January 2018

8 Points You Should Keep In Mind To Get Hired And Stay Happy

8 Points You Should Keep In Mind To Get Hired And Stay Happy

All economic indicators of a country are meaningless if they are not doing one simple thing, i.e. generate employment and employment opportunity for the citizens of that country. After all, the very basic objective of any sovereign country is to create an opportunity for its citizens to fulfill their basic minimum requirement i.e. to live his/her life with dignity. No economic model till date has been able to achieve this and that’s the reason why a cry to have a Universal Basic Income has started emerging. But that’s not what I am here to discuss. I talked to Mr. Abhay Kumar of Team Recruiters (www.teamrecruiters.in), a seasoned HR Consultant on various subjects related to employment and the job scenario of the country. During the interaction I asked him for his take on developments on the economic front, his advice to prospective employees for interview as well as on personal conduct and ways to lead a happy and healthy life. Mr. Abhay Kumar has a career spanning more than two decades invested in sales and human resource, guiding thousands to not only get placed but live a contended life. His strategy of ‘talk’, ‘guide’, ‘prepare’, ‘place’ and ‘follow-up’ makes him unique and different from others. Without wasting much of time, let’s delve into his thoughtful and informative insights:

Mukul: For a prospective employee, what should be the takeaway from impact of policy changes Indian employment scenario? How much GST and Demonetization has have impact on employment scenario of the country?

Abhay Kumar: See, we need to look at the broader picture first on the global trends of last couple of years or a decade. The market generally has been very sluggish, be it US, Europe, China, Africa or Middle East. The Global economy has been under a lot of pressure and in this globalised and connected world, India can not remain insulated. Major Sectors have been under performing and this has challenged the growth prospect of one and all.

Another factor which was playing in the background locally was the performance of the banks which were under tremendous pressure due to NPA and toxic assets. Banks were under scrutiny and this led to a reduction in loan advancements as there was pressure to clean up the books of account.

The challenging global scenario has resulted in countries looking inwards to strengthen their internal economy. This has led to reduced out sourcing of projects and also the increased focus for employment of local resource instead of overseas workers.

IT sector has slowed because projects are not coming from abroad. Reality sector has sucked in loads of money from Banks, Corporate and Individuals. All this has drastically reduced liquidity in the market. And together perhaps this is why the Indian job market has been under a lot of pressure owing to both external and internal factors.

Now coming back to what you have specifically asked, any policy decision of the enormity of Demonetization or GST which challenges the existing system to its core is bound to have a huge impact on everything related, be it economic or social, because both were such huge decisions. Even if we look at either of the decisions in isolation one would conservatively give it 6 – 9 months of a cooling period before the market could bounce back. Coming back to back a year of low growth, challenges and sluggish economic numbers was easily a reality.

Demonetization was extremely challenging to the people in the first 45 days and could only settle down in the six month period. The cash crunch led to conservatism in the market where consumption reduced drastically as people started holding on to the currency and postponing expenses. The over burdened Banks were working with their backs to the wall to ease up the cash issue and the focus from liquidity in the market and businesses taking a back seat.

What added to the problem was the implementation of GST, which brought in a new tax regime. The industry / people lacked in understanding of the Tax System, its rules, implications and a new system both in skill and process had to be put in place. Everything which existed earlier had to be changed / modified. New accounting system, new skills, software upgradation, registrations etc. became a mandatory requirement with a deadline in place. Hence, the back to back implementation of these two major economic policies has further slowed down the performance in the short term.

Look, it is a well known fact that there were very few additions in the number of tax payers in general and the numbers of businesses out of reach of the Tax Dept. was huge. This problem was addressed to a large extent by Demonetization and GST by forcing people to get into the banking system which was mapped with PAN and Aadhaar. So, the two decisions did slow down the economy to some extent in the short term but were much needed to strengthen it in the long run. These decisions had to be taken. We can debate about the timing but one can never be fully prepared. In a country like ours which is full of complexities a gradual implementation would not have been possible and the results very debatable.

There is a thought process that believes India was able to minimise the pains of US subprime crisis because of its parallel cash economy. But at the same time, things cannot remain the same and the way forward required these policy decisions.

But I am very optimistic about the future as the steps which have been taken would start yielding the positive results very soon. This quarter will see a lot of activity on the job front with the green shoots getting visible this New Year. Government is also spending big time on infrastructure like road and electricity which would kick-start the economy and generate employment. Everyone needs to be patient and positive.

