Akhila Krishnamurthy - Freelance Journalist & Arts Entrepreneur
Akhila Krishnamurthy is a freelance journalist and the founder of Aalaap, a performing arts' company based in Chennai. Akhila founded Aalaap after a 15-year career in journalism where she worked across leading publications in India, including The Times of India. As a freelance writer, Akhila has contributed essays and features across The Hindu, the India Today Group, Outlook, Tehelka, Open, and Sruti. Akhila also works as a Consultant for The Hindu's marquee events. She is passionate about artistes and the world they inhabit, and is constantly investigating the many shifts that make it so dynamic and exciting.
Facebook Professional: @theaalaap
Facebook Personal: @akhila.krishnamurthy.5
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by almost anything and everything. A beautiful voice, a powerful phrase, a great run, piping hot black coffee at my favourite cafe, re-visiting old friends, making new connections, a beautiful story, the enduring spirit of my maid, the simplicity of my husband who finds joy even in the most mundane aspects of life, a new initiative that my company pioneers, a joke that my son shares...I think there’s inspiration everywhere. The important thing is to keep your eyes and ears alive and open.
How has what you do made an impact on your life?
My journey - both as a journalist and as an arts entrepreneur - is spent mostly in the company of people. As a journalist who mostly writes on arts, culture, and society has meant that I’m always meeting people who are cracking and realising new ideas - thinking, innovating, achieving, dreaming and living their dream. That opportunity - and I think of it every single time I meet someone who is either doing something inspiring or is inspired by nature - has made me conscious also of never settling with anything that is run-of-the-mill and doing whatever it takes, in whatever way possible, to raise the bar, even if it means only for myself. I’ve also picked up many life learnings by way of meeting and interacting with people; some of them have taught me how to be, some of them have taught me how not to be. Either ways, I’m grateful for that experience. I’ve also learnt the art of endurance and I think that’s a very crucial life skill.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced getting to where you are today? How has that shaped you?
Everyday is a challenge; but every time someone asks me this question and I attempt to think of the greatest challenge, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so challenging, after all because clearly I’ve been able to overcome it, one way or the other.
Building a business, that too in the space of the classical arts, even if I may say so myself, isn’t easy. I remember this moment from when my company, Aalaap, an arts management outfit, was just a year old and I was pregnant. After having an undergone an invasive procedure that was mandatory for me, I was forced to be on bed rest for ten days; the doctor had warned me of the possibility of a miscarriage. Around the same time, Aalaap had a big show in Bangalore. The team was tiny and inexperienced and the artistes were big and intimidating. There was no WhatsApp either. Two hours before the show, as is the case with all events, a crisis broke out. My young colleague called me; and even though she did her best to conceal her fear - she cared for me deeply and didn’t want to frazzle me at all - I knew getting through this wasn’t going to be easy. But in hindsight, I like to think the universe wanted to make it work for me. My husband, who is never ever at home on a weekday happened to be around and stepped in with some paper work and even before I knew it, we had crossed the bridge.
Both the worlds I inhabit - the world of journalism and the business of the arts - are volatile, dynamic worlds; there is never a dull moment and one day is never the other. Together, they have taught me to always expect the unexpected, think on my feet, find solutions and always look and move forward.
What did you want to be when you grew up? What options seemed open or closed to you, if any?
When I was young, back in school, I knew I wanted to do something in the business of communication. I had no idea what though. I knew I wanted to be amidst people, be able to listen to them, speak with them, etc. When I finished my graduation in English Literature from Stella Maris College, I knew that journalism was going to be a culmination of all my innate interests - love for people coupled with a sense of curiosity. Nearly 15 years after a career in journalism, I built Aalaap, and I’d like to think of it as a second innings; Aalaap married my interest in the performing arts with my experience in journalism and an understanding of the business of media.
Who is your role model?
I have many. I get swayed easily by people with inspiring personalities and I like to let them inspire me. Different people along the way have shaped my ideas and ideologies but the singular constant has to be my mother - who is a symbol of endurance and compassion - both qualities I’m crazy about and hope to own some day.
What in life has brought you the greatest satisfaction?
I’d like to think that creating and nurturing Aalaap has been nothing short of gratifying. Most days life whisks past but some days when I pause - almost forcibly - I can’t stop smiling when I think about how instinctively I thought of the name and how organically it grew with nothing but passion and conviction. Equally significant is the birth of my child, Aryan who will be five this month. Together, these two complete me. They fill me with a sense of purpose, reinforcing my faith to imagine, and ‘do’ what I dream, day in and day out. They’ve both tough me what is the true spirit of ownership and the beauty of pure, unconditional love.
One piece of advice to women everywhere.
Different people have different needs, different dreams, different circumstances and different challenges. But I’m convinced that it’s imperative to build for oneself in whatever little way, an identity which is your own, and do whatever it takes, in whatever way possible - small or big - to find time to fuel that energy and live life. Sometimes we women are so busy with wearing our collective identities that we forget who we really are. To stay alive is to always keep thinking and almost always, doing.
Akhila with her team at the launch of the FabIndia Experience centre
Akhila with a few members of the TEDx Napier Bridge team