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Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Making art work.
PAINTING TWITTER RED

A Swiggy delivery run, followed by a tweet, gave an artist his day in the sun

By Ananya Bhattacharya

For the past few days, part-time Swiggy delivery assistant Vishal Samjiskar’s phone has been ringing nonstop.

The callers, though, are not trying to track their food order. They’re looking to commission artwork.

The 39-year-old may have been working for the food aggregator for less than two years, but he’s been painting nearly all his life. Father of a seven-year-old girl, he works as an artist with Everest Advertising in Mumbai’s Fort area from 9am to 5pm. He delivers food from 7pm to midnight.

On one such trip, he met Nikhil George, a banker. “I don’t speak to everyone but sometimes people are kind enough to ask if I want water or strike up a conversation about what I do. That’s when I tell them I am doing this delivery job part-time and I’m a full-time artist,” Samjiskar told Quartz.

Surprised by his story, George, on Jan. 6, took to Twitter to spread the word on him and his talent.

“I thought I could help since I had seen a lot of artist friends use Twitter and Instagram to get work,” George said. “The first night, there wasn’t much of a response—maybe 10 or 15 likes. But the next day, my phone blew up. I took his (Samjiskar’s) permission and began sharing his number with those who reached out.”

By the third day, he’d been retweeted almost 6,000 times, with 12,000 likes. “I don’t think Facebook or WhatsApp would’ve had the same effect because the networks are among friends,” said George. “Because it was on Twitter, it took off and went viral.”

George wasn’t the only one eager to help. It turned out that a day before meeting George, Samjiskar had shared his card with George’s friend, too. 

Nikhil George
Nikhil George and his friend about Vishal Samjiskar.

By now, several people have called him to work on wall murals, furniture revamping, wardrobe, accessory artwork, and more.

Samjiskar’s now begun to get institutional support, too.

An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from West Bengal even said he’d like the artist to paint an anganwadi (rural child care) centre. The official offered to help Samjiskar get work from the Maharashtra government.

A Lucknow-based art exhibition has offered to showcase his work. Jay Thaker, founder & CEO of the human resources software company sumHR, wants wall art done at his office. Subrat Kar of video analytics platform Vidooly wants to purchase ready artwork. Even Bollywood actor Pooja Bhatt is looking to get in touch with him.

Swiggy, too, has said it wanted to help him.

Samjiskar’s passion seems to be paying off and he’s chuffed about the overwhelming response. As a food delivery executive, he earns up to Rs4,000 ($56) a week. Income from art has mostly been erratic till now. Will all that change?

George shared Samjiskar’s Instagram page on Twitter, but the artist prefers phone calls and WhatsApp, since he isn’t very social media savvy. His number is on his Instagram account, which was set up by a friend. George himself has been privately sharing the number with those interested.

“I am trying to figure out how I can manage these projects and maybe even travel, while continuing my full-time job,” Samjiskar said.