Gul Panag is a former Miss India winner who is also an acclaimed actress in Bollywood and on Indian television. Marathon runner, adventure enthusiast, biker, travel junkie and avid reader are some of the other avatars of Gul. Through her initiative ‘Gul4change’ she tries to create awareness and bring change in the areas of gender equality, addiction, education, employment, environment and disaster management.
College: Government College for Girls, Punjabi University, Patiala
Profession: Actor, Entrepreneur
Passion: Adventure Sport, Flying, Cars and Bikes
Hobbies: Reading, Riding, Swimming, Running
1) How did your days in college influence your decision into entering Bollywood or beauty pageants?
When I decided to do my graduation in India, I’d planned on applying to SRCC and Stephen’s and didn’t really consider any other college. However, when I did come to India, I was in for a rude shock. By the time my result in Zambia would be out, admissions in all colleges in India would be closed. No college was ready to accept my predicted grades as the basis for admission and even after my real results were out by fax, they weren’t ready to admit me till the original certificate could be produced which would come only much later.
My father, who was posted in Patiala at that point in time, happened to know somebody who knew the Vice Chancellor of Punjab University of Patiala. The VC took cognizance of my father’s position and decided to give me provisional admission and that’s how I ended up going to the Government College for Girls to complete an Honours in Math. So for someone with dreams of studying in University of Pennsylvania, I was sitting in class where the medium of instruction was in Punjabi. At that time, I had no idea what a turning point my experiences in this college would have been.
I was always in top three in class and a good athlete as well. I did well in sports and in studies, and graduated from high school with a trophy for ‘all round excellence’. It was in college that I was picked up for an inter college debate competition by my Economics teacher who was also the Vice Principal of my college, Mrs. Ravi. Even though I wasn’t aware of it at that point in time, this was a lot like a stepping stone that later led to me becoming a public speaker. Not only did I represent college but also University and the state at various debates and am also a national Gold medalist at debating. It was the skills I picked up through these experiences that gave me the confidence that I could participate in the Femina Miss India pageant and probably do well for myself at the contest.
In my third year, I didn’t take English as an elective subject, but as part of the course I did have compulsory English. Mark Tully from BBC had come to Punjab and from all three universities in Punjab state, eight students would be taken on an apprenticeship program to England to participate in their theatre workshops through their Traveling Theatre Company. I had no idea how to act and didn’t think I had a chance when my English teacher selected me to go be a part of the auditions for this opportunity. They asked me to behave like a person who had forgotten all their important documents before an interview. And I did what I thought any normal flustered person would do. They selected me and I was a part of this apprenticeship travelling to villages in England as part of this theatre group. They would put up these very large scale productions on the local village grounds and this provided a very important learning experience. They did an adaptation of Hamlet and a short story of John Milton called Comus.
So college definitely did allow me to pick up skills that became very useful for the path I chose in the future, even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time.
2) Apart from an actress, you are also known to the world as an activist and adventurer as well as a keen marathon runner. Did any of that stem from college? Did college inspire any of these interests?
The adventurous spirit as well as the passion for running had not much to do with college, but more to do with my upbringing particularly through my father’s influence. I remember while we were in Zambia, my father would take me out running every evening. We’d run three miles every evening while the rest of my friends were going driving or eating with their families. At that time, I hated him for putting me through that. He told me that if I wanted to continue looking the way I did, I had to continue running consistently and not stop. I hated the exercise for a year, but after that I began enjoying it. I began liking how I looked and how it made me feel. That’s how the passion for running began. The love for adventure and sports came from the trips that my father organised for us when he took us out camping. Since we couldn’t afford the traditional expensive holidays, we’d go out camping in tents all over the countryside. Apart from that, army kids are almost provided with facilities like riding, shooting, swimming and other such sports. All these played a major role in my life. Because of this kind of training, I remember coming third only to two boys who were national level sports players in our class fitness test at the end of the term in Zambia. I beat all but these two boys.
In college, I did participate in sports events as well like the 800 meters races, etc, but these weren’t a major part of my college life since debating took up most of the time.
3) Was there any specific teacher/ student/ friend/ individual that inspired you in any way during your college days?
