The Pursuit of Happiness

For long, Thermodynamics and the entire dimensions of entropy and energy have had mesmerized philosophical takers for it, with great philosophy being associated with each one of them.

If one has a passion for science, philosophy will come naturally to him/her, considering science is a subset of this vast ocean of philosophy. Team Monday Morning caught up with Prof. Alok Sathpathy Sir, Associate Professor of the Mechanical Engineering Department of NIT Rourkela; Alok sir as kindly called by all his fans/students over the years. It is a great privilege to have fans among those you teach, and Sir is pretty privileged in this aspect. Probably owing to the different philosophy he advocates and enacts that endears to the many students in this mega rat race, called Engineering.
Alok sir was born and brought up in a village, and later on moved to a small town, named Balangir. He did his Plus Two in Rourkela, and his graduation (B.tech.) from VSSUT Burla. All those moments spent under this fear of ragging at its brutal primal form of beating have maligned his thoughts and memories from graduation. He did his masters on Thermal Sciences from BIT Mesra. His Ph.D. was in the area of “Ceramic Coating”. He did a short project at IIT Kharagpur and has been associated with NIT Rourkela for 22 years since 1993.

One thing about college that tickles his funny bone is the fact that there used to be just one computer at that time, and people used to queue up just to have a look at it so that they can have bragging rights of having been near a computer at that age. The most advanced tool that they used back then was a calculator. A few of his main hobbies are listening to music and spiritual talks. He manages to meditate for at least 2 minutes every hour.

Alok Sir is a great fan of travelling. He has visited around 22 countries as of now, and plans to visit at least 50 countries. He has also been giving technical as well as spiritual talks. Technical talks are on a hold now, and it is the spiritual aspect that has taken over. He is a certified teacher of Rajyog at Brahma Kumari and he delivers talks on meditation. He takes classes on mind management, stress management and self-management. Last year, in 2014, he did his M.Sc on Spirituality from Anna Malai University. He teaches spirituality mainly to the youth, the mentally challenged and housewives.

According to Alok sir, the main problem with people aren’t the jobs they do not get, the salary they earn and so on. These are apparent problems manifesting from the root problem of lack of happiness due to the belief in humans that an absence of a few things will not give them a happy life. The happiness in life does not depend on anything that has been dictated by the society to you. He considers a successful life to be when a student returns to him after graduation, not citing his gross pay but how happy he is in his life. He cites a survey which asked the graduates from Stanford regarding what the reason was for their immense success in life. The two options were domain expertise and development of soft skills. Domain expertise is the brilliance you achieve in your discipline of technical study. Soft skills are the values and skill sets (such as mange well, decide judiciously) that are developed over the years. Only a meager 12.5% of the total votes polled, attributed to the option of domain expertise.
It is this major area of soft skills that Alok sir to develop mainly in the students here. He has volunteered to bring that major change in this institute himself, if required. It is on the basis of this soft skill set, that he attributes his popularity among the 900 odd students in every batch. An occasional friendly gesture to a student would be received more warmly by him than one good class on Carnot cycle.

Another major change that he would like to change is the attendance system in this institute. He suggests that either the classes should be made interesting or the attendance should be removed. He believes, if the aim of the professor is to teach and impart knowledge, the students should be mentally present in the classroom along with his body. An absence of the former, irrespective of the presence of the latter, out of a “FEAR OF ATTENDANCE”, would defeat the entire purpose of this exercise of imparting knowledge. He implements his perspective in his classes, as evident in his relaxed attendance system. Though a peculiarity in his classes is that people turn up in huge numbers in his classes irrespective of the fact that he doesn’t take attendance often. He would just stop holding a class if the people are getting bored, and he would teach essential concepts mainly and with such detail that it gets registered in the minds of his students without an extensive effort. No wonder her has such a great fan following in the Mechanical Department!

As a sound word of advice for all the students of NITR, he would like to say just one thing:

     Choose a life that you want to live. Not one that you have to.

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