The best part of my school life was at boarding school in Welhams in Dehradun, because I really came into my own and developed self-confidence as I excelled in sports, in academics and picked up social skills.
My training happened in the architectural offices of my father Satish Gujral (the noted painter who branched into architecture in the ’70s) and brother Mohit Gujral. Yes, while I did get a lot of input on technical aspects my creativity was allowed to find expression on its own and to flower. While I made a lot of mistakes I got things right in real time as well, unlike in an institutional setup where one is largely theoretical and cocooned. There I trained more as an interior architect than an interior designer.
The first project
My first project was a residential interior for the Dean of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, who had come to India to set up the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). That was in 1986. It was really exciting to work with someone with international exposure to design. It was quite an eye-opener as well since all work had to be done through Indian bureaucracy. The most interesting part, however, is that I never got paid for being the consultant of the project, largely because I was embarrassed to follow up on bills.
It’s something you are born with. No one can teach you to become independent. The constant compulsion to challenge oneself and not to get complacent about past success is something I have imbibed from my father. And that has added to my perception of independence.
I don’t get a high from the size, scope, prominence of or monetary gains from a given project. At different stages of my career (which spans 22 years) the projects that have given me the opportunity to best express the current need of the time have been for that time the most satisfying.
Highs as a human being
I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a friend. And all these go into making me the person I am. I do not think there is one part that I would identify with most at the cost of another. The constant aspiration and the challenge are to keep balance and harmony among all roles. However, there are times when you are unable to multitask as perfectly as you would like.
To be successful you’ve got to have the support of your family. And you need to be absolutely passionate about what you do. It’s the passion that brings success.
Do not follow the shortest route to money.
As told to Pranab Ghosh