“Had I known Civil would be so hectic and consuming, I’d have reconsidered my choice. They said it gives you ample free time; false. It’s starkly the opposite.” Satyam doesn’t shy away from ranting about Civil when I ask him to narrate his four years of stay at IIT; it’s only when he stops that I ask him to start from the beginning, from where it all started.
“I come from Bihar, luckily from a place which gave me enough opportunities to make it till here.
I came here aspiring to be a civil servant; therefore naively chose Civil, hoping it would help me in the course. Our freshman year saw two major changes, one of which we still feel the impact of.
It was the first year after RCA had become non-competitive. We could see signs though, of the toil our previous years were made to go through in the name of lifting the trophy. We weren’t forced or pushed into any activity as much as they were, thanks to the decision.
I had done some acting while in school and decided to continue it for the sake of the pleasure it brought to me. Shivalik won the trophy in the first dramatics event I was a part, and it was a flight from thereon. I did drama up till my sophomore year, after which it became difficult to manage alongside the UPSC preparations.
Ours was perhaps the only year that saw the distribution of (some) hostels on the basis of JEE ranks. It wasn’t a good decision by any means; all it lead to was the creation of stereotypes on the basis of the hostel you belonged to. If you belonged to a hostel which had the lower pool, you were automatically assumed to be academically poor.
I saw this happen; heard people say it out to my peers. The administration tried to correct itself by giving us an option to change our hostels at the end of our first year; none of us did. I think no one can; the sense of comfort and attachment you develop with your hostel makes it as painful as leaving your home when you first come to IIT.”
“Most parts of my latter years at IIT were spent in a dilemma, of choosing between civil services and a campus job. Either had its own perks.
I started preparation from the onset of my third year, following which my days were hectic, leaving little or no time to indulge in other affairs.” (sighs that he could make through labs on four days out of five up till the third year)
“I was very well aware of the dearth of placements in my branch and had almost decided to opt for IAS before the uncertainty started troubling me. Irrespective of the efforts I put in, competitive exams could have swung either way; and at a point when I (and my family) needed some financial security, the risk was a little too much. It took me my entire third year to arrive at the decision of opting for campus placement, which I deemed to be safer. Now that I’m placed, I feel happy about the choice I made. I’ve always lived with a very hazy outlook towards my life, sailing between a pool of choices yet unsure. I don’t know how, but if given a chance, I would definitely want the young Satyam to be clearer in what he wants; at least that would prevent him from attending more than half of civil services coaching and leaving it in vain. (chuckles)” Satyam takes a breath as he ends; his gaze affixed to the wall upfront.
Customary to how every interview of this series ends, I ask him about his takeaways and message to the readers. A minute of silence persists before he starts speaking again. “There aren’t any specific problems I can think of; based on what I’ve gone through, however, I feel the interaction with departmental seniors is quite low here. Unless you’re lucky enough to get a hostel which has had the same branch in the previous quartet, it’s hard to find someone. I couldn’t. It doesn’t matter if a said senior you come to know has excelled or been just average in his pursuits, all that counts is the enormity of experience (failures or success) he can pass on. Our branch (forum) did nothing in my four years to improve this; I hope it happens with other branches and years to come.” Satyam switches to a dialect he has been itching to speak since the start.
“Yahan pressure kaafi hai and shayad use handle karne main jo hum seekhte hain vo kaafi maayne rakhta hai. Aur rahi baat Is jagah ki to...”
“इस जगह कि ख़ास बात इसका माहौल है.” Satyam gets up to leave, with a smile similar to that in the photo above. (hopeful & proud alike)
Interviewed by Raunaq Saraswat