“Hey Akki, hope the evening set up is done perfectly?”, enquired the manager in charge even though he knew the commitment Akhil had towards his work. Akhil’s job was always commendable. Always. “Yes Boss! No worries at all. The stage is all set, lightings checked, frames in position; all covered and waiting to be unveiled. The ribbon is also tied at the entrance and readied with the scissors for the chief guest inauguration. Finally, bouquets and shawls for the dignitaries and ambassadors are also in place”, responded Akhil enthusiastically with an air of confidence laced with perfect modesty. The manager gleamed in pride at his choice of Akhil for this job over a decade ago.
Akhil Kadimishetty was a simple man employed as an art coordinator at the famous Jehangir Art Gallery at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai. As an art coordinator, his work involved helping artists and the management authorities to organize art activities and events for the museum’s central art gallery. He also coordinated and helped budding artist set up art studios and exhibitions at schools, colleges, and production companies. He earned a decent salary and commission to sustain a reasonable lifestyle for his aged mother, a devout wife and a toddler son.
While Akhil had never studied art formally from any Art institute, he was a self-taught artist who had learnt to pick the nitty-gritty of varied art forms from the professional Artists who frequented the gallery. His behaviour was endearing and people could sense the genuine intentions that would literally mean no harm. Akhil had a keen eye for detail, a passionate spark, acute observation skills, sharp sense of perception and interpretation, a deep thirst to quench and cultivate his art skills since childhood that had honed further with time and experience. His reverence towards the art and thoughtfulness combined with gratitude and respect towards expert artists made him stand out as a gem. Today, he could replicate the works of the finest artists like Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci to modern day artists like Jeff Koons, MF Hussain, Cindy Sherman and the likes with ease. He also created originals in a wide range that varied from abstract art to photorealism, portrait paintings, murals, mandalas and so on. Apart from the work as an art coordinator, he took free lancing orders that helped him earn a satisfactory sum. Akhil was a contented man with minimal needs and a passionate temperament towards art and life.
“Amma! Summer holidays have started. Can I please enrol myself for art classes this year at least?”, ten year old Akhil asked his Amma with an eager hope simmering and pleading through his soulful eyes. His Amma had always known and acknowledged her son’s passion for art, but their meagre existence made it impossible to let him pursue his dream. She gently ran her fingers through his hair and responded softly, “Akki, very soon, you will be blessed with the right chance and become the greatest artist the world has ever seen. You don’t need these paltry art classes to help you get there”, she assured while carefully wiping those hidden tears from the corner of her eyes.
Akhil’s Amma, Sharadha Devi, prayed to Lord Venkateshwara to help improve their living standards so that she could afford a better life for her son and herself. A widowed woman in her early thirties with little education and a modest background used to manage Akhil’s school fees and a very basic lifestyle owing to the random stitching orders she got and the part-time job at the carton packaging factory nearby. Akhil, though still young, was an obedient and caring child who understood the relentless efforts of his mother and never demanded much. But sometimes, just sometimes, the zealous artist within this child urged him to make seemingly fanatical requests for which he would immediately repent when he encountered his mother in emotional pain.
As time passed, Akhil groomed himself to be a more responsible child sometimes earning trifling sums by way of doing art projects for contractors and later on taking up a part time job at an art supplies store. Akhil was committed and dedicated towards his job and maintained high standards of cleanliness along with organised setting of the place. The shelves were neatly arranged and he stocked the supplies in order of expiry dates, popularity, regular use products and so on. Since his employment at the art store, the owner of the store saw an increasing business and repeat clientele. Working at the store also helped Akhil get near expired or partly damaged art supplies at reasonable prices or sometimes discarded stock for free. The owner of the art store was empathetic to Akhil’s passion and several times voluntarily offered him the desired supplies at affordable costs. These combined with Akhil’s fervour and zeal for Art work honed his skills as an artist further.
June 2020 (peak of the COVID pandemic):
“Yevandi! It’s been literally more than three months now since this lockdown and everything has come to a halt. I’m getting worried now”, expressed a concerned Ramya to her husband Akhil. Akhil placed a comforting hand on hers and assured her, “Amma always says Lord Venkateshwara is there watching over us. He will only protect the wellbeing of those who surrender to Him totally. Don’t you know that already? Besides, you need to take care of yourself first. You have a crucial role in life saving. You can’t afford to let stress rule over you. It can have disastrous results. What do I have to fear when I have a fighter and two guardian angels at home?”.
