(Translation: The Internship)
Walking down the cement stairs which had an occasional crack or two, I realized it was the last time I would ever come here. Some sort of huge fan ran monotonously, and the place was as dirty as it was the first time I had entered it. It smelled slightly of sweat, and mostly of tobacco. The faint clank of metal from the gym two floors above stood out from all the other noises. I looked for the kitten, not finding it around I stepped out on to the crowded main road, avoiding the cows, cow shit and random men ready to touch you at the chance they got. I made my way to that the bus-stand one last time.
After almost two years of applying at various big-shot news houses and a few million phone calls later; an online news website internship finally came my way thanks to a friend who had worked there before. It was then that I realised that a decent academic record and a brilliant resume and other content writing jobs didn’t matter as much as a recommendation from someone who the editor knew or trusted. As far as the office was, I didn’t think twice before saying yes to the publication.
Waking up early I consoled myself that this wouldn’t be very different from college. Putting on a freshly pressed pair of clothes, I walked to the bus stand. I was ornithophobic, and this bus stand was right next to a chicken coop. Beady eyed, feather stuffed, clawed losers flapped around the stand like they owned the place. My worst nightmare had just begun. After an hour’s wait, no bus to Kormanagala appeared. Jakkasandra, seemed like a far away land, like it was in the next city.
The aunty, who’s saree matched the shady, soon to become someone’s lunch creatures, had entertained herself by watching me sweat profusely at the sight of these things, suggested that I go to Jaynagar 9th block and catch a bus. Desperate to be on time on my first day, I called an auto to take me to the same.
An auto, two wrong buses, a half hour walk, and another auto, later, I finally got off in front of DCB bank. Not finding any board that mentioned the name of the publication, I hung around outside the building till P walked down, assured me I was at the right place and walked me to the office on the first floor.
Entering, to the left was a metal book stand with books that everyone occasionally gazed at, and an old little forgotten lantern. Right, black chairs, light brown tables, and an occasional green glass bottle popping up here and there. Tucked into the chairs were people who typed away like clockwork. One looked up, smiled, I smiled back and settled myself into a chair too big for me and waited. I was an hour late, but the editor wasn’t around yet.
The office was one no-room house converted into a, well, office. There was still a kitchen, but the dining room was a conference room, and there were two little cubicle washrooms which were very awkward to use.
Curly black hair, stained teeth, a pack of Kings in her left hand and her Moto G in the right, wearing a dark blue Kurta, G walked in screaming a ‘hi’ to everyone there. She was the loudest and liveliest person in this mechanical place, but she walked in late every day. After handing me my assignment, she found me a computer whose keys were faded, but worked fine.
The only entertainment here, I realised a few days later, was lunch. Everyone would open their dubbas, which were mostly packed from home, and everyone would share and eat. G would only order from Bhukkad when she didn’t bring lunch from home. G was also the only non-vegetarian in the office so she rarely bought non-vegetarian lunch.
We interns sat with the others at times, and sometimes by ourselves since T would always forget to order food on time. Though T wouldn’t admit it, he was super impressed with G on his first day, but began to dislike her the day she yelled at him for walking in later than she. None of them seemed to have anything to talk about other than work, which would mostly just be when the piece would come in to be uploaded.
After two days of sitting at the office I realized that, not everyone there worked for the news publication. Some of them just sat there typed away codes on their laptops, and not everyone came to work every day. A few days later, I realized again that they weren’t coding the news website, but it was something different altogether.
For the next month, except for occasional leg work, all I did was sit in front of the computer and prolong the assignments I was given, because they seemed annoyed to watch me work fast and sit idle, or browse Facebook.
The first two days, I walked in to the office at 10, no one seemed to have arrived at such early hours except for one guy who never failed to wish me good morning. He whispered on his phone all day long and giggled and blushed, he sat for long hours in the little cubicle toilet, the first time he did that I thought he must have suffocated to death and was contemplating how I should tell G that when he walked out proudly, still whispering into his handset. He never ate anything substantial, and always ate milk bikis or jam biscuits, along with Fanta or Miranda. He never spoke to anyone much, just typed away on his computer, was always there before anyone arrived and left after everyone left.
Work was highly monotonous. After two days of experimenting with bus routes I finally found the best one- a bus to Shantinagar and then to Jakkasandra. I didn’t want to walk in early as I never seemed to have anything to do. Since there was only one bus to Shantinagar to my place, I whiled away time sitting at the bus stand, thinking of random love notes I could write to imaginary people, or just stare at the chaotic vehicles, or smile at people I began to see there day after day, before I finally took an almost empty bus to work.The bus stand is the only place where you could see a melange of people.
Sitting here at the bus stand seemed far more interesting than getting on a bus and going to work. Sitting at the stand, I watched the rain drip from the plastic dome-like ceiling above and decided I didn’t want to go to work that day. Coincidentally, I had to work on a write-up about the day in the life of a bus conductor.
I could say his without thinking twice that this was the best day in my life. The conductor I met was inspiring. She had all the right things to say so inspire someone to get their lazy asses to work. I couldn’t have had a more meaningful conversation with even my parents. It was the day I realised that I didn’t have to look for inspiration in people in the lime light; everyone has something in them that the other lacks and this serves as the latter’s inspiration. Though the interview lasted for about two hours, I whiled away about three hours getting into random buses and getting off them at random places. This somehow added to the dose of inspiration and helped me write.
I could easily say this was the only article which I enjoyed writing during my time there. Everything else I wrote seemed forced or half hearted. Though I am a south Indian and have seen my mother and aunts wear silk sarees, I wasn’t much of a saree person. One of the editor’s seemed to be obsessed with the idea of doing a write up on the Kanchivaram industry and put me on to it. I discovered a part of Rajajinagar that day. Also, being a Bangalorean, I had never been to the part of town which goes the KR Market area. Some random short-cut by the bus driver, took us to the lane next to Tipu’s Summer Palace.
Within a few fleeting glimpses, I fell in love with the palace and its architecture and KR Market – Just not the gullies which sold electrical stuff- it was too modern in an old way. Except for days like these, I sat in the office and typed away at the computer, or at least pretended to.
Walking down to the office was always a nightmare; I had to pass two shops which sold chickens. Either the spot in front of these shops would be strewn with feathers or there would be blood-all over the road. Sometimes it gave me chills and when the feathers and blood was too much it made me dizzy. I had to walk to the bus stand about a kilometre away to catch my breath.
Little by little, Jakassandra seemed to become familiar. The Kormangala which everyone called the ‘hub’ of the city seemed so dull and similar to other parts of the city. Until one evening, when I missed the bus and had to go through the Kormanagala Park did I realise that this place was just over-enthusiastically buzzing with life. Chaatwalas, goolawalas, masala dosa-walas, momowalas were everywhere! Every little stall on the road was crowded with people! But I preferred my area, any day, much less populated than this.
On days when T and I are bored, we sit and joke about the place, and how S, an editor, was always bullied by the other editors. Or, how the publication only published A’s articles and one else’s. We sit on the dusty media lab floor, sipping tea, and talk about how we never got the stipend we were promised, or how they queued all our articles to be published and forgot about them the moment we were out of sight. Or about how we ordered from Bhukkad and I hated the Hummus salad, but how he loved all their sandwiches and Dropkafe’s kappee.
Strangely, the tinted glass windows with pigeons making pigeon-sounds outside and the green-wine bottles which were used as drinking water bottles are the only things that I can associate with the workplace now. The last bus ride seems the same as the first, second or third. Rain pattered against the window like it had day after day just at the hour that I reached home, and I walked back home glad that I wouldn’t ever have to see the chickens or the blood ever again.