20 gold medals, 5 championship trophies, countless laps in the swimming pool and a smile that could make your day, Nivedita Sharma, is probably the greatest athlete IIT Roorkee has seen in recent years. Clearly, after her recent performance in the inter-IIT aquatics meet at IIT Bombay has rendered the name of this column as a misnomer: She’s famous. In her final year at the Saharanpur campus, she managed to spare a few minutes out of conundrum created by placement season and approaching exams, for us. In conversation with Nivedita Sharma, the lady behind IITR’s fifth consecutive trophy in the Inter-IIT aquatics meet:
WONA: Well, we’ll begin with a cliched question. Your first crush?
NS: It was one of my seniors, Abhimanyu Lamba. He was a karate champion and the topper of his branch. He was really nice to me and was quite good looking too.
WONA: If he reads the interview, he’ll probably be quite disappointed in himself for not knowing.
NS: No, I dated him for quite a while.
WONA: How was the experience of the 50th Inter IIT?
NS: The arrangements were really good, probably the best so far. Being the Golden Jubilee, they made it quite grand. The pool was new plus they called Virdhawal Khade as the Chief Guest, which was great. It was a nice experience overall.
WONA: Which has been your most memorable Inter IIT and why?
NS: Every Inter IIT has been memorable. Every time we get to make new friends across colleges and also there are new entrants to the team. Each time is unique. For example, when we went to Guwahati, it was a very different atmosphere and when it was in Roorkee, we had the home ground. There were factors that made both of these special.
WONA: Among all the swimmers you have met in all the inter-IITs which is the one swimmer that you admire the most?
NS: That’d be Akshay Krishna from IIT Madras. The amazing thing about him is that he’s an Olympiad Medallist in Astronomy and he’s also the topper of his branch Engineering Physics in IIT Madras. His AIR was in 200s and he also qualified for Asian Games, representing our country. He’s probably the God of Inter IIT swimming.
<At this point the interviewer stops the interview for a few minutes to introspect on what exactly he’s doing with his life. The interview resumes with an uneasy feeling in his stomach which is somehow associated with shame>
WONA: Alright, so what are your views on sports culture and sports facilities here, with respect to students and sports authorities separately?
NS: When I came to IIT Roorkee, I was quite surprised to see that we actually have so many sport facilities. Back in Mumbai (Mumbai being a very crowded city), it is very difficult to find a 50 meter swimming pool. Even when you find one the timings there are very strict and the lanes are very crowded. So, I was very glad to come here. The facilities here are much better than what I had seen previously.
WONA: How did you manage your time between Saharanpur and Roorkee, since Saharanpur campus doesn’t have a pool for practising?
NS: I used to come and practice extensively a week before the Inter IIT. When I came here I had been practicing every single day for the past sixteen to eighteen years of my life. So I didn’t really feel the need to practice regularly.
<The interviewer is clearly awestruck when he is humbly reminded that he’s talking to a national level swimmer who has participated in Nationals several times and almost snatched a medal there as well>
WONA: About the Saharanpur Campus issue, do you think the students are kept disadvantaged and hence it should be shifted here and merged with the main campus?
NS: Definitely. Talking about any facility, what makes the IITs unique is the interdepartmental culture and the fact that there are so many facilities apart from academics. The disadvantage there is that we have only three departments and hence we don’t get a chance to interact the professors and students of other departments. Suppose somebody wants to undertake a project that stretches over Polymers and Mechanical or Algorithms, then they’re at a loss. Even for sports, the campus is too small to accommodate all the facilities there. The travelling becomes quite hectic. So yes. I think it would be convenient if the campus gets shifted.
WONA: What is the one thing about campus that you will really miss after you graduate?
NS: I’ll miss the amount of free time that we have in college. I’ll miss the whole culture, how all the sport facilities and residential areas are inside the campus itself together with the academic blocks. And definitely, I will miss the people I have met here.
WONA: Most people know you as an awesome swimmer which kind of defines your identity everywhere. What are the things apart from swimming that you do?
NS: There was a time in my life when I had an identity crisis that I’m nothing else but a swimmer. But that time is long gone. Here I’m fine with academics. I’m the department topper. I’m good at painting too. (We were surprised to know that there was a time when she wanted to drop engineering and join an arts school)
WONA: Your views/advice/suggestions to WONA?
NS: You guys are cool. With WONA there’s always a little spice in life. I would suggest you keep up with the good work. (Yes ma’am!)