Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mumbai in May 2014

After a few self-written posts, we finally have the first guest post for this blog by Ishani Dave. Law School Diaries is thankful to the author for sparing her valuable time and penning down her straight-from-the-heart wonderful experiences and thoughts, with of course some beautifully clicked pictures mesmerizing us along the way. 

THIS is about all that I did, I learnt and how I goofed up my first law firm internship. Summer breaks are a huge deal for every law school student. The panic starts right from the second month of a new semester. You hear your batchmates casually talking in the corridors of hostel dorms, about how they are going to take up an easy going internship at their uncles firm, how they are going abroad bag-packing with a bunch of ‘fun friends', how some senior is mothering him/her and fixing up their internship just like it’s some cakewalk. It triggers when you are ropped in one of these conversations, and they cheekily ask you, ‘Hey, so what are you doing this summer?’.. This was one of those moments for me when I got absolutely numb. I had no clue,what I was going to do, what I was doing then at a law-school at all. So, after a few seconds of awkward silence, a friend sees and rescues me from the situation asking others for going to grab some food. My saviour-angel she is. I sheepishly moved into my room and instead of thinking about my plans, I turned on music at the maximum volume and danced my stress away. Although, I slept with random thoughts in my head after that. 

The very next day, I got a call from one of the partners of a firm which was amongst the twenty odd law firms, where I applied for an internship after short-listing them according to my area of interest almost a week back. I had applied for an internship at their office in Pune thinking that my CV was not that great to make it to the main office. An on the spot telephonic interview happened.  They called me to their Mumbai branch, for the month of May. I accepted the offer, but before I could sink in that and thank them, they ended the call. I was happy, it was more than what I had thought about. It is one of the biggest real-estate law firms and still not that famous with NLU students, due to their methods of recruitment. But, making it on your own to any firm, was more than satisfactory for me. That evening itself, I got another call from a lifestyle travel network channel, where I applied some four months back for an internship, saying they loved my work (photographs) and they needed me to work with them for three months starting May. It was a tough call, So I decided to play it very smart. A little filmy it sounds, but I closed my eyes and blindly picked up a chit from the two I had made, one read Career (indicating law firm) other read Passion (indicating the travel network). I chose the one which read career and without waiting for any second thoughts to clog my well-thought of judgment, I went ahead to refuse the super-tempting latter option. 

My symbiotic relationship with Mumbai can be so perfectly described by a one line from, "The Fault in Our Stars",

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: Slowly, then all at once."

Mumbai, as a city was not new to me, or so I thought. My parents have a house there, and both of them spent more than half of their lives here. But South-Bombay was totally a new world. Yes, South-Bombay is different from Mumbai (which generally refers includes suburbs), even Mumbaikars agree. Marine-drive, Churchgate, yellow lights, old lamp-shades, sea-side, people walking non-stop at a particular pace on road. Age and gender being no bar, they all have this rhythm of walking, which takes you a day or two to really get in the groove And once you catch up with the crowd, it feels like you are also with them and not an outsider. 

I decided to take a day or two for settling down in the city and figuring out where to stay and all. Ultimately, after hunting for places for quite sometime, it didn’t work for me. I bunked in with one of my classmates from college who was interning at one of the biggest firms in India. We stayed at one of my relative’s unoccupied apartment near Charni Road station, which was hardly two stations away from our work-places. Commuting is very easy in a metro city but it consumes a lot of time and energy. It was not a fancy residence. But after looking at various PG's/apartments on rent etc, we concluded that even though not very spacious and just like a dream-come-true-barbie-house (like my other friend describes it), with tiny doors, tiny kitchen, tiny rooms, tiny fridge, tiny everything, where we stayed worked just fine for ‘2 girls’. Even though the area where we resided was very crowded but was an extremely decent neighbourhood to walk-in at any hour. It was an insight into living on our own as a grown-up kind of situation. You know managing a house with work by ourselves. 

Figuring out bus-routes and trains is not at all difficult in Bombay. Contrary to the popular misbelief, Mumbaikars in my personal opinion are for real very helpful and hospitable people. Ask them and they won't make faces while answering, but one should be lil aware and smart that you are not disturbing a person who is in hurry. Getting a monthly local pass, figuring out the bus-timings etc. were a part of introduction to the city. Once you get used to it, you don’t even realise when you become a pro at it and people start asking you questions about directions and all. It feels amazing to help them out and let them know you are new too, but they can manage just as fine as you did in a day or two.  

I walked up to the firm one my first day, in complete formals (with tie) but all certainly drenched in sweat (courtesy, the humid weather). The receptionist gave me a warm welcome smile and guided me to restrooms to freshen up and sometime after, the legal HR introduced me to all the associates of the team I was to work under. She then took me to the partner who had interviewed me over the phone. She was very close to what I had expected her. Confident, poised, no-nonsense, hard-working and sweet, a perfect mix of all good. And in no-time she became my role-model. The associates treated me like a human at par with them (hearsay stories of seniors and their experiences were not true for me atleast). 

