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Correspondent – Rahul Maganti

A short introduction

Abhishek Agarwal (Monty), IITB: 2007-2012
Dual Degree Aerospace Engineering
Currently working with Deutsche Bank
GSHA, IIT Bombay, 2011-’12

Tell us a little bit about the thoughts of Monty as a freshie.

When I entered this hallowed institute, way back in my freshie year, there were too many different people around me. Except for a couple of batch mates from my hometown, everybody else was a stranger. I realized quite soon that one thing that I can take back from this campus is a rich experience of knowing people from diverse backgrounds. My objective since then has always been to interact with as many as I could. During my freshie days, I was involved in the Cult scene on campus, with MoodI. As an active resident of H4, I participated in all activities. This made me come across a lot of students everyday. Now that I had made a lot of friends and relations in H4, I was very reluctant to go to H13 when the hostel allotment was out. I was so attached to H4 that I worked for H4’s team in the PAF instead of H13. I really wanted to stay back in 4 and I put in a series of efforts towards that, but in vain. But then I dropped the idea after my friends made me realize that going to H13 will only expose me further to a different set of people, which would be in-line with what I expected to do in campus.

The second year is when most students think about giving a decent shot to some PoR. Tell us a little about how your sophie year treated you.

My initial idea of a POR was a platform for interaction, not only with people you are responsible to but also with members of your council. I got elected to the post of Hostel Dramatics Secy in H13. During the time, I also worked as a Coordinator for Competitions in MI. Apart from this, I was an active member of Vaani too. So, I interacted with completely different circles during this period. In the fourth semester, I had two options for my third year POR – MI CG and Institute Dramatics Secy(IDS). My priority was always MI CG and I opted for it and eventually backed out of the race for IDS. Just a couple of days before the elections, MI results were out and it just happened that my name didn’t figure in the final list. I was rather emotional about this and went to the CG’s and OC’s, wandered here and there trying to find out the actual reason of what went wrong. I was unable to digest this for a long time.

After discussing with a lot of people, I convinced myself that there were no reasons except that the two people who had the power to choose felt that the other person was better than me. And, this was PAF time. I was immersed in PAF and decided to forget about MI selection. Then, the IDS contestant became a CG and he backed out of the elections. Now, the post of IDS fell vacant. I was interviewed for the IDS post along with another batchmate, but again my opponent was chosen over me for the post. Since I was in a momentum for the upcoming PAF, I didn’t get much time to think about this. We won 7 out of 9 trophies that year. This was a boost for me, a small moment of happiness. The two things I wanted to do pretty much didn’t work out, but surprisingly I was no more sad about them. I was rather happy that I had my share of learnings and now would have new things to explore.

Meanwhile, I was asked by Department seniors if I wanted to interview for the marketing manager post for Zephyr, the annual festival of Aerospace Dept, and this time I got selected. I was also a member of the newly set up Institute Radio and because I felt that this was a bit closer to my home turf of Cult, I took the charge to manage the broadcasting team to take this idea ahead. Before this, a lot of people asked me why I hadn’t chosen to contest for Cult Co of the hostel. However, consistent in my thoughts, I replied that the hostel was an already explored area. I now wanted to explore some unknown terrains. This fourth semester turned out to be a very poor semester in-terms of academics, probably owing to the multitude of things in my head at the time. I scored a 5.7 though being a 7.5 otherwise. I spent my 2nd year summers and fifth semester on Zephyr and Radio with complete dedication. I also used the time to take part in all the Inter-Hostel Cult GCs for my hostel.

An election is always an exhilarating experience. Tell us about your first Institute wide election.

In the sixth semester, I contested for the post of GS Cult. This was something that I had been thinking over since I missed the opportunity of becoming the IDS. Having been involved with Institute Cult Scene for quite some time now, I had my own set of ideas about the Cult Scene on campus and wanted to share them with others. The other reason to contest for a GS links to my original idea of getting exposed to more and more people with decent diversity on campus. Had I been in the Institute Cultural Council, things would have been easy, but even then I decided to go ahead and I started the groundwork around the beginning of the sixth sem.

