Hello and thank you reading this!
It is a bit awkward to write about yourself but I’ve forced myself to do that because sometimes without knowing me, it may be a little hard for you to understand what and where Aalaap came from.
I can’t believe we (Aalaap) are going to be 8 (years old) this year; every year, at the end of it, I’d think of closing shop and going back to the comfort of a full-time job. Naturally so, right? I spent 13 years working in the newsroom - buzzing with ideas and brimming with people - and a salary at the end of the month and every day went by in a ﬂash. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it or that I didn’t miss it.
So, here’s my career story.
From being an intern at The Economic Times’ weekly supplement, ET Madras Plus - where I patiently typed in the week’s listings, events and happenings, from a whole pile of papers way back in 2000, I moved up the ladder to become its Editor in 2004. The pursuit to work for a national publication and understanding the art of writing for a weekly had me married to the India Today Group for neatly four years. I like to think that I understood the science and art of journalism there and also learnt what it meant to work long and hard.
In a sense that prepared me for my second innings at The Times of India that just made its way to Chennai in 2009 and I became the Editor of all the supplements of the Group. From sourcing stories on education to real estate to women to neighbourhood news, and understanding the vagaries of each supplement and its character and the vagaries of human egos and the careful art of managing them while being at the helm, was an experience of a lifetime. I learnt pace and endurance, the art of curating content, the importance of good design that made a statement but was also full of substance, and the ﬁne art of editing.
One ﬁne evening, after a long and tiring day at work, I simply quit my job with no other job or plan on hand.
I think I had reached my wits’ end with features and people and my head needed some re-fuelling.
It wasn’t easy for someone like me who has been always used to work from 10am to 10pm. I became a freelance writer and began writing with a furious pace across publications in India until one day, while sipping my favourite ﬁlter coffee at our neighbourhood cafe, Sangeetha, I thought of Aalaap. I’m not entirely sure whether the name came ﬁrst or the idea but I remember walking back home with a feverish pace, opening my laptop and creating a folder called Aalaap.
The idea was to create something meaningful in the space of the classical performing arts. But why? Well, I was keenly interested in the dynamics of that space; as a journalist, I’d written extensively on the arts and the artistes - you can read some of my writings here - and I felt there was a gap waiting to be ﬁlled there.
When I look back, what I did was primarily brainstorm with the artiste, act as a mirror sometimes, listen to her ideas, offer mine, create effective and powerful communication that would help spread the word about the conference and ﬁnally bring in an audience that could soak in, and take home something meaningful and interesting
First I thought of a quality, commentary-based magazine called Aalaap and our story began there. Then, a dancer-friend reached out in October 2013 wondering if I could just work together to help her put out a good show. With no plan, no agenda, no contract, no team except for one, I dived in and that’s how the story of Aalaap’s ﬁrst year with Krishna Gana Sabha’s Natya Kala Conference began.
When I look back, what I did was primarily brainstorm with the artiste, act as a mirror sometimes, listen to her ideas, offer mine, create effective and powerful communication that would help spread the word about the conference and ﬁnally bring in an audience that could soak in, and take home something meaningful and interesting.
Today, we have had the opportunity of collaborating with the Natya Kala Conference over six years in a row and working with different dancers who don the hat as curators, has been a fascinating lesson in learning the skill and art of curation as well as recognising the imperativeness of a sound and strategic marketing and promotions plan.
From calling ourselves an initiative in the performing arts, we have grown to call ourselves a boutique arts management company, a consulting company, an ideas and innovations company and a content and communications company that is constantly creating ways and means for artistes to create and communicate with more impact as well as for us, as a brand to speak with clarity, and conviction.
Aalaap has also enabled for me, the possibility to create for myself an entrepreneurial voice along with an already existing creative one. It has helped me also to cultivate and nurture my writing by virtue of my close and keen interactions with artistes. It has also helped me navigate the dynamics and vagaries of a space that is full of humans all with creative energies in a manner that is empathetic and impactful at the same time.
From calling ourselves an initiative in the performing arts, we have grown to call ourselves a boutique arts management company, a consulting company, an ideas and innovations company and a content and communications company that is constantly creating ways and means for artistes to create and communicate with more impact as well as for us, as a brand to speak with clarity, and conviction
On December 2018, at the TEDxNapierBridge, I introduced Aalaap to a larger audience with a talk where I drew upon my experience as an entrepreneur and as a mother there after and spoke about how the principles on which both these are founded - parenting and entrepreneurship - are largely one and the same. You can watch the talk here…
Just as we turned one at Aalaap, Femina recognised Aalaap as an innovative idea and we took home an award for Original Idea of the Year at an event. In 2017, at the CII organised event Startpreneurs, I was recognised as the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2019, the Bharatanjali Trust honoured Aalaap with a unique award titled Kalakara Sakhya Sundaram for our contribution to the space of the classical arts by virtue of working with artistes and help them feel like we are partners in their pursuit.
And that’s who I think I’ve always been; as a journalist, a subject has trusted me with her/his story; as artistes, Aalaap allows me to enter their homes, meet with their careers and concerns, and chalk out solutions that bring them and the world of the arts, unbridled joy and celebrate the spirit of the intangible.