Mukul: What is the short term and medium term employment scenario of the country?

Abhay Kumar: As we discussed that market has been under tremendous pressure since 2008, so, there were various challenges on employment generation front. But as far as future is concerned, impact of policy changes have firmed up and taken shape. Market players are also now sure that there won’t be any roll back from the government on these decisions and things are here to stay. So, they are back on their drawing board, coming out of their ‘hold-back’ strategy… re-strategizing their plans and actions. 

As mentioned earlier the last quarter has been favorable and so will future as predicted by different organizations of importance. Normally we see that the last quarter of a financial year is generally strong and bullish. In the answer to your first question, I have already said that there is a major push for infrastructure; rural electrification and roads etc. The big Infra push would drive and be the engine for growth and more jobs will be created bringing relief to the employment scenario in the medium and long run.

Our discussion so far has been revolving around the changes and challenges of the last ten years. I think we have seen almost the end of it and we will see organisations re-inventing themselves and re-drawing their business strategy. The ability to adapt and re-strategise will drive the success stories in future. The changed scenario will require employees too to re-skill themselves to remain employable. So on one side re-skilling will be the order of the day on the other side the business of re-skilling will also be a big opportunity.

Mukul: What are the top five points which you would like a candidate to have and keep in mind to leave positive impact and get hired?

Abhay Kumar: First and the most important point for a prospective employee is ‘Know your profile’. People actually spend least amount of time on their CV. They do not read it and very often they are not conversant because professional writer/external help is taken to prepare/write the CV. So, it is very important to read and understand one’s CV, the words written in it, the projection you are trying to make and the goal you want to achieve.

Second is ‘person should be prepared very well’. Before going for an interview, the candidate must know the company very well; the kind of business they are into, product or services they are providing, who are the competitors etc. This would prepare him/her for the questions which would be posed in the interview.

Third is ‘have a positive outlook’. Many a times it so happens that the interviewer cross checks you on various aspects of your personality by throwing challenges or situations; whether you are ready to work hard, are you ready to experiment, whether you are ready to take new challenges etc. Any kind of laidback or lethargic response would put you down in the eyes of a prospective employer. So your words and body language must communicate positive frame of mind and positive approach.

Fourth is ‘long term picture’. It is imperative that people have a very well defined goal or a long term picture in mind. Often people have a very idealistic picture of their career. They want to be at the top in no time. They don’t realize or often forget that there are many steps to a stair between the first step and top of the ladder and every step is a process in itself. And he/she has to go through every process to reach the top.

Fifth is ‘planned approach and open mind for salary negotiation’. Throwing any random number can’t get you hired. Before salary negotiation, it is very important to be realistic and be prepared with your expectation. You should have all the details of income which you are drawing from current employer. You should be aware of the market trend etc. You also need to keep in mind that you need to deliver in multiple times of what you are asking from your prospective employer.

Mukul: What are the ‘words’ you would suggest the candidates to not to have in their resume?

Abhay Kumar: I won’t suggest anything about the words as the context is very important. I would suggest on positive mindset while writing the resume or during an interview. Your resume should represent you, the direction of your career and the path you want to take. You should be as factual as possible and should resist the use of superfluous words and numbers. While mentioning achievements one should try to give a true picture and not to go overboard with the numbers. Similarly when writing about responsibilities one should try to be specific on the responsibility you actually have. If there are additional responsibilities which have been assigned to you do mention them separately and not mix up the two.

 Mukul: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are buzz words these days? How much substance do you think these words holds for the future? Which are the industries or sectors will be most affected by them? 

Abhay Kumar: Look, every change in technology brings a kind of upheaval and change in the market. That’s their nature. Couple of years before Y2K, every company worth its salt jumped into ERP business, with basic objective to cater to their own demand and to explore the outside market. So, it created a requirement for new skills and opened the doors to new avenues for various companies. Similarly, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will have its own impact. It is a long drawn process, so effects will also be visible accordingly. Old skills be discarded and new skills will come in demand. New jobs will replace old jobs; new skills will replace old skills. And as I said earlier, re-skilling will be very crucial factor for survival and success.

