Image Courtesy - Agencia Veritas
A Day @ the Chennai BDL
By Vasanthi Subramonia Pillai
As you enter the narrow streets of Parrys, you'll find a blue glass building that generally shimmers under the Sun at around 9 in the morning. The lab is a unique space with unique people who have a river of thoughts flowing through them. This also means, at any given point of time, you will find some bizarre yet interesting discussion happening at some corner of the lab. The most common ritual for the first one or two hours of the day, is silence. You will find everyone individually working on a to-do list, replying to emails, reading or sometimes staring at stata.
Post 10 am, there is a mild hustle of the surveyors who are getting the survey booths ready or directing participants into their booths, handing out consent forms, some of them also giving participants directions to the lab over the phone. Once surveys begin, the lab feels busy; RAs talking to their team, solving daily issues, tracking data, understanding patterns, conducting debriefs and multi tasking phenomenally well. At around 11 am, you'll catch the aroma of coffee brewing, the French Press moving across tables, spreading joy. If you are a coffee person, this is the most appropriate time to get into a debate on why you think black coffee is the best.
However, in some strange way, beyond their coffee preferences, the people at the lab are almost always in sync, you can ask for momentary help from other RAs in incomplete sentences without context and yet they'd know exactly what you are talking about. You'll occasionally find people calling out to each other to ask opinions, to spot the bug in a code and some other times talk about the latest book that they got their hands on or the movie they watched. Yet another interesting aspect of the lab is that, on any given day you will find RAs working on a diverse array of tasks, ranging from grant proposals to drafting training schedules for the team. This diversity is particularly exciting, since it helps the team to learn something new every day. The diversity carries forward to the choices that the team makes for lunch.
At the lab, lunch is not generally an extravagant affair, it is a quiet and interesting routine. There are a few who bring their own lunches and there are a few who are loyal customers of Sangeetha restaurant. On days that favor walking a little away from the routine, the lab chooses between restaurants such as Murugan Idly and Thalapakatti . Most of them know their food choices well in advance but the discussions over lunch are extremely spontaneous, for they range from "How old is Harry Potter?" to "today is Tuesday, they should have special masala dosa". The afternoons at the lab carry a comforting and productive silence as well as a habituated background noise that is a symbol of everything being in place.
Every day at the lab is different in its own way, there is a lot of learning, genuine laughter, ideation and abundantly fruitful interactions. It could take a little while to adapt to the scheme of things at the lab, but within a few weeks into it, one realises this experience is truly one of a kind. There is always something to take away, at 6pm, every day, as you leave one of the busiest parts of the city.