out of my shell. Many hobbies and activities that I picked up in my growing years have faded away, but books and writing, and to some extent sketching, have stayed with me till date.
My +2 years were spent like every other Indian teenager, with dreams of a top notch engineering college being fed to me at regular intervals. I had grown up listening to my father’s stories of his engineering days at BITS Pilani, and had long nurtured a dream of studying there one day. But Fate had other plans for me and so did the Entrance examination results, and I landed up at NITR. I was dead scared of the core branches of engineering; I was basically never confident that my brain was built to handle all the hard-core technical gear. I had long since cultivated an inclination towards Biology and seeing that I was landing up in engineering and not even remotely close to any IIT, Biotechnology at NITR it was.
MM: How has your journey been in this institute?
AM: With all its highs and lows, uncertainties and pleasantries, NITR has been my Quidditch Pitch! My journey at NITR can be sectioned into two phases: pre-MM and post-MM. The pre-MM part was my first year and all I remember of that year is my complete disinterest in studies or anything remotely productive. I dabbled in the usual Cyborg, SAE stuff to get an “engineering feel”, as they say, but soon enough discovered they were better off without me. I was inducted into Rotaract in my first semester, but discovered I could do without it before the endsems itself. Come March-April’12, MM happened, radically changing every facet of my life. It has been a roller coaster ride that only went up ever since. From the buzzing campus with all its energy to the imperfect hostel with its perfect hostel life, it has been a spunky four years.
MM: What is the best thing about this institute? Is there anything that you despise of here?
AM: The best thing? In one single word: opportunities. I knew nothing about the NITR culture before I set foot here. Once I did, before my first week was up, I saw my hostel notice boards filling up with induction notices, workshops, quizzes, debates, what not! There is a strong current of freedom that runs through NITR’s lanes. Any dream that you want to pursue, any idea that you want to explore, any madcap plan you want to hatch, this place turns into your very own Room of Requirement. Add to that the fact that you can find amongst the masses at least one other person to tag along in your flow. One never stands alone at NITR. Recognizing this fact at the earliest and channelling it with dedication is all that is required to see your wishes come to life!
I would say ‘despise’ is a strong term to use, but the attitude of the NITR populace towards issues concerning them sometimes hits a sore spot. There is no dearth of talent, no limit to the sheer range of ideas and discussions brewing at NITR. But what falters, at the most needful of times, is the zeal, the want to take something up and see it to the end. People, both the students and the administration, get used to taking the “chalta hai, chodo na” attitude and take things in their stride, give up on it. I shan’t deny the fact that I have been a victim of it too. Maybe it is because of a lack of inspiration from the top or ample push from the environment we live in, or maybe we lack conviction. A wider and freer outlook of the elders at our institute and some more belief in ourselves and NITR would race to the top.
MM: What reforms did you witness while your stay in NITR? Any changes that you wish to see in the near future?
AM: NITR has beautified its campus like crazy in these four years! Apart from the BMBT building and the under construction LA, it was all plain and bland when I first entered the institute. But now there are buildings and on-going constructions in places I had never dreamed there would be! After much pestering on MM’s part, the convocation gown changed from a ghastly purple and yellow garb to the much coveted black gown and cap symbolic of graduation. NITR’s perpetual, never-ending project of centrally air conditioning the buildings has finally seen the light of the day at PPA and BBA. Add to that the population explosion that our campus has witnessed, bringing with it an era of myriad talents too. So many new clubs, so many new things to do - NITR hasn’t stopped rising.
They need to revolutionize the library here. My expectations of a spacious library with rows and rows of wonderful smelling books was somewhat crushed on arrival. Inquiries at all possible levels resulted in fingers being pointed in directions ranging from the much parroted reason of lack of funds to “who the heck reads books?” Truth be told, the collection of books that we have here, is meagre, just for the namesakes of it. I speak of both academic and non-academic collections. Structural reforms have been undertaken and now the library is visually appealing. There needs to be a reform, or rather an expansion, in the intellectual content stacked in it too.
MM: After 4 years of engineering life, what are some of your fondest memories?
AM: A major chunk of my fond memories rest with MM. It starts with seeing my name on the induction list back at the end of my second semester. That was a moment of pride and joy beyond explanation. Next on the list would be, being declared as the Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning along with Rahul Pasayat and Prem Depon Nayak. It has been an absolute honour to have dedicated my third year along with them to the workings and expansion of MM. It is a year I would give anything to relive, despite all the trials, tribulations and nerve wrecking anxiety we went through.
