Growing up as an Indian kid with dreams and aspirations, one of the first things you’re taught is this: if at the age of 30 you’re not a doctor, an engineer, or have an MBA degree, you will never really make it in life.
There seems to be a general consensus amongst Indians that any creative field is child’s play. No matter your profession in the creative sphere, it’s often adjudged to be the ‘last resort’ — an easy way out if you fail to make it in the ‘real’ world. And that is where the struggle for a creative professional really begins.
Ask the average writer, designer, photographer, artist, dancer, singer, and actor, and all of them will have two things in common: a general lack of respect for the nature of their job, coupled with a serious lack of pay.
Ask yourself: how many times have you heard statements like, ‘It’s English, as long as you speak it, you can write it’ or ‘It’s just a photograph, here’s a DSLR, click it’?
Ahmed Kadri, a 24-year-old freelance writer, says, “The biggest issue in the country is that your intelligence and your general worth are measured by your marks. Your creativity is seldom tested or encouraged. As a result, by the time you get a (creative) job, it’s not really respected as a profession.”
He adds, “There are people who have offered me Rs 30 an article — which is shocking, demeaning, and frankly worse than asking me to do it for free. There are times when you agree on a fee, and you still have to beg and chase the client for your money for months after. So not only is there no consistency or respect, but you’re treated like you’re doing them a favour, which is mind-boggling.”
Ananya Sharma says, “The idea of being creative is essentially thought to be the least brainy part of an individual. It’s this frivolous side that people assume everyone has but never uses.”
Sharma, a digital marketing head who also dabbles in design, continues, “Creative jobs are considered to be easy and quick. Nobody realises the amount of thinking and talent that goes into producing the work they receive — so they just assume creative people aren’t really technical or intelligent. They say things like: What do they want money for? Thinking?”
Sharma points out that creative jobs like writing, photography, designing or even acting, for that matter, are often associated with a lifestyle that involves weed, alcohol and drugs, and is thus a rather defamed profession.
Devyani Kapoor echoes the sentiment. Despite having an MA in Journalism she says it’s difficult to find respect. After working for a few years, she started her own fashion and lifestyle blog called Breviloquent but it hasn’t been easy.
“We have to work with brands who want quantity and not quality,” she says. “The real struggle right now is to be judged by the quality of the work – and not by how much we can churn out in a given amount of time.”
The second big struggle, she says, is to be valued for the work she puts in. “My team and I work for upto 18 hours a day for a brand after which we are told they’ll pay us in vouchers and goodies and not cash. I have a team, I run a website – what good are vouchers to me? How difficult is it to pay for the services you asked for?”
Kapoor also says that unlike the West, brands haven’t realised the value and importance of bloggers in India. “Being influencers, they can make or break your brand.”
These examples are a clear indication of the pitiful state of creative professionals in India. They seldom get their dues worth, and are left feeding on scraps because there is no alternative.
With the dawn of the digital age upon us, it needs to change, because as Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society said, “Medicine, law, business, engineering: these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.”
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar