In Pursuit Of Life And Flair: Samyak Das
In the midst of Mokshaa restaurant, the venue of choice for the fine folks of National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, Samyak Das, a solemn, self-contained young gentleman sits at the black marble table with the clock at a score past eleven — known as much for his code of etiquette as for his work ethics. Anyone who is remotely related to NITRUTSAV knows the name. He comes across as a quiet, unassuming person. Team Monday Morning sat down with him for a tete-a-tete to look at the chapters in his career that sum up his life at NITR.
The following interview profile has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Growing up in Bhubaneswar, Samyak's high school alma mater was St. Joseph’s High School and Mother’s Public School, Bhubaneshwar for grade 10th and 12th respectively. As a studious and introvert kid, he had very few friends- a trend that continues till day. With a life full of days spent in school, coaching and studies he was and is described by Saurav Pattnaik, as a “Badhiya Pila (A great chap), Perfectionist”. A child, who always loved playing football, he played with his friends and bonded over with one of his close pals Swayambodha Mohapatra through this sport. He recalls that he wanted to get into the institute football team at one point,
I even went, but ultimately I got lazy and was driven away from it. (Chuckles)”
Mostly into academics, under the pressure of studies from his parents, he attributes to being in a “considered-not-so-good” branch. All the adventures of his life started at NITR, he recollects. “He used to be a very nervous guy being freaked out about anything and everything that happened,” Chandraneel Das, a mentor to Samyak says of him, underscoring the radical change which led to him being the “one of those rare hardworking student who has a correct blend of laziness. This adorable Odia boy is the living epitome of the phrase “looks can be deceptive” mentions Kumar Shaswat.
Samyak speaks candidly of the above two saying
I actually evolved a lot as a person here in NITR only as I was always guided by these amazing seniors and supported by family and friends.
MM: Was NIT Rourkela a choice? What’s the story behind?
SD: Yes, NITR was a choice for me. I was getting Mining Engineering here, and I was also getting Electrical Engineering in VSSUT Burla. My parents wanted me to go to VSSUT, but I was adamant on coming to NITR as so many of my friends were coming here. My school friends and I even had this corridor in our hostel to ourselves. For me, the college vibe wasn’t surprising; it was this old comfortable school vibe again. Speaking of my branch, I was upset as my friends were all in different departments, but now I realise it didn’t matter much after all!
Samyak was and would always be the NITRUTSAV Mundi (The one who saves the day). A lot of people speak of him from his NU days. One of the most memorable mentions would be that of his senior, Punyaja Das: They started as just two people working for NU and ended up later as really close friends, went out for dinners together in the station market, watched terrible Hindi movies in Cineplex- the mention of which brings a smile to his face. By that time he was already a highly sought after person for his excellent managerial skills coupled with fantastic work ethics.
MM: You had been an integral part of NITRUTSAV. You were the Dean’s Nominee in NU’18. You claim this fest as closest to your heart. Tell us about this story of NU and Samyak Das.
SD: It all started in the second year. I was dragged by my seniors Kumar Shaswat into NITRUTSAV’17; I knew another senior Chandraneel Das who is a family friend. I was pulled into this because they thought I would help them in getting better sponsorships. I wasn’t so sure about this then, but as I started working, I got this attitude that I can do it and I have to get this done. I was able to bring an amount of INR 3.95 lakh as sponsorships which was pretty big as compared to the previous years. Gradually, I came into the notice of my seniors. And this is maybe how I happened to be the convenor in NU’18. I brought in an amount of INR 5 lakh as sponsorships for NU’18. NU has been very close to my heart.
Prof. D. Choudhuri, the then VP of Literary Society described Samyak as
He’s the best manager I have come across and with his managerial skills, he’s going to go places
There was this passion of giving NITR a better cultural fest every coming year. NU'18 was a great success, owing to the very competitive and brilliant team that I had. Unlike NU 2017, in 2018 we had a small team, but it was much better concerning quality and results.
Furthermore, we had plenty of new events that year. We organised a comedy show by Bhubaneswar Komedians which was undoubtedly the best comedy show to date. We had Papon’s concert which created a lot of buzz in the institute.