Mukul: Few years back, I had read a book ‘Startup of You’ written by Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn. In that book, he has written that the time of stable jobs are over and every Individual is required to be in startup mode all the time. Most important reason he had given for suggesting was the pace of technological advancement. He was of the opinion that high speed of technological advancement won’t let the world to stabilize, so everyone will be required to be fighting fit all the time.  Since 2008, no big Greenfield project has been announced by any big company, whether they are Indian or multinational, if we minus Reliance Jio. During this period, Startups and Unicorns filled up the space of employment provider. But they came with their own characteristics and that is ‘uncertainty’. Do you think that this is going to be the nature of jobs being provided in future or big companies will be back and bring stability in the nature of jobs?   

Abhay Kumar: Yes, technological changes are happening at a very vast pace, so ‘instability’ in the market will be the hallmark. When market remains unstable, then jobs obviously will be unstable. But I would like to use the word ‘dynamic’ rather than ‘unstable’. Again I will bring the point of re-skilling, which will be a continuous process for everyone, if they want to last long.

Mukul: In this age of startups, where employees are getting hired and fired at will, sometime getting duped and dumped, what would be your suggestions to the prospective employees to stay afloat financially and mentally? 

Abhay Kumar: If you remember in earlier day’s people used to live their life in simplicity. After fulfilling their major commitments in life, they used to venture towards luxuries of life. Children’s education, daughter’s marriage, medical needs etc. used to take precedence over other types of expenditure. Construction of house and purchase of car were to be done nearer the age of retirement. There was a strong logic behind it. They used to build their strength first before getting on with luxuries of life. Today’s generation hits the ground running, getting into these expenditures at the beginning of their career. When they get smallest of jolt in their career, they are already saddled with EMIs of house, cars, credit cards etc.  

I am not suggesting that today’s generation should imitate older generation’s lifestyle, but they should focus on building their strength first. As we discussed early in our conversation, speed of technology advancement is very high and it will become even higher in coming days. So, job market, which is dynamic today, will become very dynamic in coming days. So, they should take risk only when they can, otherwise they should avoid it. It will save them from financial and mental stress.

Mukul: I believe that job satisfaction and finding the purpose of life are overrated terms used to manipulate employees. How someone will know without doing something that it is something he/she wanted to do and want to do all his/her life? In my opinion, a person should be like water and should find his/her way in everything and everywhere. He / She should take up anything which comes his/her way. God knows, what will become his passion and start giving job satisfaction. Moreover, focus should be on ‘money and family satisfaction’, because first one is what we take to the bank and second one is ultimately what we aspire to achieve?

Abhay Kumar: Yes, I would say ultimately it is the money that we take to the bank which drives the individual. There is a lot of talk on job satisfaction, living ones dream, dream job but I have a different take on it. Our education system is such that the number one scores in an examination defines your career choice. It is only now that children have started experimenting with choices they like. Marks tell you were you are likely to study and the specialization you are likely to do. While applying for jobs after college, the Campus Recruitment processes defines the kind of company and profile you get into. The only icing would be the CTC that you bag. This continues during the early employment period when money is the driving force for most youngsters. If it comes with a profile you like then that is the icing on the cake.

Another aspect that does matter in today’s time is “Leisure”. With a stressed work environment Leisure is what de-stresses you. The “Me Time” helps you unwind and recharges your battery for better performance. Even if the workplace is stressful, your happiness at home will help you tide over the challenges.

Retail Sector An Insiders View

Retail Sector: An Insider’s View

Retail Sector of India, with gross revenue of more than $641 Billion (As per IBEF report), is one of the leading employment provider. It accounts for 8% (As per IBEF report) of the employment of India. It will cross $1.6 Trillion (As per IBEF report) by 2026. The numbers being churned out by retail sector could have been bigger, had government taken serious policy decisions related to this sector and had taken measures to implement that. ‘Make in India’ is good policy initiative, but it could have been great, had another policy initiative ‘How to sell Made in India Goods’ taken place.

I talked to Mr. Sanjeev Jha, Category Head-Staples with Vishal Megamart about the journey of modern retail in India, its challenges and future. He has worked for more than twelve years with top retailers of India, he is expert of this field, and he holds leadership role in the industry. Even prior to joining organized retail, he worked extensively in the field of commodity sourcing, trading and an innovative concept of retailing, i.e., Raytu Bazaar. You might have read lots of research reports, but we bring you the opinion of an insider:

Mukul: Modern retail has traveled quite a journey in last decade. Where do you see it going in next decade, say by 2025?

