Most often than not, monotony tends to be a great teacher.
Growing up, I aspired to be an engineering technician, be it the design, the technique, the process, it all intrigued me. This would then imply that when I took up the job opportunity, years later, in this field that I always aspired to work in, it would be like someone struck gold. Except it was nothing like that. It was mundane and monotonous; it lacked the charm or the adventure that one would hope for. Three years into the job and it just seemed to go downhill, days would become weeks and weeks would translate into months without so much of a warning. While the work was clerical, there was something that the job exposed me to, that I enjoyed and never thought I would - talking to people.
The Managerial role pushed me to interact with all walks of people and surprisingly, I enjoyed every bit of it. The introvert in me was getting a taste of what it would mean to be an extrovert. I realised I was more interested in people, their experiences and the kind of impact that could have on my learning curve. When conversations started mattering far more than machines, that’s when I knew it was time to make a shift.
While I was at it, I failed to notice what was going on in my own backyard, something I took for granted for decades, I guess. Appa ran a private jewellery business, where he custom made pieces for a private network of clients. Instead of a retail store format, he hosted his clients in an apartment, by appointment. Clients from all walks of life would catch up with him over coffee, discuss jewellery and leave to make way for another client. And some clients went on to become family too. I used to sit in the living room post work and chat up with the people visiting him, before it was their turn to meet their jeweller.
Predominantly everyone who visited him ran their own business and had an exciting story to share. I met a variety of people, from celebrities to large scale agriculturists. Days no longer turned into weeks or months, as I worked in the business part time setting up processes, I found my work far more gratifying than the one before, and this time it did feel like I struck gold.
At 25, I was beginning my life all over again, but for some odd reason I was more excited than nervous. And in all honesty, and as cliched as it may sound, quitting the corporate job was by far one of the most liberating events in my life. I left Chennai, travelled, studied business, trained to design jewellery and for most parts, I found myself trying to connect with my right side of the brain. Conventional education only catered to my left while it buried my right. Everything that I liked about being an engineering technician now translated into jewellery – the design, the technique, the process.
On my return to Chennai, my friends suddenly started identifying me as a jewellery designer or a jeweller. It was exciting. I made pieces that ornamented my friends and I even third wheel many marriages in the form of wedding rings. Every day was now experimental, adventurous, and carried a charming future of possibilities that up until now did not even cross my mind.
Later that year, I made a nose ornament for a friend who wore an extremely simple diamond nose stud. In those few moments, as she switched her old nose ornament with the new one I made for her, her face changed drastically. And it stunned me to think how the smallest piece of jewellery that I ever made made the most difference to the wearer.
The revelation of how much difference this tiny ornament can make lead me into a rabbit hole of nose ornaments. As curiosity turned into an obsession, I began talking to women to whom nose ornaments mattered. Every woman who got a piercing had a distinct story attached to it and of all the ornaments, they considered the nose ornaments to be one of the most cherished ones. In fact, “I feel incomplete without a nose ornament” was one of the most common statements amongst women with a nose piercing.
Be it in memory of her grandmother or as a rebel statement, they all considered nose ornament synonymous to an integral form of expression. Eventually, I was drawn to express myself using the same canvas the woman expressed herself with, and hence, three years later, I conceptualised and launched Mookuthi in 2018, a brand that specialises in nose ornaments, where I enumerate my inspirations through nose jewels that matter.
This brand is whole heartedly dedicated to this tiny inconspicuous ornament, Mookuthi. A word to the wise, do not be fooled by its size, she carries 6000 years of culture and history within her inconspicuous self.
Sarath Selvanathan, Designer & Founder