November 2016 – April 2017
The news was out, the entire country’s economy had hit rock bottom. Demonetisation had caused a major change in every day life of people and it was a circus out there. Long cues outside ATM machines, banks and other such agencies. People had no money in their pockets and everyday life had become difficult. Caught in this chaos was me. A small time animator who was making his living out of freelance work. My efforts to start my own company had failed due to lack of financial resources but my laborious efforts had gained me a very impressive portfolio. Comprising of works that required immense amount of precision, artistic skills, and knowledge all without a team backing me. Freelance work is a great way to earn money in the comforts of your home but involves a great deal of risk like your efforts not being paid off. The great depression was in India and every sector got severely effected. The last bits of money I had made, i had to fight through long cues to get the money out of ATM machines for my daily dose of nicotine and caffeine. My parents were concerned about my welfare and had suggested me to look for a regular job rather than waiting for a client to show up and propose a deal. I thought to myself before i look for a job let me give my last shot towards building an ultimate portfolio and come up with something that would get me recognition as well. So with the last of my funds i made my own film which won me several awards in short film festivals. By this time things had started to settle down with the economy if not completely over. For me the hunt had began and i had started preparing to face the world outside the comforts of my home.
There is a famous test in psychiatry called a Rorschach test. When an artist is young and is in the course of his learning the aim is trying to get the image out by hook or by crook. But as he progresses in life every stroke starts to make a difference. It is behind these strokes that the image is hidden and it is the artist duty to form an understandable image out of it. As for the way the test goes you are shown something of an ink blot and have to describe what you see. It is the persons imagination how he perceives the image. But for an artist just a single stroke can unlock different possibilities of how to approach an image. I saw the world like that. To make money out of my work i had drawn all the strokes to form the image but somehow the canvas kept getting bigger and bigger and the image smaller and smaller. I thought maybe this is the way of life and no matter what completing the picture was the only task ahead. But when your passion becomes your way to earn you enter the paradigm of time. If you lack pace or start to lose interest you’re going to leave a bad image behind, lose clients. I was well spoken and knowledgable and could have landed a rudimentary job easily, like a call centre. But the passion for animation kept me from doing that. I had examples of my friends who wanted to do something in life follow their dreams but make money before that. And as soon as they landed in Call centres they had surgically implanted a phone in their head and the only voice they heard was the call of nature or a long distant call from a frustrated person.
I had applied in almost every job portal there was and had gotten no reply. There aren’t many animation studios in NCR and most of the reputed ones didn’t welcome walk in’s. There was no reply from them when i sent them my portfolio. Finally one day opportunity knocked my door in form of a call from a consultancy asking if i was looking for a job. I was stoked in fact so much that i kept stammering and missing out on words to say. She placed me for an interview the next day in a startup located in Noida very close to my home. My parents were really happy and gave me their piece of advice on how to present my self. I prepared my CV and all the necessary information packed my laptop and was on my way the next day. The place was easy to locate in fact in the corporate hub of Noida. The office was small and the hazy glass surroundings gave an impression of translucency if not transparency, the indian Tri colour combination of the desks, panels and flooring gave a touch of professionalism with patriotism. I was told to meet the assistant HR who took me to the conference room and my interview began. I don’t know about you guys but the amount of interviews i have given it always begins with “Tell me something about yourself”, this unleashes a whole world of information about you like, “does this person has an inner voice or is he a robot, let me check!”. Your reply can lead to a whole range of interpretations and connotations depending upon how you follow up the interview till the end. Mind you mostly HR’s have no interests in the kind of work you do, they know its a requirement, but no idea at all. They are like corporate psychiatrists analysing you to decide wether to push your file up or not. Her no knowledge about my subject and my impatience to jump the gun to get selected i did my biggest mistake, I told them everything about how animation works. She kept note of it in her mind and asked me my expectations. I quoted a decent amount, enough that i made in a month doing freelance thinking if this thing works who knows maybe i could do both and earn from all corners. She pushed my file forward to the head HR and he called me into his cabin a few minutes later. Before entering the cabin i thought this is the guy, ‘man!’, ‘He must be running this ship!’, ‘He must be impressive!’ and the moment i enter the room is an unshaven man who looked like he hadn’t bathe in a year, goon who resembled nothing less than a Vagabond who had crawled up the ladder through con and deception. Watching this person talk about animation was like a bully asking for your lunch money but i ignored everything at face value. He showed me a Tom and Jerry flick and asked me if i could do something similar, how much time would it take and how much employment will be required. I was honest from my approach. Watching the cartoon an analysis in my mind began,’MGM production, Hanna Barbera creation..hmmm!!’ and i told him a lot of employment and a lot of time. Thinking about it, it was clear he had no clue and was taking my advice on the issue. He told me to come next day to meet the CEO and the animation team but kept my selection in question.
