My inspirations go up and down the elevator every day.
I was born in India in a state called Rajasthan – a desert state with very little water and vegetation and, therefore, very little natural colour.
Yet it is known as the most colourful state of India because, for centuries, its inhabitants made up for what nature did not give them. Men and women wear the most delightful colours. Colours that make the desert look like magic. The colour is seen everywhere: in architecture, in their clothes, even in their colourful folk music.
Cultural gurus may call it survival instinct. To me, there is nothing about survival here. The lack of colour in their lives didn’t "kill" these people, and nor does the addition of colour help them survive. These people would have survived and lived anyway.
But the colour and the music made them live happier – made their lives better.
If this is not creativity, what is creativity? If this is not inspiring, what is inspiration?
Emotion is probably the only difference between the human race and other species that inhabit the earth. Technology is a tool to make life better and happier – but technology doesn’t create itself. People do. Creative people who are constantly seeking ways to make life better – be it healthier living, more useful information or easier communication. All these are efforts of human beings – millions of them – to build communities that are the basis of human existence.
In this fast-changing world dominated by technology, I still get inspired by ordinary human beings who understand the meaning of life better than most of us.
I was recently in a taxi with a younger friend. The cab driver, in conversation with us, said that it was his last trip of the day. My friend asked the driver why he was ending his earning day so early (it was just 5pm). The driver said that he had an ageing mother he had to go back home to, to attend to. Why not enrol her into an old people’s home, my friend asked. The driver half-turned around and gave him a withering look. "Because she did not put me into a young people’s home when I was too young to look after myself," he said.
Is this not inspirational? Do you see a story of life in this little exchange?
In India, we practise a 13-day mourning period when there is a death in the family. In most parts of the country, neighbours send meals to the house of the grieving for all 13 days – all meals – regardless of the number of people present. Modern technology makes it easier to churn out the meals, but it’s human beings who cook them – human beings with large and generous hearts.
Is this not inspirational? Do you see a story lie in this little peek into India?
Big data helps marketers segment and target specific audiences. This is useful technology and I have an army of colleagues at Ogilvy who are experts at decoding the data.
But personally, I prefer searching for the pulse that is common to human beings – the pulse untapped by formal researchers and social analysts. A pulse that is not found by long questionnaires but found by hearing real stories of real people in a real society and reading between the lines of these stories.
And when I find that elusive pulse, I get reassured that there is nothing that inspires me more than people.
When in trouble for ideas, I turn to very young and very old people. Young people have uncluttered and innocent minds uncontaminated by "experience"; nothing but purity comes out of their hearts and minds. The older set has seen the world and has all the "experience" – and don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of their views. The outcome is another form of purity.
So what inspires me? People. Only people. The Rajasthani villager inspires me, the taxi driver inspires me, the neighbours who generously come to your aid inspire me, the young inspire me, the old inspire me.
People inspire me. People, people, people.
Piyush Pandey is chief creative officer at Ogilvy, Mumbai