Definitely Mrs. Ravi who was my Economics professor as well as the Vice Principal of Government College for Girls is one very important person from my college days. She picked me up for a lot of the events that shaped my future. Apart from her, a very important person during my days in college was Renu. She was my closest friend during those days and accompanied me everywhere for all my public speaking events even though she participated in none. She had a fat pocket money of 5000 rupees as compared to my mere Rs. 300 and she funded most of our group of friends’ Bread Pakodas and Kesar milk and movies. I remember she even gave me a pair of branded jeans at one point in time. When I decided to shift to Bombay in my third year for the Miss India pageant, she shifted back to her home and did a distance course like I did. We still are very close and I believe that friendships like these are very important for life. She was my guardian during college days and my constant partner in crime.
4) Would you like to share one (or a few) of your most memorable experiences during college?
One of my most memorable experiences in college was when a group of us bunked college and went to watch ‘Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya’ and I was so awed with both Aishwarya and Bobby Deol that I didn’t know who to look at during the movie. After the movie, Renu treated Manpreet, Sattinder and me to Bread Pakodas and Kesar milk as was the regular.
Since our math teacher refused to use the blackboard and wanted to teach us math sitting on a table and chair, as a necessity, we were forced to take tuitions. These tuitions were taken in batches and so there was no way we could negotiate the timings. So whether it was winters or summers, we had to go for tuitions at 6 in the morning. The batch had students from a couple of colleges that included boys too. They were a nice, sweet set of boys, but not very adrenaline inspiring.
I remember riding my Kinetic Honda for tuitions everyday. During the winters, I used to literally wave my hand in front of me to be able to see through the fog. The garam chai before or after tuitions is something I fondly miss.
5) What was your favourite/most worn ensemble during college days?
Dad had said that boys will tease you in Patiala and you should wear suits to college. Of course, that never happened since I refused. I was used to wearing shorts in school so it would’ve been heartbreaking to wear suits everyday to college. I remember wearing suits barely twice or thrice. I had two pairs of jeans, one blue Pepe and one black ‘Tiger’ brand which was a local brand. Tiger ‘jean’, as jeans were popularly known in Patiala, were baggy and I had to get them altered to give them the straight look. They were both high rise jeans and I coupled them with shirts stitched by the local tailor or any t shirt I could lay my hands on. Rockport brown suede lace up boy shoes bought from Harare (capital of Zimbabwe) that were my daily wear until I later bought a pair of black brogues from the army uniform shops.
6) Favourite kind of food during college days? (Café/Cantene/Mess/ Restaurant/Street food)
Definitely the Bread Pakodas we used to get outside college that were fried and refried, but were our staple. Renu funded most of those Bread Pakodas and the locally made Kesar milk that a man used to regularly bring on his cycle. It was unbranded and made at home and we loved it. Since I am learning how to fly at a club in Patiala, I keep visiting often and I was so disheartened to not have seen him there anymore.
7) You’re an avid reader reading 2-3 books simultaneously. We’ve heard that you have one on your bedside, another in the car and usually one in your handbag. Why are ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ by Haruki Murakami and ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand your favourite books? Were these your favourites even while you were in college?
‘Atlas Shrugged’, I actually read during college. And initially I remember wondering why the book was so long. Later, as I went deeper into the book, I began to get fascinated by her ideas on objectivism and individualism. I remember disagreeing with a lot of her ideas, but what inspired me in the book was the fact that it brings out the point that it’s not fashionable to be mediocre. I realised that if you do something, you really need to be the best at it, otherwise it doesn’t make sense doing it. Secondly, this book made me realise how important a part individualism played in my thought process and my identity. Also, this book took care of a certain amount of left leanings that I had developed during my days in college. They say that if you have no left leanings when in college, there’s something wrong with you and if you still have left leanings after college, then something is still wrong with you. Ayn Rand is a very strong capitalist and though there are a lot of things I still disagree with, with regard to those ideas, I do agree that we all have different abilities and that needs to be accepted rather than shunned. I managed to understand that the ideal space is some kind of a middle ground that celebrates individualism which communism doesn’t allow. John Galt and Dagny Taggart are both at the top in their fields and the rivals get together and attempt to bring them down. This is what I think happens a lot in our world today. So her portrayal of this reality is what I found very interesting.
Haruki is one of my favourites because he brings mystery and magic to his narrative and his work makes me yearn to go to Japan.
I’m currently reading this book called ‘For the New Intellectual’ which is a collection of Ayn Rand’s essays in a book. Its long discourses of the philosophy of her various characters that have been pulled out and collated.
8) The movie that most appealed to you during your college days?
Nothing really appealed to me as such, but my favourite movie that we bunked and watched was “Maachis”.
