Mera Bhi Proxy Maar Dena: A Stroll Down The Memory Lane
Mera bhi proxy maar dena
Four Years of Stupidity, Madness, and Brilliance
Dhirendra Mishra and Himanshu Shekhar Dutta from the batch of 1997 came together to pen down tales and experiences from their college life in the form of short stories set against the backdrop of NIT Rourkela. What started as bedtime tales for their children turned into an entire book filled with stories from the past, allowing the readers to live the college days from the authors' eyes. They promise a fascinating drive down the memory lanes. The book release has excited everyone; the authors have engaged themselves in dwelling in with the students and alumni through various kinds of interactions. Click here to visit the website and here to find the book on Amazon.
“The years are long gone. But many summers into the end of the memorable NIT Rourkela stint (it was REC Rourkela then), nothing seems to have changed. Given a chance to relive or redo the four Rourkela years, not one person will choose a life any different. Because the campus was one place where the size of your pocket holes never came in the way of partying; where how unprepared you were for "tomorrow's" exam, never went in the way of watching "tonight's" movie at the college AV Hall; where oxygen in the air was a mere formality, the boys preferred inhaling uncertainty! – Dhirendra Mishra and Himanshu Shekhar Dutta“
Team Monday Morning recently caught up with the book's authors – Dhirendra Mishra and Himanshu Shekhar Dutta, to know their journey and the effort behind bringing this book into existence.
MM: Walk us through your childhood days and your life before NIT Rourkela.
Dhirendra Mishra (D.M.): I was born in Kohima, Nagaland. I did my schooling there. It is a beautiful place, and I have very fond memories of it. The very name of the place brings smiles to my face. One such memory was, On Saturdays, our school used to end by noon, and around six of us would go to the badminton stadium after school. The stadium used to be locked at that time, but we found a way to sneak into it. The following 3-4 hours would be the time of our lives. It makes me nostalgic whenever I think of it.
Himanshu Shekhar Dutta (HSD): I spent my childhood in a small town called Bettiah in Bihar. It's in the West Champaran district, close to the Nepal border, and has Shivalik Hills nearby; it is beautiful. I was the youngest of seven siblings. My father was in the Indian Forest Services. We used to accompany him to the forest and enjoy hiking and spending time at the guest house. My initial schooling took place in K. R. High School Bettiah before we moved out to Patna, and further education happened in Loyola High School Patna.
MM: How was your time at NIT Rourkela? Can you share any anecdotes from your college days?
D.M.: We usually have a big smile on our faces when it comes to the memories of NIT Rourkela. We accomplished a lot there. This is something that our book has grasped. Life in Rourkela was quick and slippery, as though a few cans of grease had tumbled upon a time. Quickly, because of the semester system, where the current semester would be out and over even before you could recuperate from the previous semester's aftershock. And this continued for all eight semesters. It was slippery because life never steadied. No matter what we said, "Bahut ho Gaya yaar ab Kal se padhai Karte Hain" (Translation – We'll start studying from tomorrow), that 'kal' never arrived. It evaded us all eight semesters. It may seem dreadful when I'm talking about it, but it wasn't as horrible as it sounds because everyone was in the same boat. When you see other people in the same adverse situation as you, you feel better, and that's how it used to be for all.
“When DDLJ was released in 1995, it completely transformed the hostel's atmosphere for at least two months. There was a sense of victory, regardless of how poorly someone fared in their semester examinations. Sharukh Khan struggled at school but excelled, and the boys enjoyed it. It just struck chord with everyone. During those two months, everyone felt like a hero. There are many more things, but this is at the top of my list of recalls.”
HSD: We were all ecstatic when we made it to NIT Rourkela. I'm sure everyone that makes it to this institute feels like they've accomplished something significant. However, once you arrive, you are unsure of what to do next, as was the case with everyone. As a result, we would engage in some form of insanity and madness daily. The great minds were coming together, greeted with laughter and delight. The event involving table tennis is the one that stands out to me (T.T.).
“We had one T.T. table in each boys’ hostel. With only one table and around 300 boys, the rush was intense. Everyone used to be patiently waiting for their turn. When you hit the ball, it would occasionally get trapped on the ceiling extension. As a result, we would devise a monkey ladder, or rather, a pyramid. However, the trick here was that the guy going up would not throw the ball down as this could be a prescription for catastrophe since once he threw the ball down, everyone would run after it, not realizing that someone was stranded at the top and that could result in casualty!
