Before I started working for the Secret Service as an image consultant I used to be a fashion blogger in New York.
My blog wasn’t popular or well known. It was my side hustle.
My main job was a Renters Insurance Claims Processor at the midtown firm of Smith & Tooley. The job was nothing fancy or intellectually challenging. It involved answering phones, attending meetings, writing emails, check formula dependencies in excel spreadsheets and once in a while some actuarial modelling.
The firm’s offices were in the shiny monolith tower at the intersection of 44th Street and 5th Avenue. My cubicle used to be on the third floor. The saving grace was I had a street view. Coffee was in free supply. I’d spend all my time staring into the cityscape and chugging Chock full o’Nuts.
The blog began as an offshoot of a diary I used to keep when I started writing down my fashion observations, first on paper; later by the power of google, on blogspot.
I dint tell anyone about this because frankly I thought it was amateurish.
But they found me.
Their reach out to me began rather innocuously. They started leaving comments on my blog saying ‘oh this post perfectly captures our feelings on the return of the Madras Shirt craze.’ There were constant encouraging comments. I went crazy with all the steady stream of comments from different users; all of whom seemed to have discovered me at the same time. Catnip to a cat situation, pretty much.
Then there was an email.
“We love your writing…would you like to do an assignment for us? We will pay you $600 for it.”
Obviously I took the assignment for it was very easy money and easy work.
The client introduced himself as a Mr. Vinod Mehta – head of ‘Mufti Creative’ in the email. He wanted me to write a piece on Men’s Suspenders. The assignment was free ranging. I could write anything and everything on Men’s Suspenders. He made a token payment of $300 via paypal as my hiring fees. I was overjoyed and ploughed into the piece and the world of Men’s Suspenders with full gusto. I e-mailed him the final document. He loved it and paid me $400. The extra $100 was a bonus he said.
This arrangement became a constant fixture. I stopped updating the blog and began to devote all my time to these well paying assignments. I never felt the need to ask what ‘Mufti Creative’ was using them for because my growing paypal balance was reaching tax liability status.
Then suddenly one day a year after this money spigot had been turned on; it was turned off. I received an email from Mrs. Lalika Gupta – a lawyer representing the late Mr. Vinod Sharma. She said Mr. Sharma had spoken highly of my work. He had been unwell for sometime and had recently passed away. ‘Mufti Creative’ was ceasing all payments to outside vendors while the heirs settled the will. And since I (apparently) was one of the major beneficiaries of Mr. Sharma’s largess my payments were to be stopped right away.I mean I can imagine…the trupee was sinking against the dollar..the conversion rate alone for the sums Mr. Sharma was paying me, was a small fortune.
This stoppage threw me into a tailspin though. Due to windfall from writing, I had pretty much cutback on my full time work at Smith & Tooley to four hours in a month.
Sitting in a bar and moping when my phone lit up with an email. It was from a Mr. Kovid Goyal of Gupt Enterprises. He said he was a friend of the late Mr. Sharma who had recommended me to him. Mr. Goyal said he was in midtown tomorrow and would like to meet me if possible at the Cafe Sipriani at 8 PM. I replied with an enthusiastic Yes.
Long story short.
Mr. Goyal said he was with the Secret Service and my blog had caught his bosses eye due to immense details I packed it with.
The Service was using my blogposts to train their field agents who were embedded in the country on how to dress, talk and demeanor.
Recently they had pulled off a daring mission because the agents in the operation did not arouse any suspicion due to their impeccable taste in Men’s Suspenders.