CHENNAI: It was a night of nostalgia at the 50th edition of The Bliss Catchers event on Saturday. The live, reflective, non-commercial conversation series curated by the happynesswala, AVIS Viswanathan, explored the journey of 99 guests so far, who followed their heart. He also featured as the ‘mystery guest’ in this edition.
On the hot seat this time, AVIS was candid in sharing the hairpin bends of his life. But he kept going, believing that the path would take him to the peak of abundant opportunities.
Speaking about how Bliss Catchers was born, he said, “We thought we’d have a programme like a chat show and had our first edition with Baradwaj Rangan, a techie-turned-film critic. It was not premeditated. We didn’t even know there would be a second edition. Initially, in the first few editions, we even had people who had a lurking suspicion as to why we were doing this and what we would get out of it.”
From the first baby steps to this 50th edition, Bliss Catchers has evolved into a community. “I think the secret sauce that binds all the Bliss Catchers is courage, conviction and a sense of joy in what they do,” he said.
What followed was a delightful and moving conversation with seeker and Sanskrit lover, Suresh Kumaraswamy, and photographer Srivatsan Sankaran.Suresh had one more decade to go before his retirement as a senior management member in a software MNC. But his quest to seek an “identity beyond his business card” led him to be a participant in the very first edition of The Bliss Catchers on January 22, 2015. The following month, he quit his job and enrolled for his Masters in Sanskrit — a language that he deeply related to and wanted to learn.
“A lot of people have invested heavily in the identity of their job,” said Suresh. “I realised that I needed my own identity but it is very hard to let go of an identity that you have been programmed to accept. The trigger came in 2008 and the quest continued within me but when I saw that conversation with Baradwaj Rangan, it stood out for me because he was someone who decided to do something that he liked to and was reasonably happy. It showed me that there is a possibility of somebody stepping out of the boundaries and being happy. I was looking for that validation and I got it at the Bliss Catchers event.”
His desire to learn more in Sanskrit was lingering in his mind and one day he impulsively decided to enrol for a course at the Vivekananda College. He has since completed his MA and MPhil in Sanskrit (in 2018). “When I walked into Vivekananda College to fill up the form, I felt like I belonged there,” he said.
Sitting alongside him was Srivatsan, who is hearing impaired. Srivatsan’s journey was riddled with challenges, which he crossed over with equal measures of grit and self-belief. He took a leap of faith to quit his job at the age of 23 (in 2014) after finishing his engineering and follow his bliss as a photographer. He went on to start two ventures — Madras Photo Bloggers and Travel Tales — and has travelled to 300 plus destinations in India, covered over 30 festivals and has written over 30 travelogues.
“I had to depend on everyone for work, communication and everything earlier,” he said. “But now, I am not dependent. I am able to question people and that’s the bliss for me. I can find the courage to travel alone. I know how to fight back when people mock me and find happiness in self development. I feel happy at the moment.”
It was the “joy of work” that kept him motivated. “I feel energetic when I am trying to capture a moment. I find joy in challenges. I like taking pictures in crowded places where one is pushed, provoked and won’t know what to capture. I also like taking pictures where there are absolutely no people,” he said.