Master of All Trades, Jack of None: Mrinal Chaudhury

Master of All Trades, Jack of None: Mrinal Chaudhury

Have you ever met a person who is as diligent as she is helpful? A weird blend of hard work, dedication, innovation, creativity and approachability is precisely what makes this story worth admiring. One such person for whom even the above description sounds modest is Mrinal Chaudhury, a final year student of the Department of Industrial Design. From being a designer, a writer, an editor, a leader, and now a mentor, she has the rare ability to be great at everything she sets her foot in, be it the kind of commitment she displayed while spearheading Monday Morning or being one of the very few to break all stereotypes of the Industrial Design department with an exemplary academic profile. 

research internship at IIT Guwahati in the second year, MITACS Research Internship in her third year, a prestigious MS admit in Georgia Tech and Placement at Newgen- that’s the steep slope of her academic career graph for you. Acing her role in ASME, ROOTs, Souvenir Team and as a Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning, we bring you the story of Mrinal Chaudhury. Amidst the unprecedented situation that arose from the Co-Vid’19 pandemic, Team Monday Morning met her over an online video call along with her close companions to gather insights on her life.

A SNEAK PEAK INTO LIFE BEFORE NIT

Mrinal was born in Bokaro Steel City in a nuclear family comprising of her parents and elder sister and spent most of her formative years in Rourkela Steel CityDelhi Public School, Rourkela served as Mrinal’s alma mater throughout her schooling days (and to date, she remains attached and defensive about it!). She credits growing up in a small town and schooling here for incubating a plethora of opportunities for her. This gave her independence of exposure, contrary to what people believe about small towns. Mrinal recalls,

School remains a fond memory for me, owing to all that individual attention I received. It was also fun. We were less in number, and so we could mingle across all batches, even across different schools. I felt my teachers were very protective and petted me. I was decent in academics, and my favourite past time always saw me indulging in extra-curricular activities (to date!). So, contrary to what people believe about small-town kids, we were pretty well exposed to extra-curricular, exhibitions, competitions, and had the backs of our seniors.

This exposure, Mrinal finds, is essential for developing a multi-faceted personality in a homogenous township where kids grow up in families consisting of leading engineers and such office-bearers. Fine arts was her first love and she was coached by Mr Debendra Moharana, a teacher in Rourkela for 12 years in this field. In her early school days, she developed a passion for writing, quizzing, public speaking besides academics. Mrinal went on to grab the first position for Artistic Merit, NASA Space Settlement Design Contest 2011 as well as a Gold Medal at INTEL National Science Fair 2012 at New Delhi along with Roshni Garnayak ( her former school mate and also an alumnus of NITR now ). Speaking about her crucial +2 days, coaching, she believes, ruined her academics more than helping. NIT Rourkela thus, came by with a twist of fate as she recalls,

I left my coaching classes by the end of 11th standard, and I couldn’t just continue anymore after the frustration. Paise Gaye, Gaye! I wasn’t even bent on pursuing conventional engineering despite both my parents being engineers. They had some hopes of me becoming a doctor and I even took Biology as a subject in +2. I wasn’t tailored to be a doctor, though; I would puke at the sight of blood, so the idea of becoming a doctor was out of the window. By 10th standard, I was dangling between pursuing fine arts and something technological (but not conventional engineering).

By the end of the 11th standard, she came across an advertisement on UCEED, Undergraduate Common Entrance for Design at IITs where she read about Product/Industrial Design. She found it captivating her passion for combining her creative and technological edge. She adds,

I did appear UCEED but couldn’t prepare well. I missed NID’s entrance examinations because I was sick. The only other entrances I had a shot in were AIPMT (that my father persisted in remaining in touch with for the sake of appearing exams) and JEE MAINS. In a strange course of events, my rank in AIPMT was way better than JEE. But I still didn’t want to go for medical. I was convinced to pursue Industrial Design following my passion and hence, landed in NIT Rourkela.

