I complete ten years of ‘work life’ today. Ten incredible years of writing, editing, cartooning, learning, making bad decisions confidently, taking good ones nervously and chasing the dream relentlessly. A decade since I stepped into my first office as an assistant editor, feeling terribly important and enthusiastic, ready to transform the industry (I didn’t).
It’s been an exhilarating ride since. My first job was something out straight of a dream—I was editing wildlife books, which taught me about purple-nosed frogs in the Western Ghats and how to tell if elephant dung was fresh (had a chance to test this out a few years later). It was a job I stuck to for five years. At work, I had colleagues whose favourite thing to do was visit the sprawling fig tree in the neighborhood after lunch, an activity I thoroughly enjoyed. I made some of my best friends in that office over countless and unnecessary coffee breaks, which I sorely missed during the freelancing days that followed.
Outside of work, I travelled, volunteered at a bookshop and wrote like a completely possessed person. It was during this time that I started doing something I never thought I would do: create a comic strip. What started out as a bit of a joke on Facebook led to a badly-drawn regular strip for a Mumbai-based magazine. Encouraged by the feedback of (in hindsight, undiscerning) readers, I kept drawing, unaware of where this new journey would take me.
Eventually, I moved on from publishing to a brief stint in advertising as a copywriter. Here, I discovered a completely different world. Coming from a khadi-kurta-wearing, em-dash-obsessed 9 to 5-ers, I was startled by fast-paced agency life. But I was also equally enthralled by it. There was so much energy, so much talent, so many ideas… so therefore so much competition and angst. During late nights, I noticed that I was only thinking about the next comic strip or making drafts of what I was going to write about next. That prompted me to quit to try out freelancing for a while.
It was possibly one of the best decisions of my life. Freelancing came easy—I was happy to be working independently and I loved working on a variety of projects. I wrote travel articles, drew custom comics, created stories for wedding invitations, and showcased at flea markets and things. I had enormous support from my family throughout though, with my uber-cool dad manning my stall at Comic Con, telling everyone to buy his cartoonist daughter’s work 😉
The more comics I drew, the more certain I became that this was possibly my life’s true calling (among other yet undiscovered ones).
After I moved to the UK, I started taking care of digital content for a startup, something I’ve always wanted to do (and find that I immensely like). In a faraway country, the comics kept me company through snow and sleet and rain and heat.
Today The Tap has nourished me as much as I’ve nurtured it, making space for my cup-runneth-over type experiences and helping me connect with thousands of folks through stick drawings. Creating comics has become a part of daily life, like brushing my teeth.
Every week, I get emails from folks asking me for advice about whether they should quit their jobs to pursue their passion or hobby. And every time I say the same thing—stick to what you love doing and do it anyway, irrespective of whether you’re able to convert that into a career or not. To do what you love, and to want to get better at it, without wanting validation or approval in return is in itself liberating.
Over the last decade, I’ve done some ponderings over what the purpose of life is. And I think I’m getting closer to the answer slowly. I think all of us want to create things of beauty—and we are aware that we only get one good shot at it. Maybe it’s a drawing, a piece of code, a working algorithm, a conversation that you helped start, lives that you changed, problems that you helped solve—we all want to leave our legacies behind. And maybe that’s what we all strive for, through the work we do every day—to bring about some change in the world, to be able to make a little difference even as we’re hurtling at top speed through the immense vastness of space. And I guess the only prerequisite is one that we already satisfy: to be here on this planet.
Thank you all for encouraging, supporting and indulging me through this glorious decade!