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Speaking through art: The story of a storyteller

A 20-year-old with a floor plan of what she’ll be doing in 20 years from now. But what about now? She doesn’t seem to have much of an idea. Right now she only wants to satiate her hunger to learn every skill she has the potential to possess. Here is Aadra Jain's fascinating discovery of herself, and life.

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The longest I remember, I have been an artist. For the first 10 years, I was an artist and a dancer. Teenage came with the fresh smell of a writer taking birth in me. By the end of my 19, I started being introduced as a poetess, a photographer, and a visionary artist. A storyteller at all ages, though. Gee! Please don’t overestimate me by the tone of this narcissistic bio, I am still the wannabe Jack, struggling onto her way to becoming the Master.

I believe both my brother and I are a perfect gamble of my parents’ genes by inculcating the artistic soul of my mother and business analytic skills from my father (Jains are paidaishi baniyas, yk!). When I cleared the last round of AIESEC Delhi-IIT, I was asked to define myself in one word and I chose “creative”. Now if you ask me, I’ll answer “A Storyteller”.

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Art, poetry, photography, are all an expression of my thoughts, perspectives, feelings and a deep insight into my own life story. I guess it gives me a pass for being a big-time blabbering child. I travelled to 16 new cities of India in my college years and what mattered to me the most wasn’t the new varieties of food I tasted (that’s a lie), but the peculiar new flavors of cultures I’ve known, absolutely delicious. For example, my parents and I celebrated our Diwali in Udaipur and for the first time, I had seen such gorgeous multicolored, embroidered, stylish burqas of Muslim women who were in the market for Diwali celebrations at night, what a beauty it was!

I took commerce with Maths, got into BBA and was utterly disappointed in me at age 18 (like every other Indian parent is in their child). So technically, everything went according to the plan. Phew! I’m a Delhiite and for us getting into DU is the dream shown by every teacher. Well, it was soon that the “Delhiite fresher starter pack” dream was shattered when I could neither rock with a flying 95% nor I had a quota to get me into the desired course. But hey, what doesn’t kill you make you stronger, right? Wrong. You fight. You strategize and work hard and you figure out how to win. Surviving isn’t what makes you strong, living a life that you plan for yourself and achieving those dreams, does. I was an utterly confused and scared young fresher like most 85% scorers who had the desired aptitude but not the most prestigious college at hand. The only thing, anyhow, I promised to my 18-year-old self was that by age 20, I’ll be an “achiever”.

I took admission to Maharaja Surajmal College which ranks 1st in GGSIPU for BBA. Initially, like every other student in my class, you could find me criticizing the college for having a good education system, disciplined premises, scheduled classes, enthusiastic teacher (who legit wanted to teach for 50 minutes) and oh, fixed lunch break! What actually bothered me, however, was how less attention was paid to societies here. College management was strict for attendance and academics and oldies found extracurricular to be fruitless. Luckily, I found divergent brains very soon.

Remember the problem of scarcity (from economics)? Well, let me highlight the biggest problem - the approach and attitude of people. They the “what, how and whom” but they don’t wanna lift their feet and work to feed their bellies. Humans somehow are very fond of being a critic. The bigger the critic, the better his IQ must be. TBH I’m not much of a fan of this ideology.

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Don’t blame the availability of opportunities because that’s not how it will work. “An opportunity will knock your door, you’ll greet it, make it sit and sip the tea and voila! You’re one of the famous faces across your college/city?” You pack yourself with drinks, eye drops, and snacks to pull an all-nighter. You sacrifice your daily amusements to match your weekly targets. You compromise your studies and classes to finish your extra courses. You travel extra miles and you travel solo. It’ll cost you your temporary happiness because you will willingly give up on your sleep, your “me time”, movies, series, novels, social life, relations that ask for time and whatnot. Guess what? It is all an investment! In the end, it’ll be all damned worth it!

Let me give you some insight. In the final year, you’ll look around and see people sulking and weeping, some will go in quarantine, others will party like crazy to hide their insecurities and low self-esteem due to failed self-expectations. You’ll feel sad for your people and angry too but guide them because now they won’t be complaining anymore, they’ll be looking up to you. I’ve known fellow college mates who started preparing for CAT/GRE/UPSC etc from their first year and by the final year, they were found bunking every period smoking outside the campus and thereby burning away all their money, present lives and mental healths in filthy ashtrays. So much stress, just so much of it. Understand for a fact, unless what you do makes you happy (in present), don’t follow the light because it took someone else on the other end of the cave (in future). There are many openings, many lights, many choices, just take your time to have the strongest possible decision you can stand by and choose wisely. Unless this decision is your baby, you won’t nurture it.