Chandraneel Das recalls that in NU 2017 Samyak had almost finalised an event for NITR. The famous "Coke Studio" wanted to organise a show in Odisha in 2016 and Samyak had convinced them to do it in our institute for free. It would have been a great success, but sadly due to some issues in SAC, he couldn't pull it off. Speaking of it Samyak says
I put my utmost efforts in getting it done as I knew it would further glorify NU but due to some problems with the authorities it couldn’t be done.
MM: How did you manage academics with such intensive co-curricular activities?
SD: I had managed to maintain a pretty good CGPA until my third semester. However, when I got so involved in NU and other extracurricular activities, my CG took a plunge, but still, it never went below 8.5.
(Speaking about his balance, his friends, Arindum Roy and Swastik Mishra wrote: “Samyak's main characteristic that distinguishes him from the masses is his work ethics regarding academics, and extracurricular activities, His quality of not cracking under pressure is something we always admire plus he maintains a perfect balance between his academics and co-curricular activities.")
MM: How did the internship in TATA Steel happen?
SD: When I started exploring for internships, I had this idea that TATA Steel recruits people who had experience in underground mines. So I went for an internship in Churcha Mines under South East coalfields limited, Coal India Limited, in Chhattisgarh. The mines were 400 metres underground. Also, they were known for being unsafe. Anyway, the officer who mentored us always gave us a hand; he would come and talk to interns, guide us through everything. I got to learn about “mine ventilation” while working there. I got particularly interested in the topic. As soon as I returned to college, I started going through the books on the topic myself and became almost adept in it. Finally, TATA Steel came to campus for internship recruitments; it was well-known that TATA Steel asks questions about one specific topic, they will ask your favourite subject and ask questions from all but this subject (laughs). Anyway, I did well in the GD, and by that time they had known my name. Five people were selected for the final interview ultimately, out of which only I was chosen. I was third in the line for the interview. I was asked to introduce myself, and so I did. One thing, apart from the general introduction, I mentioned to them was about my interest in mine ventilation and how I wanted to discuss the same topic with them. After that, the ball was in my court since I had practical as well as theoretical knowledge on the topic. I was able to answer most of the questions; overall it was a decent interview. I had this intuition that I would get it, and I did. That’s how TATA Steel happened.
MM: Tell us about your experience in TATA Steel? How did the Pre-Placement Offer come about?
SD: I was very excited. We were like six people from NITR. I didn’t know any of them, but gradually we became friends. Besides, as I told, there are mining engineers in my family, so an uncle of mine who had been a well-known professional in the field was particularly interested in what I was doing. He used to check on me regularly and guide me through. My internship was very different from others: I wasn’t sent to the mines area like others. Instead, I was asked to stay in Jamshedpur and later sent to the mines for some days. I was given a Research and Development project which was rare. My project was about digital measurement techniques in mining and the new technologies used in TATA Steel. I worked on DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System) which is an advanced version of GPS used in machines. Also, I was working on drone-based photogrammetry. In this, we would use drones and aircraft carriers to take photos, and we will use some photo stitching algorithms to create a 3D model from the pictures.
My guide was one of the chiefs of TATA steel; he was very supportive throughout. He also told me that if I worked at a stretch of two years, he would take me in his team. Anyway, TATA Steel is known for offering pre-placements to interns. I was informed about the PPO criteria by the HR manager before we had our presentation. And after my presentation, I was confident about getting one. The results were declared in September.
MM: What was your first reaction to getting a PPO? Was it a respite considering that you didn’t have to worry about placement? How did this affect your academic and social life?
SD: I stopped studying after this (laughs). To be very honest it was a big relief, as I thought I could work there for some years and have enough time to explore. This served as a back-up as now I could afford the time to think of other pursuits that might interest me. I am not an academician so that I wouldn’t go for future studies for sure. But I am particularly interested in UPSC; I think I would manage that job well. As my father is a journalist, I have grown up watching these officers and government hot-shots. I have always admired how their job brings up new challenges every day.
MM: You played an integral role in the first edition of Roots. What was your experience?
