From an engineer to a professional storyteller – Jeetendra Ajmera
Coming from a technical background whose most of the career was in the creative field- my life is filled with surprises. Graduating from an engineering college to being a professional storyteller has been a roller coaster. But it satisfies me, after all, it is what you seek out of your work. I was 18 when I started working, mainly in college. Organizing small shows, managing gigs, getting involved in newspapers, editorials, etc. always made me realize that I was made for it. I mean, do you realize how bad of an engineer I would be? It just sounded wrong. As I was exposed to a lot of street theater during college it led me to the path of storytelling, spoken word. I decided to pursue it.
Making life-changing decisions :-
When it comes to changing my career path and making turning points decisions, I kind of always knew. Sure there have been times where I used to literally google artists all over the world and read their Wikipedia. Just to understand did they do to get where they were. I used to observe the pattern. As an aspiring storyteller, who was trying to get into that world, I found that really fascinating. My parents were pretty okay when I told them. All this time I was so worried about breaking the news to them. But my elder sisters were not happy about it for a long period of time. They would call up my parents and ask questions about what I was doing with my life, compare me with engineering graduates who may or may not get placed at Google. But my goals were too clear to pay any heed to these.
How my mother played a role :-
The only person who has supported me throughout was the mother. My mother comes from a Hindi Literature background. A very spiritual person, a believer of arts. Even today if you visit my house, you will find a big shelf filled with cassettes which my mother worships every day. Just because those cassettes helped her go through some really tough times. She is the person who always inspired me. She encouraged me to try all the creative things around. I remember coming back from my playtime in the evening and used to sit with her as she tells us little stories or anecdotes about various things such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. Maybe that habit grew into me. It has made me who I am today, and I absolutely love that about myself.
Not enough opportunities are one of the major issues :-
The biggest problem that I faced was that this field was new, then. There were no places to go to. The biggest challenge was to know the direction. Also, my background didn’t give me a lot of go-to places for this kind of work. But being a person from a technical background has been really handy to me as a creator. One thing the pandemic has set right is that you cannot not go digital. So being a creative personality with all my technological knowledge rather brings out a unique personality. One needs to understand the money in the market as well. There are tons of people who will invest in good art, you just need to find a way towards them.
One of the stories that have stayed with me :-
One of the craziest traveling experiences would have to be to the time I visited Bir, in Himachal Pradesh. As I was coming from my paragliding trip, I spotted a Monastery. The travelers didn’t wish to stop, but I really wished to visit it. That trip exposed me to driving across hilltops in heavy rain, getting bit by a dog, almost threat of getting rabies, and to conclude a very major bus accident. All of this in one day. I remember waking up to a sudden sound and passengers screaming, finding our bus to be tilted. It legit felt like near-death to me. I remember in those twenty seconds, several faces flashed in front of me.
Anything can happen to you at any time in life, I learned it the hard way. We were fortunate enough to be saved.
Even when I am out of place, I manage to crawl back :-
In this process of being a creative professional in the current scenario, I had multiple breakdowns. Even now, often I just wake up and feel like I can’t go through this. It is not that you feel super good every day. As a storyteller, I have to create something new every day. There have been incidents where I put my soul into my work thinking it would be a game-changer but it is disliked by my audience. Whereas the content I was unsure of ends up reaching out to the masses.
One thing that motivates me is that I get to tell stories. I feel it’s a sacred activity and it’s my duty to deliver. Believing in technology but at the same time, I want to create a space for everyone in the future where they just sit and share stories, in a non-apologetic manner.
My campaign for Parkinson’s disease :-
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system. There are 10 lakh cases of Parkinson’s every year in India. Just imagine a patient suffering from Parkinson’s simply walking on the road, with partial inability to move. My piece used ‘Kala Bandar’ as the metaphorical fight between the man and the disease. The reason I chose this because I have seen and observed Parkinson’s disease clinical manifestations in my own family. I want people to know that it is controllable if given proper treatment and care.
Listen to your inner ‘Awaaz’:-
‘You are not at all creative’, ‘your grammar sucks’, ‘you can never be a professional storyteller’- These are the terms I heard multiple times when I was getting started. A lot of people will say a lot of things to you but the only one who knows what you want to do is you. I feel everyone has this tiny little ‘Awaaz’ inside them, and all we need is to listen to ourselves unapologetically.