The Persevering And Punctilious Extraordinaire: Debasis Choudhury

The Persevering And Punctilious Extraordinaire: Debasis Choudhury

N Manyata Maneesh Rout | Feb 11, 2019

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Debasis Choudhury, a final year Undergraduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering is one of those students who has inspired many to emulate the sheer hard work and perseverance he has stood as an epitome of, wherever he went. With his unassuming nature, he has managed many a positions of responsiblity – The Vice President of Hourglass, Sponshorship Head of Team BMR, Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning to name a few, with charisma and utmost efficiency in his 4 years at the institute. Maintaining a strong academic profile alongside all his diverse commitments and finally finding his calling in analytics has been a journey of highs and lows that has helped him carve a niche. He is a founding member of the SCP and was instrumental in shaping what it is today, who presently coordinates it too.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, in the midst of Moksha restaurant, surrounded by people who made his stay at NITR worth it, he recounts tales of his life. Team MM has taken the onus of bringing to you the story that needed to be told.

Monday Morning: Walk us through your childhood days. How did Mechanical Engineering at NITR happen to you? Was it your choice or fate had it stored for you?

Debasis Choudhury: I was born in Berhampur, a southern town of Odisha. I had my preliminary schooling till Class 3 in Sacred Hearts school, Rayagada. After that, I shifted to St.Xavier’s school because my father wanted me to go to a CBSE school and Sacred Hearts was an ICSE school. I was there until class 7. I was a very homesick child until then. My dad had made plans to shift me to another school outside my home city but my mom loved me more than I loved her (chuckles) and she didn’t let me go anywhere. After class 7 my parents decided that it was time to shift me to a better school for me to grow. So I shifted to KIIT International School, Bhubaneshwar in Class 8. My mother couldn’t stay without me, and she also moved to Bhubaneswar to live with me. I was a very introverted child back then. When I went to KIIT, my main aim was to overcome this. I was very good at academics. My dad thought that shifting me to a better school would help me. But I did everything apart from academics. I learned the guitar and lived my life as a teenager to the fullest. I overcame my introverted nature and learned to present my talent to the crowd. I am very thankful for those three years at KIIT.

After matriculation, I wanted to pursue law, but my father didn’t agree with it and wanted me to pursue medicine. So, we shifted to Vizag, and I got enrolled in the medical batch of an institute named “Chaina” which was a joint venture by Chaitanya Narayana coaching institutes. It consisted of 40 toppers from different cities. After one month, my father changed his mind and asked me to shift to engineering as he felt medicine would require a lot of years of toil. I agreed and got shifted to the engineering batch. I faced difficulties as I was one month behind regular teaching. So I had to take separate tuitions. My schedule got packed from 5.45am to 9.30pm every day. I lived like a caveman with no phones and laptops. I couldn’t cope up with this rigorous schedule and decided to shift to a college against the will of my dad.

I had become very obese by then. After joining college, I tried to become physically fit, and academics came on its own.  I scored 98.3% in my 12th. It was due to this shift to college I could cope up with studies. I gave JEE and got a rank in the range of 6000s. I was searching for a good NIT in the south and stumbled upon NIT Rourkela. I wanted to join a college with an impressive campus, and NIT Rourkela was best for me. My interest always lied in automobiles and cars. I got Mechanical Engineering in NIT Rourkela in my 1st round, and I accepted it.

MM: How would you describe your freshmen year at NITR? Any fond memory you would like to share.

DC: During my freshmen year, I mostly stayed in my room and was introverted. I had a set of friends comprising Yusuf Khan, Sai Kiran, and Vinit Agarwaal. Since the 1st year, I was interested in joining Monday Morning. I got to know about MM from the freshers’ video shown during Institute Freshers and developed an interest in it. Every club had their induction, and I patiently waited for Monday Morning. Days passed, the semester ended and I got a decent result in the examinations. 

MM: You are also known as a guitar enthusiast, a basketball player, and a photography lover. But these hobbies of yours have never met the public eye. Why so?