I joined as many societies as I could in my first year, thanks to millennials “FOMO”. I had realized that the real stupidity would be to keep crying over what I couldn’t have and neglecting what I can make out of with whatever I got. So my new motto was to learn just everything in my capacity ( except for academics). I joined TEDxMSIT, Innovision - Photography soc, E-cell, and Mirakee- art society. Thereafter I explored a new talent in me- photography. The best part about this newly breeding art was that it had opened my cage and let me explore Delhi, my birth city. I discovered how I was introduced to only 30% of its beauty until school life. With my soc, I was now traveling to places I hadn’t even heard the name of. But being a photographer comes with a lot of commitment and will power. I used to wake up around 4 or 5 am to reach our Photowalk location before 7 am because as the sun rises, the sunlight grows harsh, shadows are sharp and colors start to fade in our photos and of course, Dilli ki TikTok wali janta ravishes the streets. One of my best such experiences was of Rajpath, India Gate in January’20 to cover the Independence Day parade practices around 07:30 am at 6°C.

My skills started getting recognitions and I started off with my first Instagram page where I would upload my artwork, poetry and photography works ( @chimera__99). It was never the number of likes and followers but genuine messages that I received on Chimera from people who admired my work. I connected with people with a similar wavelength, talked for hours about life, death, dreams, greys, stars, and whatnot! In today’s age, social media is the strongest profiling for a person. Mandalas became a meditation art and my other visionary artworks became a source to transfer energies and philosophies to people.

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By the end of my first year, I had gained the confidence to travel solo in different parts of the city, learned the sequence of metro stations and won a few art and photography competitions. (PS: I was featured in HT City for winning an 8-foot wall graffiti art competition in Mecca’18 at Hindu College)

The second-year was the season of sowing. After my first internship in July, at the HR role, I had decided that what I definitely didn’t want to do in life (justifiably why so many memes are made on them). A gang of 3 classmates approached me in the month of August and we started off with the first Economics society of MSI - Arthaniti. We held many inter & intra-college competitions, debates, case study sessions and panel discussions (eg- Financial Crisis 2008). Unaware of the storms in multitude, simultaneously I got enrolled in the digital marketing course which I had to manage by spending 1 hour before and 2 hours after my college for almost 4 months. To double the pleasure I layered it with a work-from-home internship for social media promotions and personal branding of an upcoming Quora star writer who had recently turned vegan. By December, when the tornadoes were finally at rest I heard another opportunity banging my door, whispering “money” pretty loudly. A jeweler was looking for a young freelance photographer ready to get exploited. Oh oh, there I was!

Then came the hailstorms! An amalgamation of photography competitions with existing work commitment to the jeweler, it was time for the workload of TEDxMSIT to drop on my head. From 9 am to sometimes 6 pm, I used to be busy in college working for the stage department of TEDx. On weekends, apart from freelancing I also volunteered as a photographer for UNICEF and SULABH International NGO. Phew... now came April, exam time! I had luckily found myself the most desired internship as a Social Media Marketing intern at iZooto, a startup in Noida. It was an amazing working experience. Physically working from 7 am to 7 pm for 2 months, the caterpillars of my personality could finally be seen fluttering their wings.

iZooto cultivated discipline in me for maintaining a daily scheduler. August’19 started off with an even more hectic routine. I had now become the President of Innovision (Photography Society), Vice President of Arthaniti (Economics Society), Core Team member of Tedx, part-time Interviewer of Enactus MSI and a responsible parent of two street dogs. (I have taken more interviews on behalf of societies than I have given in life so far.)

In our first placement interview, HR asked “Aadra, why would you want to work with us in a field that is so different than all genres of accomplishments in your resume?” and I exactly knew why. I wanted to learn, to suck all the knowledge in and breathe out a new skill. With that, I became the first student from my class to secure a job in her third semester. January’20 ended with a bang. With a team of 8, we organized the most successful photography fest of all these years with over 220 registrations across India, cannon goodies, judges and good sponsorship at Genesis’20, MSI. I secured 3 more placements later. And then came Corona Virus and ate the last days of my college (haha, brb crying rn).

Remember the promise? I believe I am keeping it. Achievements are often counted in materialistic terms. People think they require a certificate or medal to validate their skill development and value addition to their personality. You won’t get a medal to certify your confident public speaking, leadership qualities, art of convention or psychiatric powers or even your knowledge and zeal. But everything different you do, it builds you. It is all a damned investment and it’ll yield its return gradually but surely.

I know I’m an explorer and a storyteller. Maybe I will become a short-film maker, a mural artist, a fashion photographer, graphic designer or maybe I will have my own startup, I might get into slam poetry too or maybe I will be doing all of it at once! What I know right now, is that I’m on a long journey and I am young; It's a big, beautiful world and I’m going to live most of it.

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