Sanjeev Jha: I would like to put my answer this way. Modern retail actually didn’t have ‘quite a journey’ in the last decade. Yes, it was a journey, but filled with uncertainty and unclarity in policy regarding FDI and other matters of concern, which were needed for the growth of retail sector. As FDI was allowed in automobile or IT sector, which led to their exponential growth, it should have also been allowed in retail. In absence of that, retail sector suffered the lack of funds to remove the bottlenecks of sourcing, storages and supply chain.

Regarding second part of your question, especially for brick and mortar retail, I see two or three strong players in the field with one or two new entrant. Consolidation has been the hallmark of this sector since beginning as you might have noticed. That is the scenario which is firming up. This is about the players.

Now, what shall be the strategy for incumbent players? In my opinion, they will have to grow horizontally, they will have to and they will be going to Tier-II and Tier-III cities, because organized retail is still more off an urban phenomenon. That’s the kind of compulsion will be in front of them. I am not talking rural India. Entry in rural India will take another 20-30 years due to many reasons. Let me tell why they will go there. Few good things have happened recently and one of them is GST. GST has made movement of goods and warehousing easy and these two things are very important for start and growth of retail. Earlier, they were facing challenges on these two counts in every city. But even GST can’t solve all the problems, unless there is policy support of state governments along with central government. A collective policy involving other aspects retail, such as, real estate, employment etc. is still to come up. Retail could have been even bigger employment provider and it has pointed out by Niti Ayog as well sometime back.

Clarity in policy initiatives and earnestness in its implementation by government brings in lots of other things with it, like institutional support, banking and financial support etc. and if that comes in, then the growth of this sector will be phenomenon.

Mukul: Taking a cue from what you just said, it seems funding is a major problem for the growth of this sector. So, do you want to say that retailers in India have found their success matrix and funding is the only problem, which can be achieved by FDI?

 Sanjeev Jha: No, FDI won’t sort out problems of retail just like that. Foreign players have had their share of experience and whenever they decide to come back, they will surely employ their experience and learnings. I am talking about Pre-GST scenario, where moving goods from one city to another city was a challenge. GST is a good policy initiative which will boost retail, but a lot more than this is required. Government will have to take it as a project and give their more than 100%. Like in other sectors, take the example of mobile phones or pharmaceuticals or automobiles, state governments also chipped in as they gave land, gave tax holidays, made employment laws conducive for starting up the business, a full fledged coordinated support from state as well as central government is needed. And when this happens, it will be the biggest employment generator for the country. Lots of state governments still have their own reservations and lack of coordinated effort is pulling things back. These are the important points to bring in FDI, otherwise I see it more as a domestic player driven sector, where they will be consolidating. But this consolidation exercise must make their business viable. After consolidation, they will tap the market for their funding requirement.

Mukul: Online retail had serious impact on organized retail. Some of the sectors like electronics shifted majorly from organized retail to online retail. Do you see any course correction happening, because most of the small to medium online players are out of the market due to various reasons?

Sanjeev Jha:  Very interesting thing has happened in India as far as retail sector is concerned. Both modern retail, the brick and mortar one and online retail has entered in India around same time, with just 5-6 years lag. As you have said that most of the small or medium online retailers have shut their shop; they were expanding at a very fast speed and as were their speed of growth, as were their speed of burning the cash. And I see online retail space as more consolidated one than modern retail.

There won’t be more than 2-3 national level players along with some niche players and they would also be prone to challenges of logistics and taxation like modern retail. Another area of challenge for them is IT infrastructure and internet speed. With 4G, things are looking better for them. Moreover in India, online retail is mobile driven and smartphone sales have seen exponential growth in recent times, which is bonus point for them.    

Now coming back to your question, I don’t have the specific data, but it seems, mobile and its accessory’s sales has shifted to some extent from organized or pop and mom store to online retail, but the extent can be debated. Eating up the market share or having pole position will depend on many more things like what value proposition they are bringing in for the end consumers and how they are involving the consumers in their sales process. Innovation in customer acquisition and customer retention strategy will be key for them, because they are not seeing their customers face to face. Simply replicating the strategy of pop-n-mom stores or modern trade won’t bring them success in the long run.