DC: Guitar was introduced by a friend of mine in KIIT with an intention to impress girls. I took guitar lessons back then. After matriculation, I left the guitar due to JEE. When I came here, I started picking it up again, but the same rhythm was not there. My fondness for photography grew when I was inducted in Monday Morning. I saw the photography team, and they had beautiful galleries for different fests. I had an iPhone back then, and the pictures from it looked beautiful. So, I thought of myself as a photographer. When I shifted to a phone having a poor camera, the photos I took looked terrible. I tried improving my skills. I purchased a camera with an aim to click pictures, and the MM team also needed a camera back then. My tenure has ended, and the camera is still rotating among MM team.

My basketball enthusiasm also grew during my higher secondary. When I came to NIT, I tried playing basketball, but none of my friends waer basketball enthusiasts. Gradually, I lost interest in it.

MM: How would you describe your experience as an MM reporter in your sophomore year?

DC: As I had told earlier, I waited patiently for MM’s Induction. One fine day, I finally saw the poster. The poster was very cool consisting of my four favourite Marvel characters. So, I went for the written round, and I didn’t know one bit of it. I hadn’t done anything in my first year. I hadn’t gone to SAC even once, didn’t know where KMS was, didn’t know how many halls existed. I properly answered the questions I knew and prayed for my selection. After that, we were given tasks. I was thrilled that I got the tasks. I had thought my writing was awful and I would be disqualified in the written round only.

So, I got the task to interview Sushovan Das and to review the Udaan club.  I visited the previous MM review article of Udaan, jotted down the points, took the same photo from the article and prepared the review. My interview with Sushovan Das was fixed on Thursday. I had not read one interview of MM till then and didn’t know how interviews happen and that we are supposed to do a background check before interviewing them. I went for the interview, and my first question was ”Please tell me what all have you done”.  He was taken aback by my question asked whether I did a background check. I said no. He then made me understand that how an MM interview is written. After the interview, I knew that I had ruined my interview and that if only I pen it down properly, people are going to notice me. So, I wrote an interview which spanned five thousand words. I was called for the interview and was entirely grilled throughout the interview, but I was eventually selected. I am thankful to Sushovan Das who rectified me instead of going with the flow and rejecting me outright.

During the first meeting, we were asked to present a speech about our future tenure at MM. I presented, and the seniors were enthralled by my speech. Summer vacations started, summer tasks were given, and I did pretty well with the tasks. The first allotments were allotted. We were assigned a department article and an article on Checkpoint. I went to the department’s office and asked the staff directly “What are the problems?” and he was like “Who are you?”. I said that I was from Monday Morning. He understood and replied that there are no problems. I went back without anything and was explaining to my coordinator that there are no problems, one of the professors overheard me and asked me to visit his chamber. I met him, and he explained the problems and happenings of the department and the article came out. I understood that things are not straight and we need to be sharp.

During the second year after the freshers, we had a team meeting. The CCs were very angry as we were performing very bad. I was not serious and was giggling through the meeting. One CC noticed, asked me to stand up and name the four societies. In one of my articles, I had written “Literary and Technical Society”. He scolded me, and in that particular moment, I understood these works are serious. That scolding gave me a major blow, and I took things seriously since then. Print Issue happened during January, and my article got published on the front page. That was when I started “feeling for MM” and decided to become a Chief Coordinator.

MM: You have served as sponsorship head of Team BMR, vice-president of Public Relations of the founding year of Hourglass and manager in the inargural edition of Soapbox. How would you sum up your experience?

DC: After joining Monday Morning, I wanted to join a public speaking club, and I chose Hourglass. The executive body had a notion that they could have an international toastmaster chapter. I joined the chapter and became the Vice President of it. During my tenure as a Vice President, I attended a training session at Toastmasters, Infosys chapter of Bhubaneswar which was a great learning experience. It was related to the chapters under District 41 and Area I3 which covered chapters from all of North, east and north-east India.  My role as a Vice President was that I had to publicize whatever my toastmaster club did throughout the district and group clubs to build good relations. I am grateful to Pradhyumna Rao and the executive body of Hourglass in my prefinal year who trusted me despite the fact that I was inactive in the club because of my commitments as the CC of MM.