9) Most played music on your list during those days?
Electronic pop. We didn’t spend money on buying CDs and cassettes, so my music taste depended a lot on what came on MTV. Spice Girls, Ace of Base, Whigfield, Backstreet Boys, Stereo Nation, Peter Andre and Mary J Blige and Crystal Waters were among the favourites.
10) You chose the unconventional path by doing a Bachelors in Mathematics and a Masters in Political Science and then went on to become a Miss India and enter the world of cinema. Any words of wisdom that you’d like to share with young people who choose unconventional paths in education and careers?
In order to be irreplaceable, you must always be different. Conventional paths have their rewards because it’s the path someone has chosen before you and so you are aware of the pitfalls, but then its always going to be like you’re following in somebody’s footsteps and you’re probably going to end up doing something somebody has already done. For example, you don’t have to go to college straight after school if that’s not something you want to do. If you can, then travel, but if you can’t since it isn’t always economically feasible, then volunteer or do an internship because when you come out of such a situation, you’re able to view yourself better and differently. We aren’t sheep and have been blessed with individual abilities that should be allowed to grow.
I believe that there’s too much pressure today to do things that a student wouldn’t ordinarily do. Don’t bunk college if you don’t want to or because you think it’s a cool thing to do. Do it because you’re sick of that lecture or because of any other justifiable reason. If you don’t want to bunk a class, don’t get influenced by peer pressure and do it. There was a short phase in my college life where I tried to blend in like everybody else because I wasn’t sure of what I was. My advice to my younger self and to the youth today would be, don’t waste that kind of time doing that because it’s really not worth it. Be different and be who you are. Then again, do not be different for the sake of being different. For example, when I used to come to college on my Kinetic, I had to ride on the highway. So I was one of the only girls who used to wear a helmet. This was a full face helmet that would protect my face from all the sweat and the dirt that would break out in pimples the next day. It wasn’t like nobody judged me. Of course they did, but my head was more important as was my face.
Some people have clarity, some people don’t. And if you’re among those who don’t, take some time out and try to figure it out because its important to be able to make your own decisions rather than having someone else make them for you. Its okay to be doing things that a lot many others disagree with as long as you’re absolutely sure about what you’re doing.
11) You won a beauty pageant. What made you participate in one in the first place?
I have always been somebody who wanted to do everything. Ever since my days in school, I was inspired by those students who were all rounders and not just brilliant only in their grades. For me, it was about getting that additional feather in my cap. I always wanted to be somebody who did everything and did everything really well. In my first year in college, I saw a Femina magazine lying and people used to tell me to apply for the pageant. So I watched the contest in 1997 and I realized that I could speak as well as a lot of the participants, if not better. So that’s how I ended up applying. I didn’t have any pictures and so I ended up coming to Bombay to get professional photographs clicked and that cost my father a good packet of money. I remember them asking me my height and when I said I was 5″7, they told me that 5″8 is the typical Miss India height and that they wished I was 5″8.
Another thing was that after my A levels in Zambia, I wanted to major in Maths and got into Warwick in the UK and University of Pennsylvania in the US. Now an armed forces family lives comfortably, but doesn’t get an opportunity to save. My father, of course, offered to sell some land to be able to cover some amount of my tuition, but even that wasn’t enough. Going to either university would drain my family of its savings and I would not have been able to live with myself if I did that to them. And even this would have only been a certain amount of my tuition fees that excluded boarding, lodging etc. In the meantime, my friend’s father in Zambia promised me a job at his bank once I completed my Masters. Since my father was now being posted in India, I decided to complete my honours in Maths there and then come back and work and save up for maybe a Masters in the future. I’d also thought I’d try a short stint at modelling, earn some money and add to the savings while I was in India. In these circumstances, when the opportunity of Miss India came up, I decided it was the perfect since in any case I did want to try my hand at it all. The plan always was, however, to earn that money and then continue to study.
12) Are beauty pageants rigged? People say cosmetic companies have a commercial interest in Third World countries and so beauty queens are chosen from these countries. What is your opinion?
I’d like to believe they are not rigged. However, there does tend to be a trend with regard to which country tends to win the pageants. I’ve never understood the argument that cosmetic companies would be able to successfully manipulate the decisions. To be able to rig the contest, all the cosmetic companies would have to get together and influence the competition. To me, that seems a little far fetched. When Revlon set its stronghold in India, I remember it was only two years after Aishwarya and Sushmita won the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with the statement, but rather would love to be explained the theory behind this argument because it’s a common one and one I’ve heard enough.
