Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Oh well that was a 40th :)

When I am writing this, I have spent 18 hours non-stop shooting with mini breaks of 15 minutes for lunch and dinner respectively. Kanishka didn't even have a dinner break since she was dumping the cards, charging the batteries and all the boring stuff. Other two people including her are sleeping while we wait for our flight at Jaipur airport. I am too excited to sleep since I just realised it was our 40th wedding. 40 is no milestone, it has to be 25 or 50 or some other exciting number. But the bigger thing was that both of us didn't even realise when the 25th went by :D

I am so sure that we would not have noticed when 50th would have gone by unless it was my dropbox which got full and I saw our wedding salad folder has 34 folders and I still have to edit 5 more weddings and then this one that we shot yesterday and I am like we just shot our 40th. That is so many weddings in a year. Well, there are a lot more weddings that happen in our country. But a big thanks to all the couples who trusted us with their big day and their precious memories. To all the grooms who didnt know what they were suppose to do when camera was pointed at them but smile since their bride would want that. To all the parents of all the brides and grooms who after all their hesitations welcomed the young girls who didnt even surpass their standards of professional age. To all the vendors and event planners who recommended us. To all the people who wrote about us, printed about us, tweeted about us, shared about us, talked about us, supported us! Biggest hug to everyone.

I am so happy that the 40th was so exciting, with one of the most enthusiastic couples who were ready to do whatever you ask them to. Here is one from their save the date shoot which happens to be our first of the sorts. Their wedding has been too one of the exciting weddings that we have shot, will be on the blog shortly. There are so many things that are going to be up online in coming days, making up for a slow presence in the past. Things got really busy than we had anticipated but for the best! Stay tuned at www.weddingsalad.com

Once again, thanks a lot for being part of our journey :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Genuine doctors? Bleh

Recently, a very close cousin of mine started feeling dizzy while sitting in the office. He thought he was looking at the same spot since a very long time, may be thats why. He looked somewhere else and now his vision was wavy. Suddenly, after a few seconds everything blacked out and he fainted. Someone from the office helped him regain conscious and he went home. Same thing followed the next day. And he went to see my uncle (my father's brother) who is a doctor. He ran a series of tests and checkups and they thought it must be due to stress. Again, for the third time he fainted. This was sort of alarming. My uncle checked his pulse and it was very low. They took him to a neuro guy who again ran a series of tests but everything was normal. He fainted again, now they took him to a cardiac guy who ran a day long test and told us that his pulse was fluctuating a lot and he needs to have a pacemaker immediately.

To give you a background, my cousin Gaurav who is 26 years old is my father's brother's son who left us a few years ago because of a major heart problem. My father's eldest brother who is the doctor has had his share of heart surgeries and other heart problems. My father suffers from a variety of problems like blood pressure, cholesterol and has been a patient of epilepsy in the past. My paternal grand dad and grand mom died much earlier because of heart problems so the family history is a pretty fucked up case.

So coming back to my topic, my father and my uncle showed him to a variety of doctors and everyone suggested to get a pacemaker asap. They decided to go to Delhi but then Gaurav's senior at his office who was also worried about his health told them not to. His mother recently got a pacemaker and from Ludhiana itself. His brothers were ready to hire a private helicopter and fly her to delhi for this surgery. The Delhi guy was charging them four to five times more for the same thing. He decided to get it done here and she is all fit and fine today. But still, Gaurav's mother and his sisters had their doubts which are very genuine to have. You really can't trust any doctor these days. What all of us believe is that my uncle died due to late diagnosis. He was admitted at DMC, a very very reputed college and hospital with a dedicated centre for treating cardiac diseases. They kept running a series of tests everyday. My cousins who were with him all the time say that they ran the same test everyday and his condition deteriorated  with each second.

Later on, after 10-15 days they showed his reports to my uncle's friend who specialises in cardiac. You won't believe what he said, he didn't even utter a single word about the pacemaker. His reaction was that Gaurav gyms a lot and that is what is stressing his body out. And he didn't gym for like 10 days, the fainting thing vanished. We were so surprised and shocked, what if we had given in and went for the pacemaker.