I joined BMR because I ascertained that I wouldn’t get the post of Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning. I tried for the management team and got inducted in it. I did my work and talked to various companies through phone, emails, etc. During my 4th year, I was promoted to the head of the sponsorship team. We could not gather sponsors during this year due to some unavoidable reasons. Soapbox was a joint venture by Abyakta, Satyajit and me. The responsibilities were equally divided. All these came one by one and at the right time and fitted well. I tried to take one at a time, and I managed well.

MM:  Juggling between various positions of responsibilities, how did you master the balance between academics and extra-curricular activities considering your involvement in Hourglass, Team BMR, SCP and Monday Morning?

DC: Coming to juggling between clubs, my grades drastically fell during my 3rd semester. It was a big jolt to me, and I thought I need to balance well. I tried to adjust and I got an average result in the 4th semester. I believe a person cannot multitask. The only time I tried to do, it backfired. I believe one should allocate time to individual tasks and tackle them one by one.This gets things done with efficiency and this is what I do now.

MM: Tell us how you were selected to be one of the Chief Coordinators of Monday Morning.

DC: I wanted to be associated with Monday Morning after the second year, and the only way I felt I could be involved was by being a Chief Coordinator. After the nominations, they started calling the students one by one. I waited to get an interview call. March went away, and there was no call. I was very frustrated as I wanted to be at least interviewed for the post. I called Medha Madhusmita and asked to go outside to relax my mind. I was blabbering to her on how badly I wanted to be interviewed that I got a call from Aratrika Ghose. I picked it up, and she asked me whether I was free. I said I was at the big bazaar and she disconnected the call.  During that time, my battery was low at 2%. I was very scared that if my battery died and I could not get the call, it would be very embarrassing to lose out on the opportunity I so dearly wanted to have. I quickly texted Mitesh Mishra that I was with Medha, and if my phone dies, please call her. After some time my battery died, and the call came on Medha’s phone asking me to report for the interview. My interview started, and I was grilled throughout.

The commencement day came, and I was eating ice-cream with an impression that I would not be selected for the post. The final years gave their speech. Abhishek Panda came and announced the first CC is a trendy software hub of NITR (DC++). I raised my head with the shock that he had called my name. I do not remember what happened for the next 20 minutes. I was smiling all the way. It was one of my best moments at NITR. My speech was done, and nobody clapped. My journey as a Chief Coordinator began.

MM: In spite of being on a tight schedule, the fifth edition of the Annual Print Issue of Monday Morning was published. Also, the first issue of NITR 101 was published during your tenure as the MM CC. How was your experience with the executive body team?

DC: Our executive body team tried to gel professionally as a unit unfortunately at times we had different ideologies, but we were united by the fact that each of us wanted to work for the betterment of Monday Morning. We eventually realized this.

The first major setback that we faced was when Monday Morning (MM) was assigned the status of a club. I went to SAC to get a bill cleared, and someone told me that now that you have been deemed as a club, you just need to sit back and see things happen to you. This statement did not go down well with me. The first major challenge was to revive the lost vigor of MM, work together professionally and introduce fresh initiatives. Team MM conducted Soapbox before SAC elections, but due to lack of proper publicity, it failed to garner attention. It felt like a major blow that we were not taken seriously.