In the present market scenario, everyone is growing; general trade is growing, modern trade is growing and so is online retail and every sector will continue to see consolidation. Don’t you think that general trade is also consolidating? There is hidden unemployment in general trade as well and unviable players are exiting the business. Either those businesses are acquired or those spaces are filled but consolidation is happening there as well. In my opinion, all three spheres of retail are growing and will continue to grow because India is growing.

Mukul: While talking to you right now, one thing came to my mind that mobile phones with complete packet do not weigh more than 500 grams, which makes transportation easy from one location to another. Does this mean, weight of the product play a role in growth of online sales of the product?

Sanjeev Jha: Look, online retail provides the instant reach to millions of customer with less hassles of distribution network. Taking the same product to consumers through pop-n-mom store or modern trade will take more time, more investment and more effort than online retail. Yes, size does matter in logistics, which brings the cost of logistics down and so the overall cost to the end consumer. In this age of smartphone and technological advancement, consumers are well aware in advance about the product. Product companies are also going a great length in making the details of product reach to the consumers. So, what is left for consumers is saving of money in their hand.      

Mukul: Government is pushing for digitization of payments. Demonetization, payment apps, UPIs etc. and incentivisation by the government to promote digital payments can be seen as actions in that direction. Amid slow adoption of technology and not so good penetration of real banking, what is the future of digital payments in next 5-7 years time?  

Sanjeev Jha: I will put it this way. India is a unique country and people are very smart here. They like to squeeze as much benefit as possible from anything. Simply because something is changing and that change is promoted by government, they won’t accept it. For digital payments to succeed, government will have to eliminate the cost of digital payment. Right now, either merchant or the customer, or ultimately the customer is footing the bill of digital payments. Unless this anomaly is corrected, digital payments won’t succeed. In whatever way possible, government should incentivize the digital payment, not charge it. Though I have heard that ADHAR based payment system, which is on the anvil, will have this benefit.  Otherwise, cashless payments will take its own time to grow than present growth rate of 16-17%, which may increase by 2-3% more, but phenomenal growth can’t be expected.

Mukul: Multichannel sales is picking up. By multichannel sales, I mean to say that organized retailers have come up with online portals as well as mobile apps and some of the online retailers have started having their physical presence. Do you see it as a sales model for future or these are one off cases?

Sanjeev Jha: See, one size fits all doesn’t work. Just because someone has adopted one sales model, doesn’t mean others have to adopt it as well and they will succeed is also not guaranteed. If an online retailer is starting its operation in organized modern retail, then they will have to be as invested and as efficient like them, otherwise they will fail. Similarly, if a brick and mortar retailer is entering into online retail, then they are entering into the domain of FlipKart and Amazon and they will have to be as good as these online retailers, which is very unlikely to happen. Unless any of the players decides to have a specific plan for multichannel sales, I don’t see it is future of retail. This space is very ruthless and people won’t go and buy from you just because you are good at one thing or in one sphere. Customers go to different sphere due to different requirements and different mindset.

Mukul: What will be challenges in front of retail sector per se in next decade?     

Sanjeev Jha: Part of answers of this question I have given in your first question. I will bifurcate challenges into two parts. One part in government policy, because I believe that government is still not very convinced what this sector can do. Even if they are, it is not visible from their actions. And if that does not happen, the market scenario will mostly be domestic player driven.

Next point is, as I have discussed earlier, growth of this sector will come from Tier-II & III cities. Though GST has set the ball rolling, but retailers will have to move to these towns with finding the viability of business. Steps have been taken by incumbent players and Tier-II & III cities to some extent are being served but speed is what matters. But again I would say that these players don’t have leverage of huge cash to burn for speedy expansion in these smaller cities. So, we will have to see how everything pans out in the light of two things which I have mentioned earlier as well as now.

Mukul: One last question; do you see modern retail replacing pop-n-mom store completely in India, may be in 20, 30, 40 years?

Sanjeev Jha: Never. No company has wherewithal to reach every nook and corner of India with all the product consumer needs. Moreover, pop-n-mom store comes with their own set of advantages like location, speed in decision making, connect with locality etc., which can’t be matched by big modern trade retailers. Again, as I have mentioned earlier during our conversation, all three spheres of retail will grow, because India is a huge market and it is growing.


1) Figures of revenue from retail in 2016 and 2026 and percentage of total employment provided by retail sector has been taken from the website of Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF).