Up till now i had realised that animation was not their primary concern but something they sort interest in. The next day fetched me nothing but disappointment. I was told that i don’t fit into the picture and will be called if required. You see this was because they had decided to do everything in 3d and i am a 2d artist, So, they had chosen hyper realism over symbolism. I was back to job hunting again when within a weeks time i got a call from the consultant again. She stressed on the urge for the requirement of my profile in the same company even after me telling her that they had rejected me. I went the next day and met the assistant HR who had a sudden change of character this time. She was polite and much more caring than before and introduced me to the team of animators who wanted to see my work. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you have to flaunt your work as an animator if you really know you have worked hard for it. All of them were impressed and had put a good word in the assistant HR’s mind. It all came down to negotiation. Now this was a moment of confusion for me. Do i give in to the need for a job or maintain my dignity of my worth that i have quoted. It was a drastic turn down by her as she matched it with the immense amount of perks and that will be offered like CL, PL, travel allowance, increment, halve days, vacations and what not. My ego took control and i denied. I wanted money for my work and this office mumbo jumbo bounced off my head. At first she thought then she accepted my denial. The way back home was a long and thoughtful walk. Should have i agreed? Was i too adamant? Did i do the right thing? What are the guarantees that i’ll get a job sooner? The freelance side of work is a little cold now a days, was it a wise choice? Just as i stepped inside my home i spoke to my family and they all told me to call them back and negotiate once again. I called them and without thinking i simply accepted their offer. The HR was stoked to have me in the team and repeated the offers once again. I was told to join from the next day onwards and to my wits i had finally gotten a job. Hurray!
I came to know in the first few weeks of my joining that the reason they hired me was because they had known the fact that 3d animation meant spending a huge amount of money. On the other hand 2d could be done in a reasonable budget but they kept a 3d artist and forced us to come up with an animation which had both. Both of us were left wondering how could we merge two different rail tracks. Above all our computers specific for animation arrived way after our joining. We were forced a deadline down our throats and it was a mammoth task to finish it in time. Lastly we presented two options either work on time with no quality or quality but a snippet of the entire project. They chose option A, work on time. We had to stay late after office hours and work on weekends. There was no travel allowance no tea or food during these hours. The necessary equipments apart from computers were bought by the team themselves. But inspite of all these obstacles all the employees were hard working and delivered on the due date which was a day before the launching of the companies product. It was a grand celebration that day as the company owner had booked a convention hall in a big 5 star hotel and given us ‘credit card’ like invites which i didn’t understand the use of back then. To top that up we were given excellence awards by our CEO himself with every employee photographed taking the award. I was new to that glitter and sparkles and i thought its the corporate way to award the deserving. But friends behind all this lies a big sham which will soon be clear as it became to me after i left the job.
Few days after the launch we all were shifted to a new office which was bigger than the previous. With the shift came new employees and new policies. Everything which was offered initially was discarded or limited. Every staff member was supplied with the photos of the event which were instantly uploaded by them to their social networking account in excitement. There were new investors coming in every day and we really thought the CEO is a man of his words. He said he’ll progress and the results shows that. But what seems appealing from face value should never be taken up as its core value because after the second month they started delaying salaries. This was further exceeded with paying halve now and halve later. The hard working employees came from good families and some of them were living away from home on rent. But most of them didn’t have the guts to stand up and raise their voice and kept taking dates after dates. Unity amongst employees was strictly prohibited by the head staff and they tried to break it any time they saw it formulating. We were forced by the head staff to write fake reviews on the internet and publicise their product on our individual social network, a product which on hands on experience was not worth a penny. Me on the other hand was using tools which were bought on trial basis on company’s promises to buy it after approved. By the time it reached the four month period i realised i was spending more then i was getting from the company. The people who supplied us with tools had taken them away and i was doing nothing in office but spending time and wasting my own money. Me and few of my colleagues had decided to quit this sham and then came the ultimate deception. We were promised total clearing of our salaries by the end of the month. This was back in July. It was yesterday when i was given halve of it and promised that it will be cleared by 5th of next month. Down at the office it looked like most of the employees had left but all most half the strength still worked without pay and that says a lot about our employment condition now a days. An argument was raise between me and the HR head who became the marketing head and now was the financial head of the company which is the gist of this entire post. It went like this, I said “just put yourself in my shoes and tell me what would you do now” to which he replied “i would abuse the company, the people associated but i will take the money and wait for the rest of it”, So, sorry sir, i cannot stoop down to your level, but i will definitely not shy away from raising my voice at a place where people make a difference, a place where people come to be heard, to be aware of fake organisation like yours who give promises but lack a plan of action. For whom glitter, gimmick and using other peoples resources is the primary focus and leaving a plastic visiting card is a marketing scheme. It is not easy to become Flipkart, Make my trip, Zamato etc without a plan or knowledge of the product you want to sell. It requires if not years but months of planning to execute a business plan because it not only effects you but everyone associated with it.