The one at the top of the monkey ladder gradually understood, however, that keeping the ball in possession and not throwing it down was the way to go about. We genuinely lived in moments like these, in between the haywires of our everyday life. “
MM: How significant has college life been in shaping you as a person? Describe your writing space.
D.M.: We are what we are today in every way--from our profession to our personal life--because of those four years at NIT Rourkela. It doesn't matter how rich you become or how powerful you get; end of the day, it is all about how you deal with the pressure that determines who and what you are.
Life at NIT Rourkela was that pressure cooker that taught us to withstand pressure. A day before the exam, I realized that my class notes were in total disarray because I hardly attended classes. I would then go on to recall that I did not even have the textbook. Believe me or not, this would be the case with a majority of the boys. But interestingly, not everyone failed!
HSD: As Dhiru said, NIT Rourkela shifted our careers into who we are today, and whatever we learned at that time, we are where we are today because of those learnings. Looking back now, we realize NIT Rourkela prepared us for the challenges in the future. We work with big teams sometimes; we sometimes lead a large group and deal with the pressure. There are challenges that the project must be delivered on time, and also, there are times when we meet failures. But we have to pursue it to be successful; those things are the balance we learned at NIT Rourkela.
MM: How did you make time for writing the book apart from your professional life?
D.M.: It was taxing without a doubt. But NIT Rourkela being so special to us, we were driven. We didn't require any other motivation!
HSD: It was also about managing our schedules over the weekends and vacations for both of us. We have a full-time job and a family to take care of. At times it was challenging, but when we got sluggish and made little progress, we had enough understanding to push each other.
D.M.: I think the understanding we had, helped significantly; we would drive each other. Any creative work, be it singing, writing, painting, etc., is not just about time; you also need to have the right mood for it. When we used to feel lost, we used to tell ourselves that if we could withstand the four years at NIT Rourkela, this isn't a big deal. And we would come out laughing, raring to go!
MM: How did you both come together to make this book happen?
D.M.: Himanshu and I have always been in touch. We only met once after passing out from Rourkela, but we've been in touch ever since. We'd talk about the stories and laugh heartily. Himanshu stated one day that he had been reading them to his sons as bedtime stories and how much they enjoyed it. He had a brilliant thought that it would be fantastic if everyone else could hear these stories and laugh along with us. The concept resonated with me right away, and we agreed to pen down our memories. That was in January 2020, and that was the start of this endeavor.
HSD: As he mentioned, my children would always request that I recount these stories to them at bedtime. So I'd tell them about the occurrences, and they'd burst out laughing. And anytime I ran out of tales, I'd phone Dhirendra and ask, "Hey, what story can I tell them today?" and he'd direct me to an event, and we'd always stay in touch. Later on, my boys demanded more stories, and we decided it was time to come together and maybe compose it so the world might know about our experiences; the book was an excellent venue to let these stories live and pay tribute to our college life.
MM: How did you get the idea of writing a book, and why did you mainly go for this idea?
D.M.:- The idea that drove us to write this book was "Smiles." We have smiled in the past, discussing these stories, and we have seen how the mention of this book, and consequently the upcoming reads, brings smiles to all we have talked to.
“As we have always said, this book is not about how to write the engineering entrance exams or about how to do well in exams. Nor is this about how to score 90%. Instead, it's about fun. I believe we are on track sensing what people have to say about this idea and what we have gathered from them. I am sure they are already smiling, and the book release will get the smiles to become larger and broader.
MM: How long have you been planning this project?
D.M.: It was in January 2020 when we first talked about it; the idea of putting all the stories down came up then. It has been close to 21 months now, and it has been a long journey.
MM: What did it take for the book to come into existence?
In life, we come across events, not stories. Many a time, a very interesting event may not make a fascinating story. So this book has been about finding ways to create exciting stories from exciting events.
HSD: It's been a long road to transform events into fiction, as he stated. It's also been difficult since an event is a one-liner, but you can't write a book on a one-liner. You must find a method to make it enjoyable for others as well. It brought a grin to our faces as we were composing the book. All of those tales came back to us, and we laughed about them. Even though it was difficult, we liked writing and reminiscing together.