Rocky Start, Exemplary Journey: Life at NIT Rourkela

Mrinal had a rocky start to her life at NIT Rourkela. Her JEE Mains rank had led her to the Industrial Design department at NIT Rourkela. What made things painful for her as a freshman was an incident that took place in her branch freshers. Speaking about that experience which stuck through for an extended period, she notes,

We were at the branch freshers. Once the normal interaction was over, people had just gathered around with the then final years surrounding the juniors. They literally asked freshers to give JEE again and leave this institute because there was no scope in our branch. We had some hopes until that incident, but they were pushing on the point that both the profession and the college is useless for us.

At around 11 PM in the night, when she was returning from the freshers along with her friends, most of her friends were on the verge of tears. Mrinal was no different; she broke down. She called her parents, sought advice, and was mentally disturbed for months. At that point, most of them thought that those words had come from experienced people, and it must be true. In one night, the final years had managed to break the hopes and dreams of all the freshers in the department. Little did those final years know that this girl that they tried to break down, would one day push boundaries and set new limits for not only her department but the entire institute.

Life at NITR

As the famous saying goes, ‘Life must move on.’ By the end of the first semester, she started loving the campus and began making friends from different sections and places. By the end of the second year, she had some terrific friends who have stuck together even to date. Having absolutely no regrets about her campus life, her life at NIT Rourkela progressed swiftly from sour to sweet by the end of the first year.  

A Club that gave Wonderful Mentors: ASME

ASME

The only club that Mrinal joined in the first year was ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). She attended the ASME E FEST ASIA PACIFIC from March 3 to 5, 2017, held at the LNM Institute of Information Technology in Jaipur. In the conference, she took part in Oral Presentation (Old Guard Competition) and presented on Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems as a sustainable alternative to cooling systems in large buildings. She describes her seniors Mitesh Mishra, Aditya Gupta and Ipsit Pradhan as the driving force to prepare for this. Later, she also helped the team, which made a robot for the Student Design Competition led by Preetam Khuntia.

She wasn’t able to remain active in the club in her final year but recalling the achievement that she is most proud of she says,

In 3rd year, we, along with the entire ASME presided by Pratik Mohanty, P. Sunayana, and Sanju Nair organised the National ASME EFX conference wherein I was in charge of organising product innovation challenges and hosting the functions along with background management. We didn’t have great funding that year, but pulling off that conference at NIT Rourkela was a huge feat that I am very proud of.

Overcoming Departmental Hurdles with Innovation: At Industrial Design

ID

Mrinal started with the current scenario of design in the country. She says that design education in India is at a stage where it isn’t mature yet. Design like Engineering, has a lot of sub-divisions in it as well. Industrial Design is quite specific, but people at NITR, since they are at the undergraduate level, are free to explore all kinds of design. She suggested the sophomores to explore all avenues of design they came across and advised against reading just for the sake of earning money as that wouldn’t be useful in the long run as one wouldn’t be happy doing something that they didn’t want to unless they’re interested in it. They should rather explore all sorts of design like Graphic, Communication, Interaction, Automotive, UI UX, Product Design etc. The 3rd Year is when a design undergrad should look out for some professional experience or research experience, which would help them in the long run. They should make sure that they build up contacts with people in their field, including their alumni.

Mrinal also said that through all these years at NITR, she had learned that the seniors, alumni and professors at work or internships turned out to be the most important people helping her further her career and opening avenues for her several times. Despite being discouraged by her branch seniors, she observed that many people like Sushovan Das (CS graduate presently at ThinkDesign), Abhisek Mishra (Physics dropout, now a Lead Designer at Swiggy), Kunal Sahu (Physics Graduate, currently a Product Designer at Zomentum) and Abodid Sahoo (Mechanical Graduate, now a Freelance Filmmaker) were not formally educated in the field of design but made it big in the design space with a unwavering determination and years and years of hard work. It is people like them who showed light on her path and even personally guided her and then she started believing that it was indeed possible to succeed in the field if you really gave all the possible effort with a hint of fearlessness. They belonged to various branches like Physics, Computer Science, etc. but served as inspirations to anyone wanting to pursue an unconventional career in design, despite all odds. 

She observes,

Now, the Industrial Design juniors do have someone to look up to, as my batch itself has 8-9 people interested in design. And then, the current 3rd-year batch also has several students who are pursuing design quite sincerely. The best of all is the current 2nd-year batch, which has a lot of people whom they can look up to. They weren’t discouraged in any way to pursue design and hence are doing a fabulous job now. 

