RV Rajan, Founder and Chairman of Anugrah Madison, is a pioneer in rural marketing, having founded Anugrah that was subsequently acquired by Madison World. After retirement, Rajan has turned into a prolific writer, and established a foundation in the name of his late wife, Prabha Rajan, to empower women, besides other social work.
Here, he talks about ‘Durga Nivas’ - his 10th book in 11 years - about the first 26 years of his life in a Matunga chawl, describing the book as the ‘biography of a building’ that exemplifies Mumbai's can-do and daring spirit.
How did the experience of living in a chawl in your early years shape you later as an adman?
Mine was a planned entry into advertising. After spending the first 10 years of my career handling FMCG giants like Colgate, Nestle, Coca Cola, ITC etc., in Bombay and Delhi, when I opted to go to Chennai in 1974, I had to look for alternative opportunities as the few FMCG clients in Chennai were already tied up with multinational agencies. I found such an opportunity among clients dealing with agri inputs. Having lived in a chawl among people from different regions speaking different languages, I had developed an aptitude for picking up languages. My mother tongue is Telugu. We also speak Tamil at home. Thanks to staying in a chawl, I could speak Hindi and Marathi fluently. I can also understand simple Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati and Bengali. This familiarity with several languages helped me develop a reputation as a rural communication specialist who understands local languages and hence is able to provide more effective rural communication packages. My life in a chawl largely contributed to a city boy becoming a rural communication specialist.
What is your message to the reader through the book ‘Durga Nivas’?
I would like to reproduce a piece of conversation between two characters in the last chapter of the book, which sums up the basic story of Durga Nivas:
- “You know Venkatesh, Durga Nivas was like the abode of a big joint family - except that the families came from different parts of the country, spoke different languages and had different traditions and cultures. But we were always united in our times of joy or sorrow. It was a classic example of Unity in Diversity.”
- “Yes Babu. Those were glorious days. As someone said, we had attached families with detached toilets. Today, all of us have attached toilets in our homes but the families have become detached.”
The take-away for the reader is: As you progress in life, don’t forget to maintain your relationships with people.
What next? Are you already planning your 11th book?
I am planning to take up a translation job, translating a Tamil novel into English. It would be my effort at covering another genre of writing. I have already covered six genres; an autobiography, a book on Rural marketing, a collection of my essays, a book of short stories, history of a voluntary association and a novel. That all these have happened post-retirement is very gratifying and helps me celebrate my life every day even as I will soon join the world of octogenarians.
(Durga Nivas is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Kindle)