Coming to the Print Issue (PI), we faced problems while working together as a team. During the first week of December, we were done with the content. I was assigned the task of the purchase order since the article that I mentored could not make the cut. The purchase order was out by 12th January after its fair share of snags but we were not done with the initial design because back then our Design Coordinator, Siddharth had a broken arm. My fellow CCs, Abyakta and Satyajit requested the former design coordinators of MM, Sibasish Mohanty and Venkatesh Mohapatra to help us out with the designs. The final draft was ready by 17th January, yet we had some minor changes to make like on page 3 we had to print ‘continued on page 6’. All of us (the three CCs) had already had spent several sleepless nights for as long as five days straight. We only had a day to print around 6000 copies so that we would be able to distribute it on 20th January. To our utter dismay, we realized the heart of our Print Issue, i.e. the infographics of the growth project article were completely out of sync and overriding each other. We could not allow such a misprint to sabotage our entire PI. We pleaded the printing agencies and even paid an extra 3000 bucks to get it out by 19th January. We finally received the PI copies on the afternoon of 19th January. We noticed the freshly minted pages were fine while the rest had a grainy tinge. We did not expect this to happen to our PI as we had high hopes and we could not see it as an excuse to lower the quality of our PI. However, we take pride ourselves in the content of the articles like the growth project, gender inequality, etc. considering we were hounded by several constraints. In the end, we felt satisfied with our efforts, having experienced all kinds of emotions ranging from sadness to happiness.

The Mini Print Issue was the brainchild of Abyakta. Owing to MM’s club status, I had to apprise myself of the protocols it had to follow to get published.

I consider it as one of the biggest highlights of my tenure as the CC of Monday Morning because until then we never interacted with the freshmen directly and it was through this that we were able to do so.

I was only responsible for setting up the things while most of the credits would go to Abyakta and Satyajit for launching the inaugural edition of the Mini Print Issue.

MM: Tell us about the articles that you worked for during your tenure as a reporter which you hold very close to your heart. Also, mention the various pet projects that you took up as a CC.

DC: During my tenure as a reporter, I never had the privilege of writing ‘important’ articles for quite some time. I enjoyed writing a research article on the extracurricular activities at NITR. I still remember how until the third week, we had not yet started on the article when Mitesh Mishra called four of us and pointed out to me as well as demanded that the article should be out on Monday in its fourth week. This ultimatum pumped me up and finally resulted in an impressive article. I wrote an article on the Final Year Interview of Sushovan Das and the Article on Attendance Policies and their reception at NITR in the Print Issue, which I consider very dear to me. Anubhav Singh and I wrote a post-fest analysis article of Nitrutsav.  It was a trendsetter because that is how the brutal nature of post-fest articles should be unleashed. I worked with Yasmin on another article on the Academic Curriculum Review which was also of utmost significance to me as we were able to pitch in crucial ideas to improve the existing curriculum for the successive generations.

Coming to the pet projects, we did not have any such pet projects other than those orchestrated by Abyakta.

Most of the talent of second-year reporters go to waste as only 3 of them go on to become the CCs. So I had this idea to assign the former reporters in their pre-final years to the second year reporters whom they could guide as per their convenience. This idea gradually lost the steam after being in operation for 8 to 10 weeks straight. We should still try to incorporate this idea.

I also pitched in the idea of organizing workshops before the inductions of Monday Morning.

MM: You have been a founding and inducting member of SCP and presently its coordinator. How would you describe the evolution of SCP?

DC: During my tenure as a Chief Coordinator, Prof KC Pati came to Monday Morning and asked for members to set up a counseling committee for 1st years. Mitesh Mishra took the lead. We thought of an induction program. To have an excellent mentor-students ratio, we thought of inducting 150 people and had to publicize the induction program highly. We divided the responsibilities and circulated a google form containing various situational questions. Interviews were done for the coordinator posts, and the first SCP team was inducted. As I was the CC of Monday Morning, I didn’t want to be involved in SCP. Hence, I didn’t take any role in my 3rd year. After my tenure, I applied for SCP and joined as a coordinator.

Describing the evolution, this year SCP has tried to expand its reach and has tried to organize sessions catering to second years explaining them the importance of internships and how to get them. SCP has also done an excellent job in identifying and solving cases and keeping them under the carpet. It has never come to public notice that SCP has solved many depression cases. I would say, currently, SCP is far from being perfect. It has been only two years since its establishment, and it will grow eventually in its upcoming years.