Because of a couple of debacles a year ago, I prepared myself for both the sides of the coin. So, I decided to contest, but thought of not taking the result to heart. I decided to earn ‘X’ number of votes. Winning was never my aim. All I wanted to was to increase ‘X’ as much as I can through my campaigning and by defending my radical manifesto. My manifesto provided a new outlook to the cultural activities in the institute. I started from zero and earned 1728 votes, but fell short by 361 votes.

After the results were announced at SAC gate, I started walking towards my hostel. After reaching H5, I told my friends that I would again contest for GS Cult the next year. People thought I was speaking off the spur of the moment with a gambler’s mindset who would keep playing till he wins. But I was mentally prepared to do this all over again the next year. Had a good sleep and went to PAF practice next day, picked up my dialogues and started practicing. Surprisingly, I was hardly moved by losing the GS Cult election. Infact campaigning in front of over 2000 people had given me a lot of confidence in defending on a public forum. For me this was a win-win situation. But we lost PAF badly that year.

How did you come about to become the GSec of H13?

Since the inflow of sophies into H13 had stopped after my batch, no one was keen on becoming the Gen Sec of the hostel, because of the difficulties in forming a council without juniors in it. During PAF practice, some of my seniors and friends advised me to contest for it. According to me POR is also a position of authority for taking a decision. Whether I can be a good decision maker was still a question because till now I had never got a real opportunity to work in an influential POR. I decided to contest the Hostel GSec election. Though, opposed again, I won an election finally. This was the first winning moment after a long losing streak. The journey had actually started now. Now that I had taken the challenge of becoming the GSec of a hostel with only fourthies, fifthies and PGs, I had to prove myself. If I failed to work well, after taking a post, then I would justify the prejudice of all the people who were against me in all my previous debacles.

I took up challenge and by July, I had a council of 40 people working. With a team of 40 council members, I can proudly say we pulled off one of the best hostel councils in the recent past. The renovated sky-bridge of Hostel-13 stands a witness to the achievements of this council. Even being a hostel with skewed demographics, it was the most socially active hostel that year in campus. So, by beginning of 8th semester I had done by my job well. The Institute Elections were coming up and I had two options in-front of me now – GSHA or GS Cult ?

Haha we all know what you chose then. Tell us a little bit about what lay ahead.

After giving a considerable thought, I decided to contest for GSHA, because from a learning point of view, GSHA had more to offer for me during the election than GS Cult , as I had observed it in my year as a GSec. And moreover, GSHA covers a wider range of students in campus. I again set out to campaign and made it with a decent margin this time. We also won the PAF that year. So, it was a double bonanza – winning the election and the PAF. The Academics also were better and I managed a 8.8 in both seventh and eighth semester.

You were quite appreciated for your work as a GSHA.

I worked wholeheartedly for the whole year trying to deliver more than what people expected. In campus, I have never done things for the sake of doing them. I haven’t done a single internship and spent all my summers working for the POR that I was on in that year. My diverse learning and understanding of people during the stay in campus, helped me a lot working as a GSHA. This was one of the best years of my life. We also won 9 out of 9 trophies in PAF in my last year. I was also awarded the Institute Organizational Roll Of Honour, which is my one and only Gymkhana Award in all my 5 years of stay at IIT Bombay. So, all is well that ends well.

What would you like to convey to the students who, similar to you, have missed out on PoRs this season?

I am sure this is time of the year when a lot of students in campus will be going through the same experience that I had in my 2nd and 3rd year. The best way to get out of this is to move on. If we start appreciating the learning from failures, we would be making the most of them. Such jolts only make you strong for future. Campus is not the end of your life. Trust me once you move out of campus, these things may seem very petty. So, move on and make the most of this amazing campus and amazing community.