116 The Internship at the Indian National Congress
Two blogs rolled into one
It was the beginning of winter in Pune circa 2002, everyone in the Batch of 2004 SIMC (Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, now Mass has been replaced with media) was finalising their internships for the summer of 2003 and so was I. I had developed a keen interest in political communications and was keen to pursue that with an internship. With a nudge or two from the then director – Shashidhar Nanjundaiah I sent emails to request for an internship to the offices of the then IT savvy CMs of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka but in vain.
I then decide to up the ante and reach out to the two national political parties via their websites but there was neither a response from Ambika Soni or Pramod Mahajan (the media department managers of the INC and BJP in 2003). So I decided to call the board lines of the party offices and guess what – – – while the BJP phone was perennially engaged (they were in power then) and the Congress phone rang and rang but no one was receiving it at the other end – this went on for a couple of days. On the fourth day BP Singh takes my call at 24, Akbar Road – I explain to him my proposal for an internship and I’m summoned to Delhi to discuss in person (BP Singh was secretary to Oscar Fernandes – then and present General secretary of the party) as they do not entertain any request on phone.
Well, I make it to Delhi with borrowed money on a student discount Indian Airlines flight and the next day I walk into a not so secure Congress office with a CV in hand. After a four-hour wait Oscar Fernandes arrives from a delayed flight from Patna and to my utmost surprise chooses to meet me over the others because I was the only non politico, kid guy there (others in the waiting room included some MLAs from Rajasthan/ a widow from Haryana and few others). The rest is history.
He asked me a few questions about what an internship means; Where I was from and where I was studying. The Symbiosis name was the ice breaker ( I have never met him before that day or had any connection with him other than the fact that we are from neighbouring districts in Karnataka). He then directed me to the media secretary’s office with a note addressed to Tom.
After an hour long wait, in comes a smart gentleman called Tom Vadakkan and is as reserved as it gets. He says there is no concept of an internship but says will not refuse since the note from Oscar suggests something to that effect. And the next thing I know is I’m the first student intern at 24, Akbar Road (the part headquarters of the INC).
The internship between March and May 2003 was a great experience. I saw the blue turbanned gentleman at the office premises couple of times. A year later Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister and still continues to be in that position.
PS – Eight summers later I tried my fourth job in a similar way and that is blog number 114.