Throwback Times

Throwback Times

I must begin with a warning: This one is going to be a completely all-about-me post. The thing is I am writing about twenty years ago, a time when my current twin muses weren’t even a thought. In fact, they were in full danger of not happening at all.

Twenty years ago was so long ago that I didn’t even have to use a sepia setting on my pictures.

Twenty years ago I was as far from being an Obsessivemom as I am now from not being one.

Twenty years ago I was in the process of discovering a whole different side of me, an interest, a passion I didn’t even know existed.

Do bear with me as I roll the flashback just a little further than two decades. I had given up my job in Mumbai and was headed towards a whole new life. Along with The Husband, I landed in a quiet little city that offered absolutely no opportunities in my line of work.

Blissfully unaware of the rather bleak scenario that awaited me, I fished out my resume and began my job hunt. I had a prepared a list of placement agencies and that’s where I went. I ticked off every single placement office on my list and then some more. Some were tiny one room setups, some not even that – just a man with table and chair in the verandah of his home. I read through the telephone directory (they were real things back then) and called each potential office. I even took to cold calling. I’d be treated with respect always, for that I’m grateful, offered a cold glass of water but no job.

Finally, one of the placement agents made me the offer of working with him. He was launching an employment newspaper and wanted me to help him set it up. My sales/finance background and my English speaking skills were the only factors that worked to my advantage. There was no promise of a salary just some vague mention of a commission and the promise of a partnership.

Out of sheer desperation I accepted.

And I slogged.

The name had already been decided (which I thought was all wrong, but I had no say in the matter). I sat with the artist to design the name and logo, I went to the Office of Registrar of Newspapers for the name approval, I followed up for ads and subscriptions, interviewed people, wrote the pieces, helped with the designing of the layout and finally delivered the printed papers to magazine-stores and also stuck labels and posted them to our handful of subscribers. I did it all. Along with my boss/partner and his wife. 

It was a crazy year. I got laughed at constantly for working for ‘free’. It sounds stupid even to me, in retrospect. Perhaps it sounded stupid even then but it wasn’t like I had many options. And I did get paid, occasionally, randomly as and when the money came in. Besides, I have to admit, I was beginning to enjoy myself. There was a certain thrill in creating something from absolute scratch. I polished my writing and interviewing skills, my typing speed increased, I became rather good at Quark Express, the software used back then to design newspapers. I also picked some bit of photoshop.

A year and a half later, a much more skilled me, found a way into a local daily and was given almost independent charge of a weekly Women’s magazine that went with the paper every Wednesday.

And that’s where I was twenty years ago. It was an exciting time. The paper might not have had a national presence but it commanded a certain degree of respect as it was the best known English daily of the city. Besides, since most ‘serious’ reporters focussed on the political stuff (which I wasn’t interested in anyway), as a relative newbie handling a lifestyle magazine, I had a whole large field left to me. I got to meet a host of interesting people – theatre personalities, musicians, litterateurs and sportspersons. The city had a rich cultural milieu and I spent my days watching plays in quaint amphitheatres, covering SPICMACAY music fests, attending food festivals, book fairs and book launches.

A few years later a National Daily came to the city and I found a place on the team, then moved to another city, another paper and finally to Pune.

Twenty years ago seems like a whole different lifetime and yet had that not happened, had I not taken that first ‘stupid’ assignment I wouldn’t have been the person I am now.

Everything, really does happen for a reason.


I received this tag from Esha M Dutta at MySoulTalks . It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Geethica at Thoughts By Geethica. There are 29  of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 1st, 2nd and 3rd November  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised! 

51 Replies to “Throwback Times”

  1. Wow OM! Your journey sounds so fascinating.. and yes throwback times from so long ago seem like its from a different life altogether na.. life does have its way of preparing for things to come!
    I’m inspired to write a throwback post too 😀
    Priya recently put up this amazing post…Sunday SnippetMy Profile

  2. Lovely to know your journey . Every experience teaches us something or the other . We get prepared for a better future .

