“Rahul, naam to suna hoga?”
Holding true to this dialog from a cheesy Bollywood flick, Rahul Pasayat is one name that everyone at NITR knows, fears, and revers. An immaculate academician with an enviable CG and a dream job at Tata Steel, he served as the Chief Co-ordinator of Monday Morning for the year 2013-14 as well as FMS secretary for the year 2014-15. From cracking jibes at friends and colleagues to keeping his cool at times of crisis, every NITian has loads to learn from him. His stare, enough to strike fear in the boldest of hearts; he still manages to maintain a long line of admirers, majority of them being from the fairer sex. Team MM caught up with the man himself on a rainy afternoon to take a walk down memory lane.
MM: Tell us about your life before NIT Rourkela.
Rahul: I hail from the city of Cuttack where I did my schooling from DAV. I used to be a decent scholar and focused mostly on academics with the occasional participation in debates and elocution. I stood 6th in my 10th Boards and 13th in my plus two. I had never really been into sports or other extra-curricular activities back in school. I was shy and introverted.
MM: How did Engineering happen to you?
Rahul: I had always wanted to join one of the IITs and become an engineer. The preparations started way back in Class IX. Mid way through my Class XII, I lost focus and eventually ended up in NIT Rourkela Dept. of Mining Engineering. I wanted to be a Mechanical or an Electrical Engineer. But then again, I don’t regret being a Mining Engineer.
MM: How was your freshman year in NIT Rourkela?
Rahul: I remember clearly that on my first day in NIT Rourkela, after my parents left me at 7 in the morning, a senior came to our hostel at 10 in the night to inform us that we were required to be present in Hall-8 at 1 PM the next day. I was completely taken aback because the Director had mentioned it’s a zero-ragging institute. The following day we had a 4 hour long ragging session that left me petrified to say the least. We were instructed not to attend any of the eateries and had several other restrictions put in place as well. We were told that the only club we can join is Aasra. I was already shy and all of this made me even more introverted. We were living a life of outcastes, with almost no interaction with anyone except our immediate neighbours.
MM: How popular was Monday Morning back then? How did you become a part of it?
Rahul: It was definitely not as popular as now. I came to know about it when the interview of Anurag Mohapatra (who holds the record for the highest ever placement offer from the institute) was published. When I opened the URL, I loved the beautiful blue and white website. But no one knew how one could become a part of Monday Morning. It was in February that the green poster of Monday Morning induction was put up and I instantly knew that I had to attend it anyhow. On the day of the induction, I was pretty apprehensive but a friend of mine dragged me into it nevertheless. I cleared the written round and was allotted Guru Balakrishnan’s interview and the review of E-cell. He happened to be one of the most revered guys. I had to visit him 9 times before the interview was over. I compiled all the content and sent it a couple of days before the deadline. I was then interviewed by a panel of Anurag Mohapatra, Mahesh Goenka, Aradhana Nayak, Sourav Pattnayak with Balakrishnan joining mid-way. Despite a very intimidating interview, I was selected and I was really glad because Monday Morning was that coveted organisation.
MM: How was your experience of working in Monday Morning?
Rahul: It has been wonderful working in Monday Morning. Wonderful would be an understatement. We had a great second year team. I used to team up with Prem or Abhipsa often. I covered the Director’s Desk and the Chief Warden’s Column with Abhipsa. I remember I was not made any allotments for my 4th semester. Prem and I used to roam around the institute, looking for issues or possible research articles. I can recollect writing an extensive article on the conditions of coolers, geysers, aqua-guards, washrooms in Hall 8. I roamed around the entire hostel, scanning through all the wings and all the blocks. I also remember writing an article on child labour in the institute. This kind of working caused a slight dip in my academic performance. I learnt a lot about time management, about approaching and speaking with people and also about being selectively social. I can choose to be how candid I am with whom at my ease.
In my junior year, I became the Chief Coordinator with Prem and Abhipsa. The biggest thing I learned during this period was to handle pressure. Being a meticulous planner, I used to crack easily when things didn’t work out as per the plan. But as a CC, you have new problems popping up from everywhere and you learn how to deal with situations that come out of the blue.
In my senior year, I had great fun mentoring my CCs. My Co-CCs and I were impulsive and hyperactive people, while the group of Anubhav, Snehasis and Anshuman were much more composed, laidback and calm. That ensured a good compatibility. I have been rude and impulsive on them during the summers when they were failing us on the website front. But then it was necessary and Prem and Abhipsa were always there to play good cop.
MM: What has been your most cherished moment working for Monday Morning?
Rahul: There have been many of them. Firstly, the moment when I was declared as the Chief Coordinator. I had worked hard and knew that I deserved to be chosen. But it felt really great to hear my name being called. Secondly, the feeling of receiving the final version of the Monday Morning Print Issue in hand was something that was completely ethereal. It was even more special because of all the scepticism and trouble that we had gone through to make it happen. We worked really hard throughout the winters. We had initially planned on 4 pages but that had to be later bumped up to 8 pages because we could not skip on articles. And then meant a lot of paperwork needed to be modified. Prem helped us a lot in this regard as he was staying back in the institute during the winter vacation. We received some amazing reviews for the edition, from several of our critics. So, the Print Issue has always been extremely close to me.
