We here at Neue believe that every person out there has a story to tell.

This week, we’ll find out What’s Neue with His Excellency Ajaneesh Kumar, the High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam. He was nominated by one of our past #Neue9to5 interviewees, Hitesh R. Bhawnani, the Managing Director of YMRM Group.

The Neue team recently sat down with His Excellency for a #Neue9to5 interview at Avenue 41 in Kiarong.

Part 1 Of #Neue9to5 Interview: First 9 Questions

1. What’s your most fond memory in Brunei thus far?

When we speak about Brunei, you know there are so many memories in such a short time.

But something which really is fascinating about this beautiful country is the celebration of Hari Raya.

Eid is celebrated in India. Please remember that we have the second highest population of Muslims in India.

But there it is a 2-day, 3-day function.

The way it is done in Brunei is amazing.

Starting with the way His Majesty attends to the people.

He’s so kind to host all of us and then goes on for the next 3, 4 days to attend to nearly every conceivable person who’s in this country.


2. Tell us about India.

So India is a subcontinent in itself.

You have the mighty Himalayas in the North, the pristine beaches in the South and on both the coasts, then you have the Thar desert on the Western side and the plains in the East.

It’s an ancient civilisation of more than 5,000 years.


3. What’s something people should appreciate more in today’s world?

A subject which is very close to my heart.

I think in all these modernisation and technology shaping our heart and mind … our daily lives,

I think somewhere down the line we are forgetting humanity.

We are forgetting nature.

We are forgetting the word called ‘simplicity’.


4. Diplomacy. Thoughts?

You must have realised that when we had this pandemic COVID … the current pandemic

supplies chains – something being produced in one country not reaching the second country affecting a third country.

So in this globalised world, the role of diplomacy becomes still more important.

There has to be a personal interface between societies and governments.


5. What did you want to grow up to be when you were just a kid?

Very interesting question. You see, when I was growing up, I was in a boarding school in the Himalayas, at a place called Darjeeling – the famous tea.

And somehow there was an aviation base nearby.

We got to see many pilots.

So my ideal in life was to become a pilot. And that to pilot of a fighter plane.

Somehow it has not materialised and the professions have changed.


6. Tell us about a memorable moment in your life.

There have been many memorable moments. But one of the recent ones was in April 2016 when a group of friends who we all had passed out from the same school, which I was talking about – Goethals Memorial School.

We passed out in 1984 and thereafter, many of us had visited again. At least, I did not.

So we decided to go back and check the school and we stayed there for four days.

Starting from looking at the construction, the building, how things have changed, the co-curriculum, talking to the young kids, boarding school … it was like rediscovering oneself.


7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice is there for all of us to read and understand.

We have Mahatma Gandhi and he has a talisman.

He says that whenever you are in doubt that the Almighty has been very unkind to you, open the closest window which you have and look down.

Try to see a person who in your value system has got less than you and then thank Him for giving you much more than him.


8. COVID-19 changed the world. How did Brunei handle it?

The word is felicitations for Brunei. To start with, Brunei I think with … were very proactive.

Every measure which Brunei took complemented its efforts to negate the spread and also to contain it.

And the way they redressed the mechanism for treating people … fantastic!

So I would say under the directions of His Majesty, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, doctors, nurses, technicians I call them “COVID Warriors”.

But the way the people, the government and the public in general handled the situation, a job very well done!


#9. What would you like to say to our Neue readers?

I feel a pinch in my heart when I see the place (Brunei’s hiking spots littered) with plastic bottles (and) cans.

And I would like to take this platform and appeal to all my good friends (to) preserve this gold mine of yours.

Let’s make a cumulative effort to add value to it and not destroy what we cannot create.


Part 2 Of #Neue9to5 Interview: Last 5 Questions

1. Tell us something surprising about yourself.

You’ll be surprised that I love gardening.

In my India House, I have some land and I think I grow enough vegetables to feed myself.

I like planting trees. I like planting flowers. You know that kind of stuff.

But as and when I find time, I go to my little garden and spend some time there.


2. What’s your favourite place for Indian food in Brunei?

Somehow I think there are many good restaurants. But I think amongst them I will pick Riwaz at Radisson. They have a culinary speciality, which is very authentic Indian.


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3. Would you rather give up gym or swimming?

That’s a difficult choice to make that I have to put a proviso. But I think I will give up swimming.


#4. What’s your favourite hiking spot in Brunei?

As I stated earlier, Brunei is blessed with a lot of these spots. You have such pristine forest area. But the one that starts at Subok, which I call the Sipatir trail, starting from forest Sipatir you go all the way until the TV antenna in Kota Batu and you come down to the road.

And you know, this stretch from Subok – starting at Subok, Sipatir trail until (the) TV antenna – is 6 kilometres.

(This stretch) has got 5 ups and downs so you are doing both aerobic and anaerobic.


5. “Age is just a number.” Thoughts?

Age is just a number. You should never look at that number.

The more important (thing) is how you believe in yourself. Happiness and making your life simple will take you all along.

It doesn’t matter where you stand. Just be true to yourself. Have a smile on your face. Life goes on very smoothly.

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