A Man Of Magnitude: The Story Of C. Lalremsiama
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.
These lines of football legend Pelé entirely describes the life of Mr C. Lalremsiama. He is an alumnus of 1985 batch NIT Rourkela (erstwhile REC Rourkela), Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.Sc Engg.) in Mechanical Engineering, who became the first NITRAAN to become Engineer-in-Chief (Public Health Engineering Department) of Government of Mizoram. Through his sheer strength and will power, he conquered all the difficulties and was able to achieve the extraordinary feat.
Team Monday Morning got a chance to catch up with Mr C. Lalremsiama for an interview session to garner valuable insights on his life and career. Read on to know about his inspiring story.
Monday Morning (MM): Walk us through your childhood days. Enlighten us about your life before joining REC Rourkela.
Mr C. Lalremsiama (C.L): I was born in a small village in Mizoram called Vawngawn in an extremely humble family as the middle child among five siblings. Not much of my childhood was however spent in the village as we moved to Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram when I was just a young boy. We shifted to a place called Vaivakawn, wherein I joined the school in the neighbourhood itself.
Unlike the current situation, the state was still not equipped with a high standard of education, and since my family was not financially well off, we had no other option but to join a Mizo medium school. So I did part of my education from Model School, Chawnpui post which I, went to give my 10th in KM High School and finally completed my 12th in Pachhunga College in Aizawl itself.
My background was opposite from that of a financially well off one so during my school days, to raise money for my family I used to indulge in physical work in the nearby vicinity be it helping out in construction or any odd job that came along my way to bring home a small sum of money for my family.
I was also an eager student from a very young age, and I enjoyed teaching my classmates and juniors too, whenever the opportunity arose. So as soon as I was done with my 12th, while I was awaiting my board examination result, I taught Mathematics and Science in KM High School in Vaivakawn for six months.
Once I received my result, I was fortunate to have joined REC Rourkela, which to this day, I count as one of the best things to have happened in my life.
MM: How did REC Rourkela happen to you? Were you always inclined to pursue Mechanical Engineering, or it just happened?
C.L: To be frank, it may seem extremely cliché, but much of my childhood was spent dreaming of becoming a doctor. I was always intrigued by that profession; however, my dream began to fade once I realized that Biology was amongst my weakest subjects and no matter how hard I tried, I could never incline towards the subject. And that was when the light of Engineering began to shine in my mind.
Once I was in 12th, I began inclining towards pursuing Civil Engineering, so with the hope of attaining a seat in some of the best Engineering Colleges in the country, I gave my entrance.
Mechanical Engineering was a line I never thought I would be able to achieve since I was a little intimidated about the fact that only those who attained higher ranks in the entrance would be allotted seats in the subject. But I was thrilled when I got to know that I was allotted a seat in Mechanical Engineering that too, in one of the best institutes in the country.
MM: Would you wish to share with us some memorable recollections you earned during your REC days that you still cherish?
C.L: When I was a kid, I did not have much of an opportunity to take part in cultural competitions, and when in REC there was this Music competition that our impromptu band took part in wherein I played the guitar. We were so thrilled when we won the competition. Since college days only did I indulge in music. Post this I ended up taking part in several other competitions.
Other memorable experiences were farewell parties, and when we used to play Holi. So, back in my state, we do not celebrate the festival, but when in college, I never missed the chance to splash colours on everyone.
MM: Back then, in 1981, how did you find to respond to the diverse culture and cuisine of Odisha?
C.L: A complete cultural shift was something that I experienced the moment I came to Odisha. Not only was the change that I encountered in terms of physical surroundings but also the fact that I was suddenly in the midst of people coming from all over the country. It was a little overwhelming at first, but I ended up blending much more easily than I anticipated and so was the same case with the cuisine too.
MM: In what ways do you believe REC Rourkela helped you to nourish your strengths in your personal and professional career?
C.L: Keeping aside the knowledge that I gained from studying in REC, one thing that I can point out which has helped me become the person I am today is the hardship that I faced when I initially joined the institute. The first year was the hardest because not only was I exposed to a completely different culture but also dealing with the likes of the seniors was something that helped me shape my character eventually. This has helped me both in personal and professional life as it has made me resistant to shying away from a difficult situation.
MM: How was your journey post your graduation from REC Rourkela? Did you then wish for pursuing higher studies, or were you always wanted to commence your professional career after graduation?
