An IAS Officer Who is also an Acclaimed Artist
- Pallavi Priya
- Published on 1 Sep 2020, 7:51 pm IST
- 10 minutes read
She has held some of the top positions in the Government, and her art exhibitions have thrilled people in India and abroad. Senior IAS officer Kiran Soni Gupta believes in following her profession and passion with sustained determination.
- Ms. Gupta creating magic on canvas
To be an IAS officer means being committed and dedicated to professional duties for 24 hours every day. Most of the times and for most officers, their personal interests and passions take a back-seat. But then, exceptions do occur, such as Kiran Soni Gupta. The 1985 batch officer of Rajasthan cadre is handling the responsibilities of IAS officer and at the same time following her passion for art like a pro.
The officer who has recently retired from the position of Director General of Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur has exhibited her art work in several galleries, at both India and abroad. Some of her special works including “Pooja Times” and “NREGA” were exhibited at Louvre, Paris for three years, in 2012, 2013 and 2017, and gained her international recognition and applause. Ms Kiran is no run-of-the-mills civil servant.
Speaking with Indian Masterminds about her prolific journey, both as an IAS officer and as an artist, Ms. Gupta said, “It has been a wonderful and enriching journey. I find myself blessed that I got an opportunity to serve the country as an IAS and also express myself with my art. I learnt a lot, and still continuing to do so.”
Ms. Gupta who is is also a writer and sculptor believes that it’s easy to say no to any situation whether it is work or life. However, when an individual learns to take out the positivity from a situation and starts making way for the desired outcomes, nothing is too farfetched. This is the attitude which has helped Kiran to nourish herself as an artist, and become one of the most successful IAS officers of the country.
How It All Started
When asked about the time she thought about becoming an IAS officer and continuing her passion side by side, Ms Gupta went back in nostalgia. She was in class 5, she recalled, and was participating in the annual school function. The Divisional Commissioner and his wife were invited as the chief guest of the program and she was selected to receive awards from him. At that time she certainly didn’t had any idea about what is job of a DC. She asked her father who explained about the profile of the officer, what is his power and how a Collector or Commissioner functions. She was so impressed with him that she decided to pursue this as her career.
She says, “My father has a major role to play to make this happen. After knowing about it, he became very excited and would encourage me all the time. Whenever he used to travel he would bring books for me. I have five elder sister and they all are very talented. We used to have debates and discussions together. This helped me nurturing my dream of becoming an IAS officer. I completed my MSc in Sociology and went for PhD, because getting a chance in public administration is always a dicey game and one can never be sure. While pursuing Phd, I gave my first UPSC test and was selected for IRS. In the next attempt, I cleared the IAS by securing 26th rank.”
After getting into administration, her life become very busy. There was a cadre change policy and she was posted in Kerala. That, pointed out Ms Gupta, was a life altering moment for her. She got an opportunity to interact and understand a different culture.
“In the beginning,’’ pointed out Ms Gupta, it was hard for me to adjust, but soon I realised that this is was an opportunity handed over to me, to explore myself as a person. I started learning Malayalam and become very fluent in it. It was fun and helped me to take interest in the people’s culture as also understand them. I have always believed that blending into a new culture helps you broaden your perspective. That was a great time and the experience is still helping me in my service. However, at that time I was single and used to get lonely.’’
It was perhaps this recurring loneliness in Kerala which got her connected to an earlier passion of hers: art. One day, she bought material for her artwork and got on with it. Recalling an incident of that time, Ms Gupta said, “That was my first time in Kerala. I didn’t have much idea about the place so I asked my house help to bring me materials for paintings. I think she could not understand properly so she brought something else. Then I went to a shop and it was like a hungry person has given food after many days. I wanted to buy everything.” Even the shopkeeper was taken aback by the rush of her enthusiasm.
Ms Gupta had started doing paintings from her childhood. She says, “One of my elder sisters used to do oil paintings. Once she was out of the house, I took up her stuff, create a painting and then hide it. I didn’t want her to know that I used her material. But one day, she found out. Instead of scolding me, she asked to me show her my paintings. When she saw my painting, of a bride plucking flower, she was very impressed with me. She encouraged me to continue painting. Since then, I have not looked back. While posted in Kerala, there came a time when my whole house was filled with my art work.’’