MM: College life is a tale of various untold stories, and this book revolves around the same. Are there any easter eggs in the book for readers?
D.M.: Let alone every story, I can guarantee you that every page has an Easter egg. What is interesting about college life is that you have many genres of stories. You have stories that you can narrate to your grandfather and grandmother; there are those to your future generations. I would say, "Wait for a couple of weeks; you would see all for yourself."
MM: What challenges did you face in terms of publication, outreach, and printing?
D.M.: It is a time taking process. I have gone through this process once in the past. I authored a book in 2015 titled Zillion Destinations. So that experience helped in minimizing hassles. But there is so much to it: the font style, cover pic, title, etc., and editing the content that goes into the book. All this requires a lot of deliberation. It is an iterative process and may take a lot of time to achieve a sense of perfection.
Our book launch is on 30th October 2021, and we are still following up on the logistics. Especially for the new authors, it takes a lot of perseverance and effort to make it happen. Himanshu is very patient, and I am very restless; he has kept me going. If not for him, possibly I would have broken up by now.
HSD: I had no experience with the publishing process. Having Dhiru on my side helped me a lot since he had already been through that process. I leaned on his shoulders for it. He has the expertise on whom to reach out to, which publisher to pick, how to approach them, and he has handled it very well.
MM: In this digital era, what is your opinion on printed books and the charm that they carry?
D.M.: End of the day, it's the content which the book carries. People often say that there has been a substantial decrease in books readership, which I'm afraid I have to disagree with. There are a lot of avid readers in the market who still like to read books. Readership is still intact. The quality of content determines the volume of a book's readership—nothing more, nothing less.
HSD: For me, there are still a lot of avid readers in the market who still take a lot of time out of your busy schedule to read. It may be someone's preference regarding which mode or form in which they want to read. The genre or mode of reading may vary from person to person.
MM: The book revolves around college-time memories. How much were your batchmates and professors involved in making this book alive?
D.M.: Just as having a football match without a football is pointless and impossible, similarly, without batchmates and friends' contribution, this project wouldn't have been possible.
“It was the time when we were just about to graduate from our college. So we decided to meet up with our college professors and thank them for their contribution. And there was this professor who said, "You'll now be thrown out of the campus, go and serve the nation." Even though it sounded like a marching order, the true essence of the message was that we had acquired the the engineering tricks and traits and that we were equipped to apply our learnings. We realized that he was being nice to us in encouraging us unlike, what he might have sounded!”
These make stories. We are very thankful to our batchmates and professors for helping us create such memorable experiences, which we went on to collect in this book.
HSD: The Professors and our batchmates have played a very significant role. I cannot imagine that our stories would be complete without remembering them, so it's a tribute to all of them. We have a lot of respect for all the professors and all the batchmates, and all alumni. And the story of the book would not have been complete without remembering them, the memories attached with them.
MM: You had alumni get together for the pre-launch event of this book. What are other events lined up ahead?
D.M.: Recently, we had a get-together in Hyderabad for the pre-launch event of this book, and it was a great success. It was a fresh feeling for many to meet others because the pandemic has held us for close to a year and a half.
We have a website (https://merabhiproxymaardena.com). Interestingly, we have students from NIT Rourkela working on this website and giving us ideas. Maitrai Sinha, Satyam Soni, and Mohammad Sahil are part of our team. We are also organizing an event for the second-year students very soon, and this would be to make them a little more familiar with the college and share our experiences with them. Some other events are lined up before the launch of the book on 30th October.
MM: What is the giveaway from this book?
D.M.: Smiles. This book is dedicated to people who never give up on having fun. The message is: Never feel guilty about having fun. The concept of fun differs from person to person. You can't define my enjoyment, and I can't define yours. As an individual, I define fun as an inherent component in us to enjoy life. By not having fun or feeling guilty about it, we are engaged in a disservice to ourselves.
MM: What is the most challenging part about writing for you? What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?
Many a time, it gets challenging to keep the essence of the story intact. The same story that might bring laughter and smiles to all on narration may not remain so once it has been written.
The thing I learned:
I want to talk about the ladies of my batch. Of the total of 330 students in the batch, their count was 19. So you can well imagine the queue (of boys) at every 19 windows!