In the very early days of our CC-ship, one fine April evening we had brainstormed the idea of periodically having a printed version of MM. The idea when pitched, met with a lot of scepticism from everyone. The idea was first of its kind and it took us a lot of time to execute, plan and start working on it. December’13 has been one of the busiest months I have ever had. With the entire working team spread all over India and me at Bhubaneswar, Rahul at Cuttack and Prem at Rourkela, I’m still amazed as to how our coordination pulled off. My sister’s wedding was scheduled in the same month. Thus, I spent my days sectioning off time, juggling two worlds. While Prem helped in ensuring the smooth course of all administrative formalities, I and Rahul took charge of the content. All the madness and toil somehow worked out in the end. The best feeling I have had at NITR was when I held that first Print Issue of Monday Morning, fresh and crisp from the printers in January’14. It was a labour of love, a dream come true and I shall be forever grateful to our dedicated team due to which the dream turned into a reality.
Another priceless moment was when I got to know of my IIFT selection. The results were supposed to come out by 15th March but they kept delaying it. It was the evening of 25th March’15, and I was at SAC with souvenir work, when I get a call out of the blue that the results have been declared. I totally lost my calm and spent the next 45 nail-biting minutes begging all around the ECE building for a computer with an internet connection so that I could check my results, but in vain. A lone soul in the corner of the lab took pity on me and allowed me access to his computer for a few minutes. Seeing my name on the final converts list was more of a relief than happiness, an utterly indescribable one. Sidhant Chand deserves a special mention here for seeing me through that evening of madness.
MM: How did Monday Morning come about to you?
AM: It was my mother who first made me aware of the existence of an e-newsletter at NITR. She was going through the NITR website, searching for the placement stats, when she stumbled upon the link to the MM website. This was back in my first semester. She called me up and asked me to ask around and try and know how this newsletter works. It caught my interest and I watched out for the induction dates. The first poster that I had seen of MM was for its 5th birthday issue. I browsed through the white and blue MM site with its Sun logo in my Engineering Drawing lab and was utterly fascinated by it.
The induction dates arrived in mid-March and I along with Pratyusha Amanchi, went for the inductions, which were held in the Main Building. A 3 hour long written round, an interview of A. Mrudula and a review of Cyborg later I was called for the PI round. My PI was taken by the giants of MM – Samik Ghosal, Sourav Pattanayak, Aradhana Nayak, Anurag Mohapatra. The interview could not have gone worse, I could hardly whisper any sensible words - I was damn nervous and my knees buckled. Dead sure my MM journey was coming to an end before it began, I waited for the results with feeble hopes.
They somehow found me worthy enough. My name was there on the final list, along with Pratyusha’s. We were the only two girls in the team from our batch. And the rest, as they quote, is history.
MM: Please share your experiences as a content team member, a CC and a mentor of Monday Morning.
AM: The first meeting that we had as MM members was being held at SAC but was cut short due to heavy rains. Raunak Thomas, Antareep Sharma and Sai Shankar Pradhan were the CCs back then. I was allotted BMBT and ID departments and the girls’ hostel news. DD and CWC were handled by me and Rahul mostly. My first article in MM was about the shifting of girls from KMS to CVR and was titled “Girls Rue Hostel Blues”. Fighting for the change in the in-time of the girls started immediately afterwards and continues till date. I swore to myself that as that year might be the only year I was getting to spend at MM, I would ensure that every single issue of MM had at least one article written by me. I stuck to that promise for the entirety of my second year, even when the CCs stopped directly allotting us articles and encouraged us to find initiatives on our own.
Second year ended and after a pretty intimidating interview yet again, I was made the CC along with Rahul and Prem, with Ankit as the TC. I had never spoken or worked with Prem in my 2nd year; it was only after we were appointed as CCs that we interacted. I spent my entire third year either locked in my room, hooked to my laptop or at Hex, brainstorming with Rahul and Prem. We would work over Google Hangouts on Sunday nights, fighting over labels in the MM id over the articles to be edited. Standing by each other in those maddening times, we handled pressure, balanced lives and became the best of friends. The first MM Print Issue was our blood and sweat.
