The Deviant Mind: Shantanu Kumar



     If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son! -Rudyard Kipling (Poem: If).

Rudyard Kipling had many clauses regarding the perfect man to inhabit planet Earth in his eponymous didactic poem, “If”. The above extract being one of the most important, among the many.
And college life is where one gets the maximum freedom one can sufficiently have, and this is where one should strive onwards to adhere to this principle. Then again, the important question is raised:

     How many actually do that?

A proper headcount of sorts is pretty difficult in this regard, but we have a few good men who, as we quote them, would prefer to work their hours off rather than whiling away their time with much unnecessary involvements. People who have actually fallen in love with the entire concept of “Work-a-holism”. People who relentlessly aspire to make every second count in ingenious ways to attain our institute’s goal of holistic development. Right from joining multiple clubs to going extensively out of his branch of engineering to being the Placement Coordinator of Mining Engineering, Shantanu Kumar (SK) has done it all. Team Monday Morning recalls his busy Rourkela Days, as we take a walk down the memory lane along with him.

MM: Could you throw some light on your early days?
SK: I was born and brought up in Dhanbad, a mining town in Jharkhand. I was fond of painting and took training in it. I tried my hand at basketball and karate too in school. After seventh standard, I concentrated myself on academics completely. Engineering was never an option for me. I had tried for Delhi University, but I could not get admission there due to lack of information. I came to know that I was eligible in Ramjas College for Economics(Hons) very late. Engineering is just a platform for me to get a graduation degree. I wish to end up in Civil Services finally. The only reason I took up Mining Engineering was because I used to think that I knew the dynamics of this branch since I hailed from Dhanbad, the coal capital of India. This bubble was finally burst in a few industrial trainings where I finally saw what it is actually, when I had to visit mines for the first time in my life. Also that was the time when Coal India used to come for placements in our institute, and would just lift and take the whole batch with them.

MM: Could you enlighten us about your extensive extra-curricular life here?
SK: I started out with 7 clubs initially, namely Rotaract, AASRA, Episteme, Microsoft Campus Club, Monday Morning, D361 and Chitraang. At the end of first year, I realized I couldn’t manage so many at the same time. So I left AASRA and Episteme. One of the main reasons I joined so many clubs attributed to the fact that I lacked self-confidence; the key to solving this confidence crisis was to keep working as much as possible. I was also a part of a project called P.I.M.E under Naveen sir, a senior of mine. It was like NPTEL for the students of the 11th and 12th standard for AIEEE(now JEE Mains) preparation. 

MM: Your juniors have been of the opinion that you belonged to the CS department rather than Mining. Was it probably due to your very active role in Microsoft Campus Club?
(Laughs) Not only my juniors but also most of my batch mates have opined the same for a long time. Part of the reason may be because I was part of technical clubs and handled technical works (graphic designing, web development) in the clubs that I worked in.
My active role in MS campus club is a good reason too. I spent most of my third year to transform Microsoft Campus Club into one of the biggest and most famous clubs of NIT Rourkela. I believe that I was mostly successful in the job assigned to me by Dhruv Sir and Smriti Ma’am. I had the benefit of an exceptionally talented team. Currently Utsav and Prateek are continuing the job of keeping the club at its heights. Both of them along with the entire team has given their best to take MS club to new heights.

MM: One memorable event in the four years?
SK: While organizing the first version of Treasherlocked in 2013, I remember the website crashed 24 hours before the event was about to commence. We had a horrible time those few hours, but finally the event started after the website was accessible. Those hours were the hardest to pass. The entire team had worked for over a month. The publicity was done across the length and breadth of the country. Postponing was not an option. Suleman sir somehow managed to get the website online hours before the competition was to start.

MM: You’ve been a part of Chitraang. How would you rate the current scenario of Graffiti culture in NITR?
SK: There is hardly any graffiti culture in the institute. You can witness a genuine graffiti culture in cities like Bhubaneshwar or Mumbai.  We are an official media for graffiti. We have been given a wall but we are not given enough independence to express our creativity. Graffiti can be used to raise national and social issues. I remember making graffiti on the Delhi Rape case and tumbling value of rupee. I feel such work should be promoted more. What we do right now is just paint the wall during fests. So we are basically working for SAC and graffiti is used as a publicity medium for our fests. This year though, the team got one good opportunity for making graffiti in VS Hall Reading Room and Music Room. This was one good way of expanding the work.
Most people here just scribble on the walls using cans. Graffiti should be used to do something meaningful. Also Graffiti artists usually stay underground and there is no restriction on making graffiti, it can be done anywhere (at the same time its illegal to paint walls, but graffiti artists break this rule everywhere). I am not saying that people start doing graffiti anywhere in the institute. However there are locations in Rourkela where people can express their ideas. As of now Chitraang is being carried forward very well by Kumar Chand, Swetaleena and Madhulika.

MM: What do you think has been the major obstacle in the promotion of this graffiti culture in NITR?
SK: There are quite a few obstacles. First is the high cost, which cannot be financed by few students. A single graffiti made by us costs a lot and we face issues from SAC, in this aspect. Also the wall which we are working on is large. We might be provided with smaller walls so that the cost can be reduced and more people can start taking interest in graffiti making. Further actual graffiti cans cost almost 2.5 times the cans used currently. Further, these graffiti cans are available only in Bhubaneswar.

