The Reasonable Realist: Anshuman Patnaik
Anshuman Patnaik, the Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning for the year 2014-15, is the man to go to when in trouble, according to his friends. The man who always has words of encouragement, if not a solution to your problem – has been the strength and support system of an organisation that has shown accelerated growth under his tutelage. He calls himself an optimist and was nervous that he might forget one of the many innumerable details or anecdotes of his illustrious college life. This humble man of a few words introspected on his life, his times and his memories in this institution. Team Monday Morning was fortunate to have been a part of this discussion, on a sultry evening in Hexagon.
MM: Tell us a bit about your life before you joined NIT Rourkela?
AP: I was born and brought up in Mumbai and spent close to 16 years there before passing my class 10th from Gokuldham High School. I was a very sportive person back then (even though it might not seem so now). I was also the Head Boy of the school in my 9th grade and was proactive in most of the activities, particularly involving sports and quizzing. My father worked at the Reserve Bank of India, but after he expired, my mother got the job on compassionate grounds. After completing my 10th, my mother was transferred to our native place – Bhubaneshwar. I completed my schooling from D.A.V. Chandrashekharpur. Engineering was the obvious choice back then because we were all jumping the bandwagon! I regret not having appeared for a single medical entrance test despite having Biology as a subject till class 12. Attitude wise, I became quite reserved after I came to Bhubaneshwar and also gained a lot of weight during that period. In short, my life in Mumbai and Bhubaneswar were complete contrasts. And courtesy a decent performance in AIEEE, NIT Rourkela happened!
MM: How have you seen this institute change in the last four years?
AP: Infrastructure of this institute is the first thing that comes to mind. LA, BT/ BM and even our existing department building were under construction back then. The hostel facilities have also improved, greatly.
What I deeply regret is a decline in the senior-junior relationship that existed previously, and which helped us forge a bond. I personally feel ragging is a blessing in disguise!
I was ragged for the first time by Late Soumya Baral and it definitely left a mark on me, because of which I was deeply affected when I heard of his untimely demise. There needs to be a way to improve interactions within the batches without creating an uncomfortable situation for either party, and I still believe the concept of interaction, which we call ‘ragging’, is indeed a blessing in disguise. This decline has in fact, also adversely affected the fest culture and I believe this has led to a very noticeable decrease in the coordination within any organising committee! College life also became more physically and mentally taxing for me because of which I became even more laidback.
MM: What were some of the most well-defined memories of this place that you’ll always cherish?
AP: Professionally speaking it has to be the Open House Discussion which was scheduled for 31st January, and then got postponed to 4th February. All the necessary preparations were in place, which included hard-core publicity and distribution of pamphlets, when we went to invite Prof B. Majhi, Dean of Academics and he told us that the Director wouldn’t be there on that day, so we might have to cancel the event. We were sitting outside BBA holding our head in our hands. After that, we had a meeting with the mentors, but they advised us to cancel the event. If the event would have been postponed, we would have lost credibility as the students would have thought that we were trying to dodge the authorities. Luckily enough, the next day we went for a Director’s Desk interview and somehow managed to convince him to pre-pone the event to 3rd February because we had prepared for it so much and everything had been finalized. When the OHD finally happened, we felt like we had done it! What was more convincing was that the institute finally undid some of the atrocious rules that were put into place at that time.
The next thing was becoming the Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning because I hadn’t expected it. In my fourth semester I had a terrible accident, because of which I was not able to work a lot and show my credibility. I had no hopes, since I didn’t have any opportunity to work as hard as the rest of them and I felt that my CC interview also went pretty bad. I remember I’d gone to Moksha with my broken leg for the farewell where the CCs were to be announced and when Rahul Bhai called my name, I was as surprised as the rest of my teammates!
MM: How did you come to know about Monday Morning?
AP: I was a big time devotee of Monday Morning. Even before I joined this institute, I had a good AIEEE rank so I was sure that I would be coming to NITR for Electronics and Communication. Naturally, I was inquisitive about this place and while stumbling online, I found Monday Morning. Back then, the site was quite ordinary and the articles were regular – but it had a lot of information! When I came in my first year, I continued to remain an avid reader. Since I was not a part of any club, I was hell-bent on joining Monday Morning.