 2) Opinion expressed by Mr. Sanjeev Jha is strictly his personal and does not reflect the opinion of his present or past employers.          

A Raahgir e Rahguzar From Place Called India

A ‘Raahgir-e-Rahguzar’ from Place called India

I immediately liked this man when I met him for the first time around seventeen and half years back. He was my kind of person; simple, jovial, full of fun and had the prowess of making every moment light and full of happiness for the people around him. This liking developed into pride, respect and admiration six years back when he published his first novel ‘Chasing Maya’. It was a beautiful story woven around the mirage of happiness of modern lifestyle. I loved the novel because somewhere it was my story as well. He is back with another beautiful creation ‘Rahgeer-e-Rehguzar’, a compilation of Urdu poems, which is quite an achievement for a person from north-eastern part of India, for whom even Hindi is a learned language!

He is an amazing storyteller and his command over multiple Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Bangla, Assamese, Sanskrit, Urdu, and a bit of Punjabi too, not to mention Hindi and English, takes his storytelling abilities to entirely different level. I requested his audience before he gets busy with the publishing work of his new English novel – his third book in a span of seven years. I got an opportunity to talk to him this week. Let me bring you the excerpts of my riveting talk with Mr. Rohan Gogoi, my immediate senior from the business school we both went to, and the celebrated author of ‘Chasing Maya’ and ‘Rahgeer-e-Rehguzar’.   

Mukul: To write a story, a poem or novel, one needs an inspiration or a moment or an event. What was your moment, event or inspiration which launched the beautiful spring of words?

Rohan Gogoi: When I finished writing Chasing Maya, rather recurrently, over multiple media interviews, I shared with my journalist friends that ‘my frustration is my inspiration’! I had walked quite a lot in the journey called life, despite the fact that I was just a 28-year-old when I had started writing Chasing Maya. I had everything which could label me as successful in the milieu we live in. I had a beautiful family, great friends and a reasonably fruitful career, yet I was not happy. It seemed as if the rigmarole of everyday life was making me a prisoner of a rat race, which I never wanted to be a part of.

Being a Corporate Communicator, I was writing a lot for my employer organization’s endless internal and external communication pieces. In fact, for the love of writing, I had opted for a career in communications. I enjoyed telling stories. And when, chronic frustration and refusal to live as per societal expectations fuelled an untamable desire to find my true self, I started having deep conversations with myself; and soon, I started writing them down too... Words turned into sentences and sentences turned into pages. Eventually, I discovered that it was sounding like a story. People around me loved it and ‘Chasing Maya’ thus happened!

When the book came out, there was a sense of overwhelm, because many people reached out to tell me that they could find shades of their own lives in it. These intriguing words served like the answer I was seeking for so long! I started looking forward to every moment that could grant me an opportunity to write, tell a story, compose poetry, sing or simply just spread the my wings of imagination

Mukul: You started your journey as an author with ‘Chasing Maya’, which was quite urban in theme. What made you transition from English and urban themes, which you have strong command over, to the profound subtleties of a classical language like Urdu, which, I am sure, was never your language of communication?

Rohan Gogoi: Well, the success of ‘Chasing Maya’ exposed me to a whole new spectrum of experiences. It was kind humbling to see readers taking the pain of finding and reaching me through rather unbelievable means. I felt encouraged like never before and I started working on my next novel.

One of the characters of my second novel, which I started working on, and is now in the concluding stage, has his roots Uttar Pradesh – who writes and recites Urdu poetry. To make him sound real and authentic, I had to make some effort to learn the language. But I was rather surprised that it turned out to be a much simpler exercise than what I had expected. And reason I finally figured out was kind of amusing… My father, who couldn’t speak a word of Hindi, used to be an avid follower of old Hindi film songs. He loved Urdu ghazals too. So, I was raised on a very healthy dose of the immortal creations of Kaifi Azmi, Shahir Ludhiyanvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Shailendra, Ghulam Ali, Mehndi Hasan etc. and I too grew up becoming no less a fan of those great maestros. I think my creative bent of mind took baby steps then and there. Had I not written ‘Rahgeer-e-Rehguzar’, I wouldn’t have been fortunate enough to appreciate the profoundness and subtlety of this great language. This book is a kind of an ode to my love for purity of language, poetry and literature.