MM: You were a part of the Monday Morning team in your second year. Tell us about your experience working with MM.
SK: It was in January 2012 when I read an interview of Prateek sir who was the technical coordinator of Monday Morning back then. I talked to him and asked him what kind of preparations might be needed to get into the technical team. He briefed me about the whole induction process and the tasks that are given during the induction rounds. I had about a month to prepare with Web Development and learning Joomla. I got selected for the technical team after the whole induction process.
I was never a late night person. Once I started working for MM I had to get used to working late night. Working late night every week was actually a wonderful experience. We not only uploaded articles but also debated articles along with the chief coordinators back then. Ankit, Raunak sir and I fondly called ourselves as the ‘Three Musketeers’. The work of the MM tech team helped develop professionalism in me.

     One more special thing about being a part of the technical team in my second year was that the whole experience was equivalent as being a chief coordinator in third year. So basically we get the same experience one year prior to CCs.

I was also interested in content writing and I have also had contributions in terms of articles. I suggested bringing the Citizen Journalist section to MM. We always had this complaint that outside people don’t get a chance to write their issues. Hence I suggested this idea to the chief coordinators back then. I also had a wonderful Monday Morning Technical Coordinator (TC) Dhruv Joshi. No other senior has been able to guide me better than him till date. Also he was the first TC who involved his entire team while building the website during the summers.

MM: You said that you’ve been a part of D361 which is the official institute magazine. Tell us about your experience working with it. Also would you like to comment on the current scenario of the club?
SK: My journey with D361 has not been very good. In my first year one of my research articles was published. I could not contribute much in my second year though. It was not on top of my priority list. I became busy with MM and Microsoft club then. The magazine that was supposed to come out in autumn 2014 has been ready since several months but unfortunately we have not been able to get it printed. I accept my responsibility in failing to bring out the magazine. The best option right now is to give the responsibility to new people who can carry it forward with greater enthusiasm and initiative.

MM: You are also a part of the batch that introduced a mining festival in the institute, MINARE. Tell us something about it.
SK: Most of the colleges which offer mining degree have their separate mining festivals. Our seniors had tried to introduce this festival here as well. However this did not happen. During our time we had great support from our HOD and most of the Professors. The amount of cooperation shown by the entire department (Professors, students, staff) for the first season was tremendous. I had never seen such kind of cooperation even in SAC. I was coordinating in the first season for technical aspects and helped in management of the team. Our very first edition had participation greater than the fest by IIT Kharagpur. Hence I can say it was a pretty successful initiative.

MM: Now coming to your role as the Placement Coordinator. How did this new role of yours pan out?
SK: I feel we are not exploiting our abilities over here. People can do very well. We can have much better number of companies coming here and have much better selections. But most of the people lack confidence and lack knowledge about a particular process. Now as a part of the Placement Committee we had set a target of 100 recruiters for the year and we will surely reach the mark by the end of the year. The job is very hectic in the Placement Committee. We start at 8 or 9 in the morning depending on the day and the work might continue till late into night. Also we cannot run from our duties as we are responsible for the entire batch. We just cannot afford to be escapists.
I felt that the placement committee lacked proper guidance in the beginning of the semester. I am very thankful to Samik Ghosal who gave us some fantastic ideas which turned out to be very useful to our cause. After that the conversion ratio (number of companies that turned up for recruitments to the number of companies contacted) highly increased. I would a like to quote a line as stated by Ayush Singh, secretary of the placement team:

     The workload in different clubs get monotonous gradually. In the Placement Committee, every single day is different. You can’t expect the next day to be the same as the previous. You cannot expect each company to reply the same way as the other. There are different ways of handling people. You cannot predict anything here.

One more wonderful thing about the committee here is that everyone is supportive. Nobody usually refuses any kind of work. PC work gives you great insight into the actual work life of companies.

MM: Would you like to pass on a message to all those aspiring to be a part of the Committee?
SK: If you’re ambitious and seek to shoulder responsibility then you should try to join the placement committee. People working here have a similar job as executives. The job is quite enjoyable if you don’t mind working hard for long hours and being busy.
Also people who are not punctual and those who cannot sacrifice their weekends, placement committee is not a place for them. Also one cannot change priorities. Once in the placement committee you have to be devoted. When you are working for the placement committee you are responsible for the whole batch.
One more thing that is worth a mention is that it’s not just the role of placement coordinators to bring in good companies to the institute. The students also have an important role to play. They should take part in various competitions conducted by various companies. If they perform well then it definitely brings our institute into the attention of the companies and that would definitely help in increasing the number of recruiters.

Finally a placement coordinator should be ready to bear chides or even abuses at times from the students, the faculty and even the HRs of the visiting companies. You should be ready to take all the blame. A repulsive and retaliating person would not fit in the committee.

MM: Would you like to pass on any message to your juniors as a final year student?
Always try to learn new things. The BTech life is basically a long vacation. Utilize these years judiciously. You shall never get them back in your life, ever again. Try to gain as much knowledge as you can, in the process.