A collection of anecdotes by individuals, just like us, doing what they love
Bahaar Dhawan Rohtagi was often recognized as a ‘Lawyer by day, artist by night’. For five years, she juggled both professions until one day she decided to merge both her passions into one career. Recognized as one of Delhi NCR’s top 10 artists and awarded by ASSOCHAM at the SAARC Women Economic Forum, Bahaar talks to us about her love for art and law.
What led you down the road of becoming a lawyer and then an artist?
I was always good at academics and what was predominantly my family's choice became my own career choice. By my second year at law school, I realised that I loved the idea of being a lawyer. I thoroughly enjoyed drafting, mooting, researching and analysing. I admired the courage of all the advocates in the Court of law and fancied that soon, I would be the one on top of things. That sense of control and ability to display presence of mind was very fascinating. Art had however, always remained an alter-ego.
Before I took the plunge as a full time artist, I was a Senior Associate at Amarchand Mangaldas Suresh Shroff & Co. (Now Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas) for five years. I got married and soon my inner passion had me selling art alongside everything else. Despite all this, I would often get an urge like a bolt from the blue to paint, but deadlines and work commitments would always take precedence. I would imagine myself being in an artist’s studio, going wild on the canvas and would lose sleep over it.
Strangely enough, the breeding ground for the artist in me was my law firm where many associates and partners had started investing in my works. Friends would call me ‘Lawyer by day, artist by night’! However, being nocturnal with a demanding day job, was neither wise nor sustainable as fatigue and sleep would overtake me at the oddest hours. I had to make a decision. On one hand there was the stability of a well- paying job in a prestigious law firm and on the other, there was an aching desire to take on the creative path.
With time I realized that my passion for art was so overwhelming, that money and promotions were not governing my life. It all happened one day at work. I was consumed by the most indescribable feeling - I was on the edge, irritable, as if trying to read station signs from a speeding train. A station approached, but I was speeding so fast that I was unable to make anything of it. My mind was consumed by this feeling of lurking anticipation. This was when I knew I had to stop juggling.
I challenged myself to put up my first official exhibition and test the waters before I took the plunge. After a month of hard work and several hours of painting and preparing, there I was with my debut exhibition in May 2015, which luckily was a great success. After this, there was no looking back.
Are these professions pieces of a bigger puzzle? If so, how?
Sometimes, I feel they have to be. I equally enjoy art and law, which is why, along with my artistic pursuits, I am working to further Art Law in India, where we have absolutely no concrete legal systems in place to regulate art.
What has been the source of inspiration for you and for your art?
I draw my inspiration from almost anything. I keep experimenting and do not like monotony. Inspirations for my work vary from the cosmos, to conversations I have on my travels and even to visions in my dreams. My feminist ideals also lead to the featuring of women in many of my works. Overall, I hope to always make my work unique-something that suits every body’s appetite.
Does pursuing both professions come at a cost?
It did for a while. I had to make a choice and I left my job. Only time will tell if the tide is reversed in favour of law again. I am taking each day as it comes. I am also part of several initiatives including being a committee member of the YFLO committee and actively speaking and curating other artistic initiatives, so for now, my plate is full.
What are the challenges you face as an artist in India?
There is no legislation or regulation in place. Power play is in the hands of few who can easily declare a work of art to be irrelevant or boring. Artists are still at the bottom of the food chain unless they are able to market themselves well. They don't have any institutional support and hence lack confidence. The dependence on other parties is too high and artists are forced to create according to the will of the market.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I hope to be painting all my life. Furthermore, I hope to give back to the art community by using my expertise in the legal field to bring about legislations which would help increase transparency and make valuation of works non-speculative, thereby increasing investor confidence in the art market.
What advice would you give to those skeptical about pursuing a creative passion?
We all need to believe in ourselves. We have been given unique and extraordinary gifts so that we may use them and thus share the wealth and joy of them with the rest of the world. If you have a calling, something you think about day and night, you have to listen to it, to move toward it, and to find out the ways it may bring you more into being your total and complete self. If you have that urge, ignore the pressures and duress from others, don’t wait for the perfect moment; take the moment and make it perfect. The joy of creating is unparalleled and today, especially with our access to social media, the visibility is a lot more and there is place for everybody and every profession. Don't hesitate to follow your dreams. I did, without receiving any formal training.
You can view more of Bahaar's works on her website.
Follow your heart and find the right opportunities in fields you're passionate about — in the arts, writing, design, music and more.