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Things you learn from the summer internship process
Last year, the Summer Internship Process taught me a lot of things. It taught me that I can have breakdowns, as I had two. That sustained stress over months and months can turn your hair white. Maggi and cold coffee after bombing a couple of cases and not doing tomorrow’s pre reads just feels different. Something about walking to your case partner’s room for case prep, then walking back and feeling whether the hit to morale was productive after all. The summer internship process doesn’t stress out everybody at once. First some people, who want to get a headstart, make groups even before the shortlists are out. They have confidence in getting a shortlist, and then are confident of cracking it if they work hard enough. They go harder than the rest, and some of them let their groups hang dry and free ride. Others start preparing the moment they get their first shortlist. When the first wave of shortlists ends there are people who haven’t been named anywhere, and they start preparing the last. It is only when a month or month and a half remains that the entire campus is united, with varying levels of panic and stress.
I did not understand the true level of panic and fear till I saw the first person break down during day zero of SIP. I was walking across the white chairs and this girl was crying, tears strolling down her face in triumph, like they made it out of a prison, like she was winning with a brave face and a ready laugh till she wasn’t. And then I saw wide eyes and slumped shoulders, like people shrinking into themselves as more and more of reality filtered in through enlarged pupils and raised eyebrows. It is like the successive days of the summer internship process peeled back the layers, peeled back the faces the masks the affirmations, it peeled back time and made us children again, fearful of what we don’t understand, wildly optimistic that things will turn out well, panicky when they don’t. We cry and we hope that someone will pat our back and maybe we will get to bury our heads in someone’s shoulder, and someone will rock us a bit and say that it’ll be alright. I saw friends not sleeping, unable to sleep, prepping, talking, staying up all night, like children did when they were new into this world, only by now there is no crying there is only staying up and feeling silent. And there is the empty scrolling of the phone, like torches on our faces or the spotlight on the stage, showing the main character, the dramatic persona of a play that has the hero, the villain, the underdog, the comic relief and the fool. And we feel like all of them in our own story.
The final day of the interview arrives. News spreads through campus, three people left, two people left, last one left. Then the last one gets placed, and we are called together and clapped on our backs. IIM Bangalore has done it again, all placed in two days, congratulations, hurra! The story is at its end. People are laughing, hugging, dancing, and clicking photos. The white hair shines a bit under the night lights, the dark pits under the eyes don’t seem so deep anymore. Ready smiles are back again. The child is laughing again, grinning, what seemed so bad is over, life seems good again, there is reason for optimism and laughs. It is like the bad months and bad days and bad nights never happened. There’s forgetfulness in the air, more than happiness or joy. I wonder if that is part of what makes us so resilient.
So, I learned a lot of things from the summer internship process. About hair turning white and breakdowns and late night maggi and cold coffee. About starting early. About being there for your people when the going gets tough. I learned that people can be selfish, and mean, and people can turn out to be in very bad places. Once you are through, I learned you can choose to forget, and begin anew. Tough times bring out the worst in people, that does not mean the worst in people is who they are. There is more to us than the sum total of pain or hurt or fear going around. There is what we choose to do with the situation given to us. I think that is reason enough to be optimistic about life.
– Vyomesh Tewari
Rise once again, tall
Amidst the toil and labor of mind and heart,
I gave it my all, as much each beat could impart,
A fervent hope that in me did vigorously burn,
That from my efforts, unrealised ambitions would turn.
But alas, my dreams were untimely shattered,
As fate, with a sneer, my hopes lay scattered,
And I was left bereft, numb, alone, and forlorn,
With naught but the remnants of what I had once sworn.
My troubled heart did ache, my spirit did flag,
As doubts and despair would begin to aimlessly drag,
And I felt that anguish and pain would not depart,
As I hopelessly pondered, if I’d ever get to play my part.
But still, I held steadfast to a faint belief,
Some day, my tireless efforts would bring relief,
And although I was frightfully ashamed, I did vow,
To keep on striving against all odds, no matter how.
So I mustered my strength, I took up the next fight,
I stumbled, I cried, yet I marched on towards the light,
And though I may fail again, and falter and fall,
I am confident I shall rise once again, stand tall.
– Anandarup Bhowmik
A LOST TEACHER
Home for me would always be Barrackpore. This town is so tranquil that it doesn’t allow my feelings thrive elsewhere. It is almost like a honeycomb, divided into several compartments, treasuring all those precious emotions, I wasn’t aware of previously, unfolding itself uniquely every time. The town is so intrinsically nostalgic that I cannot help but chronicle one such event which occurred last afternoon.
I was returning from Kolkata, where I had been to meet a certain college friend. It was 6th of December and a bright winter afternoon.
I would remember this day, not only because of this incident but also because it was the first time I was travelling single. I am in my second year of college at NIT Allahabad. I consider myself to have sufficiently grown and insisted my parents with the same cause to which they finally yielded. It is a short journey though, half an hour of train ride from Barrackpore to Sealdah and back. Nevertheless, I was content over the prospect of my meeting not getting cancelled this time. It is a matter of utmost concern to me that I cannot hang out with my friends most of whom lived in urban Kolkata, because I lived in a detached branch of North Kolkata.
