Now you know what I did last Christmas

Whenever I go through the internship stories shared by my acclaimed contemporaries from all across the country; I find tales of toil, wonder, learning and even love. They seem to have interned in organizations as diverse as Starbucks and Facebook, and in universities from all over the globe, some of which the visibly ignorant gentleman writing this piece has never even heard of. But one thing that has struck me quite often is that no one seems to write about any work-from-home internships. Either they don’t share my extreme love for the warmth of the four walls of my humble room, or they are too athletic to slog it out from the comforts of their home.

Now being the lazy bum that I am, I have always sought out any opportunity to gain some experience (and a few quick bucks as well) while sitting comfortably in my couch all the while, which very well explains the weird list of internships you will come across in my cv which range from a stint at a sports website, and a content development company to a semester with an NGO (and ya, even that was mostly work-from-home!). But the internship story I am going to share with you is about the time that I interned at Tuesdays Research- a qualitative market research start-up with its co-founders hailing from India, France, Spain and Mexico. Well, needless to say, I was allowed to work from home here as well.

Anyways, it was late November two years back, unless my memory fails me, that I came across this internship opportunity at an obscure internship portal. Till then I was rather pessimistic about the aforementioned internship portal that seemed to have opportunities for every person under the sun except for me. Very often I had breezed through the list of internships in the portal only to be flabbergasted by the number of engineering internships that the companies seemed to offer, while starry-eyed researchers like me were left high and dry. I had almost lost hope when one fine morning I came across a company which was looking for a research intern on Emotional Intelligence, of all things! Not only was it a niche domain, but the compassionate co-founder of Tuesdays Research was providing work-from-home option as well. So without much ado, I submitted my application and waited eagerly for the interview call.

I didn’t have to wait very long as I got a call that very afternoon and although the revered co-founder Mr. M tried hard to prod me to take up the internship in their Delhi base, I put all my negotiation skills to test as I counter-prodded him and finally was successful in grabbing the internship as well as the work-from-home option. Not that I was being paid or anything as he seemed to take a tougher stance than Scrooge on that front, but I was getting the chance to work on the subject that had interested me right from the moment I had taken the first class on it. And above everything else, this was the first time that I had got Daft Punk lucky with this internship portal which made the event all the more exciting.

As my winter semester break had already started, and I seemed to be the only person on campus without a job-offer, I slyly left for home unnoticed where I intended to spend the next month and a half ravaging and rummaging through all the research papers, books and articles on Emotional Intelligence that I could lay my hands on with a view to bring the present internship to fruition.

So with mixed feelings of despair at being jobless, and hopeful of at least doing something worthwhile with Tuesdays Research, I started on my internship. Now being confined to your room for two months researching on EQ is anything but interesting, and offers very less scope for story telling as the brighter lot amongst you must have already perceived by now, but I had a great time all the same. At the very least, the internship gave me an opportunity to channel my frustration at being unemployed in doing something positive, and at best it gave me hope that lest I failed to follow the herd into another lowly corporation, I at least had an alternate career as a researcher waiting for me no matter how blasé the idea might have seemed at that point of time.

Coming back to the internship, Mr M. was himself doing PhD, and so turned out to be the perfect mentor, being well aware of the nitty-gritties of research that the present internship entailed. And the fact that he never interfered with my work, or shouted like Captain Haddock when something went wrong meant that I could do my work peacefully and without fear of being rebuked. It only made me work harder and also proved my avid belief that I had chosen the right internship. Although a month and a half seemed to be too much at that juncture, time literally flew by and by the time I gazed at the calendar again, a month had already gone by.

It was the evening of December 31st. Christmas was over and so were all the carols and the kisses under the mistletoe, and the New Year was just round the corner. Not that it made any difference to me. Neither was I a music aficionado, nor did the fairer sex seem to take much interest in my pale demeanour. There was nothing Christmassy about that night so to speak. It was just another night for me as I got to my desk after a cup of espresso, looking forward to work on my internship-task for that night, and pass into another year unnoticed and undisturbed just like I had done for the past quarter of a century of my inconsequential existence. There was nothing about my past to write home about, and the future didn’t seem to hold much promise for me either.

But it was right at this moment of dark contemplation that I got a call. I had been shortlisted for interview for faculty position at a university I had applied to. Not that the place was very distinguished or could claim to be an epitome of learning or anything of that sort, but it did do two things for me. Firstly, it extinguished the embers of pessimism that I had been nurturing since the past couple of months, and secondly, it just made my resolve of choosing an academic career over a corporate one all the more stronger.

It was only all the way up from there as the new year seemed to be much friendlier to me than the year gone by. Mr. M was delighted with my work (or at least he claimed he was), and I finished my internship much before time. Not only were the past couple of weeks’ time well spent, but my fortunes also seemed to be looking up. I learnt things about Emotional Intelligence I had never heard of-all the models and measures of EQ and the amazing minds that thought them up. I had read a zillion research papers, and had written countless write-ups in the last couple of weeks, and had spent more time poring over books than I probably had done post-Class XII. Besides, I discovered that Google could be used for reasons other than plagiarism and porn, and that your mind was what you made it to be.

Finally, in the first week of February I got my internship certificate and when I read the lines on it “….he is an individual always ready to help beyond what he is asked to do, and always with a happy disposition…..” it seemed that all the tears and sweat were all worth it. Who says a work-from-home internship is a cakewalk? I learnt that it is not the means or the mode but the meaning you seek in your work that defines you. And this is a lesson I am gonna cherish for years to come. So here’s to that little-known internship portal for getting me this fantastic internship, to Tuesdays Research and Mr. M for making it a wonderful experience, and most of all, to all those work-from-home internships that have never gotten their due.

 N.B. The events portrayed here are entirely true, although the names and dates have been changed by the author for no specific reason whatsoever.


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Surojit Chakraborty

Writer, HR, Bibliophile, Polyglot, Optimist

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