I have seen a very close friend's father leaving us when he was diagnosed with blood cancer at the very first stage. He could have lived with the cancer for at least 8-10 years. He could have seen her getting a job, getting married. He could have even seen his younger daughter get married. But he decided to get treated. On the fourth day of his chemo at the same hospital, he stopped responding to the treatment. What my friend says, that they didn't even check if his body was accepting chemo well or not. He was younger than my own father sans all the diseases.

I don't know if such people when they have seen their loved ones being literally snatched away like this will ever trust a doctor again.

I know the feeling of a loved one taken away. It is brutal and it kills you every time you think about the chain of events that lead to it. You know inside that the time wasn't right and they were very young but you could do very less or even nothing to avoid it. And that very thought just squeezes the last drop of blood out of your heart. You start wishing that only if they would have died in an accident or due to some fatalist disease which seems to be the only way to accept their departure.

I wish doctors get some sense in their minds so that no one ever has to go through it because you can't help but think of them every single day of your life.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

How it comes to full circle


*Disclaimer: The things in this post may not seem to connect or co-relate in the beginning. This is about how I manage to find myself in situations and how they lead me to where I am today. What can i say, I'm just feeling a little nostalgic today! 

I started with The Wedding Salad in January 2012. I would love to repeat the story of how it all began and how Kanishka joined in for a zillionth time but I won't, because it will fill this post with too much information. So, you can read the story here and here.

I was in the twelfth standard and I had no interest whatsoever in either commerce or art colleges or anything else that my friends were considering as their future. Now somehow a design coaching class pamphlet found its way to my doorstep. The college names in this pamphlet sounded so much better than a Government college for women or Khalsa college.. Blah Blah.

That night I announced with great tashan to my parents of my decision to go to a design college. My parents, who get pretty excited about anything new, as expected - absolutely loved it. They didn't ask me questions like why do you wanna do it? What is the scope? What salary? ..so on They were just excited that I was doing something that no other kid down the lane was. I was pretty thrilled about that only. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. But looking back at my confidence at that time, makes me laugh right now.

Then somehow I landed up with some sample papers of NIFT and NID. What would a normal kid do? Look at the papers, solve them maybe? Me? Nah! The answer was pretty simple actually. SELL THEM!! So I gathered enough information to make my own sample papers. Oh yes, I did. I researched on the internet and I made my own. I sold them. I had students. Out of 42 students, 19 got selected in NIFT. Now you may wonder, where in world did I find them. It was back in 2007. Facebook was barely picking up. I joined facebook in 2009. It was Orkut. In 2007, I was earning online in India. I earned a pretty neat sum for myself! I hid it from my parents at first then I had to tell them because cheques started flowing in and I had no account to put them into. As expected, they were excited. And it went on.

After that I joined college, not NID, not NIFT. Ironically, I myself didnt get into those. It was MIT that chose me and gave me super glorious four and a half years. Again, I wont repeat it, you can have a glimpse here.

After graduating, I really didn't want to do what my course, skills and experience would land me. I wanted to try something new. I was reading about these start ups coming up. They really got me interested and I would read about it day and night. Although I was still figuring out what to do with my life, I moved to Mumbai as opposed to almost all my batchmates who went to their hometowns. Although The Wedding Salad was conceived in January 2012, it was not until December that year that we began shooting in full swing.

So in April 2012, I had a wedding to attend in Panipat. When all the cabs ditched me including Meru who called me at 2 in the night to tell me my cab for 5 o clock is cancelled. I was so frustrated that if a Meru cab dared to pass by me I would smash it into a million pieces. I called up other cab companies but to no avail. Catching the 6am flight to Delhi was starting to seem like a lost cause.

Now I'm really not an early morning person, but that day my mind was in fifth gear trying to figure out how to make it to the airport on time. I suddenly remembered Olacabs from a tweet I had read when they were offering cabs at auto rates during an auto strike. I called them and boy, was that smooth! Not only did they confirm me but I also got a confirmation message. The cab arrived at 4 am with a driver who was in no hurry to leave. It was a dream come true! [I am really not over reacting]

So, while I was leaving for the airport, I tweeted about Ola's great service. After reaching Delhi I was sitting with this uncle of mine who happens to read hands. I was asking him if I should look for a job. He told me to wait as he could foresee an opportunity coming. Just then, my phone buzzed.
It was a message from Bhavish, CEO and co-founder of Olacabs. I still have it in my phone. It said:

" Hey Aayushi, this is Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-Founder and CEO of Olacabs. I saw your tweet about our service, happy to know you had a good trip. I saw that you are from Ludhiana and from my school (Sacred Heart) and also you did your final degree project at my college (IIT B)! I'd love to talk and understand what you are doing after graduation. We're building Ola as a very design focused company and would like to explore any synergies. Can we have a call sometime today?"

