I believe that internships are supposed to help you explore various parts of different business. They should help you find what you are passionate about and help with structure your career at least in the beginning. What you find out about it would be something that helps you grow as a person and make informed decisions.
Towards the end of my first year of B-School i had to decide where i wanted to intern. We had to do a 2 month internship and submit a report on it. Friends went to really nice organizations that offered allowed them to intern in a particular department. I dint want to go back to the corporate world and intern in an organization which did not allow me to experiment. Spoke to my Guide (he’s a genius) who dint mind that i wanted to experiment doing something that wasn’t in a traditional sort of organization.
Started to look for something interesting to do and a friend told me that he had hired a bunch of circus performers for an event and it was awesome. It was like a light bulb moment, why not work in a circus. Nobody had done that before, nobody had even thought of interning the circus without wanting to open one. I just wanted to see what happens behind the scenes and wanted to be involved. I pitched the idea to my Guide and he agreed. Like i said earlier, he was a genius. He believed in the idea, even when i had doubts about it.
Wrote to the head of PR at the circus and had a quick call with them. As traditional as the circus is and even though they don’t entertain people outside the community they agreed. The circus was going to start playing ( its like the theater, hence i use the word playing) at Kanjirappally in Kerala. Its a small town, with one main road running through the entire town. The nearest place i knew about was Kottayam. This was about 40 km from there. I put the motorcycle in the train as my folks dint want me to ride there. I reached Kanjirappally and found a place to stay. There was one lodge there and everyone from the circus was also living there. Work started the same day. The role for the first couple of days was to take pics of the setup and the opening ceremony.
After the opening ceremony i was tagged with the guys who handled the advertising for the circus. The model was simple, put posters around town and make announcements form a jeep. So i rolled up my sleeves and started to put up posters on the streets of Kanjirappally. Thankfully i had done this is the past so wasn’t something i had to get used to do. It was hard work. We started at 8 am and worked till 1 pm. Then came lunch and a nap for an hour on one of the streets inside a estate. Slept on the street under a shade of a tree before we were woken up to start work again. This was for 7 days a week without a break. The guy who headed this project was brilliant. He gave me lots of insights about the circus like how the elephants were taken care off and why they treated the animals really well. His take on it was, if something did happen to the animals they cannot afford to get a new one. I was introduced to a bunch of people. The clowns were interesting and the little people were mean. He scared the living shit out of me, i have no idea why.
The animal trainer was a brilliant chap and showed me how they trained the camels and the elephants. I was shown how to train the camels, which i sucked at but according to him, practice makes perfect. A month later i was back home, it was a kickass experience. I had learnt how the circus worked, what could be better and how they managed to go into a new town every 30 days or so. The ability for this art-form to survive in-spite of new forms of entertainment driving traffic to them is extraordinary. I believe the circus story isn’t just over. There will be a revamp. At some point the circus will come back with full force, this time it wont be because of the animals or the pop corn but just because of the artists.
When a circus comes into a town, it brings joy to the town. Kids and adults look forward to going to the circus. The happiness and the joy i guess is what makes the performers work 7 days a week and do 3 shows a day.
When i tell people that i worked in the circus, they are curious. They want to know more. I guess thats the feeling we all get before we go to the circus.
PS: I took my Wife to the circus . This was when we just started to date and this was our first date. She loved the experience.
My Mother in law is from Kanjirappally, so thats brownie points for knowing about her town and working there.