She adds that in the 4th year, there’s not a lot of time to learn, but one still should be keen to explore and decide whether he/she should go for a job or higher education. If one is into Graphic or Communication Design or Interaction Design, something which relates to digital product design, jobs are fairly abundant. There aren’t many jobs in the field of core product design at NITR, though.

A lot of people keep on telling that they never got any help from the professors, but this isn’t exactly what happened with her. She believed that the curriculum wasn’t very well defined and that not many of her branch seniors were placed in the core design, which didn’t help them. But there are a couple of supportive professors, Prof. Dhanjanjay S. Bisht and her final year project guide Prof. M.R. Khan, to be specific. They were quite instrumental because even though they understood that there weren’t many opportunities at NITR, they helped students figure out things themselves. Also, there were a few professors in the Department of Planning and Architecture, Prof. Arjun Mukerji (who is now an Asst. Professor at IIT Kharagpur) and Prof. Deepanjan Saha, both of whom help their students excel, even though it is difficult to accomplish given the fields they are in. As for seniors, an inspiring one was Aditya Kansal, an Industrial Design graduate (Class of 2018), who is now pursuing his M.Des in Transportation Design at IIT Bombay. These people helped them get freelance project opportunities like working with a Start-Up , Hamlit, established by Anurag Saha Roy, an Electrical and Electronics Graduate of 2017 and Chief Coordinator of MM for 2015-16, which gave her some helpful experience.

Mrinal said that it was in the 9th standard when she realised that she had a craving to be in something that involved creativity as well as mechanical technology. She opined that despite a common perception that UI/UX design is a more lucrative field, she did not shift to it. She maintains that even UI/UX design is extremely challenging and the 7-8 people of Industrial Design who have chosen to go into it are outstanding in that particular field and had their heart set on it, while hers was not. Her interest in Sustainable and Biomedical Design from the very beginning did not let her change her mind to shift to any other form of design.

First steps in Research: The IIT Guwahati Internship

IITG

In her second year, Mrinal interned at IIT Guwahati under Prof. Shareka Iqbal. The procedure of application for her was very straightforward. There are only two colleges which have this branch,i.e. IIT Bombay and IIT Guwahati. She applied via mail to professors that she felt would incline towards her interest in sustainable design and consumer product design. Prof. Shareka had a background in architecture design and then moved to consumer product design. Mrinal describes her as quite a warm lady who puts in much effort and attaches a lot of value to her work. 

She also said that this internship she did in her third year under Prof. Shareka Iqbal, had helped her a lot and that a lot of benefits would be derived through good contacts that are made in the 2nd and 3rd years. She reminisced meeting Prof. Udaya Kumar, who designed the rupee symbol and was amazingly warm to her.

One shouldn’t look forward to experience just to add to their CVs but look for people who could help them in the long run.

The project that Mrinal worked on was Understanding user complaints with conventional umbrellas and redesign of umbrellas for simpler mechanisms and exploration of more stimulating/unconventional forms of Umbrellas. She recalls witt a chuckle, how she had lost so many umbrellas in her life that this project instantly grabbed her interest. Having absolutely no regrets about the project, she had the following to say about her only complaint,

I had many Co- interns (Jada Sowmya, Bijaya Sethi, Rishabh Pal, Abhishek Rout, Ateet Roy, Saswat Dash, Smarak Mishra, Aditya Narayan Malla) from my the Department of Mechanical, ID and Computer Science at IITG. Most of these people were able to chill out and have fun, but I had to go to my lab even on weekends sometimes. Sometimes, I stayed in the lab for 12-15 hours. In hindsight, the hard work I put in turned out important, but it definitely was frustrating at that point in time. I still got to see the untouched beauty of northeast (Assam and Meghalaya) with these friends there, and recommend that everyone travel like a happy nomad while you intern in such exquisite places.