It had been two months since his company had laid off staff at the Art Gallery owing to the unexpected pandemic that had girdled the globe. Akhil had lost his much dependent job and the family was practically surviving on the limited savings that the family had carefully made through these years. They had just enough to survive a unpretentious lifestyle for about eight to ten more months. Ramya worked as a nurse at a government hospital and was already under critical pressure. Sometimes, since the onset of the pandemic, her job did not even let her return home for weeks. She had practically not seen her son since February 2020 due to unusually high cases of the virus and the fear of the disease affecting others at home. Her earnings were enough to barely manage the monthly routine expenses but Amma’s monthly dose of hypertension medicines, their son Arya’s school and bus fees, Medi-claim charges, life insurance payments needed the support of Akhil’s income to survive, sustain and thrive.
Even the art projects and freelancing roles that Akhil used to undertake had come to a dead still and Akhil felt lifeless. Without Art, Akhil felt like his Soul had been sucked into vacuum and solitude. He approached his only guide, Amma Sharadha for a guiding ray of hope. Akhil sat at the footboard of the bed and laid his head on her lap. Tears of pain trickled subconsciously from the corner of his eyes moistening her saree. Being the ardent caretaker and sole guardian of her son since childhood, she could immediately fathom the agony and ran her now frail hands over his hair assuring him, “My son has always been a warrior. How can he so easily give up? While you assure your doting wife of Lord Venkateshwara’s blessings, you seem to be wavering in your own beliefs. Does that suit you? You have always been passionate about Art. Art is your only chance at life. It is your means of survival and sustenance. You only breathe, eat, sleep, drink and live Art. And that which you revere with utmost faith, will not give up on you. Your Art will not deter you nor disown you. Through Art, you will rise again like a phoenix rises itself from the ashes. Do remember, every end that seems is a new beginning towards a brighter future.”.
These soul stirring words exerted a severe influence on Akhil’s mind and he reverentially kissed his Amma’s wrinkled feet. She blessed him with all her heart.
Akhil continued indulging deeply into creating arts on canvases and murals on walls. He brightened every corner of his home with his art work. This gave him the much needed boost and food for his Soul. In the meantime, he also started desperately hunting for a job to sustain a living. He could not get any art related jobs but soon landed up as a security supervisor with an architect firm. The job was not a high profile one but decent enough to help him sail through his much needed crunch of managing the finances and family needs. Even at work, he started distributing free book marks of his artwork to colleagues and visitors made during his spare time. Akhil’s friendly nature and compassion naturally made his moves endearing and acceptable. Besides, there was no compromise on the quality of work delivered as per company standards and expectations. This made him quite popular.
While Akhil performed his duties as a security supervisor with utmost sincerity, he also tried to learn other aspects of art and find prospective opportunities that could help boost the company branding and help with image building. He prepared a thorough professional study of the company background, their statistics, growth and development, research fields, promotion strategies etcetera and built a ground work to help portray the image of the company to greater heights and create a niche.
The pandemic made its presence felt longer than expected. Time was ticking gradually with little progress on Akhil’s life but he had already set up the much desired base for helping the company branding with his art ideas. Ramya and mother Sharadha remained unflinching in their support towards his noble ideas. Soon, as the pandemic started intensifying and appearing in stages, Akhil engaged kids in the locality with online Art coaching during weekends. His techniques and styles were so unique and personalised, that people started noticing a difference in their kids behaviour and deep engagement in productive activity rather than spending time with electronic gadgets and screentime. This led to great word of mouth publicity and he started getting requests from people across the country to train their children. His popularity spread owing to his extremely humble nature and compassion towards Art. The way he handled the children and attended to their personalised needs made him popular here too. Akhil could feel and experience the zeal and enthusiasm gradually flowing back into his life.
Life was gaining a slow but steady pace and his income was getting stable. His work as the security supervisor, his art classes, creative art work done during free time combined with the art project base work done for the company at the background helped him gather his self-confidence and boosted his morale.
