Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Plight of Designers in India

You could be oozing gold for all anyone cares, so does Bappi Lahiri, but that surely does not mean you are classy. Or that you pay people for their work.

It seems to me, that designers in India especially generally tend to suffer for being designers. The problem with the entire thought process here is that people want to live in beautifully designed functional spaces, they love the idea of having an interior designer achieving their goals for them, but when it comes to paying the designer for their ingenuity, understanding and creativity, the immediate response (on completion of project) is, “What did you do? All these were my ideas, you just drew a couple of lines!” It’s so ludicrous, I cannot even laugh. Really? I drew some lines, I put them together so that they made sense. And for that, I deserve to be paid.

The psychology here is, “ I didn’t get anything tangible, why should I pay?” Go to a vegetable market, Aunty. When will people realize, that a designer sells IDEAS, THOUGHTS, CONCEPTS. He sells DESIGN. Design IS intangible, thoughts are Intangible, creativity is INTANGIBLE. Does it mean I should not be paid? No. Some people accept this argument and agree that a designer must be paid. But pay they will, after you give them five star quality work in five rupees. The “swastha ani masta” era is long past. You pay, you get. You don’t pay, you don’t get. Same applies for quality.

Recently, while working on a particularly hideous garage (which was to be converted into a beauty parlour), I came across people with the exact mentality I just spoke about. This is a girl I know since school days. 16 odd years of acquaintance and at one time a pretty good friend in school. That was the reason I agreed to take up the project.

I was taken to an ugly little outhouse/garage. It was falling to pieces. And this monstrosity was to be converted into a beauty salon. I took it up as a challenge. And according to me, I did a great job. I’m not the one saying this; anyone who has entered the place has said it. But of course, a project is not successful until your client has a word of appreciation for you. Which, I did not get. What, however, I did get in abundance was sleepless nights and a nasty, mean spirited excuse of a person to deal with. Big fat claims were made. Screaming matches over the phone. Her mother went as far as calling me a “cheapskate”. Of course, it doesn’t matter that she or her daughter do not answer calls and have not cleared their dues after torturing me for two months over something that should have been completed within 15 days. To make matters even more interesting, they threatened to drag me to the police WHEN THEY ARE ONES that OWE ME money. Pretty “rich”, huh.

The other point that is pretty bothersome in this entire fiasco is that these “convent educated” people while, dealing with anyone from the labourers working on site would say, “look at their level, look at our level”. Whatever happened to “dignity of labour”? Or is pulling out the underarm hair of complete strangers a more respectable job than a carpenter? On what basis do such people talk about “class” when they cannot even pay the needy people who spent days and nights getting that horrible excuse of a place functioning? They talk about quality, not taking into consideration the fact that they did not want to pay for anything more expensive than the most mediocre of materials and the place to be converted itself was falling apart. Add to that the fact that they made countless changes in the design. Once damaged, always damaged. You cannot cut a thread and then tie a knot and expect it to be as strong as a whole thread. Same goes for furniture. Conveniently, the designer was blamed.

The girl in question would scream over the phone, “I come from a good family, we are not cheats, we don’t hold back anyone’s money”. Her parents too would scream the same. No amount of screaming and shouting can change the fact that these people are in fact extremely cheap. The project was completed 1.5 months back, there is still no sign of the remaining payment after repeated phone calls and meetings.
They wanted me to “put my soul” into their work. They wanted me to “sell my soul” for a sum of twenty thousand rupees. I can only laugh at the sheer audacity of the expectations and pray to god, that these people pay in Karma, which they will.

Moral of the story: Money cannot buy you class, tolerance or the understanding of dignity of labour. No work is big or small, nor is the person performing them. The people that claim to not be cheats are in fact the cheats. Beware.


  1. Wow! Now u really should smile for me! Fuck the bb pin, just smile! Great post.

  2. tough situations make tougher being...hang in there and best of luck...