As a writer, interviewing people from different walks of life is a part and parcel of one’s assignment; however, as interesting as it can be, it is also challenging – different people, different approaches. One such ‘assignment’ led me to ‘interview’ Vagish Jha – a gentleman, whom I had met fleetingly at previous occasions too. It was not just the gift of the gab that he was endowed with, but as little as I felt he spoke, he just, by far always, managed to ‘communicate more in less’ – a boon in today’s world, where almost everyone wants to be heard, not matter what it takes. So, when the day was set for a ‘tete-e-tete’, I was keenly looking forward.
Interviews can be tricky businesses, as they could go any way. The trick is to be a good listener, while ‘gauging’ the interviewee. Of course, background information about the interviewee always helps, but in this case, I decided to go with an open mind, literally speaking. After an exchange of pleasantries, I quipped: “So, tell me a bit about your journey?” It was an indefinitive question, as I wanted the flow of words to pour effortlessly, and they did. “I hope you don’t mind if I just speak freely…let my thoughts flow…” “Not at all,” I replied. Vagishji, as he is respectfully and fondly known as, holds a PhD in ancient Indian history, one of my favourite subjects. His journey, so to say, has always had the education element in abundance, whether it was learning or teaching. In fact, it was clear from his demeanour, how comfortably he could switch between thoughts, unfocussing on one, and focussing on another. Since a number of years, he holds a responsible position at IL&FS Education and Technology Services, where his connect with ‘education’ continues in the form of the K-Yan or the knowledge vehicle.
As I had never been a person, who had positioned a product in front of a prospective client, I was curious to know about his ‘mantra’. “You see,” he began, his eyes focussed on a distant point, in concentration, and his mind formulating a concise answer; and continued: “Positioning a product is not about what I see in the product, but what the customer looks for in it; if I understand the latter, I can position the product better, enhancing my chances of securing the business; and it is not just a business, mind you; it is the beginning of a relationship. Every ‘pitch’ is rediscovering the K-Yan time and again; it is not just a multipurpose device; it is years of hard work to develop a solution that enriches the learning-teaching experience, anywhere…do you know that it can transform any surface, and I mean any surface, into an interactive board…” The glitter in his eyes is back, as he fondly talks about the device, beg your pardon, solution that is now an integral part of his journey, or vice versa.
Continuing his explanation, he adds: “A tread mill can be used as a fitness equipment by a convinced and committed user, but may also be used as an ordinary structure to dry clothes on…the consumer always adds his thought and touch to the product…this is important to understand…who the consumer is? What does she/he need? And so on…” He goes on to recollect some instances, to highlight his viewpoint: “Once, I recall, I was presenting the K-Yan to a group of teachers. I started with the question of which attributes, according to the teacher, make a ‘good’
student. The group opened up with a list of answers. The ice was broken. The next step was for me to highlight the features of the solution through plain discovery by the audience, and not by my narration. So, instead of saying the solution (here, the K-Yan) can recreate a traditional classroom, with an interactive board offering a range of digital advantages, or incorporates a high end computer to access different type of content or software, and so on, I can allow the audience to discover for themselves; of course, I have to be the ‘guide’, guiding the course the audience is embarking on…terms make for an impressive read, but what they, actually, mean should be something the target audience discovers, on its own…”
Indeed, it made sense to me. As a teacher, I would follow the same path: guide the audience to derive the conclusion, rather than imposing the conclusion on the audience. It is, simply, more convincing that way. “Teachers have to use the solution, and they are not CTMs.” What, pray, are CTMs? I ask Vagishji. “Oh, it means, in my jargon, Content Teller Machines.” We both laughed. Indigenous, I thought. He continues to explain about his experiences – in his journey, in life per se, and his ‘partner in crime’ – the K-Yan, which he passionately talks about. This passion is what makes all the difference – be it life, be it work, be it anything.
At the end of the interview, which I was reluctant to conclude, I asked him about the meaning of his name. Pat came the reply: “God of speech.” I smiled to myself. Who ever said that for effective communication one needs to just have the gift of the gab. I beg to differ. It is not just the gift of the gab, but the gift of using it with intonation, the gift of creating and narrating a story from every instance and from each person one meets in life, the gift of communicating more in less…