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Working Title: The Lawyer and the Designer
Interviews

Working Title: The Lawyer and the Designer

Aditya AK

Parama Ghosh is currently a Senior Associate at Kolkata-based law firm, AQUILAW. In February last year, she launched Parama, her very own brand of clothing and accessories.

In this interview with Bar & Bench’s Aditya AK, she talks about balancing both her interests, working for Kolkata’s top law firms and the decision to dedicate more time to her passion.

Aditya AK: Why did you choose to do law?

Parama Ghosh: Born to a family of four generations of lawyers, I joined the bandwagon.

I remember when I had passed my Class XII board exams, I had voiced my desire to pursue art, either at the Government Art College at Calcutta or Biswa Bharati, Shantiniketan. The wish disappeared in oblivion because ‘art’ and ‘bright career’ did not go hand in hand. A profession that feeds your body well was preferred over a living that feeds the soul. Very strangely, I had topped the batch in most of the years at the university.

I joined Fox and Mandal at their Calcutta office as soon as I grabbed the degree in law. It would be a lie if I say I didn’t like law.

Aditya AK: How was your experience working with Fox Mandal?

Parama Ghosh: Fox Mandal was one of the best places to have started one’s career with. The colleagues who turned into friends, the easy work environment, the huge exposure in terms of work and clients and most importantly my boss, mentor and teacher, Mr. Debanjan Mandal made it an experience of a lifetime.

I evolved as a way more confident, matured and worldly-wise person, courtesy my first organisation. I have learnt to deal with people and their problems solely because of the years of training under Mr. Mandal.

Aditya AK: What prompted you to quit?

Parama Ghosh: I had quit Fox Mandal in June, 2014 and joined Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (then Amarchand Mangaldas) at their Calcutta office.

I was suffering from perhaps the lowest times of my life throughout 2014. Prolonged health issues, mental down-phase, dissatisfaction with the then-job made me claustrophobic.

That’s where I had to seek refuge in the finer things of life, in things that gave me solace. I was been sent to an art school even before I could read and write. My training in fine arts came to my rescue during the rough phase. On a trip to Shantiniketan, while exploring the huge possibilities that indigenous arts of Bengal have to offer, my soul project and my namesake was conceived.

Aditya AK: You still work for a startup law firm.

Parama Ghosh: It is a startup firm called AQUILAW, started by three Partners who had split from Khaitan & Co.’s Kolkata office. It is a full-service law firm, where I work as a Senior Associate and do all kinds of work including Real Estate, M&A and Corporate Advisory etc. So at present, I consult with them for three days and the rest of the days goes to my venture.

Aditya AK: What was the inspiration behind ‘Parama’? How did you go about setting it up?

Parama Ghosh: For me, art is an instinct. It comes as naturally as breathing. For me, being happy is primary. So Parama was bound to happen. Things of the heart and art always find their way. I had always pursued arts as a hobby alongside my job. I would even design clothes for friends and relatives. My husband would keep saying, “When you’re good at something, never do it for free”.

There are certain invisible rules we all follow when our project is born. When I started, the primary and perhaps the only rule that I followed, was I would create such products that surprise me. I would explore new avenues, produce things that aren’t easily available. If my designs and ideas don’t surprise me, how would it amaze others?

“I haven’t seen anything like this before” was the underlying mantra. Surprising myself could mean using the most every day, clichéd art forms to produce something extraordinary.

Some of Parama’s works
Some of Parama’s works

Something that has also helped me in the venture is my familiarity with fabric. Knowledge about the things you are dealing in is a basic requisite, I believe. When one is not enough aware, he/she would be misled at every level, be it the suppliers or the artisans. Fabric intrigued me for many years and hence this project was a natural outcome of the same.

Another major thing was to utilise funds when they were available in (comparative) abundance. The law firm salary was used to build stocks. The day I took the decision of quitting a full-fledged law firm job, I arranged backup. The savings were used to build the stock. I didn’t rush into selling them. Like ants, I kept the stock for reserve.

Aditya AK: How do you manage to balance both interests?

Parama Ghosh: The law firm job is like the rich husband who would sponsor foreign trips and my venture is like the long lost love who would write poetry for you! I got bored with working six days a week in a law firm; I had no time for myself. In exchange for the huge money offered by law firms, it takes away time to do creative things.

For one year, I was working full time and trying to do this as well, but there came a time when I had to take a decision to work three days in a law firm and three days on Parama. The three days in office would be an airtight chamber where there would be no Parama work and I would not bring the office work home for the other three days.

When I was doing both things together, it obviously took a toll on my health. But I wouldn’t say that the sleepless nights are over. My present boss, Sucharita Basu, says that if I had a child, I would have sleepless nights too. So, she told me to treat this venture like a child that needs to be taken care of and that people who have children don’t necessarily quit their jobs.

Aditya AK: Does your law degree come in handy in your venture?

Parama Ghosh: To be honest, the law degree doesn’t strictly speaking come in handy for my venture. But the practice of law has definitely helped me. Working at two of the top law firms in the city has given me a lot of exposure. I have learnt how to deal with people while working with these firms. That is a huge advantage when you start any kind of venture; I did not have to do any kind of business development for Parama.

Secondly, when you are a lawyer and are doing something diametrically opposite to law, people get intrigued. If I had not been a lawyer, I don’t think my venture would have as much impact as it has had.

Aditya AK: What advice would you have for lawyers who want to take a path less travelled?

Parama Ghosh: Most lawyers get bored of doing the same thing for a prolonged period of time. I have seen people quit law firms just for the sake of it. While that can be a short-term solution, it does not work out in the long run. I was very bored with my law firm job in 2011, when I had issues with my health. I had taken a sabbatical, and it was during that time that I began to think of pursuing art.

But these things don’t happen because you are bored with your present job. It will only happen if you are serious about doing something else. Don’t quit because everyone else is doing it, only do it if it makes you happy. If you can juggle both, that would be best, because your passion demands a lot of time, and a lot of money as well.

Don’t quit because everyone else is doing it, only do it if it makes you happy.

The reason why I have not fully quit law is that money is a huge factor. I did not take a loan to bankroll my venture, so the law firm salary is a huge cushion for me.