Elaborating about the differences between the resources at the Department of Industrial Design at NIT Rourkela and that at IIT Guwahati, she added, 

One thing that was remarkably different at the Department of Design, IIT Guwahati, was them having a huge department of their own, which had a lot of facilities that the Department of Industrial Design, NIT Rourkela, should have had. They had really amazing dedicated labs and tools there. DOD, IITG has good tinkering studios and workshops with all kinds of materials that they needed while the DoID, NITR only has Styrofoam and wood to work with. DoID doesn’t have access to other materials that easily but has equally hardworking or I would say even more dedicated students as compared to the IIT.

Work Hard, Explore Harder: MITACS Internship

MITACS

MITACS is a very prestigious foreign internship, and Mrinal was one of the selected interns. She attributed her selection as an intern to luck and that the only thing that favoured it was that the professor was looking for someone with a profile like hers. Internships are hugely a matter of luck or due to one finding his/her niche. MITACS was the only foreign internship she had applied for. She worked under Dr Ben Mortenson and PhD supervisor Mr Oladele Atoyebi at the Dept. of Occupational Science and Therapy, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She reported at the GH Strong Rehabilitation Centre and worked on the project ‘User-Centered Design of Assistive Device for Family Caregivers and Care Recipients.’ Her research focussed on two products based on User-Centered Design methods. There were three focus groups for each product, which were decided by her professor according to a nationwide survey that had already been conducted by them in Canada. Product one was a Stair Negotiation Assistive Device that could reduce the risk of falls, increase the visibility of stairs, and encourage the use of railings. The second product involved the development of a website to help family caregivers for their care recipients.

Mrinal seemed very happy with her time in Canada and went on to describe it as a ‘very beautiful chapter in her life’. If one ever felt like travelling and was made to choose between hills and seas, Vancouver in Canada is one place where he/she doesn’t have to make that choice. It was flanked by the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. The place had extreme natural beauty, and she travelled and had fun almost every weekend there, including a lot of hiking and cycling through the famous Vancouver seawall. Coming to their society, she was awestruck with the women’s safety there. She added that being an Indian girl, she hadn’t felt safer in a country before. Women’s safety was a right in Canada, while it is a privilege in India. She also recalls the amazing inclusivity the country showed for people from all countries, races and even ages. She reminisces a chastising lesson given to her by a bus operator.

Canadians are extremely polite and use Thank You and Sorry at the drop of a hat. I remember my embarassing self rushing into a bus which had a platfrom rolled out. The bus operator chided me and instructed me to get on only after a person on a wheelchair and a woman with a baby had got on. Such was the moral fabric of the country. I also was awestruck when they celebrated literally every country in festivities of Canada Day on July 1. 

 In Canada, she was happy with the fact that she was considered at par with the other researchers and that all their opinions were given value by the entire team led by Prof. Mortenson, an extremely jovial and benevolent man. 

The professors and researchers weren’t required to be addressed as sir or ma’am, and there wasn’t any age division when it came to professional life and research.

Feathers in her cap: Extra-curricular activities

Roota

Mrinal served in Team ROOTS 2.0 and 3.0 as a Content and Guest Hospitality Head and also bears the office of the Souvenir Head for 2019-20. Recalling ROOTS days, Mrinal notes an incident in her sophomore year when the team was exhausted from work and didn’t want to go back on a chilly night after dropping a guest. That is when she would bunk together for the night with her team and be awakened the next day by the guest himself to drop him off at the station!

ROOTS started with people like Abodid Sahoo, Abhishek Mishra, Abhishek Kuthum, Kunal Sahoo at its helm, and I went ahead to help them because they were very inspiring folks to me. I eventually got deeply attached to ROOTS owing to its humane feeling.The sight of so many eminent creative personalities debating and understanding each other’s professions and life in the dining room of the guest house! It was a wholesome experience in spite of the niche audience it has. It’s the concept of ROOTS that catches attention, and to continue it, means honing the passion of creative enthusiasts of NITR for whom this unique format is a blessing in all direct and indirect ways.

Mrinal has been actively involved in mentoring the juniors who were assigned to her as mentees by the Institute Counselling Services. Sai Swarup Mohanty, Saumyajeet Mohanty, Prithviraj Naik, and Debabrata Malik (currently in the second year) were her four mentees. Speaking about her fond experiences as a mentor she recalls, 

I volunteered as a mentor in my 3rd year because I felt it a moral duty to find freshmen from my branch and let them have a cushioned but well guided passage to NITR life and not have misgivings like I had. I could not be more glad by the way all of them turned out, already making people ashamed with the vast majority of skills they possess now. They make me feel supremely proud of the fine gentlemen they turned out to be! 

