SEEMA MUNIZ recalls her first job interview with the famous Anand Hingorani, who had been Gandhiji’s personal secretary and editor of the weekly magazine, Harijan
When I received my first interview call, I was a little nervous. For having spent much of my scholastic years in an alternative system of education, I had never even sat for a test or exam, let alone an interview. So, there I was, fresh out of college, new to the metropolis, commuting in a public bus to the other end of the city.
Even though the ad had read, “artists needed for a book-cover design by Gandhi publishers”, I had applied. I did not have any professional qualifications, either in graphic designing, or in Fine Arts. So, armed with nothing but a graduate certificate, a makeshift portfolio to showcase myself as an art hobbyist, I strode into the office of the Gandhi Publishers, smiling my cute Binaca smile.
Like many youngsters from my generation, especially those graduating from my alma mater, I had no or little respect for Gandhiji. It was because of his short-sightedness that the partition took place, we believed. We blamed him for placing his moral values on a higher echelon than Life’s spiritual destiny. Hadn’t the message of the Gita taught us to surmount our moral and ethical dilemmas in order to fulfil our higher spiritual goal?
Little did I know that the person who was going to interview me would be none other than Anand Hingorani, personal secretary to Gandhiji for a few years, who went on to edit a weekly magazine called ‘Harijan’. Later, with Gandhiji’s permission, he authored an encyclopaedic set of 24 volumes, now called, ‘Gandhi for the 21st Century’. The volumes are divided by topics, dealing with subjects as varied as religion, education, role of women in society, importance of hygiene, thought control and meditation.
The office, as it turned out, was the living room of the family’s three bedroom apartment in South Delhi. Here Hingorani lived with his son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. Even though the apartment was rather humble, and simply furnished, the presence of the 83-year-old man with a ready smile, was enough to make up for the simple dwelling. Clad in immaculate white, a picture of perfect health, Anand Hingorani exuded peace, and familial warmth.
“What does ‘to interview’ mean?” He asked me in his impeccable English.
“It means you view me, and I view you…you assess me, and I assess you.” That was it. He was so pleased with my answer that I got the job.
Of course, I never got to design the cover of the book, for I lacked professional training, as well as experience. But, out of good will, he asked me to illustrate some of Gandhiji’s quotes in a greeting card format.
“Even though I have absolutely no respect for Gandhi, I am going to do this assignment for you, purely as a job,” I told the old gentleman, in my rash, hot-headed manner.
“Thank you”, he uttered with utmost humility.
Over the next few years, I freelanced for Hingorani ji. He always addressed me as ‘beti’, meaning, ‘daughter’. When I got a job in an advertising agency, he sent me a letter of congratulations, and wondered if I would still find time to freelance for him.
He sent me my last assignment: “Do you know the poem, ‘Lead kindly light,
Lead thou me on…’ by John H. Newman? It used to be Gandhiji’s favourite. Could you calligraph and illustrate it for me?”
It turned out to be my last assignment for Hingorani ji.
To me, our little rencontre, however brief or insignificant it might have been, still represents that moment in time where the infinite tolerance and wisdom of one could overlook the arrogance of the other, and eventually succeed in creating a rapport which was founded on mutual respect.
In this day and age, when “my way or the highway” seems to be the dernier cri of a great majority of the populace, Anand Hingorani’s grace and patience should serve as a beacon of inspiration to everyone.
Featured Picture: Painting by Seema Muniz
Seema Muniz, a feature writer with the Times of India group in the nineties, is an avid reader and educationist, who homeschooled her son until tenth grade, while drifting between New York and Alaska with her family. She is also an artist, with a few solo and group shows in Albany, NY, to her credit.