  3. Tulika, I did not know about this part of your life. Well, I don’t know a lot other things but this was great and must have been so good. Spic Macay was big and so good that you were there. Twenty years is a long time and this prompt has given me so much perspective reading about you all.
    When I moved to HR, although I had a degree in HR – I also worked for free and like you I slogged. But it was great. I can still feel the energy. Loved your post. Please tell us more about the days before the twins and the husband too 😉 Or better – meet me!
    Parul Thakur recently put up this amazing post…8-day road trip to Kinnaur and Spiti ValleyMy Profile

    1. I must thank you once more for the prompt Parul. Thanks to it I took down and dusted the long forgotten files full of my articles. It was so wonderful to relive that era. Oh and the children were most impressed :-).

  4. Wow!! This is impressive stuff Tulika and I am so darned proud of you. You have led such a fulfiling life via this career- I cant imagine being paid to cover SPICMACAY, Book events and such things. Wish I could have this job-I wonder however did you manage to give it up.

    Super proud of you and agree with the sentiment-everything happens for a reason. We are constantly being updated and prepared for what follows next in our lives.
    Shalzmojo recently put up this amazing post…#Gratitude-Nurturing my world in OctoberMy Profile

    1. Aw thanks Shalz. I have to admit it was a wonderful time. SPICMACAY was such a big deal back then. I got to meet people like Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasiya and Shiv Kumar Sharma. Oh and a lot of Bollywood celebs too. It was good fun.
      It was a whole different life. And I’m glad I got to live it just as I’m glad I have this time now when I can be with the children and watch them grow up.

  5. I agree everything happens for a reason and there are some lessons or blessings in disguise. I have been in a similar situation and have volunteered to work for free. But I did gain experience.

  6. WOW! I had no idea about this part of you! You actually designed whole pages of newspapers?! That is soooo awesome! No wonder I always find your blog so clean and easy to navigate! Hmmmm! I am glad you took that job.
    Kaddu recently put up this amazing post…When I Had A “Pink Kurti”My Profile

    1. Ha ha Chicky, that designing is so very different from blog designing. That’s like bringing together a jig-saw puzzle with articles, pictures, headlines and blurbs all arranged in a particular layout. It also has a lot to do with how deft you are at the page-making software. On the blog I just go for the easiest option because there’s no one to help me with the technology now. I have to admit, at work back then, the designers were only too glad to help me learn.

  7. I completely agree. Everything does happen for a reason, even if the reason is not immediately apparent at the time.

    It’s the reason why I wouldn’t change any good / bad experiences from my past. Because if they were good / bad enough for me to remember even after all these years – they have played a role in shaping my present, which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

    That being said, I loved this glimpse into your life. You should do more of these posts. It might be fun for you to look back too. What do you think?
    Shantala recently put up this amazing post…The Bride Test Book Review – It’s Complicated!My Profile

    1. It was fun Shantala. I opened the file of my article cuttings after ages remembering each interview I’d taken, the late nights, the fights fought for more space on the page and the arguments with the advertising guys. It was all so much fun.

  8. All that matters is the lessons we learn in the process. Even the work I did for free without even getting a penny back helped me in many ways and gave me proper exposure. It was an inspiring read. Thank you for sharing.
    Keerthi Vydyula recently put up this amazing post…People Change! OR Do They?My Profile

  9. I would say , that looks like an interesting time. Creating something from scratch is exciting. I started my career working for a TV channel that was exactly in its infant state..and I remember going to Press Conferences where other reporters used to laugh at me and my cameraman colleague. All of them used to come on their cars while we used to take local transport to reach as our company couldn’t afford taxi fare. Now, I laugh at that job, my salary was one thousand and my Dad used to ask me to quit every day. But I enjoyed doing it because it was all new experience for me, and that job eventually gave me the experience that I used to get a better job with the number one daily of Kolkata.

    1. TV Channel, Wow! How interesting is that! So were you associated with the production of it all? Or just the news collection?
      I’ve done that too – gone to press conferences with photographers. Since ours was a smaller city there was no scope of cars or taxis. Most journalists travelled by two-wheelers, so that was good.

  10. “All good things in life are for free”

    Ha! Ha!