MM: The Open House Discussion has been a landmark in the timeline of Monday Morning. How was your experience being a part of it?
I believe MM can be divided into pre-OHD and post-OHD eras. Before the OHD, Monday Morning was a mediator, communicating between the students and administration, letting each other know about their perspectives. However, after the OHD, it was a complete transformation of MM when we not only presented the issues but also offered solutions and pushed for their implementation.
The general perception of the NITR crowd that MM is nothing more than the institute webmail in a newsletter format was overturned as people got to see the kind of efforts that we put in and the difficulties faced in dealing with the authorities. We had worked hard for it and had to overcome several obstacles to make it a success. The cherry on the cake was the happiness on the face of students at having their troubles voiced in public.
MM: What’s your vision for Monday Morning?
Rahul: I want the number of unique monthly hits to reach 1.5 lacs in the next 5 years. It might sound over-ambitious but given our growth from 14k to 60k in 2 years, it is not impossible. Our readership needs to widen beyond the students and immediate alumni. For that we shall need to widen our coverage. We need to include the faculty and also the extended alumni. People need to know that in this small city of Rourkela, there is an NIT that is doing really good work.
MM: What changes would you like to see in Monday Morning?
Rahul: I would really want the members of Monday Morning to have a greater level of conviction and dedication.
There seems to have developed a level of complacency in them. They are really good but that should not take away their hunger and zeal to be even better.
The academics are never that interesting and if the club culture too loses its charm, then there shall be nothing interesting left to do. I would really want our Monday Morning team to work with more sincerity and zeal because with the kind of potential they have, it will do wonders.
MM: What impact would you want MM to have on the institute in the coming years?
Rahul: I would want a dramatic change in women issues. I believe we are still hypocritical about it. And I strongly feel that MM could take up some awareness camps and include women to play a greater role in ensuring that the subtle discriminations that do take place against them are actually rooted out. This is something that our institute really needs to work on in the immediately. I would also think that MM could work on the issues of food hygiene. It often goes unattended because quality of food is a subjective matter that is usually difficult to deal with. But certain factors do require a degree of consistency and its time that the mess receives a greater amount of coverage. The internet is also something I would want MM to look into. Despite the apparent fund crunches, I believe it is not impossible to find a solution to this deadlock that we have been facing for over a year now.
MM: What about life outside Monday Morning for you?
Rahul: I am a member of Cognizen and CEST outside Monday Morning. I have been pretty inactive in CEST. But I have always enjoyed being a part of Cognizen ever since my sophomore year. The kind of debates and discussion over politics, economics and sociology that we undertake in Cognizen is beyond the imagination of the NITR junta. I would really want everyone to attend the sessions as I believe they are truly enriching and full of intellect. I like politics and consequently have always found these sessions highly stimulating. I was also the secretary of the Film and Music Society. But I could never really live up to my expectations of being a secretary. A lot of factors are involved in the working of SAC and the kind of ideas I had when I presented my manifesto never really worked out over there. The pressure of placements and academics along with the lack of conducive atmosphere for growth in SAC meant that I could never really work whole-heartedly in it. I was disastrous as a secretary in the 7th semester and tried really hard to make up for it in the spring semester. But I feel I could have done a much better job if I had taken it up with greater conviction.
MM: Throw some light on your contribution towards alumni relations of the institute.
Rahul: When our CC tenure started, I took the responsibility of the Alumni and Discus-section. I started my work in summer itself, when I spent a lot of time on internet, looking for well-established and successful alumni. It started with Mr.C.P.Gurnani and later we found a few other renowned alumni. When the semester started I lost the focus on Alumni section due to the amount of work that we had to do each week, but again in the December holidays I restarted my work and was able to contact people like Mr.Akash Khurana and Mr. Venkat Peri. The interview of Mr. Khurana was published in January 2014 and Mr. Peri has been a notable alumnus for our institute, given his contribution. We were also successful in finding many other IIM graduates who have successfully ventured into start-up culture and are doing well. I continued my work in Alumni section during my intern period and managed to contact Mr. Sandip Das, whose contact was later used by the T&P and it was sheer happiness to see Reliance Jio visiting the institute for placement this year. We have also successfully got in touch with the founders of My Smart Price and will get an interview in a few months. It was the team's support that facilitated the scenario and it has helped the institute a great deal.
MM: Since you have been a part of SAC, what changes would you like to see in its framework and functioning?
Rahul: I would want to see the faculties take greater amount of charge of the monetary sides of SAC. Students need to be more involved in events and should change the existing mind-set of corruption.
