“I wish I could quit my job and run to the hills.” This is probably the most common refrain during water-cooler conversations. However, hardly anyone takes the plunge for the fear of losing a regular source of income. But more and more Indians are breaking free from the mould and taking breaks to experiment with alternative careers.
While many look at these breaks from the mundane as a mere hobby or a temporary diversion, a moment of clarity amidst chaos, Vaiishnavi Ramesh believes in an amalgamation of the two — the idea of “creative chaos”.
Vaiishnavi, 24, who has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, worked as an editor with Aptara Corp in Chennai before moving to Noida for higher studies. In 2013, she started JadooGhar Studio in Noida, where one can learn art forms such as fire spinning, kathak, pottery as well as spiritual healing.
Vaiishnavi is well-versed in the art of fire spinning and shares her knowledge with students at the studio, which she considers a perfect blend of passion and work.
“Social welfare through art is merely my choice to do whatever I want to do while also having fun,” she says.
Another subscriber to the idea of “creative chaos” is Smriti Sharma, 31, who gave up her writing gig at a Gurgaon-based public relations firm to pursue her wanderlust.
Along with her husband Mohit Gupta, a scriptwriter who organised the occasional spirituality workshop, Smriti came up with the idea of merging the two passions. The result was The Wanderers.
Launched in August 2014, The Wanderers offer an unbeatable holiday experience for those with a spiritual bent of mind. Those with tired minds and bodies are taken to places with high vibrations. Referred to as ‘power spots’, these offbeat destinations have the ability to lift the travellers to a higher state of consciousness.
So far, The Wanderers have organised two full-moon meditation sojourns at the Taj Mahal. The other popular destinations on the list are Andretta in Himachal Pradesh and Khajuraho.
Stress has become part and parcel of the modern lifestyle and people such as Smriti are using their passion to offer an escape route. These days, a holiday itinerary includes more than sightseeing and fancy restaurants. Adventures and wellness programmes top holidaymakers’ wishlist.
Catering to one such niche is Honey Sharma, who manages a homestay venture called Pir Panjal Cottage in Manali with his partner Huzefa Siamwala. Apart from offering a comfortable stay for offbeat travellers, the quaint and cosy cottage also doubles up as a base camp for outdoor activities such as trekking, mountaineering, ski-touring, snowboarding and paragliding.
Sharma, 28, quit a high-paying job in the merchant navy in April 2014 to chart his own course and intends to promote a fusion of travel, adventure and innovation in India.
Working on a similar but relatively grander idea is Paavan Nanda, the cofounder of Zostel — the first ever hostel chain for backpackers in the country.
After working for management consulting firm Bain & Company for two years, Nanda enrolled in IIM Calcutta for higher studies. And that’s where Nanda and his friends came up with the idea of starting a hostel chain.
Their travelling experiences across Europe and Asia made Nanda & Co realise the absence of similar backpackers’ hostels in India and the need for centrally-located accommodation that was easy on the pocket.
Zostel is just 18 months old but has already been ranked as the best hostel chain in the country by global travel websites. It has established itself in major tourist hotspots such as New Delhi, Goa, Jaipur and Varanasi.
“We are both employees and founders of Zostel,” says Nanda, reiterating the degree of freedom one enjoys when working independently.
As opposed to a 10-hour job slaving under a boss, where the impact of your work may or may not be visible, working as an entrepreneur offers challenges and rewards in equal measure.
An active involvement from the basic steps of chalking out an idea to its effective implementation helps one evolve in the true sense, whereas working under someone else keeps one detached from most of the working dynamics and consequently your contributions end up being merely latent within the framework.
Smriti’s search for a complete sense of contentment is what drove her to start The Wanderers. Similarly, Sharma refers to his switch as a mere shift from what one “has to” to what one “wants to” do to live one’s life.
Being pioneers in their respective businesses, these young minds faced their fair share of initial inertia in their endeavours. From popularising their concepts through social media and handling their finances, they have managed to flourish in their respective fields.
Despite hailing from financially secure backgrounds, they had to endure phases of apprehension and paranoia. They had to dig deep into their savings accounts and borrow from friends to fund their dream projects.
While the founders of Zostel were confident about their concept from the start and did not flinch from pumping in all their savings into the project, Vaiishnavi attributes her endeavour to her art skills and a giant leap of faith.
So, do they ever think of switching back to their old jobs? “Never ever!” says Nanda with utter firmness.
Vaiishnavi has the parting shot: “At the end of the day, the question we need to ask ourselves is: what soothes my soul and fills me up so that I can be at peace?”