I subscribe to an online thought-for-the day kind of site, and a few weeks ago there was this article that was basically about how there are angels amidst us.
This article started with a question, 'Have you ever found timely help from a total stranger? Or experienced a happy coincidence when the right person was there just at the moment you needed some help?' It went on to explain that there are angels around us and the universe watches over us and sends them when we need them.
It even went a bit further by saying you could be an angel without even realising it. Maybe what you said very casually to somebody has changed his or her life profoundly...
Anyway, this post is not about the mysterious ways of the universe. But about one such person who could have been an angel in my life.
I'd just completed my graduation and a course in visual communication, and I was ready to storm the world of advertising.
I really don't know how it works now, but back then, there was no internet and I didn't have many contacts in the ad world.
So my plan was to look up the ad agencies in the city from the Yellow Pages, divide them by their location and assign an area for each day.
One September morning, I lugged my heavy portfolio bag (yes, this was before portable storage devices!) and started for the assigned locale of the day.
My first stop was one of the top agencies in the nation with a reception area so swank it looked like it was right out of an interiors magazine.
My eyes as round as saucers, I sat in the plush sofa, waiting for the receptionist to see if the creative director had the time to see me.
When I was finally ushered in, I was asked to sit in front of a grumpy man of about 35, who asked to see my portfolio.
I waited with bated breath while he flicked through it nonchalantly and handed it back without a word.
"Well... What do you think of my work, Sir?" I asked politely.
"What was the name of your college, again?" He asked.
After hearing my reply, he cleared his throat and went on to abuse my alma mater for about ten minutes and said, "There's definitely something lacking in the teaching there. Every single student passing out from there has something missing." he concluded.
"Like?" I prompted.
"Don't know!" He shrugged. "In any case, the slot for trainees this year is full up, so you can come back next year." He said as he got up to leave the room.
Crushed and crestfallen, I found my way out.
The previous rejection still stinging, I walked into the next office on the list. It was a small one, nothing compared to the pomp and glory I'd just walked out of.
I waited in the sofa, after stating the purpose of my visit to the kind receptionist.
I couldn't help comparing both the offices.
Soon I was ushered into an old fashioned room with a huge wooden desk. On the other side sat a twinkly-eyed old man who called out cheerfully, "Hello there! What can I do for you?"
"Hello sir," I stammered. "I just wanted to check if you have an opening for a trainee visualiser."
"Sit down, sit down," he waved to the chair in front of his desk.
I sat down nervously and handed him my portfolio.
"I really don't know if I should be looking at this", he told me smiling. "I'm not a creative person. I'm more into handling clients and that sort of a thing. They just call me the Vice president..." He trailed off, almost apologising.
Vice President! I gulped and felt even more foolish.
He flicked through with genuine interest.
"I like your work!" he announced after flicking through the first few pages and asked me questions about each one.
"What's your all-time favourite ad?" He asked, leaning back in his chair and looking up.
"Hmm... Let me think..." I said nervously and my mind drew a total blank. I couldn't think of a single ad.
Seeing my discomfort, he said, "Hey, no worries. This is not a formal job interview. I can see you're really nervous. Just relax!"
He flipped pages again.
He came to a TV script I'd done for a hypothetical face cream as a classroom project. "Interesting." he smiled as he looked at the storyboard I'd painstakingly done.
"What's this soft music in the background?" He asked.
"Its just a soft music which plays when the girl is getting ready for a party, sir" I answered.
"Like?" he asked. "Any particular music you have in mind for that?"
"Hmm... something like Lionel Richie's Hello..."
"Can you sing it for me as I flip through your storyboard?"
"What?!! I mean, I can't, Sir..."
"Why not? I'll understand your commercial better. Come on!", he said, with a smile.
After some persuasion from him, I actually hummed the lines.
"Louder!" He said.
So I actually sang the song for full 5 minutes as he looked at my TV script.
"Good!" He beamed at me as he closed my portfolio shut. "I like your ideas. I like your sense of colour. I can see promise here" He thumped my portfolio. I beamed.
"But unfortunately we get our creatives from Bangalore. We don't have a team here."
"If you want, I can send you to Bangalore. They'll love to have you there. Go and have some fun!"
"No Sir," I said. "I prefer working here."
"Hmmm... So you have a boyfriend here whom you cannot leave." he teased.
Thoroughly scandalised, I said, "No no no.."
"Its ok... Don't get so hassled!" He twinkled. "Of course you have one!"
"Let me see what I can do for you. I'm sure there are so many agencies right here who can do with some fresh talent."
He buzzed his secretary for a copy of Yellow Pages and looked at agencies close by.
He zeroed in on one five minutes away.
"Meet them right away," He instructed me. "Go get them!"
I walked out of his office with a grin plastered on my face.
Sure enough I did get a job in the agency he'd recommended. And later when I tried to ask people about the twinkly old man, all I got was mixed responses.
"He's God!" said one. "I am what I am today because of him."
"Oh, he's a total alcoholic!' said another. "He used to head top agencies here, but because of his drinking problem, he had to leave each one of them."
"He still carries a hip-flask all the time." said another. "That would explain his cheerfulness when you met him!"
I remember sitting at my desk brooding about the whole thing. At that point I didn't care if he was drunk or irresponsible or anything. All I could remember was a kind old man, who'd made me feel good about myself and gave me what I needed most at that time - self esteem.
He needn't have done that. The previous person who'd interviewed me had totally killed my confidence. He needn't have done that either. He could have just said "Sorry, we're full up at the moment".
I toyed with the idea of dropping in on Mr. Twinkle just to say I took his advice and I did land a job. But somehow I could never bring myself to. What if he doesn't remember me?
And after a few years I read his obituary and felt a pang of regret. I should have at least tried.
And when it was my turn to interview people fresh out of college, I made sure I was attentive, even when I couldn't offer them the job. Though I could never be merry with them, I made sure I didn't suck out the hopes and dreams they had within.
But now, after reading that particular article, I'm sure Mr. Twinkle was one of my angels. When I look up at the sky, I almost see him on a cloud, raising his hip-flask to me with his trademark twinkle!