Summer Internship with Projectwell Development Managers, Mumbai – Sneha Nagarajan from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee

Daily Winner for: –  31st August 2013

Name of the intern: – Sneha Nagarajan

Institute: – Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee

Organization interned with: – Projectwell Development Managers, Mumbai

“Mumbai’s infectious. Once you start living in Mumbai, working in Mumbai, I don’t think you can live anywhere else.”-Yash Chopra

Yes, I evangelize Shah Rukh Khan’s movies, I am a sucker for Madhuri’s “thumkas” and I begin my essays with Yash Chopra’s quotes. As an Indian teen I have had more than my fair share of Bollywood fandom, watching all-time hits (“Dilawale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge”, “Dil Toh Pagal Hai”, “Mohabbatein”, can I write my essay on this?) as many times as the cable-wala is kind enough to run it on the local/national channels. I’ve never wanted to be in the movies, but something about the “City of Dreams” has always tingled my curiosity.

Having mastered the art of procrastination precociously, my hunt for a summer intern began only in the month of April. Given that, I was braced to leap at any opportunity cast on my way. Turns out, it’s not so bad to start late after all. I had a couple of offers from Malaysian architecture firms. With a decent internship in hand, round trip tickets booked and a Malaysian visa applied for, I decided to give it up for an offer from Mumbai. Despite not knowing what I might have missed out on, I thank that whimsical psyche of mine for steering me in that direction.

The project that I was assigned to work on for the next two months, ICH (Ideal Choice Homes), is a holistic solution to address the mass housing solution in India by way of an ‘offsite manufacturing approach, a joint venture of national and international firms, headed by Projectwell Development Managers, Mumbai. My heart was aflutter at the idea of being involved in something that will revolutionize the profession I love in a manner that I’ve dreamt of, all this germinating in the heart of the commercial and entertainment capital of India.

I reached the city on a Sunday morning teeming with confidence, but learnt otherwise almost immediately when I was ripped off of an extra Rs.1000 by a local cab driver, a veteran at the art, who could intuitively tell “Yeh hai right choice, baby!” for easy money. After much meandering around the campus (IIT-Bombay) I finally arrived at the hostel allotted to me nestled on the hills. This, not very surprisingly, meant free visits from the wild of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a transport-vacuum all around, nail-biting bone-chilling walk down the roads leading to the hostel, among other such perks which I will refrain from mentioning for fear of being thought of as a hater. I am not a hater for, despite all this I took to the place (rather the place took me in) almost as instantaneously as a smile takes to happiness.

I took some time getting in the routine, but in no time it came as second nature to me- be it taking the everyday “chaar sau chaubees” (424) bus to work, making not-so-successful attempts at learning Marathi from the conductor-uncle, discovering the goodness of “kaandha-poha and sheera” for breakfast. Then comes the part of the day that never seems to come to a close- work.

Work was nothing like what I had expected. India faces a dearth of houses and every year this shortage keeps increasing and the price of houses is on a steep rise. This is an issue that needs immediate acknowledgement and resolution. The venture was aimed at tackling this. It was a project that nobody had a clue as to when it would be executed, at what scale, what returns, how welcome. But I could see the undying enthusiasm suspended in the atmosphere to give it all in order to come up with the most viable solution. A group of firms that were ready to invest so much of their resources to arrive at something that demanded the level of dedication that I could see around me. Working on this project made me see how a firm’s motives need not necessarily be return oriented. Surely, the companies involved did look forward to successful implementation and good returns from what they developed. But the results could disappoint just as much as they could benefit its developers. It is the courage to take risks, the admirable ability to push monetary returns to the background and to be able to work as a team from across the globe that keeps venture going.

I can’t be grateful enough for having like-minded co-interns and a team that took me in as their own with such enthusiasm that I never really had to ease into the work atmosphere. Certainly, talking to project managers from other firms, dealing with suppliers, getting raw data from the test labs and trying to make sense of it, this was all as new and amusing to me as a foreign country is to its visitors. But it helped me gain an insight of the industry and its workings, to put the little bits I learnt in college to some use and more importantly learn a lot more than what can possibly taught in the classroom in two months. As they say, the world is the architect’s laboratory.

At the end of a long day, 424- the bus I gave all my loyalty to never failed to disappoint me. The bus mostly took a detour at the Powai Lake dropping me of nearly 5 km from my hostel. Having only limited resources at hand and marked by parsimony I would walk the entire distance every day. The saving grace was the serene unperturbed walk by the Powai Lake, an intoxicating breeze blowing across my face, all the way up to my hostel. Then, it didn’t matter that there were approximately 100 motor vehicle horns blaring past me every minute, it didn’t matter that I was returning after 9 hours at work, it didn’t matter that I had traveled in a bus that gets stuck in a traffic jam for nearly an hour each day. I found my quiet in the noise. I could reflect upon the day’s work, plan out the next day (which would turn out to be pretty much the same as any other day, but this mental note had to be made), reflect upon my actions and above all, it gave me time to think about the multitude of visions that the city had projected before me each new day. The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It’s an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that. Mumbai is a teacher of sorts. My brand new phone was pick-pocketed, I was in and out of police stations trying to fix the situation, almost every day after work I would try to contact someone who could help me with my situation only to learn that “things don’t work that way”.

Despite all that went incorrigibly wrong, I was coming to realize that I loved the place, the people I encountered every day; from the conductors to the dabbe walas, the maushis, my colleagues and hostel mates; the work assigned to me; the food; my abode for the two months. Something about a place that makes you its own with such ease. It was when I had to bid adieu to each little part of the two months that I had spent here that I realized how an intern is not so much about visiting fancy places or working in the multinational companies(sure, that has its own perks) as it is about deriving as much out of the two months in which one is no more in the cocoon that’s home or college, but an initiation into the real world. It’s not so much what you learn about the company/place, it’s about what you discover about yourself really. You find out a lot about yourself, your tolerance and your inclusiveness. But being in a place you come to like certainly helps. “Mumbai may not be my city. But it is my kind of city.”

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