Now returning to the story, it was a very smooth journey that day. Since it was not a week day, the local train was predominantly empty. It was 3:30 by my watch, golden sunshine reaching my feet and transmitting warmth throughout my body. My phone got discharged and I dumped it into my handbag and with a shrug began looking outside the window. The train was running through sub urban land, heralding the transition, with tall buildings under construction adjacent to miles of farmland growing rice and jute, farmers harvesting the winter yield with sickles in hand, the pleasant sunshine beaming on the golden crop. I was a child once more. I remember how I would stand at the window and gaze at the view outside during our train rides, the breeze playing on my temples and brushing against my skin, my hair fluttering in the wind and how I felt liberated and unhindered.
Remembrance is a sweet poison. I looked away and began observing the other passengers. Most of them were women, Bengali women clad in cotton saris reading magazines. A group of men standing at the gate, talking in loud voices, the lozenge seller trying to attract his customers with his brightly colored wrappers, but there were no children around and others were almost dozing and didn’t bother looking up in his direction. Just then my eyes rested on a lady sitting on a bench at the farthest corner from mine. My eyes were arrested at once.
Sitting at the farthest edge from the window, is a small lady in her middle ages or perhaps a little older. She was wearing a purple salwar that was full-sleeved, topped by a black overcoat which is greasy and open in the front, paired with a soiled kameez of the same color. She held a small purse on her lap, fingers clasped around it for protection. I could see her fingers, in patches due to Leukoderma which had been expanding since the last time I saw her. Her hair was tied in a short pony and the fast receding hairline baring a pale face, with features barely visible against the complexion. Her head is leant against the seat, a strong picture of composure drawn on her face. I was for a moment, transported to my childhood days in school.
Being a companionless child at home, I hold more prominent memories of my vibrant school-life. I could almost hear her voice complaining to my mother about my behavior at school. She was my teacher, Sharmila Chowdhury.
In my sixth standard, I had discovered that she would be our class teacher for the new session when she took successive classes of Mathematics and Physics and ended up taking the attendance herself. I remember, I wasn’t quite pleased over the prospect for I barely liked her. On the contrary, I found her repulsive because of her face and the visible part of her arms in patches. I didn’t know she was suffering then, but I certainly did recognize a stark resemblance between my teacher and the Jersey cow, I had seen being anchored to a post in the locality on my way back to home. She was very grim and reserved, I felt and a bit weird too, for she chose to wear a full sleeved top in the peak of summer. Today, after so many years of that incident, I cannot help but laugh at my own countenance.
Within the next few months, I had seen her grow extremely fond of all of us. Such was her portrayal of affection that she remembered each of our birthdays and even called me at home to wish when I couldn’t celebrate it in school due to the ongoing half-yearly examinations, in the month of September. Thus she succeeded excellently in etching her goodwill in each of our hearts and we on our part almost ignored her shortcomings under her huge and comfortable blanket of love and adorability.
It was only then that we had gathered information through a secret source, a student who was her neighbor that our favorite teacher lived in a large, ancient quarter of the rifle factory at Ichapur. She was only twenty-three when first signs of leukoderma appeared and she wore full sleeves only to hide her extensive patches in the arms. We were bothered but it was beyond our business to pity her state.
It is very difficult for me to recall exactly at what point I had fallen in love with this lady. On all those occasions of her dutiful faith in her standing among her pupils in the pleasant morning sunshine during the morning-prayer in the school ground, her light reprimand and in her gentleness she had become more ours’ than anybody else’s.
One day, mid August, when I got my periods, she was one with whom I had to share this horrific mystery of my existence. I remember how she stooped to my face, smiled at my innocence, patted my head and said,” You are a grown-up girl now”. I had loved her then.
There she is now, sitting on the bench across, half old and half dead, alone and a deep sense of longing instilled upon her face.
That bright morning when I was at her place for clearing some of my doubts in Mathematics, how much I remember all of it. Her house was a perfect British styled cottage, the back side of which overlooked the river. The outer gate bore a few twisted iron rods, rusted and hardly in use any more. The interior was placid and warm. A fire burnt at the chimney place, the walls were damp, and chunks of plaster had disappeared at places, giving it a repulsive look. It was a large house though, very silent, with only two people inhabiting it, my teacher, single and her ailing father who couldn’t move out of bed.
I have seen the helplessness in her eyes, the loneliness in her face then, her love in her translucent eyes and honesty in the face, which made her irresistible. How she had remarked once to my mother,” These children will grow up, make their own ways. I would be proud then”. Suddenly, my mother’s face flashed across my eyes and how she cries every time I leave home for returning to Allahabad. She longs for my presence around her.
Its 5:00p.m and the train approaches Barrackpore station, so engrossed in thoughts that I failed to realize it’s time to leave. Passengers hurry to the gate, I remain seated. She is seated too, her eyes still shut and she’s drooping. It’s time to get down. I walked down to her and shook her by her arm. She is taken by alarm, fumbled a bit, stood up and finally thanked me for waking her up. She couldn’t recognize me. I quickly bent down to touch her feet and greeted her. She placed her palm on my head, smiled and blessed me, brushed the collar of her dress and got down the train with minimum fuss. I followed her. For a while I stood there still, on the platform, watching my old teacher walking the full length of the platform until she disappeared at a distance.
She would perhaps return to her huge house, in which now perhaps she lived single. She would cook her own food, eat alone, listen to ancient music and contemplate. Her world of contemplation I am not aware of. Perhaps it is a never ending longing, similar to that of my mother for her uncountable children she had taught over the years and lost. Perhaps, it is for a companion, or a family she could have had, had this disease not struck her. It may be for her father, who loved her once and left her alone on the face of the earth, or for all those siblings who had clicked pictures with a beautiful Sharmila Ma’am in her childhood, one of which hung in her drawing room. I walked away.
– Rittika Das