13) Bollywood is a tough world and there are always rumours of linkages between stars, actors, etc. There is often very little respect for privacy. Has this made your journey any tougher?
Linkages exist in any kind of work environment. It’s only that in this industry they are speculated at a much larger scale. When you are in this industry, recognition comes as a part of the whole deal. And with recognition comes a certain kind of invasion in to your personal lives. However, it really depends on how you handle it. Whether you wish to flaunt your personal lives or keep it to yourself is really upto you. It isn’t an accident when a girl and a guy are ‘spotted’ at a certain restaurant. It doesn’t happen like that. Throughout the time I was dating the person I was dating, I never had any issues with the media or with my privacy. I believe that currently in India, the media isn’t as crazy as it is in the West. Although they are heading to that kind of media culture, currently, Indian media genuinely allows you space if you handle it well. The number of times I’ve been out and not photographed shows that if I want a certain kind of space, I will be allowed that privacy. The news of my wedding was kept personal only till about a day or two before and that was only probably because of word of mouth. If I wanted the media to know, they would have known in a surreptitious way. So the media definitely hasn’t made my journey any tougher. It’s just a part and parcel of the journey. In fact, the recognition is humbling.
14) How do you deal with failure and negativity/ criticism?
I don’t let failure or criticism affect me in anyway. I believe that the only thing in your control is to do the very best you can do and the fruits of your labour are not in your control. All you can do is give it your best shot. It’s what the Gita also says. The only focus while working should be to give it your best. Worrying about failure or success will only distract you from doing that. That’s why, for me success or failure is a non issue. Besides, as my grandfather used to believe, everything is transcendental. Nothing is permanent. What might seem like a failure today might not seem the same a few years down the line. Rudyard Kipling has a poem that says treat triumph and disaster as imposters because that’s what they really are, since neither is going to stay – neither triumph nor disaster.
15) What are your goals in life? How’s your preparation for entering the arena of competitive shooting coming up?
Among my goals are to be able to genuinely partake in the process of helping make a difference with the help of a solution-oriented approach. There’s no point citing the world’s problems if you don’t have a solution for it. I want to continue to follow the passions that I have and be a responsible citizen who does her bit towards society. I want to be content and at peace.
The preparation for shooting has come to a halt for a bit because I finally got down to learning how to fly. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time and not because my husband is a pilot, but I genuinely have been harbouring the interest for a while now. So I finally decided to take it up and am taking flying lessons at a club in Patiala. At the moment, hobby flying has also taken a break because they’re small one propeller planes and the monsoons aren’t safe to fly. I intend on buying a small plane soon, but before that I must learn how to fly and give the exams and get the license etc. I believe it challenges your learning curve because when you’re 20, your learning curve is much better. Mine is not so quick anymore because the mind isn’t used to that kind of studying etc and so I believe I must keep challenging it. There are five papers that we have to write and you need an 80% to pass. So I plan on flying a bit more, then giving the exams and then flying a little more to be able to keep in touch with the practical part of it since it really is a skill based thing. My brother shoots for India and he’s also taken a break at the moment from it. Shooting is something that I can get back to whenever I like and so when I do find the time, I will go ahead with it.
16) How has your armed forces background influenced your career or your personality as a whole? You’ve changed 14 schools and even had to study in Zambia. Did this constant ‘being on the move’ help or hinder?
I don’t think the armed forces helped or hindered my choice of career. Contrary to popular belief that armed forces children do very well only in the film industry, armed forces children do well in absolutely any profession. The only reason the ones in this industry are so known is because of the visibility of this profession. Lots of unglamorous professions as well like that of engineers and of scientists have youngsters with an armed forces background doing extremely well for themselves.
People skills are what are absolutely essential in any profession today and that’s exactly what an upbringing like ours provides you with. My life today, whatever little that I am, is owed 99.99% to the upbringing that I have had. That’s probably because at a very early stage in our lives we are taught very important life skills that we would probably not be able to pick up any place else. We are taught protocol that allows us to gauge and understand the hierarchy of every situation and allows to act accordingly.
A second important trait we pick up is that of etiquette. Sometimes structures are defined and sometimes they are undefined. It is in the latter case that I have seen so many people make a big mess of great opportunities just because of the lack of important skills with regard to being able to know what’s that fine line that they are not to cross. It’s not always easy to know these things and its important for us as social beings to behave a certain way with certain people. A lot of people require institutions like finishing schools to pick up these skills, but for us armed forces kids, it’s instinctive.