I called him the next minute.

Look at the father of co-incidence! As if having the same school and other things was not enough we also happened to be in the same town at that moment! We made plans to meet over the weekend. I wasn't too excited but decided to go ahead and see where the road took me.

I met him on Saturday and joined Ola as a communciation designer on Monday!

Ola has been everything as an organisation and Bhavish as a mentor, that I wanted at that time.

At first, I did not understand the concept of the power of synergy. However, I soon found out that it means one plus one is sometimes greater than two. I realise I have evolved tremendously as a person under him. I have learnt so much that is now helping me in TWS firsthand. His processes, his way of handling the things are what I follow today.

Now you may ask, why would I give such a long and historical introduction to this post just to tell about my first job. I could have named this post as my first job. But this is different. I had a strong support system till then in the form of my parents. I still do. But you really cant expect me to cry, "papa!" when things get complicated at work.

Remember that first job and the pressure you felt.

You always had to hurry with the constant effort to work fast because of your lack of knowledge. The hurried feeling that never seemed to go away those first few days - always having to rush around in a helter skelter fashion because you did not know it all, yet. I was the only one in that office who was not from an engineering or management college. On one hand, you could say I was the coolio one but I had this in my head always when I joined. I was just realising for the first time in my life feeling a stress that parents cannot fix. But that was a start. When the stress would pile up and the pressure was beyond what I could control, I went and talked to the best boss ever.

A thing you should know about Bhavish is that he has this knack of knowing everything that happens around him. You will probably be offered something like eclairs, ferrero rochers or whatever he has in his desk drawer. Of course, I would gladly accept the chocolates and pop one in my mouth. He would excuse himself, because at that moment he always seemed to have to make a short phone call or talk to someone else or just had to leave for a few seconds. However, those few moments allowed me to get a bit of a sugar rush and give myself a chance to relax. His office was a safe place, a place where I could go to be heard. He would then come in, he would give me his full attention and then I could tell him anything that was on my mind. His listening skills are legendary. I did not go to his office to talk, I always went to his office to be heard. Being heard is much different from being allowed to talk. He would not let disagreements or anything bad in the office grow to the point of explosiveness.

I left Ola in January 2013 to work on The Wedding Salad full time since it was growing at a good pace. I had joined Ola when there were 35-40 employees, I left when there were more than 400. It is becoming bigger day by day and Im lucky to be a part of this startup when it was growing.

I got a call from Bhavish a month back. Somehow suddenly, we were not employee-employer, but friends :) He was getting engaged to his girlfriend of 7years and he wanted me to shoot it!

Below is my favourite picture of them and here is another one that we posted on the website.



It was an experience beyond my expectations. We have never shot couple portraits with such ease. We didn't really have to tell them what to do or there was no phase of 'lets get comfortable first'.

We reached a little early as we  wanted to get some shots of Raj(his fiance) getting ready for the event. Since we weren't able to reach her on phone, I called Bhavish. He promptly came down, dressed as if he could get engaged at that very minute.

Me: Bhavish, you are ready?
B: ya, the event starts at 9.30 right?
Me: Ya thats what, why so early?
B: (His signature hmmm)
small pause
B: I am just too excited.

Kanishka found it nice and refreshing for a groom who was excited as opposed to super excited brides we always find. But not very new to me since I have seen him excited for as small as a web banner design. So this was the 'engagement', he was bouncing and beaming. You could literally see it on his face :)


The same day, he called us for a small celebration of his engagement. And there was my pretty moment waiting :)
When he told me, how proud he was of me and of what I was doing. I have not felt so sure about what I am doing till that time. In not a very defining way but I can really feel, it has come to a full circle.

That, was a milestone.