I would prefer to be stranded alone in an island than be in Chennai….!!!
That was the first reaction for all of my friends. Hi…I am Sayantani Roy (a.k.a. Diya), marketing student of the ’13 batch from SCMHRD, Pune. My summer internship was in ASHOK LEYLAND LTD. at Chennai.
Before going for the internship I was very apprehensive about the whole idea of going to Chennai and staying there for over a month. Unlike how it is in the States, summers in India can be real bad and it was literally raining fireballs this year. But then, I hail from Kolkata, not from the US and trust me it gets really humid during the summers!!! So that was some kind of a morale booster. And I was kinda looking forward to Chennai and the famous (or infamous) marina beach.
So with destination Chennai on my ticket I reached their on 8th April 2012. I thankfully had two of my batch mates to accompany me in the Chennai ordeal. One already had reached and had arranged for a room for the rest of us. I had heard that my hostel is just next to the Spencer Plaza. The usual ‘day-dreamer’ me started picturing some nice villa, with serviced rooms…but before I could stretch my imagination any further I was in the middle of some narrow lane with strange looking people staring at me. Wait a minute, is this the correct address? I was about to call my roommate when I saw her standing next to the car with her toothy grin (But she ain’t that bad afterall ). Our room was on the 1st floor.It was a very small room with three beds, which looked more like the ones you carry the dead on. My movie suddenly started screening in sepia!!!! The floor was dirty, walls covered with tiles (used to think that tiles are meant only for the bathrooms) and had one small window with nets to protect us from mosquitoes and what not. One good thing was that the bathroom was huge. As if I was supposed to stay there for the most part of my day!!! Well, day 1 at Chennai was anything but happening.
Day 1 at Ashok Leyland, something I had been eagerly looking forward to. The Rs.5 bus fare to the office was overkill. Yes, the scrooge in me was elated. The office was very near to my place and I loved the office. A huge building with an amazing façade, spic and span, nicely decorated. Immediately upon joining, I met the HR and met two other people from my college and other interns. I was the only one from the Marketing department. Every floor at Ashok Leyland is dedicated to different departments. I reached the 5th floor and went to Mr. X to get my project guidelines and the details of my assignment. When I told him about my interest in new product development (NPD) he suggested me to meet Mr. Y who gave me the details for my project on NPD. I was really happy to get started on my stint at being a corporate, the work was really exciting. It was in LCV sector. I had a cubicle to myself along with a ‘non-apple’ computer (without Facebook….sigh).
The people were really nice to me and perhaps I would not think twice if I had an opportunity to serve at Ashok Leyland. But my internship was indeed a happening time. Within couple of days being in Chennai, all of a sudden these earthquakes happened. The office building was vacated. Well, the best part, I got an early leave. The customer visits were real fun. But, needless to say, the language was indeed GREEK to me. I couldn’t decipher a single word, and sadly much of my internship required me to interact with local customers. Thankfully I had the privilege of having an interpreter from my office for two days. Yes, that was the amount of help I had received during my internship. I still recollect my project guide saying,”Maa, cross the road carefully, you don’t need to go their alone…..” Perhaps he was one person who I could look up to for help and for anything I needed. But then, the customer visits were really hilarious and eventful at times. I still remember one of my client visits. I was travelling alone; super confident that finding my way home wouldn’t be all that tough. But then, all hell broke loose while returning. Every road seemed to be the same, and to my surprise every time I tried to find my way out I somehow came back to the same place again!! Local people tried to rescue me…..“Yenge(where) madam? Rightaa madam….leftaa madam”…!!! Yeah sounds hilarious, but then, isn’t that exciting when you are the protagonist in the story. I kept wandering from one place to the other after finally realizing that the bus stop was JUST 45 mins away!!! And to make things worse I ended up paying thrice as much. Christ alone knows where on earth I was.
Now, for the part that sucks the most, Chennai food (at least for me).Yes, I was that disgusted living on rice, cooked in every form imaginable. Well, I do not have any grudge against Chennai or the people there (CSK is my favourite and all Indians are my brothers and sisters..well, let alone the handsome ones, everybody else is my brother ) and Idly, Dosa and Vadas are a welcome break, but then a staple diet based on dosas, uthapams and appams???? Hell no!!And to make things worse, the food served at the mess was literally icing on the cake. Curd rice, lemon rice, jeera rice, tomato rice, plain rice, tamarind rice…100% fat FREE diet (Pun Intended!!!). Strangely enough I found some of the girls were so thin, but still they used to take 4 times the rice I usually have when very hungry. God knows how they managed their ZERO figures.You can still see some remnants of the frustration on my face when I look at idlys being served in my college canteen. The canteen behind the Ashok Leyland office was the last resort. Chapatti and eggs was like God’s food during those days.
The state electricity board was very punctual in giving us our share of the experience called “It happens only in India”, a daily dose of 2 hrs of routine power cut. That was reason enough to head to the nearby malls (free AC never killed anyone). Express Avenue Mall was THE place to be. Movie tickets were cheap enough, but strangely, I could never find myself a seat!!! I am yet to decipher why the heck….!!! People in Chennai SUPPOSEDLY do not understand hindi and neither do multiplexes screen movies with Tamil subtitles!!! Well, the only thing left to do was to stare at the tall, dark, handsss…(Pretty much that’s it) mallu actors’ posters (Desperate times you see!!!). But thanks to uncle SAM and his Asian brand invasions, Subway and KFC tasted the same (No sambar here… ). Also, I really liked the ice cream at Saravana Bhavan, but trust me I am very much diet consciousJ. Best thing in Chennai were cars. Porsche, Maserati, BMW, Renault, you name it. The Porsche showroom was a 10 minute walk from my place. I used to drool at these lovely cars as if checking out some handsome hunk.
On the day of my final presentation I was literally biting my finger nails. Inspite of the fact that I had worked really hard for the product development, the EVIL in me somehow kept bugging me. The presentation was presided over by the General Manager of marketing, General Manager of the customer care department, two area managers, my project mentor and the divisional manager. I started mumbling something and I knew not when I had already finished. Well, at the end like every other bollywood flick my story kinda ended on a happy note. I got applauded by every single member of the panel. It felt nice J. I was presented with a memento and a gift wrapped Parker as a token of appreciation. I was happy that I didn’t let my college down and managed to get 4 out of 5 for my work, which is really cool !!!
Chennai people seemed to have a unique sense of style. Some people prefer to walk around bare foot, while women always adorn their hair with lots of flowers and somehow seemed to over-indulge in gold, and not to mention their long locks, literally soaked in coconut oil. But there is something about that place, about the people that thrills me. I remember how some people tried to understand my language and tried to help me find the correct route. Their simplicity touched me. Whenever I used to call the auto driver ‘anna’ ( brother) I used to enjoy a reduction in the fare. On the days that I missed my canteen food, the next day they used to ask me so many questions to know whether I am fine or not. The people were extremely nice to me, specially my project guide and mentor. I don’t remember how many times I used to bug them with my questions. They always have helped me and guided me all through. I cherish those little moments of fun amidst lots of problems. I guess that’s reason enough why they say It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.