If you ask me how SCP would grow, I would say SCP has to become an organization which doesn’t only caters to freshmen but also caters to all students from all the years. For eg, if a meritious student is facing a financial crunch in 3rd year and wants to go for an internship, SCP should be there to help. If a student is facing a breakdown due to repeated failures in placements, SCP should extend its helping hand. SCP also needs to be sure freshmen are opening up. That is the future I envisage for SCP, and that would happen when people recognize SCP is here to help and not include in private lives. The trust is needed between the students such that they can share their problems with their mentor. After that happens, SCP will become an organization everyone would look up to during their difficulties.

MM: Do you see any hierarchical changes in SCP in the upcoming future?

DC:  When we set up SCP, we had the model of IIT Kanpur in mind, i.e., 5 UG coordinators and 5 PG coordinators. But what happened in NITR is that we formed a team of 10 UG and a PG. It only adds to the problem that supposes a major decision needs to be taken; all are not available. So, this year, I tried proposing to keep a maximum of 5 UG coordinators because there are not many avenues to cover as of now. Right now, I think there should be two types of coordinators: one type looking after working and logistics of SCP as an organization and the other particularly looking after the counseling of students and mentors.

MM: Shed some light on your internship stints at NALCO and Sun Pharma.

DC: I interned at NALCO, Angul at the end of my sophomore year. I had this thought that since I am not going to become a CC, I had to do something in life (laughs). I received vocational training for a month in the cast house department on how machines operate; products are made and transported, etc. I was so oblivious back then, in spite of being a reporter at MM that I had no idea about the mandatory internship that one had to pursue at the end of their pre-final year. I randomly applied to all kinds of research or industrial internships. Mitesh, being my senior in the Mechanical Department, with a similar profile enlightened me about the coveted Bajaj internship. It was the first company that visited the campus and the pay scale of 20k per month at Pune lured me (laughs). It was my first professional jolt when I was not shortlisted after its Online Test(OT). In the coming week, I gave the Online Test for Sun Pharma too. To my utter disappointment, I failed to crack the Online Test for Tata Steel too. A week before this I was notified that Sun Pharma would conduct its Group Discussion round followed by Technical round. On the next day after this result,  I sailed through the Group Discussion round of Sun Pharma. I had made up my mind that if I failed to crack the final interview round, I would apply for MITACS, CHARPAK Research Internship Program, etc.

Eventually, by God's grace or by his evil intentions (says with a grin), I got selected at Sun Pharma. I did not think of any research internships after that because I had done a project under Prof. S.K Panda of our department after my sophomore year during summers and I do not hold any great musings about it.

Initially, I was pretty ecstatic about it considering that I was going to get a decent sum of 40k for two months and that too at a pretty place like Gangtok. Being an introvert, I find it difficult to gel with different kinds of people, but even my friend Yasmin got selected there so it all seemed like a cakewalk. I was professionally pumped up on the very first day of my internship period. Aneesh, a co-intern and I were assigned the older unit. I was supposed to do a review of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems of the plant. However, in reality, I was supposed to sit for around ten long hours in a closed chamber sans mobile phones, laptops and human interaction for six days a week.

The working atmosphere was not very competitive and not at all what was expected from the leading pharmaceutical company of the country. It was very challenging, and it took a toll on me as I was seeing that my professional career has started on the wrong foot.

It was during this phase that I realized that I had to buckle up my seatbelts for the next part of my journey. I got to know from my friend, Medha that PwC, one of the most sought after companies for non-core placements, was coming to the campus early. She strengthened me emotionally, to get myself a good head start for the coming days. I  had returned five days before the end of my internship stint under this pretext. I remember kissing the ground when I first landed on my home turf.

Despite all the problems, what I learnt from the experience is that perseverance is important, no matter which sector you go to. It didn't give me any professional lessons but many life lessons which are going to stay with me throughout. So, despite the experience not particularly being great, it did help me in a great deal and hopefully will as I go into the corporate world.

MM: You are currently placed in Quantiphi. Walk us through the hard work, the lows and eventual glory that you encountered during this placement season. What has been the driving force behind you pursuing a job in the Analytics or Consultancy sector?