At that point of time, Snehasis Hota, (my co-CC), who used to live next to me, was not a very ardent reader of Monday Morning, and he was lazy; but somehow I managed to convince him to come with me and the rest as they say is history!
MM: Please share your experiences as a content team member, a CC and a mentor of Monday Morning.
AP: After being selected for MM, we started with the summer tasks where my name was constantly in the probation list along with Anubhav (another co-CC) and Snehasis Hota because we used to submit our articles late. But after somehow scraping through, I got the opportunity to do the first Director’s Desk of that session (which eventually turned out to be my last Director’s Desk). I feel that I may not have done a lot of articles, but whenever I did them, they were exhaustive. I’ve always felt just writing articles is not enough in Monday Morning; it’s more important to balance things out – as in talk to people, and then write about it. I did a lot of team articles and I didn’t have much individual articles. There was this one instance when I had completely forgotten about an article – I had to interview Balaji Chikam. Prem Bhai (my CC) called me up at 3:30 a.m. in the night and told me that I had to do it. I pulled an all-nighter and submitted the article at 6:30 a.m. in the morning only to see Anubhav Moharana’s name as the reporter on it, the next morning! I remember we were kids back then, and used to fight about who would interview the celebrities. I was furious when Snehasis got to interview the band Underground Authority because I really wanted to do it.
I was already friends with Snehasis when I became the chief-coordinator, but I had no interaction with Anubhav. But eventually, I developed a very good rapport with Anubhav.
As a chief-coordinator, Anubhav and Snehasis were the over-ambitious ones and I was the realistic one (they were optimistic of having four print issues and two Open House Discussions in the year!)
During the summer as CC, we faced a lot of problems with regard to the website and that was the biggest headache at that point of time. The recruitment feedback section was completely my idea, as I was awed by IIT Bombay’s Placement feedback system. This would have solved the dual purpose of increasing the readership and also helping the students. But everything was possible because of the brilliant coordination that we had with Snehasis single-handedly taking care of SAC, though he always fell asleep during the last minute editing. The second semester as Chief Coordinator was much better, even though there was a lot of work.
I think the Open House Discussion inspired us as well the rest of the team; we started believing that we were working for a purpose. That’s when we truly started “Feeling for MM”!
One of the perks of being a CC was also the fact that we attended every Foundation Day, Hall Day and Garden Fest in C.V. Raman Hall of Residence – we were literally the only three guys there, leaving the Hall Secretaries, who had formal invitations.
As a mentor, I truly feel jobless, sometimes. To be very frank, I don’t think we’ve done justice to the role of a mentor, because Anubhav and I got involved with our preparation for MBA because of which we could not guide these people as much as we may have wanted to. Moreover, since mentors don’t have any predefined roles, I believe the prerogative is entirely ours to take. This time the role and participation of the mentor has to increase and we’ll be actively looking into it. As Chief-Coordinators, our mentors had tried to micromanage our work to some extent, so we decided to let these people grow on their own, allowing them to come to us whenever they faced an issue. Also, every year there is a pressure on the Chief Coordinators to do something new and that creates an additional burden; we decided we were just going to maintain whatever status MM had achieved and that is what we asked them to do as well.
Presently mentors have an advisory role, but we want them to have a greater involvement, not in article writing but in maintaining the internal dynamics of the team.
MM: How has the organisation evolved in all these years?
AP: The main difference was made by the change in website. The next big thing is definitely the increase in readership.
The Facebook page had 5.6k likes which we increased to 9.4k likes during our tenure. Our mentors had previously told us that if we could increase the likes by even 2k, our work as Chief-Coordinators would be deemed excellent, but we definitely took it to a whole new level!
One of the biggest contributions towards making this colossal task a reality was that of Sushovan Das, our design coordinator, who we were really lucky to have in our team! That entire year, our theme was Avengers – every poster, every post, even our team had Avenger aliases. Another major change over the years is the number of girls in the team. In our team we had five girls and now the scenario has been completely reversed! Obviously, our relationship with the director has improved greatly and we have successfully earned his trust and credibility. Another major factor contributing towards our development is our faculty advisor, who has always helped us whenever we needed him.