Another thing we pick up is humility which is absolutely essential in any profession. We grow up understanding that apart from skill, there is no difference between any human being regardless of their status or rank. We understand hierarchy, but at the same time respect people above and below. And lastly, discipline is the guiding principle for each one of us. In fact, till date, I keep my watch ten minutes ahead. If I am not the first person on the set, I’m stressed and uncomfortable all day. These are important principles to grow up with because they become the defining principles of your life in the future. Thus, since armed forces children are empowered with a lot of essential skills, it is often a guarantee that they are doing well in any profession that you may pick.
Since we live all over the country and outside in all sorts of conditions, we are very quick to adjust to any kind of situation. We are used to any kind of environment and can connect with different people on different levels and so even a conversation with a stranger can allow for fruitful conversation. So ‘being on the move’ definitely isn’t a hindrance. It’s a huge help and gives us a huge advantage over a lot of other people.
17) You have strongly raised your opinion with regard to many issues including the Women’s Reservation Bill. Please share your views on this issue? Do you still say ‘Abhi Dilli door hai!’?
I think to have a position in soceiety where you are known, and to be able to reach people through your opinions is really what is making use of your achievements, because otherwise it’s a waste of the position and ability one has. To be able to voice an opinion, without worrying about which side of the fence you are on, is so important. Most of the times, people voice opinions on the basis of which side they want to be on or whom they want to please. That’s really not cool. You need to have the conviction to stand up for what you’ve said once you’ve taken a certain stance on any kind of issue. I think it’s very very important to speak up because I believe an activist’s role is to activate dialogue and discussion. That really is their biggest role.
Arundhati Roy is somebody I admire and that’s not because of her opinions, a lot which I disagree with, but because she activates us into thinking about certain issues and allows us to develop an opinion in response to hers whether for or against. Any change, whether upward or downward is begun and then facilitated only through dialogue. If there’s no dialogue, there will be no change.
Till date, I know of people who kill baby girls. Some very well-to-do people do it too. A woman in my village told me of local ways they have devised to carry out such infanticide. But the fact is that dialogue has begun and maybe in 20, 30 or even 50 years, there will be change. And that change will come about only because its precursor has been dialogue.
As far as the Reservation Bill goes, I am firmly against reservation of any kind. Having said that, however, I understand the position of women in India which is so far gone still and so I believe that maybe time-bound reservation could be a solution. That is what the caste reservation was supposed to be, but we didn’t have that kind of leadership to have allowed that to be controlled. However, I believe that maybe a solution could possibly by an irrevocable time bound reservation for maybe ten or twenty years. Whether it becomes another issue for vote bank politics is something I cannot say, but as far as I see it, I feel that’s the solution that I feel might be most sustainable. I know for a fact that women will struggle and fight and somehow get there someday, but I’m still not entirely convinced about the concept of a Women’s Reservation Bill that isn’t time bound.
And yes definitely, for women, dilli abhi door hai. Far and how. Women barely even have the basic right to choose who they want to marry. There are very few women who have the right to choose who they want to marry. Women need to have decision making powers which are intrinsically linked to their economic status. I really believe that financial independence is the most important thing and that in turn stems from education. Even with regard to inheritance, women are denied that basic right that the Hindu Law states very clearly. Just by virtue of tradition and custom, the woman must forego her right on the land and thus even in rich families, the woman is oppressed. I really think it’s a long long way off before the situation is any better. At least a hundred years, if not more. There are solutions, there definitely are. South Korea had a similar sex ratio problem and through state policies and incentives, they were systematically able to get rid of the infanticide that was rampant. There are ways, but they need to be worked on by people really devoted to the cause.
18) After your experience at the Delhi Half Marathon (Nov 2010), you stated that Delhi isn’t safe for women. What do you think can be done to be able to change the environment for women’s safety in Delhi?
It wasn’t just about the marathon. I think women in India are touched and groped all the time especially because of the shroud of anonymity. In a crowd if someone touches you inappropriately, you don’t know who it is. That tends to give these men a certain sense of confidence over the woman. Whether it’s a marathon or temples or trains or buses, it’s always the case. And this phenomenon exists all over the country. Delhi tends to be the focus only because it’s the capital and under media glare, but the fact remains that this exists all over the country and in varying degrees.