MM: You have also been the Souvenir Team head. What challenges have you faced considering the experience has to be touching to the graduating batch?

Mrinal: I was interested in that post because I wanted to be involved with the experience, which is very nostalgic for the graduating batch. I wanted to spearhead this for that sake and I was closely guided by Anshuman Bebarta. Fortunately, I had my very able friend, Abel Mathew, with me there as well (beams). The biggest challenge is the design because the entire magazine has to come out nostalgically for the whole batch. There are Somesh Sahoo, Dharmesh Nayak and Uditanshu Padhi with us as Design Coordinators and who are one of the best designers on the campus with stellar work ethics like my MM coordinator group. A little bit of the work is left and we hope to have a digital edition ready within the summer for the final years.  

The foremost challenge was to get people to do their photoshoots. There were so many whims we had to cater to because people just went bonkers for their souvenir shoot. Everyone wants to look their best and make it their best day with friends. I hadn’t anticipated this, but the coincidence- had we delayed it a little later than February, we wouldn’t have a souvenir at all following the lockdown. I am so glad we got to make those memories. Making things easier was a team of 7 very swift and smart photographers from our Institute itself !  Abel and I along with the branch  editors, did have to mobilise 800 people over a course of 7 days and my voice was hoarse and broken because of all the yelling by the end of it. I couldn’t get up for two days following the seven days of the shoot.

The prestigious Georgia Tech MS admit

Recently, Mrinal bagged a prestigious MS admit at Georgia Tech, one of the top research universities in the United States of America. Industrial Design is known by different names everywhere, and hence it was difficult for her to search for relevant universities and she regrets having missed out on many during applications. She had applied to only four universities abroad, namely: Georgia Institute of Technology (Program - Masters in Industrial Design), Tu Delft, Netherlands (MSc in Integrated Product Design), Aalto University, Finland (Masters Industrial Design), Rhode Island School of Design (Masters in Industrial Design). Clarifying about her reason to go for an MS she says,

I want to join the industry because I want to make something which makes a difference specifically in the Biomedical /Healthcare or Sustainable design field. But before that, I feel I have not done justice to the education I should have received. I don’t think I know as much about Industrial Design as I should before joining the industry. So I want to pursue masters for now.

Unlike the admissions that we are used to, MS applications are not through any counselling program. She had to narrow down on the country and university she wanted to apply to, depending on the type of work done in those departments. The basic requirements include a Statement of Purpose and Recommendation letters. Having a well-tailored Design Portfolio is a necessity for any design aspirant. Georgia Tech had a similar kind of procedure. Speaking about specific tips for MS application, Mrinal says, 

Start finding details of each university early. Having a shortlist ready by the start of the final year gives you an edge for MS applications. Enlist the requirements, fee structure, and begin applications. Ensure to tailor your SOP for each institute that you apply for. Grades and Extra-Curricular activities are also important for an MS application. Apart from this, ensure that you have good relations with all professors you work with because their mentoring and recommendation will be a very handful for you in the future. For me, all my friends who intend to pursue MS, were of great help throughout the gruelling process. 

GRE scores are not needed in many universities outside the US and Singapore. For all countries, IELTS /TOEFL is required, which is for English proficiency. Taking the relevant test well before September is crucial so that you can repeat them if needed. According to Mrinal, an IELTS score 7.5+ is a good score to get sorted while the GRE score required depends on the department. 

She had also appeared for the National Institute of Design’s, CDAT Entrance examinations and Common Entrance Examination for Design for Masters in IITs. Having secured an AIR 13 for the Product Design Stream and an AIR 2 for Strategic Design Stream of  NID CDAT Prelims, she is now looking forward to NID Mains examination/studio test which has been postponed for now. She also is awaiting the selection procedure for after having qualified CEED.  She believes both these options are extremely important for students of design and one must prepare and pay careful attention to the subjects from the sophomore year itself.