I know it for sure that corruption exists in SAC and majority of the secretaries join SAC for the money it fetches. This needs to change. If at such a young age they are looking for ways to swindle money, it is scary to even think of what is going to happen 5 years down the line. The faculties are better suited to handle the finances as we are too young to deal with such exorbitant amounts.
MM: We just completed the elections for 2015-16 session. What is your take on the election programme and the preceding acts?
Rahul: The zone-election culture has dropped greatly. The process has been made much more fair and unbiased. It can improve, of course. But I believe the authorities have done enough to make the election process fair and square. Beyond this, we need a change in the mind-set of the voters to ensure that the deserving get elected. That would probably take much longer.
MM: How has NIT Rourkela changed from 111MN to 114MN?
Rahul: The architectural landscape has vastly changed to a completely new scenario. The faculty has remained almost consistent. Student talent pool has greatly improved in almost all departments. The ragging and zone culture has dropped a lot. The placements had dropped in between but have again reached a steady level now.
MM: What changes would you like to see in NIT Rourkela?
Rahul: The alumni scenario needs to be greatly developed. The alumni feel left out and the institute feels that the alumni should come forward. This cannot stay in a deadlock. The NITs are lagging behind the IITs, BITS and IISc because the alumni connect is almost non-existent. While working for Monday Morning, I have realised that we have an enormous pool of highly established alumni. This needs to be capitalised upon.
MM: What are your hobbies?
Rahul: I love reading and commenting on the political scenario of the country. Magazines like Caravan are source of great joy for me because of the hard core journalism that they take part in. I am also an avid fan of football and no matter how much work I have, I always find time to follow all the matches of FC Barcelona. In my idle time, I watch movies, especially the Batman series. I have watched The Dark Knight Rises for more than 230 times and I still watch the movie with the same excitement. I love playing FIFA, although i'm not the best among my friends.(chuckles)
MM: What plans do you have for your future?
Rahul: I shall be joining Tata Steel after my graduation and gain the required level of experience, following which I plan to take the GMAT and pursue my business degree abroad from a B-school. I am dreaming to be in Harvard Business School but that is a distant dream given the kind of background they seek for their scholars. Further down the line, I see myself joining politics. I have always been inclined towards politics and would want to be a part of the country’s decision making processes. Bureaucrats can hardly decide on policies. They shall only implement them.
MM: How was the experience of sitting for campus placements for you?
Rahul: The placement season turned me into an obnoxious and irritable guy which was majorly because I have always been unable to handle failure. And the placement session made me realize this bitter truth again and again. Starting off with Mu Sigma, I hardly cleared the written rounds for most of the companies that I had applied for prior to Tata Steel. Even Tata Steel is a complete no-brainer to me. They have a peculiar floating cut-off process. I was so glad when my name was called among the 9 shortlisted people for the post-written round. The GD and PI were decent. My internship experience in Tata Steel and everything I learned over there greatly helped me during the interview. Prior to this, I was selected in TCS and was on the waiting list in Affine Analytics. So, the placement season did teach me a lot of things about failures and success and perseverance. I am glad that I had Prem constantly reminding me how I should not be affected by such issues if I am to ever go ahead in life.
MM: What, according to you, is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?
Rahul: My greatest strength is my ability to dedicate and focus on the given piece of work and ensure that I give my best to it, no matter how small it is. When I want to do something, I shall do it whole-heartedly. Mediocrity is something that I cannot tolerate. My greatest weakness would be my inability to handle failure. Whenever things go out of plan or start to fall apart, I start to panic. I believe that to become successful, it is essential to be able to handle failures and learn from them.
MM: Do you have any regrets from your four years in NIT Rourkela?
Rahul: There used to be this boy who was employed in the night canteen of Hall-8. He lived with his grandparents and could not afford his education. I helped him with some books and classes a couple of times. Once, on a day, when I had had another failed experience with a company and I had gone to the night canteen, this boy came up to me and asked me to help him out. I was a bit annoyed and replied rudely to him when he pestered me a couple of times. Later, when I went to the night canteen a couple of days later, the boy had already been fired by the owner because he asked for an increment in his pay. The incident still haunts and pains me and I wish I could reach him somehow to undo my actions.
MM: What message would you like to give to our readers?
Rahul: I would like to thank my roommate for tolerating me, and all the troubles that come with being an active MM member. I would love to thank Prem, Abhipsa, Ankit and my juniors Anubhav, Anshuman, Snehasis for being such amazing colleagues and bearing with all my mischiefs.
For my juniors, I would ask them to stand up and act for what is correct and just. Surfing through Facebook and Youtube is not going to help, ever. It’s time NITR got out of its rooms to act on its problems. It is essential to have a role model as an inspiration to ensure that you are on the right path. I idolized Samik Ghosal and Anurag Mohapatra. May be, we aren’t inspirational enough. But, it is important that at the end of 4 years, the boy who entered through the gates of NITR must leave as a man.
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