As I sat across the table, awestruck, gawking like a teenager at her beautiful persona, soft demeanour, well-manicured hands and immaculately kept office, I couldn’t help but wonder what her story must be – the one that got her where she sits today… and as soon as she started talking, not only did my respect for her journey grew manifold, but also my admiration at her knowledge of the tourism industry reached an altogether new high. BOTT India is delighted and honoured to feature Ms. Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in its “Women Bureaucrats” exclusive story on the occasion of Women’s Day. Here’s her journey, as told by her…
Priyanka Saxena Ray
Born and brought up in New Delhi, the younger Rupinder was good at academics and wanted to become a doctor, given her love for biology. But destiny, it seemed, had different plans. “My father got posted to Tanzania and I did my middle and high school from there only. The switchover, once I was back, to the CBSE pattern of things was tough, and medical no longer was an option. At that time, it was my father who suggested I consider a career in civil services and I found that to be great option. Also, when this whole thing about civil services came up, it was again he who suggested that I should look for another option beyond Bio – such as History since it would bring me closer to my country and also help me understand my heritage and culture better. So I jumped into Hindu College History Hons in 1984 with a clear understanding that civil services is what the future is going to be. Once into it, my sheer love for the subject grew so much that for a while I even contemplated pursuing a career in academics in history, so much so that I even took the UGC exams in History after completing my masters. Yet, the passion to be part of the Governance structure remained and got the better of me,” she reminisces.
Just like any other candidate who has cleared the civil services, Ms. Brar started her professional journey with the induction training in Hyderabad Police Academy after which the IRS Officers are moved to Nagpur, which is the National Academy of Direct Taxes where the professional training that the candidates get for about 16 months is far more comprehensive in terms of book keeping, law, procedures – the whole thing about how to manage an office. She spent around 11 years in Delhi in different positions before being posted as the Additional Commissioner Investigation, Haryana zone. Returning to her books after a gap of 20 years, Ms Brar took a sabbatical and went to Singapore on a fully funded scholarship from the National University of Singapore to do her Master’s in Public Administration. She came back and joined the services from Mumbai in 2011 and was in Mumbai till as recent as 2019, before joining the Ministry of Tourism. In the midst of her inspiring professional journey, Ms. Brar tied the knot in 1992 to a fellow service mate and has a daughter, who is an architect currently working in Tokyo.
As a women who is not just a part of the travel industry but has also travelled fairly in her own personal capacity, Rupinder Brar feels that India is as safe a tourist destination as a London or a New York or a Milan where one would undertake the same set of precautionary steps to keep trouble at bay. “Most parts of India are very safe though somewhere a perception has been built on the basis of a one-off incident and an image has been created that the “country is not safe” – this is not true. For example if you would go to Gujarat and go shopping late night into the Laad Bazaar, you are absolutely safe – as safe as taking a taxi at 2 am in the night in Mumbai. I have travelled to a number of southern destinations and felt absolutely safe. So I feel India is as safe as any other country in the world. What we must understand is that each and every city, each and every town has layers – certain areas are more sensitive than others – so one must take precautions while going through those areas. There are greys and obviously you have to look into them but one shouldn’t categorise or label the entire country an “unsafe”,” explains the dynamic lady who not only believes in the tourism offerings of her country but is a staunch supporter of its policies too. The Ministry of Tourism is doing some promotional films and also trying to create subtle messaging in its movies, reassuring people that India is a women-friendly destination.
As the clock ticks indicating hours way past the usual office time and Ms. Brar continues to explain and talk about the touristy offerings of India and initiatives of MoT, her passion and dedication for work reflecting clearly in her conduct, I cannot help but wonder how she would manage the two challenging portfolios of her life – motherhood and job – especially when her daughter was younger. I ask and smilingly says, “It was challenging of course but one has to be organised to manage both fronts well because at the end of the day everyone has 24 hours but a mother’s journey is more challenging because I personally feel – mother is the giver. You have to be organised, you have to create systems and you need to make sure those systems work. Also, you have to be more macro in your approach and look at the long term. Support of the family that understands the importance of your presence in office is the most crucial aspect.”
Holidays and small breaks have been a way of life through not just her growing up years but also when her daughter was younger. “Manali is an all-time favourite destination and I have to go to Rajasthan once a year for sure! Goa also has great charm. However, every year, I do try to do a place that I haven’t been to before. This year, there are many destinations on the list – I haven’t been to Uttarakhand in a while and I am looking for a place close to the mountains. I definitely want to see the Araku Caves, Bikaner in Rajasthan and want to visit Coorg again – see places I haven’t been to before. Kazhiranga, Gir, Chhattisgarh… the list is endless,” she concludes with a smile.
It is not every day that you see a beautiful and dynamic lady bureaucrat discuss the journey of her life with you and it was my true honour to be a part of hers. This one is definitely one of those interviews that will be etched in my memory for long and with her at the helm of things, the travel industry has suddenly become a more charming place to be a part of.