Sadly, Mrinal is planning to defer her admit to Georgia Tech because of the current Co-Vid situation and the impacts of it on the finances required. Speaking about this tough decision, she says,

The cost of doing an MS in the US already runs into several million rupees. After the Co-Vid ’19 situation, the recession is bound to come in which case I must ensure I will be able to pay off any loans I take or make arrangements for funding which might get scarce in a post Co-Vid world. Currently, no one can fly off for atleast several months to any country either way and universities also plan to defer terms. Hence, I plan to take off a year, get clarity, and improve my profile. Then again, I will apply to some places I had missed out initially or arrange for funding for Georgia Tech.  I am banking on the placement I have and the interviews hopefully scheduled in India for immediate future. 

Placement at Newgen: A Blend of Luck and Wisdom

Mrinal decided to sit for placements as a backup plan for masters as well. She honestly admitted that the Industrial Design department doesn’t have a lot of placements. Also, she credited the Placement Coordinator, N. Vivek Kumar, and told that he was a major driving force behind her Placement at Newgen Software. The procedure was quite straightforward. First, there was an Online Test, and in place of a Group Discussion, they had to submit their portfolios for review. She felt that the OT was fine and told that practising online was good enough for her.

The interview preparation given by the Training and Placement cell is quite good, but still, many students take it lightly. I feel fortunate enough to have done one UI/UX project before, during my MITACS internship in Canada, in which I had designed a website for the caregivers. They liked my portfolio and shortlisted me for the next round.

The interviews weren’t intimidating, and she felt that the people on the other side were nice. The questions were based on her strengths and weaknesses and about UX Research. Fortunately, UX Research is a part of both digital as well as physical product design, and this helped her answer the questions. She frankly told the interviewer that most of her work had been in the product design field and that the website design she had done was one of her only UI/UX design projects. She sincerely advises all readers to never bluff or lie in an interview. For the HR interview, one has to be smart and diplomatic. She opined that one shouldn’t go overboard or be over smart unless they want to lose their job. She added that it was always a good idea to have a few questions at the end regarding the organisation. This would at least make them feel that the candidate is interested in their company and have done basic research on it.

MONDAY MORNING Memoirs

MM

Mrinal was a reporter and designer for the team 2017-18. Going on to become one of the Chief Coordinators for the 2018-19 academic year, Mrinal had a quintessential run for Monday Morning for three years carefully taking in all its struggles, adventures, and steering its course.

Monday Morning: How did Monday Morning happen to you? Had you made up your mind earlier that you wanted to join MM, or was it spontaneous?

Mrinal Chaudhury: I had made my mind to join MM after a particular interaction with Mitesh Mishra (former chief coordinator of Monday Morning) in Jaipur in my first year. I came across Monday Morning way before when one of my school seniors Roshni Garnayak, was at NIT Rourkela and told me that you want any information regarding something, checkout Monday MorningAnd then I was under the impression that the professors ran it at the institute (much to my surprise and happiness it was not). So, when I saw Mitesh Mishra that day on the train, editing articles by asking others for a hotspot, I was amazed and discovered Monday Morning newsletter. People used to read it in my labs, and so given my interest in writing and designing, I wanted to be on board. When the inductions happened, I saw these posters featuring reporters in Superman themes and went for it. I also applied for the design team. I knew Partha and Haritha from the design team and was moved by a particular illustration Partha made, depicting girls as oranges in a satirical cartoon about late entry rules.

I had a gruelling interview for the inductions back then. My design interview, I think, was a better one. I remember, like all those last moment problems, I had received my task days late. And so, when Abel (Mathew) and Rishabh (Pal) told me that the tasks were already there, I pulled off the tasks in some very messy ways but they did come up decently. What I had liked in that interview for the design team is the considerate attitude of Sushovan Das, Dilip Raj Baral , Ayush Moharana , Sibasis Mohanty and others interviewing me lending their contacts for mentorship. 

On asked about how she juggled the two roles, Mrinal credits her then Chief Coordinators to have helped with balanced allotments.

