Very many years ago, in 1995, we started TASC; one of India’s first technical writing and training companies.
We started not in the proverbial garage, but in a beauty parlour that belonged to a close family close friend of my business partner. We were given the place on a “pay when you have the money” basis, no questions asked. The only condition was that we had to use the place “as is, where is.” So here we were, in pink sandblasted 200 square feet room with mirrors on the walls and the classic parlour countertops. It took some ingenuity and a few curtains (yes, curtains) to camouflage the surroundings. Visitors, the few that we had, were very mystified by our “office”! 🙂
And oh! there was the cat that we inherited. For the first few weeks, it was a ghostly presence that left behind a dead rodent as a tribute at least once a week! **Shudder** We soon discovered how it got in and put an end to that.
The location of our office was also very unique. Bang opposite us was St. Michael’s Church (Mahim Church), one of Mumbai’s most famous churches and a few meters down from there was the famous Mahim Dargah.
We were also cheek-by-jowl with a “dance bar” and a few doors down on the other side was a small traditional eatery. Being an all girls team, we were persona non-grata at both the eateries that were within reach. That was a problem because we often worked till 11 PM and stayed over ever so often (the parlour had cubicles at the back with benches on which we could sleep).
We tried, once and once only, to get a takeout from the traditional eatery, but our very presence at the door was uncomfortable to the owner and patrons. An old “chacha” who worked at the place realised our plight, and took our order and sent us packing back to the office. He personally delivered the food, and since then would drop in ever so often through the day to see if we needed anything. I will always remember the roti-dal fry, egg bhurji, and chai-bun-maska we lived on in those days. And bread pudding, Mava cakes, and assorted “puffs” from the nearby Crown Bakery.
On a day we needed a treat, we used to take a taxi down to Shobha, the Udipi Restaurant on LJ Road aka Cadell Road or get Biryani from one of the local eateries.
The bar would start its day at about 1 PM with a thorough cleaning accompanied by the melodious voice of MS Subbulakshmi. They played the most divine selection of music till about 6 PM, when regular business hours started. That was the time I learnt several stotrams and popular dance numbers all in the space of a few months. And we could do without our watches because of them! When the storams started, have lunch and when the dance music started, go home.
Though I did not know it then, I was the unwitting subject of classical conditioning. 🙂
But the bouncers and waiters at the bar were ever so considerate of our finer feelings and protective of us girls. They would ensure that the bar’s patrons did not disturb us, call us cabs, …. So typical of Mumbai!
But boy, did we work hard those days. Our first contract was to develop documentation for a RDBMS developed in India. We had to write 11 huge manuals in about 7 months, with one DTP operator for support. We had to shuttle between Mumbai and Gandhi Nagar, where the development team was based.
In the middle of all this, we were also training individuals on Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Office 95, PowerBuilder, C, and C++. You see, we were a technical writing and training company. Do note the “and training.” In those days, very few in India had heard of technical writing as a profession. Our task began with educating the companies we visited on what technical writing was all about, how we could add value to them, and more specifically they had to pay us to “just” write. It was tough going, but fun!
I have lost count of the number of times people asked my parents, “Okay, your daughter writes. But what does she DO (aka what is her JOB?)?”
My abiding memory of those days the tremendous support we got from people around us; family, friends, and complete strangers. And everyone had tremendous faith in us and our abilities, as other instalments of this saga will show.