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My Life Before Comedy: From Earning Rs 30/Day, Getting Fired, To Leaving Top Job For Passion

Foreword

Picture this: A movie hero’s life tragically changes one day. His priorities shift according to new situation, he strives for basic things in life, works hard, and does every possible thing to sustain himself. He takes little steps, earns some money, and faces every challenge that life throws at him. But he never gives it all up.

After working day and night, he reaches to a position that gives him everything he ever wanted. However, he is still passing the tough exams of life. And then the day comes when he leaves it all — everything that he earned is dumped for chasing passion and making a dent in this world. He, being the hero, reaches the zenith, with a smile of contentment on his face.

Loved all over the world for his spontaneous one-liners and quirky jokes, Jeeveshu Ahluwalia has done over 1,500 shows across genres. From quitting a teenage job to being a comic, his journey has taken him to every corner of India, and the world. Jeeveshu has been a part of reality show, various TV commercials, and also Bollywood movie Tamaasha

Known as ‘Salman Khan of the Fat World’, this 40-year-old Punjabi, mumma’s boy shares his life journey in a fun conversation with KenFolios.

Excerpts:

“I grew up in an ordinary household. Things changed when I was four and my father passed away. The tough times began for us from then on. I never got a lunch box, new school bag, or books because we could not afford any of them. Almost all of my stuff was borrowed or a hand-me-down.

My books were wrapped in old newspapers instead of those brown covers that all other children had. I went to a government school and grew up seeing my mother doing a lot for us. There was not enough money for us to have basic things.

I never had a TV, we used to sleep on a chataayi (mat), as we did not have a bed or mattress. I grew up in those situations.

But I had an amazing life. I think I had the best childhood because I could understand the importance of everything that was going on, subconsciously and not at that point in time.

With the centre of my universe

After I reached STD 10, I realized that my only option was to start earning. So, I started a comics library as I was a big fan of Hindi comics. I used to bring comics and rent it out for 50 paise or a rupee. I would put a bedsheet in my small garage and keep comics, and bags, and all those nice things that could entice customers. Earning money was one of the priorities that I always had.

Later on, I dabbled with various odd jobs. I went door-to-door selling biscuits, juices, watches, incense sticks etc. We were judged on the basis of how good we are at selling stuff by going at people’s houses. Yes, that is how I started off. I used to earn Rs 30 everyday and from that money, I would buy watches, sunglasses, slippers or something that a 16-year-old kid would love. 

After sometime, I got my first job at PVR, the first multiplex that opened in India. I joined as a torch man. I worked there for a year but was kicked out after that.

I wanted to make quick money and began selling tickets in black. One day, I was caught and was beaten up by the cops (as that was the only way to teach a kid in those days).

Now, I wanted to attend college, have a girlfriend, and live a life everybody dreams of. But I realized that surviving was my priority and for that I needed money. I half-heartedly joined Pizza Hut as a delivery guy and waiter. I was there for three years and then quit that job for a newly-opened restaurant. All this was happening simultaneously with my college where I scored third division. Naturally, I did not get admission anywhere for pursuing MBA. 

One day, a friend told me that GE had an opening so I went there for a job. That was how my call-center journey began. After 14 years of working there, I became the director of the company. Alongside this, I was married at the age of 29 and then got divorced a year later. That was when I realized that I was very successful professionally but a big failure on personal front.

I was managing 700 people in the office but could not figure out one woman in my life.

Other than this, life was good. There was comfort all around. I was getting a fat pay-cheque at the end of each month. I was flying business class and staying at fancy hotels. I remember that I had kept a French cut for the longest time, as I was the fat guy.

One morning, I looked in the mirror and saw that my french cut was all white. That was when it hit me and I felt a sudden, overpowering urge to get out of this life. I was waiting for a calling but could not figure what I wanted to do, but thankfully the calling figured me out.

I got an invitation for an open mic where I did a two-minute set for the first time, realising how good life can be! It wasn’t that I complained about my current life but I got introduced to a better one.

Eight days later, I quit my job, gave up on everything and moved on to become a stand-up comedian.

It was challenging as it took time. Quitting was the easiest part but not going back to it was difficult. I realised that you need to stop comparing yourself to other people and their achievements. The important thing is to figure out what you want to do. For the first few months, I did not earn any money but I did learn to survive. For instance, I travel a lot for shows. If I had to travel this much in my previous job, I would take a day off to relax, but I won’t do it now. That is the difference, that is is the change and progress I have made. 

Post-show love

There have been people who judged me for being fat, divorced, short, and an average-looking human being. A judgement is a judgement, and people perceive what they see. I think that it should be there because that pushes you to be better, do better, and think beyond. At the same time, this is all very relative.

If I get out of a Wagon R, people will judge. If I get out of a Porsche or a Mercedes, I will be a fat, obnoxiously middle-aged, khaate peete ghar ka guy who is cute or funny. This is relative because that is how we are and it works perfectly fine for us. If we don’t do it then we would be in a world where there will be just trees that would not bother each other. People judge, make decisions, execute, and prosecute because that is how we have evolved.

I want to tell this to everyone that life is too short. Keep smiling because you will always have a reason to be sad. Find a reason to happy and hold on to it. Look for small things because they come frequently. Do yourself a favour — stop existing and start living.”

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