A North Indian In Chennai – Suhail Kutub’s Internship Experience – XLRI Jamshedpur
“Weather in Chennai would feel like you are sitting in a sauna”, “Chennai! You will have three challenges to manage – weather, language and of course the internship”, “For a North Indian, Chennai is like a punishment posting. Make sure you don’t get yourself burned”. As soon as I declared among my family and friends that I will be going to Chennai for the internship, I was greeted with above such motivating statements and that too mostly from people who have never ever been to Chennai before.
I was least concerned about the weather and the language issues, the only thing bothering me was whether I will be able to do justice to my project or not. All the hue and cry created in the campus about the importance of the summer internship and getting a PPO was making me all the more nervous and anxious. Though the environment of the industry was familiar due to my prior work experience but the role was entirely different, I will be getting into a department most disliked and abhorred by the technical folks – The Human Resource Department. All of us at the campus were aware that internship project statements are going to be so weird and vague that we have to take the help of mind map to get a direction. Funny thing was, I had no idea how to draw a mind map either. I told one of my friend “I am getting a feeling that I will not be able to do a good job in these two months”. “You are an XLer, who else will do a better job if not you”, he reassured. Those were the soothing words I took with me to Chennai.
I was greeted by other interns at the two-week accommodation we got at the company guest house. All looked competitive, at least at the first glance. One year in a b-school has conditioned us to an extent where everyone looks competitive even when they are not. The first day itself was a surprise when I came to know that the mentor assigned to me weeks back was no longer my mentor now and I felt like an orphaned child when I saw other interns getting briefed about their projects. A week later when almost everyone progressed way into their projects, I was still searching for my new mentor because she was either on leave or worked from home. Even after the first meeting my deliverables were not clear and before I realised it was the end of the second week. I knew deliverables were supposed to be vague from the experience of our seniors but it was getting vague to a point that I had no idea what was required. Back at the guest house food was the only thing that distracted me from this frustration, the frustration of not doing anything. Three days of gruelling SIP and all for this, sitting idle – I was angry. The two Nepali boys who ran the kitchen were extraordinary cooks who served us well for the coming two months – homemade food away from home.
When the project started, the frustration of not doing anything was replaced with the frustration of people not honouring their appointment time. I may sound like a one frustrated being but my job required full primary research and little or no secondary research. Talking to people within the organisation was the only source of input and I learned how challenging it could be to elicit time and information from people. But during the two months, I interacted with more people than I ever did in three years in my previous organisation. My mentor turned out to be smart and sweet as well. Availability was always an issue but unlike other few interns, I was not delegated and always made to feel important.
Fridays were special in a sense we all waited for the after dinner party. We? Yeah, the bunch of 18 crazy people interning at the same place, met at company guesthouse and continued to stay together for these two months. Staying together was the best thing that happened to me. Returning home from a tiring day felt joyous. The trip to Pondicherry and Kodaikanal further strengthened our bond. Organising the XLRI alum meet at Chennai was yet another enriching experience. This is where I realised the power of XL Mafia. The bond which XLers share with each other surpasses the boundaries of batches and distinctions of senior and junior. Anita, she likes to be called Annie, requires a special mention here. From organising alum meet to exploring unique cuisines, she made our (the four XL interns) stay all the more enjoyable.
All in all, the Chennai experience was a breeze for me far from the sauna. I would long remember the 3 am cool breeze on weekends when we sat on the top of the water tank on the terrace listening to 90s Bollywood songs and gazing into clear skies admiring flying white parakeets. Those cool gusts of wind would make us forget we are in Chennai far from home and campus. I also got a wonderful and most honest feedback from my mentor. The only thing I would suggest my fellow students next year before they embark on this journey is that don’t try to answer all questions beforehand. Let some curiosity be with you until the end to amaze you at every moment. Every experience is different and so will be yours. There is no need to be nervous and anxious about these two months which is a natural consequence of those three days in SIP. Just take care of the small things which come to your way and the big thing will fall into place before you even realise.
P.S.: For all those curious souls who are wondering what a mind map is, I suggest you contact Prof. Bagchi at XLRI 😉
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