Once I was loaded with three articles, one witsdom and one illustration for a week which was very close to midterms. Thankfully my roommates were considerate to keep the lights on and bear with me (laughs while Rashmita Chatterjee and Srija Mukhopadhyay, her then-roommates chirp in). My takeaway back then was my coordinators teaching me the management of dire situations in the face of everything going haywire. And I am quite thankful for that. They helped me with a balanced workload. 

Looking back at her tenure as a reporter, Mrinal remembers learning valuable lessons on the reality that helps her both personally and professionally. She warmly recalls her colleagues from the team of 2017-18 who made work and life the institute, ‘happy-go-lucky’. She recalls being hugely inspired by the way writers like Swaha, Nishanth, Nupur, Sahithi, Yash, Rohit, Manasa, Niharika, Ankit, Saumya and many others presented their articles uniquely, or how photographers Rishabh and Pradeep managed the herculean tasks of MM with selfless devotion. Meanwhile several like Abel and Payal forayed into the content team along with managing the tasks of a technical team. She recalls with great fondness the times spent in healthy competition to get their respective team’s articles on the Print Issue 2017-18. 

MM: Tell us about your journey from a reporter to a Chief coordinator and then a Mentor subsequently.

Mrinal: There was a genuine tussle for me to choose between the role of Chief coordinator or Design Coordinator. I knew I was going for product designing and not graphic designing in my third year and so banked for the former. My interview had lasted six hours- so that’s the duration of me getting grilled. When I became CC, I look back now and realise that one of the biggest challenges in handling this big team is the effective handling of interactions between them. By the end of my reporter tenure, I had too many ideas floating in and had developed a profound attachment to the organisation. What interested me through these years is the conviction that there’s a lot to accomplished and I was unabashed about my wish to be a Coordinator. People might tell you how difficult it is to lead a team, but fortunately, I do not share a harrowing experience. We were eight coordinators standing strong together, and as genuine friends as well; each one was way too aware of his/her roles and responsibilities.

To put it in this way, when there is a group of people lifting a heavy box and one of the slacks, the weight might come thrashing down on the others. And so, all eight of us played our parts. Deepak (then co CC) was there to be the spokesperson MM needed. Omni present Abel (then technical coordinator) always had our backs in everything. Animesh Das (then co CC) was the systematic and meticulous one. Malkan (then technical coordinator) was stellar in web development and led one of the best web teams we have had. And Safalya (then design coordinator) always saved the day at the last moment with his top notch designs. With extremely devoted Rishabh and Pradeep (Photography coordinators), we didn’t have to worry about anything else. Also, managing juniors was an HR thing due to certain internal rifts! But the Team of 2018-19 were a startlingly talented set of people who can be completely credited for bringing fresh and unique articles and multlimedia and doing anything out of the box, while we coordinators managed the regular affairs. 

In all this, my Chief Coordinators ( 2017-18) and Design Coordinators had also given me major lessons about MM’s Coordinatorship. Abyakta Patra and Haritha Bharat’s relentless efforts in making me perfect my works, all the while staying up late till 2-3 AM with us taught us attention to detail. Satyajit Mahapatra’s unwavering and firm yet flexible concern about Monday Morning’s stances in all articles relevant to fests and reviews taught me accountability to MM’s Stakeholders. Meanwhile, Debasis Choudhury’s approach of never leaving the team’s side, an example being a whole day he spent with us during the 1992 alumni meet, and several other occasions taught me how to always have the back of the junior team we led. I tried my level best to do all the above three as Coordinator.

The CC tenure also had its fair share of lessons. We tried to do a primary website revamp back then, and it didn’t go well because we couldn’t plan all the intricacies. There were many errors at the end moment and it was haywire. Meanwhile, I was trying to juggle so many ideas for changes, somewhat unreasonable and uninformed ones too, and that’s when Malkhan pitched in with a typical, ‘This is a website and not a khet (ploughing ground) that you can do anything with liberty’ (laughs). So, the takeaway from then was the effective planning and management of all projects and people under us. 

Asked about the challenges and conflicts she had to bear in her roles, Mrinal says,

Looking back, as a reporter, I only had to do my job and not make decisions. What I lacked and needed to work on were skills. That was something I tried very hard. As a CC, I had to bear the consequences of decision making and implement them. As a mentor, I could see things at a different light now and the biggest challenge is  guiding the juniors at all times but not severing their independence of working too.

