I was strolling through khan market in the evening and it brought back some old memories. It’s been nine years since I started from scratch and the journey has been an incredible experience, I remember I was a young boy making cards at home by night and selling them at Full Circle Bookstore which at that time was in Santushti Shopping Arcade. I spent my days reading books on design and drinking endless cups of coffee, all thanks to the incredible staff at full circle. ( In the picture Subhash and Joseph at Full Circle Bookstore in Santushti Shopping Arcade, Year 2000)
The single most important person who opened the door towards my life that is today is Mrs. Poonam Malhotra, owner of Full Circle Bookstore now in khan market. After the majority of shops refused to keep my amateurish cards I had come to Full Circle with hopes of getting a break. She bought my first card and agreed to keep them at her store. With time the cards started moving off the shelves albeit slowly but steadily. I got hands on experience at Studio Printall, a renowned printing press that was owned by a friends uncle. It was here that I learnt the finer nuances of production and manufacturing. The winter arrived and my holiday cards were quite a hit, the expats and patrons of the bookstore bought all of it.
At that time I made all the cards and envelopes, I drew every envelope by measurement and made it by hand (More on this in another post later). For some time I never repeated a design. It was in the month of May when Full Circle organized a small exhibition featuring my work.
Then I progressed to my own room….
Those were the days when a table and a chair were a luxury. This is how I worked. I still have the wooden plank that I used to work on. Below you can see the state of my so called studio in those trying times. I worked 12 hours during the night stitching, cutting, painting, drawing, packing, etc. Those days seem like a distant memory now.
Then I got myself some racks and a low table….
As I progressed from being a hands-on craftsman to an employer I moved to my own apartment cum studio cum workshop. I painted the walls orange, the doors and windows green. It just happened that the painter was asking far too much to paint it therefore I along with my helper painted it ourselves and we were truly satisfied. I was quite rebellious at that age therefore the unique colors and products.
Some incredible people that I met along the way and some who were my inspiration have moved on in life. My heartfelt thanks to all of you. Without you this journey wouldn’t have been possible. My school and college friends who were my strength during the trying times I faced; thank you for giving me your support and thank you for patiently bearing with me.
(In this picture Shashank is seated and my younger brother Praveen is standing at the back)
My school friend Shashank Shekhar who I have known for 25 years, a lawyer by profession who in my opinion is a born craftsman, he spent numerous nights toiling with me doing stained glass cards and tearing away at edges(torn edges are one of the effects that I give to paper). We had bundles of 1000 sheets at a time to tear, we tried everything to shield our hands, from plastic to tape; blisters were a sweet joy as the task was accomplished. Shashank Shekhar, my heartfelt thanks to you my friend.
(In this picture Bharat Thakran is to my left)
Bharat has been a friend since college times, a friend always ready to help anyone and everyone. I can always count on him. He dreads coming to my studio because whenever I have told him that it would take me half an hour to wind-up and leave, it has actually always taken a few hours, Mr. Thakran I am truly deeply sorry.
It was during the exhibition at Full Circle when I tasted my first media exposure. HT City did a front page on us. It was the moment of truth; I had arrived. I was craving for recognition and in the coming years I did get a kick in seeing myself in the news. I remember breaking the news to my parents about my work after a hiatus of two years. I knew they would call me back to Daltonganj, Jharkhand if they ever got an inkling of what I was up to here.
This article in The Hindu happened later, guess how? I had to promote myself therefore I tried to do my own PR, I took some pictures and actual products and posted them to the journalist, she liked them and she said she would write about it. The dilemma was how she would put my contact address without sounding like she was promoting me; read for yourself:
“C-7/244 SDA, Hauzkhas is probably a house that does not generate much garbage. For the young bloke living inside waste/scrap has immense potential…….”
Thank You Anita.
This article in The Hindu was read by Mrs. Sunaina Suneja, a member of Delhi Comonwealth Womens Association, she tracked me down and offered a stall at the Spring Mela held at the British High Commissioners residence. I couldn’t afford a full stall so she offered me half a stall, the other half she kept for her fashion work. During the course of the mela I met an NRI who was trying to set-up his IT company(year 2001). He offered to make me a website at a relatively low cost, having a website at that time was quite a thing. Thank you Mr Ravindra
While planning my website i realised that I should have something stunning and different just like my work. A friend knew Akhil Bakshi the renowned photographer so he took me to him. I told him the purpose and also that it had to be something creative. I suggested I paint my hands as I loved playing with colours; I am a hands on designer. Here my friends are the photographs, I was told not to smile therefore the expressions…
Sometimes I wondered how weird or creative (its the matter of perception) some news photographers were, like in the news article on the right the HT photographer made me lie down below a glass table and shot the products on top….what would you call that! phew!
The day this article on the left got published was a very sad, interesting and weird day. The sad part was the Gujarat earthquake. The interesting part is that it was my birthday and the weird part was that while I was reading the article in the morning on the terrace at home, the earthquake happened, the building was shaking massively and I remember the trees swaying in front….guess what I was doing? I was trying to read the article faster so that I finished before anything happened…those were the days!
Since then I have never looked back. My optimism is blatant; I think it’s just a matter of time before I get my due.
In the year 2000 I was asked to put a poster of our exhibition at a famous clothing store, I showed the owner my card and said “see there is so much hard work in the card”. He threw the card and said “art is not hard work, it should be effortless”. Lesson learned. The whole incident of him throwing my card was disheartening for me at that time when I was searching for acceptance. When I see young artists visiting my studio…I see myself, my struggles and my hard work.
There have been countless souls who helped me gain a foothold in the design field and I am truly thankful to all of them. I am sorry if I have forgotten to mention your name.