“Courage has Power, Genius and Magic in it!” The first time I heard this from my teacher, I just knew, it would sail me through my life from there on with lots of ease… just believing in it! I can assure you, my courage surely has made my life magical!
I have been born and brought up in Mumbai although I come from a protective Punjabi Biz family, A Commerce graduate by qualification , who always wanted to be an Advertising Professional, (although a Creative one), however who feared she would be married off due to family pressure by 21. Thankfully life had other plans, surely not the ones I had fathomed too.
I, still landed up being an Advertising professional, managing large MNC clients (in spite of not being an MBA, which I couldn’t, due to personal circumstances) and being part of all core Account Management teams of top Advertising agencies of India, specializing in Relationship Marketing / CRM for 13 yrs. (Please don’t judge my age by my work experience, I started early, I’m still young and Single! Hee hee). I was a workaholic and worked 16- 18 hours daily under stressful deadlines, yet my passion and love for what I did kept me going.
I never ever in my life thought I would quit a job, leave alone the Advertising Industry, as that’s all I knew. Then again, life had other plans (Thank God for that too!). In 2007, for a year I fought a life threatening illness that showed up unannounced. No one could predict whether I would make it through it or not yet lots of grace, support and prayers of well wishers / strangers, my courage and undeterred clarity to be back to life and on my feet sailed me through it. I got back to work after a year and half. But the journey back wasn’t easy physically and emotionally. I had to face a lot of challenges, literally start from scratch in re gaining my confidence and more so fight my own inner demons at various levels to get back on my feet.
Something within me had changed, so had my priorities and the way I wanted to lead the gift of life I had been given. Nothing I had known or followed all my life made sense anymore. I felt so lost as I battled this NEW me that had begun to reveal itself! And then in 2011, I woke up one fine morning, just knowing I was done with my Advertising career.
I never thought such a day would ever come. I didn’t know what next? It was shit scary, but my heart just wouldn’t agree to any logic or the fears that my mind kept throwing at me. I knew I had not battled death and got a 2nd chance to live, just to waste it on doing what didn’t make me happy. Such moments of certainty come once in a life time, I guess …
I resigned and told myself, “let’s see what life has planned for me, I will flow with it”. Surprisingly over the next few days a friend I had met a year before, offered to set up a company and invited me to shoot weddings along with him. I thought he was insane. Photography was a hobby all along, since I was probably 5 yrs old. My friends would joke about it constantly. But “ME”, photography, professionally and that too ‘Wedding Photography’? I told him he had lost it. Candid Wedding Photography had just begun and there were very few brilliant unconventional photographers doing great work that I had met, seen the work of and I didn’t see myself in that league.
Yet I had nothing to lose, I thought, since I any way didn’t have a plan. I told myself, initially I would generate business as I was good at that, he would lead as a photographer and on the job I would learn alongside. Life, yet again had other plans for me! Within 3 months of working and shooting our 1st assignment together we discovered a lot of fundamental disagreements and I chose to step out gracefully.
I was back to square one. What next, I wondered? In the next few months I tried my hand at all sorts of things like casting for a music video, selling jewelry, being part of a film unit, chain marketing and creating and selling merchandise .Simultaneously, I courageously created my own facebook page ‘www.facebook.com/payalsallthingsnice’, putting up my captures from travel trips over the years and a best friend’s wedding I had shot as a gift for her. Little did I know? Just the week I had a break down and was about to give up on the photography endeavor, I landed up being signed up for 3 wedding projects, that too by complete strangers who saw my friend’s wedding pics online and loved it, traced and hired me.
This October, I completed 4 years of being a freelance photographer, although I specialize in Destination Wedding photography, I have constantly challenged myself to explore and expand my avenues in related fields and categories. I am not a trained photographer, I have shot over 40 Weddings all over India as a “One Woman Army”. Whatever I’ve learnt and created so far has all been on the job thanks to, trusting clients, very supportive co-photographers, mentors, associates and strangers related to the field I have met along the way, lots of self learning and motivation, huge inspiration I gather from a lot of international photographers I follow persistently and above all my own determination to never look back, come what may. It has taken me 4 years to come to terms with the challenges I still face, at different levels from business challenges, creativity, grooming my skill, to learning and constantly trying to upgrade myself to new technology. As a freelancer, it has required a huge mindset shift to live a life of financial /work uncertainty, explore the unknown and constantly self motivate to raise one’s own bars to achieve self defined targets and accept alot of rejections /failures too. When I look at my life today in totality, I am only immensely grateful for the path that showed up and my courage, to own it up joyfully. It has never felt more liberating, fulfilling and meaningful. And yet, I feel the journey has just begun …