DC: After my internship stint at Sun Pharma, I realised pursuing a job in the core sector is not my calling. So even pursuing a career in research was out of the question. I decided to find my calling in the unexplored areas of the analytics sector. Around 20 people were shortlisted for PwC. I practised for 6 to 7 days with Medha for the case studies round as we need someone to listen to and cross-question us. On the D-day, I failed to perform to the level of my expectations because I was allotted the most difficult case study that involved too many factors for one to consider. I felt miserable because I knew deep down inside that I could have done better.

To my utter surprise and happiness, I was shortlisted when the first list was out. I was brimming with euphoria and certainty as I felt if I could perform this bad and get selected, the rest would be a cake walk. The second round went somewhat okay. Five of us then got a call for the final third round in which three got selected, and to my utter dismay, I was waitlisted. It felt like eating half of the cherry and not full of it.

The only positive thing that came out of this whole ordeal was that the HR told me that I had a great ordeal and an impressive CV as well as he hoped that the waitlist would get converted to a final selection. This made me linger on and gave false hopes to me. I had to get out of this zone by swallowing the hard pills.

Eventually, I moved on, and Aditya Patra insisted me to sit for Quantiphi. I was also interested to sit for Exxon but failed to sail through the Online Test.

I aced the case studies round. Until then I felt like a fish out of water. On the very next day, we had the interview round. I was finally selected by Quantiphi. The failure of PwC made me realise my calling towards the Analytics sector and how much I enjoyed solving case studies.

I realised that you need to put in the hard yards and do the grunt work so as to make the big things happen to you. Although fate plays a considerable role yet, you need to learn and prepare consequently. It is also very important to stay sincere and be honest about your work.

During my third round for PwC, I was asked a puzzle. I knew the solution beforehand, yet I pretended to be oblivious about it. The interviewer caught my bluff, and I hold this as an important lesson in my life. The similar riddle was asked during my case studies round for Quantiphi. The truth came out in a flutter of second this time that I had heard of this question earlier and this undeniably impressed the interviewer.

MM: What are your future plans?

DC: I hope to explore the Corporate and Analytics sector for a year or so to know if Analytics is my call. PwC offer is still open. All my life I have always been very sure what I would never like to do, if not what I would like to do.

I hope to discover all unplumbed areas of Analytics before weighing up alternate career options.

MM: How do you envision the future of Monday Morning?

DC:

We are primarily confined to undergraduate students. MM needs to reach out to the MTech or PhD students that form an integral part of the NIT R community.

The Mini Print Issue along with several workshops are some of the good initiatives to rope in the freshmen. This way we can ensure the freshmen to feel for MM from the very beginning just like Cyborg which takes similar steps. Our website is ever-expanding, and we have so many avenues. Now that MM has been officially classified as a club, we at least need to ensure that the people who work on Monday Morning feel for it. We need to ensure that MM continues to be the harbinger of changes, staying true to its principles of humility, integrity, and righteousness. We need more initiatives like the Soapbox to materialize to observe progressive or developmental changes. MM will have its fair share of haters but as rightly said ‘Haters gonna hate, Potatoes gonna potate', we need to look beyond haters and critics and wield it as a weapon to strengthen us. We need to take up more social issues once we get down to the authorities.

I hope MM creates a better environment conducive to all, the students, faculty and other staff of NIT Rourkela.

MM: What would be your message for the readers?

DC:

Keeping aside your awards, accolades and achievements it is essential to be a good human being first. We should be diligent with our work. We should always stay grounded and not feel arrogant about our honesty. It always takes too much effort to be good human beings. Most of the people will say that most of the good guys do finish last, but I do not so believe, good guys do not always finish last. They do succeed and come to the first row, but you need to have the heart to do tough things. That will always have you in good stead if not professionally, at least personally. We should look at the bigger picture and have a big heart to go for it despite all failures to make us stand out from the masses.

On a concluding note, he extends his hearty gratitude to all his friends and family without whom he would have been a lesser human being today.

Monday Morning wishes Debasis all the luck for his life ahead.

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