In fact, even Bombay is safe only in pockets. In suburban Bombay, you can’t be safe as you are in a lot of other places. What bothers me is that if women, who comprise 50% of the population, can’t walk out anytime of the day and be safe, why should we pay taxes? If our security and safety isn’t guarded, then what are we paying for? It’s important for us to feel as safe as the men in our country because if nothing else, we pay the same amount of taxes as they do and thus we contribute equally to the state. Having said that, however, I believe that it isn’t only the police’s responsibility to take care of violence against women. While they definitely play an important role, I believe the root of such violence lies in the attitudes and the socialisation.
When a boy is treated differently at home, he goes out and believes that all other women must also be treated differently and as if they are inferiors. At some level, another reason for rapes is probably the fact that these men aren’t exposed to an environment of which women are also a part. So I believe that a definite social change coupled with strict policing and swift retribution to perpetrators of such crimes is extremely important in being able to carry out any kind of change in the environment. Thus, police, justice and education form extremely important parts of this process of change.
19) What are your views on Women’s Day?
I think Women’s Day just like Friendship’s Day, Mother’s Day etc is a day that today has become a day that is marketed and sold to attract fresh customers into buying things that they wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I don’t think it’s going to help to use one day to ponder over the plight of women in India. What do you do on the rest of the days for women? Why just this one day?
20) You are viewed as the ‘thinking actor’ and have played many de-glamourised roles in Bollywood– from the short haired Peehu in ‘Dhoop’, Sonia in ‘Jurm’, stark Zeenat in ‘Dor’, Nimmi in ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’, yuppie Priyanka in ‘Hello’ to Naina in ‘Turning 30’ to the down-to-earth Nandini in ‘Fatso!’. Which of these women is closest to your heart? Which of these was the most difficult to portray and why?
The one closest to my heart would be Naina of ‘Turning 30’. I think she’s a very urban character and a girl that I’d love to be, but can’t because of certain social conventions that wouldn’t allow me to. I’d like to mention though that glamour or non glamour isn’t what defines my choice in roles. It’s about how close to reality the character is. Our films have always been a departure from realism for the longest time. Fortunately, that’s changing and I am happy that I have been part of that change. I think when I played Renu in ‘Straight’, she was damn glamorous. But the warped idea of glamour bothers me.
The character that was the hardest to play would be Nimmi from ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’ because she comes from a very different socio economic background that I do not associate with since I don’t belong to that strata. Also, the character Beant from ‘Sarsa’. ‘Sarsa’ is a Punjabi film that I just completed and co produced. This was so difficult to play because I speak my mother tongue in this film and a dialect that I had no idea even existed. I had to undergo workshops for a while and train to be able to get it right.
21) How do you juggle so many roles and activities like being an activist, actor, wife, running marathons, enjoying endurance sports, tennis, swimming, riding, and many more?
Oh, it’s not like juggling at all. We don’t work 24 hours a day. There’s always sometime for leisure. It’s all about managing your time and prioritizing. It’s important to just figure out what you want to do when and then it usually falls into place. It’s like when you want to read a book, you find time to read it. Similarly, once you’ve decided what you want to do, you make the time to do it.
22) Please tell us more about your custom made Scorpio 4by4 and your annual pilgrimage from Bombay to Leh.
The Scorpio 4by4 is with my dad now, but I now have an Audi Q5. It’s very different from the Scorpio and I can’t imagine doing somethings that I used to with the Scorpio, but the Audi allows so much more comfort and my recent roadtrip to the Sach Pass was such a pleasure because of this car.
The pilgrimage to Leh has now stopped. We did it for four years, but Leh isn’t the same anymore. Everybody seems to be there and it’s always so crowded. So now I’ve begun exploring newer places. I take 2 roadtrips every year. It’s a given. In fact, this year I am planning on going to maybe Rajasthan in the winters.
23) We’re excited to hear that Visit Finland has appointed you as their honorary Brand Ambassador in India. What are you doing next with Visit Finland?
That was only for a year. It finished last year, but as part of it, I visited Finland a lot. I believe that Finland is a country for the discerning traveller. Only someone who is genuinely interested in travelling will make a trip to Finland. It’s not the regular Vienna or Paris or Greece, but a destination for the evolved traveller, that I now believe I have become. It’s a gorgeous country- beautiful and white like in a postcard in winters and like any other lovely European country in summers. As ambassador, I was invited to various forums to talk about the country and engage with different people on various issues.