Once the boys were relieved from the clutches of ragging, they started finding ways to impress girls. And many of these ways were stupid, funny to say the least. And during the course of our writing, we realized how difficult it must have been for the girls then. They were supposed to acknowledge the smiles coming their way from the boys because otherwise, they would be considered demeaning the boys. The girls also had to ensure that they did not smile way more than the threshold they had set for themselves because otherwise, the boys would construe the smiles as a signal to mingle. Keeping the right balance (of how much to smile and how much not to) must have been so uphill a task for the ladies. For their act of nobility that they heralded, we would like to take a bow.
HSD: At times, it was challenging to write because of our own busy schedules. Compromising precious time with our family on weekends and vacations was very difficult. Moreover, you have a moral responsibility towards your kids and friends.
So at times, it was a little bit difficult, but when we were writing the book, we enjoyed every moment of it. We felt like we were experiencing our student life again, and that's where we thought we had done something we should have done.
MM: What do you see coming up for this project, what impact do you think it'll have on the student community, or who are you targeting through this book.
D.M.: As rightly said by Mr. K.S.Rao from the batch of 1969,
"This book is going to be a yagna (Penance) that would bring the NIT Rourkela fraternity together."
Almost everyone's busy in today's life, and I think we need some time to recall all the stupidity and madness that we were part of to make us feel stress-free. We are looking forward to giving this stress buster to the NIT Rourkela fraternity and to the students outside of it. These stories hold good irrespective of whether they are a student now or were a few years ago. We also connected with Mr. C.P.Gurnani, CEO of Tech-Mahindra. He is very excited about the book, and in fact, we have a foreword to this book from him. We could feel how he delved back into the memory lanes. In his preface, he has mentioned the back post and talked about what drove him during that time.
HSD: We were a kind of a bridge between the older generations and the younger generations. This book will connect all of us. We have spoken to many alumni across different batches and the current students of NIT Rourkela. Therefore, it'll surely bring the Entire NITR fraternity together.
MM: How important are alumni relations to an Institute like ours? Comment on the current scenario.
D.M.: End of the day, it is about networking. And importantly, networking is for the good of society. It isn't about what benefit this will bring to me; that shouldn't be your intent to join a network. It should be about how I can contribute to it. By being part of an alumni group, we are contributing to society. Everyone must connect.
MM: When was the last time you visited NIT Rourkela? What are the significant changes that you observed since the time you graduated?
D.M.: Well, I haven't been to the college since I graduated back in 1997. But I am eagerly looking forward to the 2022 silver jubilee reunion, where I expect scores of pleasant surprises. Moreover, I wish to see the developments in the campus, which I have heard about over the last 25 odd years.
HSD: I visited the campus the last time in 1998, which, as said, is a pretty long time. But I am in touch with people who are in contact with the professors and have an idea about how the campus had developed in leaps and bounds over the years when I last visited, But the feeling of being a NITian is something that will never change at any cost.
MM: Would you like to mention some people who have been an advisor/supporter in your accomplishments so far?
D.M.: There have been a lot of people who have helped us a lot in this journey. We have spoken to Prof. Animesh Biswas (Hon'ble Director), Prof. S.K Patel, Prof. Abanti Sahoo, and many more to help us in this project. They, too, are very excited about the launch of this book.
HSD: I would like to personally thank the professors who taught us and everyone who pillars for us throughout the journey. There is a sense of gratitude for them from our side.
MM: Any message for the readers? What should one keep in mind while reading this book?
”For the readers, I would say, “never really feel guilty about having fun.” This is what you are made for. Everything else may earn you a livelihood. Livelihood is essential, but life is even more important. Excelling in our profession, which might earn our livelihood, is necessary, not undermining it, but not as necessary as life! The fuel to life is fun.”
“There would be moments in your life where you would think you could have done things differently. But as long as you enjoy those moments and stay in those moments, success will come. It will come sooner or later, but it'll indeed arrive. It would help if you had that belief in yourself. Life will give you enough opportunities to succeed. Just enjoy and cherish the moments you are in, and it will prepare you for the future to come.”
Team Monday Morning congratulates Dhirendra Mishra and Himanshu Shekhar Dutta for completing the book and wishes them good luck with its launch.
Design Credits:- Tejaswini Sahu