SD: I got involved in Roots because of a senior Abodid Sahoo whose passion of meeting with new influential people, organising significant events made this whole abstract idea of “Roots” come into existence. For effective and smooth conduction of the event, a ruthless team was needed. I was brought in by my seniors for the same. We needed permission from the Director. He brought Neha Patnaik, ex- Director’s Nominee, on board with the idea of conducting Roots. The entire thing was dependent on how we bought in money during the event. The strategising, hospitality and finance was eventually taken good care of. It was all possible because of a hard-working team of people who wanted to see Roots happen including juniors and seniors.
The biggest challenge was that roots was on April 1st which is the end of the financial year and the beginning of a new fiscal year. It had to be done from previous year's FMS budget. In spite of all odds, it was a success. The guest talks went well owing to the good speakers. We closely interacted with all of the guests. In a nutshell, Roots was work and fun.
MM: Who are the people in this institute, from students and administration, that inspire you?
SD: I admire Chandraneel Das for his team management skills and ability to build new contacts. Kumar Shaswat was more of a friend than a senior. Vrishank Singh is one senior from my branch as well as from Tata Steel days which I admire a lot.
From the authorities, Prof. Sasmita Mishra who was the VP during NU’17 was very supportive during the fest. Our interaction had been mainly during the post-fest days involving the settlement of bills, prize distribution, etc. Furthermore, Prof. Debajyoti, who has seen my work right from my second year and is one person from the administration who has always been a mentor to me. A fest of this grandeur wouldn't have been possible without his constant support. Mr. MN Anandbabu, Prof. Arjun Mukherjee, Prof. Alam, Prof. Akshaya Rath have always supported me and believed in the work I do and the vision that I’ve had.
There are certain qualities of certain people which I admire, there is no specific person that I idolise.
MM: Being a part of the ISDC is something significant for any student. Tell us about your experience applying for it and subsequently, while being on the committee.
SD: Nishant Thacker was in ISDC the year before this, and I spoke to him about getting into ISDC. He told me that it wasn’t easy. You need an excellent CV, a clean image and most of all you should have done something for the institute. I applied at the time, and as it turned out, it was mostly an SCP oriented interview. I was in charge of SCP for events and functions. The Director was looking forward to talking to our PIC about inviting Gurjinder Pal Singh. I pulled some strings to get the contact of G.P. Singh, and the director was very pleased. The director was concerned about the ongoing drug abuse and asked me for my suggestions. It was during the interview that I realised that joining SCP proved to be the right decision for me. At the end of the conversation, I somehow felt that I'd get the position. I believe that an ISDC case is something grave and hope that it isn’t something that people end up facing. Thus, I'll try to ensure in my capacity that all claims are settled in a way fair to both parties. Coming to the vision I have for ISDC; I would say: I’d try to support the students to the extent that it is feasible and possible with the possible exception of things which cross the boundaries of the discipline.
MM: Tell us about your SCP experience. How did that come to be?
SD: I joined SCP because, after my third year, I realised that I had to no other committments. And since I had worked in a variety of fields before joining SCP, I felt that I could bring my experience in the various field on to the table and help other students out. My mentor interview was excellent. I was asked to appear for the coordinator interview as well. There was this usual suite of questions followed by a query about how can I leverage my experience in fests to help advance SCP. I raised the issue of guests talks and offered that I could do guest talks. It became clear that I would be the guy for guests talks. They asked me who I wanted to have, I mentioned Rahul Dravid. They told me it was not feasible since it was out of our budget and asked me to provide three names by that night. I gave three names after I came back to my room. In SCP I got to work with the faculty in close quarters and present my ideas. This was a memorable experience. Usually, we have resentment towards administration, but I found a few of them particularly supportive.
MM: You had a smooth life, were part of no clubs, became the convenor of a fest, got a great job which is as smooth sailing! Drawing from your experience, what is the message you want to give to our readers?
Actual life basically(Chuckles). I look forward to being with my friends. Finish all unfinished businesses like SCP [There are some talks planned]. Mostly it will be about being with my close people in my happy space. I had a conversation with one of my friends about what am I going to say in response to this question. I said I’d say ‘ Never settle’ and we had a good laugh about it. The suggestion that I want to give is that you’ve got to plan for the things that you want in life. Once you do that, work for the things you feel genuinely about, and that is the key. Believe in something strongly, have backups for the things you do or plan but ultimately go where your heart is.
Team MM Wishes Samyak Das, the best for his future endeavours!