A man with supreme integrity, utmost modesty and humility towards life, he returned back home every single day and thanked Lord Venkateshwara for the distinct improvement of their lives. He also never failed to approach his Amma, Sharadha Devi every single night before bedtime and spend some time conversing about the day’s occurrences. He often said, “Amma! You are the one who has truly helped me find my identity despite circumstances. You are my pillar of strength”. Sharadha Devi always smiled as she offered and heartfelt blessings to her son and said, “God bless you, my son. Lord Venkateshwara is our saviour. He will never fail to offer you what you deserve”.
Pandemic was finally close to its final stages. Vaccine trials had started and the frontline workers including himself had already received the first dose. Life was tracing back to normality. As his work was progressing, Akhil had discussed in brief about his Art branding plans to one of the business partners from the firm. The business partner, Mr. Shyamal Bajaj was a kind man; he had sincerely taken the efforts to help Akhil as he had liked the idea presented and discussed it further with his other business partners at the firm. Akhil was called over for a presentation of his project with the board of directors and firm partners. On the morning of the presentation day, Akhil felt the butterflies jitter his abdomen. He fell at Amma’s feet, “Amma, bless me with the confidence and zeal to handle this presentation. If it works, I know that it will be a breakthrough deal”. Amma blessed Akhil as she said with great confidence, “I believe my son, his efforts and the blessings of the Lord. Victory shall be yours”.
He also prayed to Lord Venkateshwara seeking His blessings before heading to work with all his paraphernalia including the presentation papers, paintings and art work that he had done relevant to the project. Though his job at the architectural firm as a Security supervisor was a meagre one, Akhil’s confidence, presence and aura radiated far and wide. He could always create a comfort zone for himself and others while expressing his views clearly to all. The presentation began and as it progressed, the audience were spellbound. It was undoubtedly a grand success and one of the finest revolutionary ideas in the branding field. The management authorities were thoroughly impressed and confident about the success of this idea. They immediately decided to invest in the marketing of their company as per the artistic strategy mentioned by Akhil. Since the base work was ready, the plan could be launched immediately. So, on January 15, 2022, the launch party was announced. The execution went on in full force and the response received was tremendous.
The art branding plan as devised by Akhil was a grand success. This was also the added advantage of working for an architecture firm. The company’s business saw a growth by hundred percent within a month of its launch. Akhil turned a star overnight. Not only did his work gain the deserved recognition, he was also offered a business partnership to handle branding through art. Akhil graciously mentioned that he would not employ himself as a full time partner but offer consultancy services for their branding needs.
Akhil’s hope and dreams of establishing himself as a successful Artist was finally fulfilled. His plans became so popular that other brands and firms started approaching him for his Art branding ideas. Soon, Akhil set up an Art branding firm of his own handling a multitude of companies and multinationals for his exquisite work. Akhil was invited to nominate himself as the “Budding Entrepreneur Award” and “Best Innovator Award” at the Asian Business Fest held in Singapore, for his deep insight and commendable job in the field of Art and Branding. Akhil attended the Awards function with his wife Ramya, Amma Sharadha Devi and son Arya. The announcement of the nominees were made and a thunderous applause filled the stadium. Akhil won the Best Innovator Award and as he went up on stage to receive the prestigious award, his eyes were welled with ecstatic delight and emotions. He offered the credit of his success to Lord Venkateshwara, his Amma Sharadha Devi, his wife Ramya and to the Architectural firm where he got his first opportunity. He couldn’t be happier.
Lord Venkateshwara’s blessings had finally borne fruits as Akhil touched his Amma’s feet with extreme gratitude. His Amma blessed him, “Do you remember my words to you as a child? You will be blessed with the right chance and become the greatest artist the world has ever seen. Today, my prayers are answered”. This time too, her eyes were drenched in tears as she wiped them off from the corner of her saree pallu. She let them flow freely as the tears were the pent up emotional delight that she was waiting for all her life. She was bustling in sheer ecstasy as she realised that ‘A true Artist was finally born’.
Lord Venkateshwara: A form of Lord Vishnu in Hindu Mythology
Yevandi: A loving way of addressing your husband in Telegu
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