On the very first day, I got a desk, next to an associate from my team. Unlike, other firms, MY office had a different setting. Interns sat with their respective teams. I was with the corporate team. I was given a separate desktop, my own extension number and stationary too. Till lunch time I got to know people, and they invited me to share food. Later after a day or two, me and another intern (a very good friend of mine) decided to go food hunting. I would love to mention the food at coffee house on Homi Modi street here and the desserts at Piccolo and tea-pot café at homi-modi street near flora fountain. Must visit for foodies and people who would love to try parsi authentic food. Jam tarts were exceptionally good too, the best I have had ever, equally nice as the café owner. In the morning, I had breakfast at this low-profile kitchen. Poornima, again near flora-fountain amazing south-indian food, hygienic, reasonable, filling and warm people smiling at you wishing you good morning and good day.

Eventually during the day, I got a lot of research work from my partner and associates of my team. Clerical work too got super fun and great distraction when I was asked to read 26+ cases with similar facts and mark out relevant portions if the case was important according to the facts of our case, I had to stay back till 8-8.30 PM. And the best part being, I didn’t even realise how time passed, when I was constantly given some or the other work. My Partner, entrusted me with work, she gave me responsibility and that made me deliver better. Because, what I did, mattered, her words gave me a moral boost to perform my best. With of course addition/omission/formatting, my work was still recognized/scrutinized and used by the firm. There were times, when I got to scan/print/cross-refer/proof-read but with all that, I had to be thorough with all the documents I merely touch also. She didn’t want me to report to her towards the end of the day, just informing her what work I am doing when she asked, was more than sufficient for her. Then, I heard stories in the evening time about my other friends at different firms (mostly tier-one) how they got no work and how they had a separate floor for interns and were never considered a part of the firm and all. That is when I realised that it is very essential for a person to take up a small-firm internship first, if they really want to learn and are not just looking for decorating their CV’s. Three associates from  my team dumped their tasks constantly on me thinking I would be able to manage them all. It took me time to achieve a good speed, but, the tasks were done. The satisfaction with which I stepped out of the office, gave me another level of happiness all together. 

Though tired, and exhausted, I regained energy and travelled back home with a smile. Next day again the same routine and it started getting  monotonous for me within a week. Luckily, other interns joined by then, but the amount of work and nature of work we were allocated was totally different. One intern simply got clerical work the other one was just pulling out judgments and marking relevant portions, the third one was researching on bare provisions. That’s when I realised, it was all dependent on the partners under whom we all were working. Their partners did not involve them in the firm as a part of the firm. They got less work, they left early, but didn’t even learn as much probably. 

Towards the end of second week, when my other friends interning at different firms, were making weekend-plans, I was still at office, reading the discussions about plans on whatsapp. And suddenly, an associate walked over, and asked me to join them for Friday evening along with other interns and associates from our firm. Outside office, it was even better with this new-office people. Warm/well mannered/sophisticated people at work, cracking all dull-jokes at office, were wild and full of life at the informal gathering. Contrary to what I thought, it was not awkward with any associate, rather it strengthened the bonds. It was a post-ragging deja-vu for me. 

Later after that, I went ahead to join my friends and explored the nightlife of the city. Mumbai, NEVER sleeps, literally true. Sitting near marine-drive was religiously essential for me after work no matter how late I got, even for a few minutes, I had to visit the seaside. It was refreshing beyond words. Bliss. 

Work-culture differs from city to city, mumbai, I found the best. Everything revolves around work. If you are a workaholic, it's a relishing drug. I always thought, my career and passion had to be separate, towards the end, I realised, that your career can really be your passion too.

The last weekend I decided to go beyond my comfort zone and spent it with a long-lost cousin whom I met for the first-time in twenty years of my life to realise, how much I had missed already. I mention him here to let him know that I agree that yes, I am his young replica and I love him as much as he does.  At the end, it is not a decision I regret that I took-up a law-firm internship. Life is all about taking risks, going with your gut feeling.

Live your life on your terms, but most importantly, have terms. Do not do something which you may regret later. Live in the moment..

On a parting note, things I learnt through my personal and other co-intern’s goof-up experiences: 
  • Never cross the line, even outside office, know your limits. Even when they ask you to chuck/have shots, know your limit, after all you are an intern and still under scrutiny all the time. 
  • Never get wasted on weekdays, the hangover kills the productivity next day.
  • Never say no to any work, from anyone. It always helps learn something, and when you do it, you don’t feel jobless at least, contribution to firm in any manner is essential.
  • Never take-up more work than you can deliver. Always give priority to the work given by your team mates/partners. Doesn’t mean you refuse to work for others.
  • Pick-up a place which is near your office/work.

The author is a fourth year student of Gujarat National Law University and can be reached here, here

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