Our tenure ended with the appointment of Anubhav, Snehasis and Anshuman as the CCs. We share a stupendous rapport and it was wonderful to serve as Mentors to them. We were exceedingly apprehensive as to how MM would turn out under them, but their efforts laid our doubts to rest eventually. They brought about the terrific idea of the Open House Discussion and made it happen.
MM has been my source of strength, my love at NITR. It has made me feel belonged here. Every batch of CCs and mentors have been a source of utmost inspiration for me. I have always found something new to learn at MM, and something new to take up. Let’s just sum up and say that my “Welcome to MM” sms in my first year was a Hogwarts letter of sorts. Had it not been for that, I would still be living in my head, in my own cupboard under the stairs.
MM: How has the organisation evolved in all these years?
AM: There was a time, when people used to opine, “Monday Morning has more members than readers”. That era is long gone. I, in my four years, have seen MM grow from a respectful newsletter to a phenomenon that is here to thrive. Kushal and Sushovan have revolutionized the cartoon section and doodles of MM. At the beginning of my second year, we rejoiced when we had 9k unique hits on the website. Now at the end of my final year, we strive to top 60k unique hits in a week. During my CC tenure, I was contacted by students from NIT Jamshedpur because they wanted to start their own campus newsletter and were fascinated by MM’s modus operandi. It was humbling to know that MM served as not only NITR’s student media body, but also a far reaching inspiration. With the Print Issue and OHD, MM has managed to capture the masses’ trust and attention like never before. The public themselves feel more involved in the issues of the institute now, rather than take it for granted that MM will solve it for them.
A new team comes into force as we depart, and I believe the fabulous rise of MM over the past 8 years should serve as inspiration enough for them to take this organization to unbelievable heights.
MM: Any regrets?
AM: Two. I missed out on the D361 inductions in my first year and never got to be a part of their team. I missed out on the Open House Discussion as I was away in Kolkata for my Essay-GD-PI round of the IIFT procedure. I won’t get a chance to be a part of one again.
MM: You have got a job offer from EXL Analytics and admission into IIFT-Delhi. Please share your experiences of the selection procedures of both.
AM: Right during the end of my 6th semester, I had decided on pursuing an MBA degree immediately after my B.Tech. We don’t have core companies hiring undergrads in Biotechnology, and I had no inclination for an IT job offer. After my third year, I picked up an internship at a Biotech firm in Bhubaneswar so that I could stay at home and prepare for MBA entrances. As far as jobs were concerned, I aimed to get into an analytics company, if at all. I had badly wanted to get into MuSigma but I was rejected in the final round of its recruitment process. It was very disheartening and my preparations suffered a blow after this rejection. The next analytical company to come on campus was EXL. I resolved to get into this company at any cost, because I had heard a lot about the amazing work culture of EXL. I qualified the written round and all the candidates had to go for the two final PI rounds at NIT Jamshedpur. 10 of us went to Jamshedpur, and 5 of us got recruited. It was quite an unexpected achievement for me, and I was relieved that I had a good back-up plan in case my MBA entrances bombed.
And bomb they did. My CAT results were nothing short of disastrous. I had worked really hard for it and it was a crushing disappointment because I lost out on a host of top b-school calls. I just had one call in hand – IIFT Delhi. (IIFT has its own separate entrance). I picked myself up and was determined to push my limits and give more than my best shot at the one single chance I had. I did what I could, God did the rest, and now I leave for IIFT Delhi in the last week of June.
MM: What plans do you have next?
AM: Speaking of the immediate next, I will be pursuing an MBA degree in International Business at IIFT Delhi in the coming two years. A job after that maybe. Looking further at the future next, I long to live my dream of penning my own book or two, living at some foothills, far from the madding crowd.
MM: A final message to the students.
AM: If there is one thing I have learnt at NITR, it is to live and act in the present, come what may. Learn to live your dreams, stand by them and struggle for them. NITR is an experience. Live in the feel of it and leave behind footsteps which the Future can follow with pride and draw strength from.
To my MM juniors, I have just one message. An MM member is known for his/her humility, above anything else. Remember to be humble and grounded, however high you might soar. Respect the right foundations on which this organization was built upon, stay true to it. The talent pool at MM increases every year. I’m confident that the current team will write a ravishing new chapter in the history of Monday Morning. And as your CCs and mentors will remind you with every chance they get – Feel for MM!