The transition to Prof J. P. Kar was a huge change, even more because of his support with regard to all the problems that we faced and hence a big thank you to that person.
Last but not the least, I cannot forget the Print Issue for which we worked our asses off.
MM: What is your vision for MM in the next few years?
AP: Honestly, I’m concerned about its future once the director steps down, since Monday Morning is the brainchild of Prof Sarangi and his contribution has been enormous in the growth of the organisation. We shared this concern with the director himself and I hope that in the coming years, MM will operate as a different society. Presently, MM comes under the Technical Society but does not follow proper norms of the society, since all other societies can also be made accountable to MM. On the other hand, we need more comprehensive articles in the web issues, based on surveys and polls, like we do in the print issue. Though these articles take time, they have the ability to bring change. We also need to focus more on photo journalism and I would also like to see the expansion of the Career Tab in the form of videos of recruitment feedback. A student-mentorship program developing through Monday Morning to counsel first year students, which is followed in IIT Kharagpur, can also be a big help. Even though this plan is at a nascent stage, I strongly believe its proper execution will benefit a lot of people!
MM: How was your life at NITR outside Monday Morning?
AP: When I had initially joined this institute and the Department of Electronics and Communication, just like any anxious first year, I had this idea of excelling technically. Naturally, I was eager to join clubs that enhance your technical proficiency, like Cyborg. Later however, I lost interest and gave up. I did try to get inducted into the annual magazine, D361, but couldn’t make it through. After a year as a reporter in Monday Morning and after being almost sure that I wouldn’t be made the CC, I decided I wouldn’t have much work in my third year and went for the E-Cell Inductions. That wasn’t a very memorable experience and naturally I didn’t get inducted. Apart from this, I have my own circle of friends who are responsible for eating up half of my time!
MM: Monday Morning organised its first Open House Discussion during your tenure as a Chief Coordinator. What were your expectations from it and how did it unfold?
AP: Frankly, we didn’t have any expectations. One of our motives at the start was to make people understand the plight of the reporters when they encounter authorities and that MM doesn’t put any cosmetic news.
We were kind of sceptical about how the audience would respond to it and had estimated a maximum turnout of 150-200. It was overwhelming when the actual footfall crossed four times of our estimation.
At that point, there were a lot of burning issues in this campus and the gravity of the situation had us on our toes. Since we knew that the authorities might not always give satisfactory answers, we were worried about how we would control the crowd in such a situation. If the Open House Discussion would have been a failure, Monday Morning would have definitely lost its charm among the authorities as well as the students! Convincing the answerable authorities to attend the event was another major issue and we faced particular resistance from some people. However, once the director put his seal of approval on the event and an official webmail was sent out, the process continued smoothly and the requisite authorities obliged us.
The Open House Discussion was an idea that sparked a kind-of fear among the authorities that they were also accountable to us, and that is what we had wanted.
I’m grateful to the ex-mentors who supported us, and the entire team that went through exhaustive trial runs to make the final event such a huge success!
MM: Do you wish to see more such Open House Discussions organised in future? Why/Why not?
AP: Obviously I would love to see more OHDs being organised at a much grand scale in the future. However, having an OHD just for the sake of it is something we want to consciously avoid. Right now, most of the issues being faced by students are not as pressing as they were when we conducted it; in fact, right now the only pertinent area of interest is the Student Activity Centre, and up to some extent, the internet.
The OHD is a powerful tool that should be used wisely. We need it when the NITR populace is being plagued by issues that can be solved by addressing them. Hopefully, by repeated OHDs, we will be able to not just lead a better life at NITR, but eventually make it perfect!
MM: How much of a religion is cricket to you?