MM: Did your CCship or extra-curricular affect your academics or help you professionally, anyway?

Mrinal: It never affected or hampered my academics in any way. First off, we have more time in our hands than we tend to believe. Secondly, there aren’t direct benefits you reap being associated with an organisation or brand. The real benefit is the skills that one learns being in MM- work ethics, planning, team management, teamwork, micro-management, and so on, which is challenging to acquire. Leading a team of 50 people is an excellent achievement in itself.

She describes her vision for MM as,

Ways of information presentation can get boring gradually, and our role is to present information in its truest sense by keeping our audience engaged. We have people willing to keep work. The only challenge is how we evolve. It’s not just how we write but also the presentation. Multimedia, in that way, helps a lot. All the teams need to engage for this. We need novel changes per se. Whatever input we give in or whether our work reflects with people, the concept is sinusoidal. The efforts can get a lot of attention, and at other times it will be lowered with the attitude of the masses. If it surfaces, it would also recede, so, MM needs to stick through till then. Anyone believes it or not; MM is never out of the sub-consciousness of people here.

The Final Chapters

MM: How does the batch of 2020 look forward to graduation considering the lockdown and uncertainties imposed now?

Mrinal: This is something giving us all nightmares! We are just clinging to some kind of a thread right now, and truthfully, I don’t know. I hope we are graduating and ensure we can finish our projects and course work. With the fear of recession, job offers may or may not be taken back. And we can’t blame the companies now. So many people from our batch had opted for MS abroad, and now they cannot fly out. What we can do now is just hope and be grateful for what we have now. As a premier institute, we might feel we are entitled to a great job and a great future, but all that might go down the well now. So, let’s just be grateful for everything we get now.

After all, hope is the essence of the human spirit.

MM: How has Mrinal Chaudhury evolved through these four years? Any regrets or special moments you cherish?

Mrinal: Evolving from my first year and courtesy to all my experiences, my seniors and friends, I am a less brash person now. I am less impulsive. At one point in the first year, I had almost given up just because a senior told me there’s nothing ahead, and that attitude has changed over these four years. I am confident that there will always be a way out.

My entire college life is made of bits of special and cherishing moments. It’s difficult just to narrate one. There was one event back at school that I find has become relevant to me even now. One of my teachers, Smita Athreya in my 11th standard, took gave up one period of hers and took out everyone to a stadium behind our school. There she had asked us where do we see ourselves in 10 years or so. There she told us amidst all that stress of 11th, and 12th standards’ life is a blind bag, and you put boxes into it. Eventually, all those boxes fall off and sit in where they are supposed to. All the pieces of your life will similarly come together eventually.’ That is something that has stuck with me.

Speaking about the people that she would like to thank for their support through the ups and downs of her life at this institute and beyond she added,

You are an amalgation of the company you keep and fortunately for me I had what millenial lingo would call, some of the most ‘LIT’ friends. I had a set of friends from different branches and my branch too, who were debators, designers par excellence, actors, amazing dancers, film makers and writers, heads of political clubs and also footballers, musicians and photographers ( some of them all 3 in one ).  They bagged amazing jobs and admits and are people the whole Institute admires now for their spirits. They were all amazing humans and pillars of strength alongside this and some people who would inspire you every single day to become better versions of yourselves. I could never be lackdaisal in their company. 

Adding a note about her unique spirited family, she says

My grandparents followed by my parents continue to wow me each day with their approaches. My grandparents  kept abreast with changing times at an alarming speed. Their and my parents’ focus on doing whatever we want to do, like taking up unconventional careers ( my sister is an english teacher and I went into design), but doing it with complete sincerity and excellence is what makes me contended. They are really cool people, broad minded in all possible ways one would want. 

As a final message to our readers, Mrinal notes,

I have only done a bare minimum and cannot say much. But I would say that don’t be afraid to stick to what you want to do in your careers however humongous it seems and  leave anything undone or midway. This is something you start regretting later. That is why I do not regret anything; I might have messed things up, but I never did anything with less effort than I could have given or left doing what I wanted to do. 

Team Monday Morning wishes Mrinal success in her future endeavours ahead!

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