Ms Gupta has organised more than 37 solo shows and 75 group exhibitions. She also organised 1st International Art Festival in Jaipur in March 2013, in which 130 artists participated. In the second edition of the festival, 240 participants from 24 countries came. However, organising her own exhibition was not easy. She said, “In the beginning, I was too attached with my paintings. I always treated them it like my personal thing. While I was in Jaipur, a colleague of mine suggested that I should organise an exhibition. I was not sure about it but then with his help we booked an Art Gallery in Mumbai. The exhibition was very successful and was well covered. After that I started getting calls from Delhi and many other Art Institutions to showcase my work. This was the time when I realised that real happiness is in sharing your work with others.”
In the career of more than three decades, Kiran Soni held many important positions in Rajasthan, Kerala and the Government of India. She served as the Divisional Commissioner in Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ajmer and Bharatpur and was very successful in all her stints. She was also the State Commissioner of Guides in Rajasthan. She was the first female officer to be appointed as the collector of the border district of Sri Ganganagar. In Government of India, she held many crucial positions like the Textile Commissioner, Mumbai, Financial Adviser to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Skill Development and Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. She was also selected as the leader of the Youth Delegation (consisting of 200 delegates) to China in 2019 and Rio Olympics in 2016.
Talking about her experience in administration, Ms Gupta said,“ In these years I have learnt that if your empathetic to people, you can help them. If you appeal to their better sense, they will also respond. There were many instances when a person would come seeking help, and if I could not do anything in my official capacity, I would request the locals and they would come forward. I tried this strategy on numerous occasions. I remember a girl named Genis Joseph came to me for help in Jodhpur. Her father was a retired clerk and she wanted to go to New Zealand to participate in a Power lifting competition. I checked in sports federation but there were no funds. I tried getting help from local people. I met a person who used to distribute shoes and food to children. After I spoke with him, he became ready to bear all her expense. Genis went to New Zealand and came back with five gold and one bronze medals. It was a small effort but we were able to bring smile on her face.”
Ms Gupta is a woman of many talents and academic achievements. She was selected as a Mason Fellow for a Master’s in Public Administration, by the Harvard University. She is also a graduate of Maxwell, Syracuse University New York and has certificate courses in Health Management, Advanced Women’s Studies, Environmental Decision Making, and Conflict Resolution. She also won the J L Galbraith Fellowship and Ray Vernon Fellowship at Harvard Kennedy School. Her articles get published in leading newspapers.
Ms Gupta has also organised many charity shows and auctions to help needy children. This journey started in while she was in Harvard. She says, art is of no use of it can help for a social cause. The whole purpose of an artist is to enlighten themselves and society. Ms Gupta started with oil painting but now she enjoys water colors and calligraphy also. She has created many abstract art showcasing the real world and society. “Shelter” and Pooja times are some her own favourite works. Talking about the inspiration She said, “I spent a lot of time in Kerala and there I got a chance to explore and understand the work of Raja Ravi Verma. That helped understand that an art can change the world. I have always liked to observe others’ works and was inspired by many national and international artists. Nand Lal Bose and Thakur Singh are some of them.”
Adds Ms Gupta: “It’s clear that if a woman wants to pursue her career, follow her passion and at the same time nourish her family, then she has to work really hard. It requires great amount of determination and work to establish yourself. I am lucky that I am married to a colleague of mine who has supported me in every way. He himself is a passionate photographer and always encourages me to pursue my passion. Even my children are inclined towards art. It is always great to share experiences with them and discuss about it. It won’t be possible for me if my family didn’t back me up.”
Kiran was honoured with the National Award for her painting ‘Famine’. She feels that life of woman has always inspired her work. She has also been honored with ‘Indian Iconic Women’s Award 2019, ‘Literary Excellence Award’ at 4th Asiad Lit Fest, National Gaurav Award 2017 and Fakhre-e-Hind Award 2018, ‘Swasti Samman 2013′, International Vaish Sammelan Award 2013′, “Unnat Bharat Sewashri Damini Award 2013’, Rajasthan Gaurav Award 2013 ” Nari Pratibha Samman “2012,” ‘Kala Samridhi Award’ in 2010, ‘Artist of the Year 2009’, ‘Special Achiever Award 2009’ and ‘Kala Shiromani Award’ 2008. She was also decorated with the ‘Global Women Achiever’s Award’ in 2019.
Ms Gupta, what an amazing mix of administration and art she has produced!
END OF THE ARTICLE