A Passion That Pays

A Passion That Pays

Tanushree walked out in the afternoon sun. The blazing sun made her want to head back to the comfort of her air-conditioned office, but she knew that wasn’t possible. She reminded herself she shouldn’t be complaining either as this was the result of her choices. All she could do now was call the cab driver to check where he was held up. After a good 10-minute wait in the scorching heat her cab finally arrived. Though she wanted to give the driver an earful she restrained herself. Getting worked up before a client meeting would do no good. She sat back as the cab started moving and was soon lost in thoughts.

Tanushree wished she could wind the clock back by half a decade. The one decision taken five years back in business was taking a toll on her now. She had been firm in her choice of specialisation in business school. It had to be marketing, she had always had in her to convince people to agree with her line of thinking and she had the gift of the gab too. She knew this was going to be the perfect choice of career for her. Soon it was time for campus placements and Tanushree applied only for the marketing jobs. She knew it was a big risk she was taking by severely limiting her choices. But she was young and fresh out of college and high on excitement and believed in living her passions. When she thought about it now all she could do was curse herself for being naive. Her first job with the Marketing consultancy firm was lucrative from the perspective of remuneration but the work became a drag for her over time. Collating data, studying consumer demands and analysing the feasibility for survival of the intended product in the market, most of the day was spent in front of the computer screen. Tanushree for nothing exciting or passionate about this job. She wanted to be doing work which pushed her to step out of her comfort zone. That was the reason which made her grab the job offer from a popular beverage brand. The job description was very challenging and she was all pumped up about giving her best.

The job involved widening the market reach of their soft drink in the rural areas of a particularly rough part of the country. To add to it was the challenge overpowering their rival, who had a strong hold in the area. Being a city-bred girl, she was alien to the rural way of life. While Tanushree was prepared with presentations and the perfect marketing pitch to make dealers accept their brand over the rivals, the actual game plan in action scared the day lights out of her.  What she saw in practice was elimination of the competitor literally. The trucks plying the competitor’s products would be waylaid and the goods sabotaged and damaged. This was practice that both parties followed with a lot of vigour. Tanushree was left in utter shock, she had expected to that this would be the perfect opportunity to put to use her business school training at the grass root level, while at the same time imbibe from the traditional business practices of the rural heartlands but all she was getting to learn was ways and means of practicing bashful hooliganism. Not the one to give up easily she did try her best to adapt to the situation and bring a change in the marketing tactics. But she soon realised nobody was ready for any kind of change. In fact, she felt like the wrong person in the wrong place. In less than a year she had to start her saga of job hunting again.

This time the job offer was from an international cosmetic giant. Soon she found herself handling marketing operations for a varied range of skin lightening, skin clearing and skin whitening products basically creams which came in varied variety of containers with varied names, but served just one purpose whitewashed the skin. There was always a good market for these products in India for people went to great length for the unblemished white skin. But despite the good salary and a good team to work with, the happiness that Tanushree sought from her work seemed to elude her. Here she was marketing products, which were against the very principles she believed in. Over all these years she had derided these fairness products, accused them of encouraging unrealistic beauty standards and the cause of low self esteem in many youngsters. Now here she was devising ways and methods improving the market share and revenue generation of those very products she detested. But she would tell herself this is what she was trained at and was only putting her skills to use and like everybody else needed to earn money. This at least helped her lessen the guilt.

A few years later when the opening at this Software company came her way, she grabbed it instantly. At least now she wouldn’t have to come up with reasons to ease her guilt. But here she was convincing potential clients about the new teaching aid software, which was going to be the future of teaching. The aim behind the product was to make the software strong enough to take the place of a teacher or rather act as a virtual version of a teacher. Tanushree could not fathom the fact that a mere software could replace a teacher. She wondered “what about the emotional bond that is created between a teacher and student, how would that bond be formed with a computer software?” The aim of the company behind the product was to solve the issue of non-availability of teachers in remote areas. But could the schools struggling for survival in the remote areas be really able to afford this software. To her all these noble ideas seemed like mere hogwash. But here she was again out to convince a client about something she herself wasn’t convinced about.

The sudden cacophony of vehicle horns broke Tanushree’s reverie. She looked out of the window only to realize, she had travelled very little of the actual distance to be covered. Looking ahead she could see a sea of traffic. This kind of a traffic jam at this hour in the afternoon seemed unusual. That is when she glanced at the date on her mobile screen and felt like giving herself a face palm. How could she have forgotten a major political rally was to take place in town and thanks to her forgetfulness, here she was stuck in traffic. Looking at the sea of vehicles ahead of her she had little hope of reaching on time for the meeting. She let out a sigh and leant back on the seat. She could hear the driver grumbling about being stuck in this never-ending traffic jam. Yes, stuck they were but now she couldn’t turn back either. That is when the artist on the road caught her attention. He was sketching such a lovely mural on the foot path. Looking at him she was again lost in her thoughts.

Painting had been Tanushree’s passion ever since she could remember. “She has an artistic bent of mind” is what her art teacher in school said. She was good at, winning several accolades for the school in painting and sketching. After school she even wanted suggested pursuing a career in art. Her father had asked “Will it pay your bills?” That was the end of those thoughts of pursuing her passion as a profession. Looking out of the window at the artist working on his piece of art, she felt “dad had indeed spoken the truth. Profession enable you to pay your bills.” That is when the brainwave stuck her. What if she could use her marketing skills to further her passion. She would form the core part of her profession and she would be making money too. She deserved to be patted for the brilliance. She sent a message to the client expressing regret over her inability to make it to the meeting, asked the cab driver to end the ride and immediately jumped out of the cab. She could hear the driver muttering at her angrily. But she was too engrossed in her latest brainwave to notice anything, she rushed to the man making the sketch on the pavement and engaged in a conversation with him. She collected all the information she needed, even recording parts of the conversation. That evening back at home, she narrated her brilliant plan to her husband Shyam. She made him go through all the information she had collected. It did seem a crazy idea, but her enthusiasm was infectious and he couldn’t stop himself from supporting her.

18 months later……

Tanushree was looking into the quarterly financial statement of her new start up. This definitely looked better than the last quarter. She was happy about making the decision that day. “Artist on Call” was getting popular with each passing day. She had to thanked her stars for the cab ride she had taken on that sultry summer afternoon. If not for that cab ride, she would not have encountered that amazing artist on the pavement and this idea wouldn’t have popped in her head. Looking at the artist she realised that day, that there were so many talented people like him living in penury just because they are not able to make money. She was reminded of her friend Amita at the same time, she had made so much of an effort to search for an artist who would could turn her living room wall into his easel and give it a unique and artistic twist. But her search yielded no results, for she couldn’t find anyone who charged reasonably and gave the desired results. That is when it stuck her, artists like this man didn’t know where to go for work, on the other end of the spectrum where people like her friend Amita. So Tanushree devised the perfect platform for them to meet.

“Artist On Call” was a platform which promoted and marketed struggling artists or those with a penchant for art but clueless about how to earn from it, People who needed their services could hire them for a fee. Some of the first few artists to be featured on the website were the man on the street and some of his friends. Happy with service they provided and the improvement in their lives with the new-found income, more artists enrolled and the clientele also grew.

In the evening as Tanushree sat with her cup of coffee, she was in a reflective mood. She couldn’t help thinking, that day she had stepped into the taxi in a confused state of mind. She was going to do her job, but she wished at the same time this profession which she had chosen would let her do what she actually liked or desired to do. Wish she could just find the secret mantra of making her fashion pay. That is what the cab ride had eventually made her discover. She wondered aloud “sometimes we don’t realise this is the right path till we reach the destination.”


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