    Our first/free assignments shape us and like how. I remember working on a stipend of 1500 bucks as a trainee, in the big, bad world of advertising, that too in Delhi. And it was a job that I totally loved, and one which taught me so much in a short span of time.

    Thanks for this sweet, interesting anecdote. So glad you got to cover some interesting cultural shows, and personalities. Spic Macay was such a hit in those days.
    Natasha recently put up this amazing post…Chance Encounters with Cheetahs – African Adventures: #WordlessWednesdayMy Profile

    1. That’s true Natasha – the best things are often free. Those were different times. I wonder if today’s kids would be ready to work like we did – with just the one thought of learning something.

  11. Wow!
    Everything does happen for a reason, Tulika!
    I loved reading your journey from that “stupid” job to where you reached later, and am so proud of you! Handling the lifestyle section all by yourself must have been thrilling, isn’t it?

  12. While reading your blog I felt that so much of what happened 20 years ago was on a lark and in good faith.

  13. Wow, I didn’t know about your work experience before reading this post, Tulika. You have such vast knowledge and experience in printing then. Yeah, working for free may sound stupid, but if it helps in learning new skills that can be used in finding new opportunities, then it’s okay to do so for a while. 20 years ago life was completely different for all of us, right?

    Vinitha recently put up this amazing post…Reading with KidsMy Profile

    1. Thank you Vinitha. Most of what I knew is probably outdated now but I do treasure the experience. The joy of creating something and the sense of achievement it brought me have given me some of my happiest memories.

  14. Yes, of course, we all work for free all the time, even at home! And it is more enriching and satisfying that way! It is all about appreciating and liking whatever we choose to do. Everything does happen for a reason for sure. I loved this glimpse into your life.

    1. Working at home is a labour of love. Professionally I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it unless there are sufficient takeaways beyond the financials.

  15. Fascinating. I didn’t know this side of you. You were bold to have taken a job without pay in those days, because the social pressure must be immense. But it all worked out well. Really enjoyed reading this post and learning about a different talent of yours.

    Rajlakshmi recently put up this amazing post…The day my brain turned into a cabbageMy Profile

    1. Oh don’t even talk of the social pressure – moreso because I had been in a pretty decent job before I moved here. It was a huge comedown. But then I did get a shot at a second career so it turned out worth the trouble.

  16. Really interesting journey Tulika, I used to work for an export company free of cost, those were the days when online marketing saw the light of the day and we were early entrants. I was working with a school teaching environmental studies and from school I used go to the company office and work till 7 pm. I was single and had nothing else to do, Thinking of those days really makes me wonder how long we have come in this journey called life.

    1. Wow you were holding down two jobs. How wonderful is that! I wonder if kids these days would even think of doing something like this. There is value in slogging through the initial work years. That’s a lesson I hope I can give my children.

    1. Ha ha yes I found it weird even as I was writing it. Times have changed so drastically. We used to depend on those telephone directories for so many things.

    1. Technically it wasn’t my first job, it was a first shot at a second career. Which is why the working for free irked me a bit. But I was in a tough situation at that point and had barely any option.

    1. Oh the sari. That’s something I learnt on my first job too. It was compulsory to wear it. By the end of a month I could drape it in 10 minites flat.

  17. Everything happens for a reason and we often realise it later in life. Actually each work can’t be done only for money but its value. Loved to read about you.

    1. That’s right Geethica but it isn’t always possible. I am glad I had my Husband’s support or else I wouldn’t have been able to afford working in such uncertain circumstances. I have to admit though, that the learning was great.

      1. That is so true!

        This is something new writers need to understand, though – there’s working for free (for people who profit from your work but don’t share fairly in it), and there’s working for real and valuable experience, and little or no pay. The latter is like an apprenticeship, and you can either pay at university for the imparted knowledge of those who’ve been there before you, or you can be the one acquiring it first-hand to share with others. Eventually, you have to move on and employ your skills in a way that keeps food on the table. But as long as there’s value on BOTH sides of the equation, it’s not, strictly, “for free.”

        1. That’s absolutely true. There has to be ‘value in both sides’ or else it’s plain exploitation. The value might not always be monetary, though.

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