Last day of my internship at Yahoo!

What an eventful day it was! Here, I am going to narrate about a particular incident.

As almost every intern here does, I decided to write a thank-you-lets-keep-in-touch mail to the intern group and my team members. After the initial stuff about how wonderful it was to work at Yahoo, and how I had a great time and how I liked the internship, it was time to say “thank you”. During my stay, I had this wonderful opportunity of attending the summer school on information retrieval. I got an overall idea of what information retrieval is all about, the challenges, some interesting problems in the field and innovative approaches taken by the researchers. So I wanted to give a big “thanks” to my mentors (Yes, I had two of them!), my manager and to Muthusamy Chelliah, head of academic relations of Yahoo! And as it happens, I have this weird notion (given that I thought of \m/ as Garfield, this should not come as surprise :P) that “calling people with their surnames is rude”. For example, say there is one dude called Kapil Sibbal. I find saying “Kapil, I need to talk to you about foobar” perfectly fine but I somehow think that it would be rude if I say “Sibbal, I need to talk to you about foobar.” (Especially, when he is not of my age.) And nobody around here calls him “Muthusamy” or any variant thereof. So I wrote “I am thankful to Arun, Chelliah sir, Shravan and Shrikant for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to attend the summer school.” Shrikant is name of my manager. And I realized, even Shrikant is quite elderly and senior and I should add a “sir” after his name too!

After writing that one line, my mind again drifted back to my memories of the internship, in search of things which I should mention in the mail. One really nice thing I realized was… For quite a few days I had been having my lunch with my team members – 5-6 of them. The topics on table ranged from kickboxing to google+ and land acquisition by the Chinese in west Bengal to innovative use of ad-hoc networks by firefighters. I enjoyed my time there interacting with these people and they treated me like just another team member – one among them! So after getting lost for some time in nostalgia, I again came back to the mail… I must thank my team-mates… Then I listed their names and wrote some words of gratitude. While hitting the “send” button, I did not have the slightest bit of an idea about what was waiting for me in the afternoon…

As usual, I went for lunch and sat on the table where 3 of my team members were already sitting – Sudar (a.k.a. SudarMan), Kshitiz (yeah, Kshitiz with a “z”) and Arup. After some time, Arup told us that he had some work to take care of, and has to leave. Sudar asked him whether he would like to come to a walk after lunch as usual. Arup seemed to be in a hurry as he declined and left. Arup is most probably the most experienced and most elderly person in our team. After all, he is in the industry from the time even before I was born! After the remaining three of us were done, we went for a walk. And then came this statement by Sudar “Dude, it was very bad of you to not call Arup ‘sir’. Do you have any idea how upset he is about it? He never leaves the table early. He always comes with us for a walk. Why in the world would you do that? That too on your last day here!”

I never meant to do such a thing and had it not been for the context switch during writing the mail, I would have surely put a ‘sir’ after Arup’s name. I was totally overwhelmed with the feeling of guilt and regret. For the whole duration of 10 minutes or so of our walk, Sudar and Kshitiz were constantly telling me how irresponsible my mail sounded and how bad Arup felt.

When we came back, I went back to cafeteria to have some jalzeera and kept thinking about how I should word my apology mail to Arup. With the contents of mail partially formed in my mind, I came back to my cubicle, and there he was… Arup! Standing right in front of me! He told me to check my mail and surely there was one new mail saying “Where is my ‘sir’!!!” Here, I should have realized that the whole thing has a lighter note to it, but me being in my own thoughts of having made a mistake, simply could not catch it. All I could say was a “sorry”! And then quite lamely tried to explain how I never meant to disrespect him and how regretful I was. He left.

I went back to write an elaborate apology to my desktop. I had hardly finished a sentence and enter the gang… Sudar, Kshitiz, Navneet and Arup all laughing loudly and freely - making fun of me, laughing to their heart’s content as I watched them in bewilderment not knowing how to react. Sudar explained how things just fell into place – Me sending that mail, Arup leaving the lunch table early and saying no for the walk. How he and Kshitiz made an issue of nothing, essentially, how they “ragged” me! Arup told me that he hadn’t even read the mail by lunch time!

Then we went for a tea. There Arup explained how industry setting is different from the academic setting, how nobody is ‘sir’ at Yahoo! and how colleagues are just that – colleagues. He made it clear that it is the behavior which shows your respect towards a person rather than the words used to communicate. Then he explained the importance of having a good grasp on programming in a research setting. We talked about how the layman perception of a technology job is different in India from that in US and a lot of other interesting things… a good chat to have after going thru this short lasted tension!

2 comments :

  1. You still haven't seemed to have learned from your mistake. Why is it just Mr. Muthusamy Chelliah and not Mr. Sudar, Mr. Navneet, Mr. Arup, Mr. Kshitiz ??!!

    I need an explanation when I come to IIT-Madras next month for HackU

    --
    MR. Sudar

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