Friday, October 19, 2007

The next episode

From my many calls, I’d arrived without much joy at the conclusion that big agencies only wanted people with experience. Given that, I figured that smaller agencies couldn’t afford them. This insight formed the basis of Strategy Next.

Out came the telephone directory again, and into it I went. When I surfaced, it was with a list of local agencies. Indian shops which had no MNC hang ups. And no secretaries to Creative Directors, I hoped.

The rounds started again. This time I took the bus routes. Not unexpectedly, both my journeys and my money lasted longer.

One room agencies. Two room agencies. Agencies that ran from home. Agencies that ran from a garage. Full-time agencies. Part-time agencies. I saw them all. But no sign of a job.

Also missing around this time was a social life. I didn’t expect friends to pick up the tab all the time, so I stopped picking up the phone. Incoming was free alright, but I simply couldn’t afford to go out.

It was tough and getting tougher by the day.

Here I was, having spent 4 years at engineering college and a lot of my parents' money in doing so, trying to become a copywriter; while the whole world and their young sons and daughters were writing code, and making big bucks.

Harikrishnan went to the US and became Harry, and incidentally filthy rich as well.

Murugan became Morgan.

Thomaskutty from Kottayam became Tom from Connecticut.

Sindhoori became Mrs. Owens, Mrs. Cindy Owens.

And society became an unbearable place.

The IT brigade had their noses in the air, and an American accent even before a visa interview date was confirmed by the consulate. And when the tickets did arrive, they’d turn up at home with their parents to say goodbye. And of course, to rub it in.

“My son is going to Looosiana”, said our Malayalee neighbour, when I told her I was going to Indiranagar for a job interview.

Such were the nightmares that became my bedtime companions. I wondered many a time if I’d done the right thing, and even convinced myself that I hadn’t. But I couldn’t turn back. Too many bridges had been burnt, and my pride wouldn’t allow a return trip.

My parents were disappointed. But to my good fortune, at some point, they put their frustration aside, and chose to give my advertising hopes a chance. They started asking around. Looking for the elusive contact that might be able to give their boy a break.

It worked.

On October 1, 1996, I had an appointment to meet Mr. K.K. Mathew, the Managing Director of Disha Communications, Bangalore.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cut for a short commercial break

I pause here to catch my breath. And while those mesmerizing 30-seconders play, let me take you to a far more interesting place. The mess I was in.

It was six months since I had decided to become a copywriter, and I hadn’t got a word in yet. I’d quit the agency that wasn’t, to spend my time looking for an agency that was one.

And that was all I was doing. Day after day. Week after week.

While time wasn’t the scarcest commodity on my hands, it was fast catching up with money, which was. And as I watched the beer dry up, I arrived at the conclusion that necessity was nothing but an ill tempered spinster.

It was depressing. The ‘I told you so’ voices were gaining momentum once again. Plans like climbing a drain pipe into a creative director’s cabin did creep into my mind, but came slithering down when I tried to imagine the physical probability of such an endeavor. You see, I’ve always been a growing boy. A process that happened vertically till the age of 18, and continued happily thereafter with a 90 degree change in direction. So my enthusiasm at challenging gravity with the aid of a drain pipe could at best be called a deafening silence. (I shudder to think of having to call this story BE to CU).

And one day as I sat in the company of the last beer I could afford in the near future, I got my first advertising idea.