C.L: I tried to keep my options open for higher studies when I graduated. However, once I came back to Mizoram, I started working straight away in the Public Health Department as an Assistant Engineer and never really went back to pursuing higher studies.
MM: How has been your professional expedition after graduating from REC Rourkela? What are the different sectors/companies you have worked in service before being appointed Engineer-in-Chief?
C.L: I was posted in the Public Health Engineering department at the time I joined, and it has been 34 years since I've been in the same department. During the 34 years, I have been involved in several projects that also include multiple projects solely based on my initiative.
MM: How did you bag this praiseworthy opportunity of serving as an Engineer-in-Chief for the Government of Mizoram? Tell us about your struggling journey.
C.L: Well, when I joined PHE, I was posted in the rural areas of Mizoram for several years. During the 34 years of my experience in this organization, I have been able to work on several projects, multiple of which have been entirely new initiatives.
For instance, we began working on a solar project in 2014 through which has benefitted 35 villages so far. This project was completely new and extremely challenging because we had to lift water in several stages in the villages given the fact that we live in a hill station. We had to pump up to 500-600 meters to deliver the water by using solar power, but it has been a massive success and by far one of my proudest achievements in my entire career.
Certain times my health also took a toll on me, but I never let it deter me or my work in any way. So I made sure in those times, that the work is done not only properly but also on time because I always believe – “Where there is a will, there is a way.” In 2011, I was diagnosed with cancer and was operated on in Mumbai. By the grace of God, I was able to recover and joined work again as soon as I was able to stand firm.
In retrospect, while the disease may have weakened me while I was undergoing the treatment, it did make me a stronger person once I came out of it both in terms of physical as well as mental.
MM: How has been your experience as the Chief Engineer in the PHED department, Govt. of Mizoram? Describe a typical day at your work.
C.L: Given the demand for the projects that we undertake in Mizoram, we have been exceptionally active be it -the site visits or and multiple meetings that are carried out from day to day. While it has been tiring, it has also been extremely rewarding. We have been able to progress from project to project and the learning during all these years of experience has been relatively steeper than I expected.
MM: In these times of Covid-19 pandemic, what have been the challenges you have faced during your service to the people and catering to a wide array of interests of the people?
C.L: COVID-19 has impacted our day to day working. We have had labour shortages right from the lockdown period; hence we have had to employ local, new workers and give training to them, which is not only time-consuming but also costly. Site visits have also been hindered as we need to be extremely cautious not only for ourselves but also for people in the surrounding. Another big challenge that we have faced is the delay in the delivery of our materials. As we have an extremely limited route to bring in materials to Mizoram, currently only Assam, this pandemic led to the delay of the projects as the materials do not reach on time. Other than this, to ensure the safety of our employees, we have implemented a rotational-employee based office which has in certain times have caused challenges in conducting a smooth day to day working.
MM: How do you manage your personal life besides the responsibilities of your state and ensure a proper work-life balance?
C.L: Something that I have always tried to live by is never to bring your work to home if not for an emergency.
While I have always loved working and love talking about the different projects that we undertake, keeping home a sacred place for family affairs only is something that has helped me keep a balance between the two. And so to ensure that I segregate the two as much as possible, I've tried to work as efficiently when in at the office, and once back home, I help out as much as possible.
MM: What is the driving force that keeps you motivated to achieve your goals?
C.L: The thrill of the result is something that has always motivated me to commit wholeheartedly to everything that I do. It's the whole process of continually driving for excellence even in the most stressful and difficult circumstances which increases the thrill of successes achieved in anything.
Yes, there have been more failures than successes, however, once we pick ourselves up even when it seems like things are crumbling around, that's when we tend to enjoy the fruit of our work the most. I have been involved in projects that have had big hurdles to overcome, but persistence and consistency have enabled me to achieve success in the majority of the new initiatives that we undertake.
MM: What is your final piece of advice to the students of NIT Rourkela?
The one key to success that I can confidently share based on my experience is sincerity. Once you graduate is when the real learnings begin. So while it is important to get good grades while studying, if that is not backed by sincerity and hard work, the chances of success are very blurred. In my many years of professional life, the ones who have thrived have always been those that are willing to go the extra mile.
Team MM congratulates Mr. C. Lalremsiama for his exemplary achievements and wishes him a happy and prosperous life ahead.