A bead of sweat rolls down my forehead, even as the AC is running at full blast. My legs throb with a dull pain - I have been standing for four hours now. A lady in red approaches me - she sees me smile, she sees the glint in my eyes, and she tries to side step me, but it's too late, I'm already in the fray.
"Hello, good afternoon! Would you like to taste Lipton Ice Tea?"
She gives in. After a small spiel, and a five minute discussion about Mumbai weather, she is on her way with two packs of Lipton Ice Tea in her cart, and I am closer to my goal of the day.
This is Modern Trade Blitzkrieg, and like me, there are several interns, and managers in the market, working side by side with the field forces that drive the monolith that is HUL.
I am almost at the end of my two month stint in Hindustan Unilever. My days might seem to follow the same set pattern - hurried breakfast at the 'Wadala Sheraton' (an affectionate, slightly derisive nickname for the guesthouse we have been staying at - okay I lied, it's mostly derisive), a cab ride with three other interns which generally helps me understand what's spinning on the rumour mill, opening the laptop and getting into the mountain of work that seems to have piled up almost overnight, chasing managers in the company for one-on-ones, frantic coffee breaks with other interns to solve mini existential crises, and at the end of the day, a ride back to Wadala which is generally quiet and reflective as we marvel at the miracle - we have survived yet another day. However, each day I have spent in these two months has also been markedly different from the rest.
It is challenging. One of the first things I realised in my first week at Hindustan Unilever was that this internship would challenge me every step of the way. I have pushed myself beyond what I thought my capabilities were - I have stumbled, I have fallen apart along the way, but I have also picked up the pieces and moved on. This, I think, is the biggest learning I will be taking out of this place. This place has truly taught me the adage - it is not how many times you fall, but how many times you pick yourself up.
It is rewarding. All internships, I believe, make you question your existence. They make you feel that you have fallen short, that you are somehow something less, and at the end of the two months, they make you feel that all the while, you were something more but you just didn't know it yet. How can that not manage to have a lasting impact on your being?
It is transforming. I can honestly say I am not the same person I was when I first walked through the glass doors of this office. Some mornings I have cocooned myself in a large blanket and watched television till my eyes hurt. Some nights, I have worked till the purple dawn broke and the room filled with light. I have made friends. I have rediscovered old friends. I have memories. What more can I want?