AP: To be very frank, I’m mad about cricket. I’m still grieving about India’s loss to West Indies in the T20 World Cup Semi-finals! I make sure that the Cricbuzz app is open on my mobile even during classes when there is an important match underway. Not only matches, cricket statistics is another thing which I find very interesting and like to discuss amongst my close peers. Also, I used to play cricket a lot during my school days and wanted to be a cricketer someday (as many children think during childhood). However, I touched ground reality and after my 10th, I lost touch for a while, and could not make up for it during my 11th and 12th. After I reached NITR, I played two matches for my branch, but failed badly, as my performance had let down the team big time. And also because of my accident that I had encountered, I prefer not go out into the field anymore, but I definitely am an ardent follower of the game and still equally passionate about it!
MM: You always become very emotional when you're asked to talk about Mumbai as a city. Why is that so?
AP: Mumbai is a feeling for me. No offence to any other state, but the simple mentality of the people out there makes the Mumbaikars stand out from the rest. The people are tough as well as comforting during times of grief. There are bomb blasts, heavy rains and other mishaps occurring and there is no guarantee that you will return alive, but still people move on. I think life in Mumbai made me who I am – it made me stronger. It is also the place where my father expired when I was in my 9th grade, but I do indeed have very good memories. Mumbai vada-pav is a dish that I still crave for and miss a lot! Mumbai Meri Jaan, indeed!
MM: You got placed in Capgemini. How was the experience and how do you plan to go ahead with the job?
AP: When I got placed in Capgemini, I had the mind-set that any other candidate who got recruited would have had, “I’ve bagged a normal job!” To be honest, I knew that neither core nor a coding job is going to be the thing for me and I had lost interest in it much before I started sitting for placements. In fact, I had wanted to pursue a MBA degree and had been preparing for CAT, but a modest percentile has prevented me from doing so, at least this year. One of the companies I was really interested in was SAP Labs, however I couldn’t even clear the first round. Gradually I realized that Capgemini is a big consulting company and I also had got my desired profile in “Insights and Data” and preferred not to sit in most of the companies. Reviews regarding the company have been pretty positive and I plan on working there for at least a year before moving on to acquire my MBA degree, mostly in Finance or Business Analytics.
MM: What are the thoughts that flood your mind, as your stand at the brink of an uncertain future and leave behind your alma mater?
AP: The people I will miss the most have to be my friends. Whether it was bunking classes and playing FIFA in 1st year, interviewing people and roaming and getting sun tanned as reporters in 2nd year and finally turning dreams into reality as MM CCs, long nights of hard work and falling asleep in each other’s rooms! I think Snehasis and I were always good friends but I’m truly grateful for having gotten an opportunity to know Anubhav, who’s turned out to be much more than a friend in my two years of knowing him so closely. Honestly, there was a deep intermingling of our personal and professional lives because we spent all our time outside class hours together. I confess that most of that time we spent was frivolously making pleasant memories, rather than doing anything productive. It is these friends on whom you will be dependent on for these four years, and they are actually the main reason for who you are. And now with a month to go, all I feel like doing is going nostalgic and cherishing those good memories.
Personally, I regret not being as active as I would have liked to. Back in my school days, I used to play a lot of sports and it is unfortunate that I could not carry that habit forward with me. Another major thing about myself which I wish I had improved on more seriously is my ability to convince people and keeping them in the loop. I can be a very reserved person and unless somebody else approaches me first, I prefer not to start a conversation. People often misunderstand that for insensitivity, and I wish I could have been more open to people so that my interactions would have increased. However, this institute has taught me a lot of things, and I hope to be able to continue building on them even after I graduate from here.
MM: What message do you have for our readers?
AP: Life is short; your main aim should be to enjoy each and every moment. It is important that you strike a balance between work and play. Losing my father at a very young age made me realise that all that you have achieved goes into drains if not enjoyed to the fullest.
It is important that whatever work you are involved in; you do it with hundred percent dedication. So, do not stress out. Work hard, hope to have some luck and if results do not go your way, think that it happened for the best!
Lastly, I would like to thank my mentors who guided me throughout, my co-CCs for cooperating with me and constantly tolerating my nuisance, my friends with whom I made lots of memories and last but not the least, my mother who has been a constant source of inspiration and whom I hope to make proud one day!