Mukul: In this age of hardening regional and language identity, you are perfect example of openness, oneness and Indianness. A boy from North-Eastern part of the country, for whom even Hindi is a learned language, writes a book in ‘Urdu’, which is quite unfathomable but really commendable. What would be your message for the youth of today’s India; most of them are outraged most of the time at one thing at other?        

Rohan Gogoi: I was a simple small town boy, who wanted to see the world, meet different people, tell my stories and listen to theirs. During my professional life, I have travelled extensively, not only across the country but around the world as well. I have seen people of extreme riches and also those living in abject poverty. I have slept under open sky on the white sands of Rann of Kutchh and I have also spent days with people in Kalahandi who were almost clueless about their next day’s meal. These experiences brought forward many facets of reality in front of me.  

The first thing I learned in this process is to be open and accept the people the way they are, the way they live, the language they speak, the food they eat. India is our country and we need to accept the way it is. India is complex… Multiple ethnicity, multiple languages, multiple faiths define us. Even the core Indic philosophy puts forward multiple ways to reach the ultimate truth. That’s what we are as a nation and that’s what we will always be.

You know me; I have always been a person looking for joyful moments to be happy in life. I don’t chase accomplishments. I don’t have big dreams. Music, poetry etc. are a part of my daily diet. I knew for the fact that if I want to be happy, I will have to seek my kind of happiness. Conflicts, debates and disagreement couldn’t have given me the happiness I was looking for. So, wherever I went, whomsoever I met, I tried to find points of agreement and this comes spontaneously to you when you start respecting other’s perspective, life, language, food etc. You will notice that people notice how you respond to their food, their language, their philosophy of life... Once they observe your positive gestures and accepting face, they start opening up and welcoming to you!

Wherever life took me, I made genuine efforts to accept and respect the local culture, language, food etc. I may not be a master, but I can speak Marathi, Gujarati, Bangla, Urdu, a bit of Punjabi, and of course, my native Assamese, Hindi and English. I also attempt at speaking a sentence or two in Malayalam, Oriya and Bhojpuri.

Mukul: What message would you have for the youth of this country………….

Rohan Gogoi: I don’t know if I am qualified enough to do so but I can certainly share what really worked for me, and that is – travel, meet new people, talk to them, listen to them. Understand the real India. Observe the world around. If one wants to be accepted and respected, one has to first be open to accept and respect other’s perspectives. “Holier than thou” attitude has never worked in India. We have to respect and celebrate pluralism. India will always remain diverse and that makes it uniquely rich. Taking pride in your identity is great, but being confined to it will make you closed and captive.

Mukul: Please let us peep into your future plans?

Rohan Gogoi:  Well, as of now, I want to do my bit to bring Assam on to the Hindi and Urdu literary map. So, Hindi-Urdu escapade continues. I am also working on making my Urdu poems more lyrical so as to adapt them into songs. Besides, I just finished writing the lyrics for an Assamese music album, scheduled to be launched sometime this year. This album would in fact feature Assamese trans-creations of 8 timeless Bollywood classics with the same essence and purity so that people get to relish the rich aesthetics of old Hindi music in their native language as well.  

I am in the last phase of writing my second English novel and I will get back to finish that one sometime soon.   

For all those poetry lovers, who often say ‘My Hindi is not good’, I am translating my Urdu poems into English and planning to bring out a bi-lingual collection by mid-2018.  

Mukul: What is your advice to budding writers like me?

Rohan Gogoi: People often tend to believe that writing a novel, or for that matter, any creative feat is just about being creative; which it is not completely true. Any creative pursuit demands more than just creativity. First of all, you need to be disciplined. If you are writing poetry or articles, you can manage with shorter attention span; but for a novel, you need to research, write hundreds of pages, edit, adapt and keep going back again and again to check the consistency and continuity. And this won’t be possible discipline and patience. Writing novels also require you sit for long hours with unbroken attention, which means you also need to ensure a fit body and a healthy brain. So making meditation and physical exercise a part of your everyday life also contributes substantially to your success. Creativity, I believe, is always triggered by experiences – the range of emotions we expose ourselves to. It is critically important for writers to observe the world around, meet new people, welcome diverse perspectives and have deep and meaningful conversations wherever possible. Besides, as we all know reading forms a crucial part of the writing process. The more you read, more proficient you become in your writing. 

Note: Rohan Gogoi can be reached on www.facebook.com/rohan.gogoi.14

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