Interview: Omi Gurung

Oh Eco friendly nature ke rakhshak , the song blared out loud from my music system as I clicked on the link that Sanjeeta had sent to me and should I call it a providence, but it led to me an initiative ‘Oh My India-‘ about eco friendly lifestyle. I was intrigued and clicked some more which led me on to Green Gangtok which said about itself as Eco fashion for the eco conscious. The common thread to both was the owner Omi Gurung. What was the triangle all about?

Omi Gurung from Sikkim, now based in Bangalore , an achiever throughout , is an activist, a writer and editor, an entrepreneur and also a successful fashion designer to boot. At the age of 22, he was the editor for Dateline Bangalore and later worked as a fashion editor for a youth magazine in Bangalore. He has also been featured in leading newspapers in India like The Hindu,DNA, Vijay Times, TOI,Bangalore Mirror, Talk Sikkim, The New Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Deccan Chronicle, Midday, Prajawani, Usha Kiran, Vijaya Next, Udayavani,Sikkim Mail and many more.At the age of 25 he has proved to the world his commitment to the environment and also has dared to be different with Oh My India and Green Gangtok -an eco boutique, a first of its kind in Sikkim. We had the opportunity to have him as our guest and enjoy a short chit chat with him, here in Fried Eye.

Q1/ Omi Gurung (Sandeep Gurung) ,fashion designer, writer, editor, entrepreneur, visionary: a topper in school and college, award winning designs, editor at the young age of 22, an activist and finally an entrepreneur. all at the young, very young age of 25 years. Who or what has shaped/inspired Omi Gurung to be what he is today ?

I draw my inspiration from the surrounding, it could be anything living or non-living entity. A keen observer and a fast learner I have learned it hard way from the university of life. It was my determination and aspiration to do and be something in life that gave an identity to my name. It would be unfair if I do not mention my parents and teachers, they have played a vital role during my growing years.

Q2/ Opting for a career as a Fashion Designer (which is still considered unconventional in Indian society), was it difficult for you to pursue it? Did you have to face any hardships or objections?

Oh yes, many; where do I begin my story with (lol). Fashion Designing was an alien culture 10 years back and for a bright student to pursue it as a career did raise eyebrows. No one in my family was happy of my decision but as time passed, achievements did help break the silence. Reading about “ME” on national dailies made them feel happy and proud too. However, I was focused and worked hard to accomplish my dreams.

Q3/At the age of 22 you turned into an Editor and writer? How did writing and magazines happen?

Well, designing and writing are two things close to my heart since childhood. When some one asked what do you want to be when you grow up? My answer was always Fashion designer cum writer. I still remember many laughed and said next to impossible for a little boy from hills to make it big. But I knew, if Bandana Tiwari (Fashion features director, Vogue India) could make it, why not me? She too was fom a small state Sikkim. So when I came to Bangalore, I also came along with my dreams. While I was in my fashion college, I made it a point to take out time for writing too and in a year I was writing for several online portals like Burrp and Desiblitz. By the year I graduated, my style tips was published by several publications in Bangalore. Later after few years I enrolled for PG Diploma in Jornalism from Sri Sri Centre for Media Studies and was chosen as editor for the inhouse lab journal. I never came second, first became my default rank in SSCMS. Bangalore had accepted me and so did I, it became my home. I was in love with the place and people there, met several people from all walks of life and explored the city as a localite. I could feel the pulse of the city and knew what was happening. As I graduated from SSCMS, I was offered a post of fashion editor. It was because of my networking skills and past writing experiences, I was the chosen one.

Q4/Which one do you consider yourself more? A writer or a fashion designer

I consider myself as an artist as I design, write and advocate.

Q5/ OMI and Green Gangtok, your pet projects, are both committed to a green lifestyle. Could you please share with us a little bit about them? Their objectives and aims, their functions,. How different are they from each other?

Oh My India (OMI) is not an NGO, it is an initiative that catalysis change in the lifestyle of people in India by creating awareness to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle domestic waste and helping them to get started. We believe that by following 3R concept and going green, we can do our bit to protect the environment and is a great way to reduce environmental footprint as well.

At OMI, we advocate about green living habits i.e. we CARE, we SHARE, we INSPIRE. We care for our mother earth, so we share ideas and information on green lifestyle via social networking sites and in the process, we inspire others to be the change. We also conduct workshop, where we tell you how you can use your household waste to make fashionable stuff and educate people on sustainable fashion and green lifestyle in India. OMI also make upcycled products.

Oh My India was started as a social group on Facebook on 10 May, 2010 . In a short span of time Oh My India has inspired many and evolved to be the change.

Green Gangtok is an eco friendly fashion boutique, first of its kind in Sikkim. The boutique houses an array of exciting fashionable green choices in apparels, accessories and aretefacts.The products are natural, upcycled and as well as sustainable and fair. Green Gangtok highlight designers who are pushing the envelope in eco-friendly design without compromising their vision and aesthetic. The boutique is also committed to the promotion of hand skills, self-expression and craftsmanship, combining a sense of social purpose and the spirit of collective creativity.

Q- How did you come upon or what made you take up environmental issues as your projects or causes?

I have been brought up in hills in a lush green environment with panoramic view of breath taking Kanchendzonga and I have always been used to a green lifestyle since childhood. So green living was always a part of my life. When I came to Bangalore, ten years back it was green (literally) but over past few years it has turned grey, so I felt it is high time we must do something before it turns black. And OMI was a way out , a green initiative to create awareness. Today OMI has traveled beyond Bangalore, changing lives for betterment and inspiring many.

Q6/ What has been the response to OMI and Green Gangtok from the people in general?

It has been a very rewarding experience. It is nice to receive emails and phone calls from people world wide and sometimes celebrities too expressing their love and interest for OMI.

Q7/ Did you face any setbacks while starting up Green Gangtok? What has been the experience like till date?

Green Gangtok is a new venture and hardly six months old. It is too early to comment on it but yes so far it has been a wonderful experience. I get to learn a lot from the customers feedback. It is a new concept to them. Many do not know what is eco-friendly boutique? So, a venture like Green Gangtok also educates and create awareness about green lifestyle.

Q8/ At present Green Gangtok is in Sikkim while you are based in Bangalore. So how do you manage it? Any plans of expanding the chain of boutiques?

Yes, it is tough but not impossible. I travel often to and fro too. Dad takes care of Green Gangtok sometimes or else my small brother is always there to look after. Thanks to facebook, makes my life easier, 90% of communication and transaction happens online, so I take care of it.

Q9/ Any more future projects from OMI and Green Gangtok?

Yes, we do have several interesting plans for OMI. We want more youth to be a part of the green initiative from different parts of India. So, we have plans to travel and conduct sustainable workshops in different places. We will also be frequently updating our weblog www.ohmyindia.co.nr with news and information on green lifestyle. It will also be a great learning source of DIY ideas where people can learn the craft of making fashionable stuffs out of household waste.

As far as Green Gangtok is concerned we are planning to open up e-store, so that people from North East can buy green products staying at home with just a click.

Q10,/ Coming back to writing, you have done a brilliant job for Midday ( from a sting operation to articles on serious issues). please tell us a little about your experience as a writer. Any incident, personality or story that you covered that left quite an impression on your mind?

Yes, I was suppose to do an interview with Laxmi Narayan Tripathi (Hijra Guru). We had a few telephonic conversation but unfortunately I could not do the interview as I left the publication. However, it was so nice to discover how humble and polite she was. Sometimes, it just takes few minutes to make you understand many things in life and my short conversations with her was one. In future I would love to do an interview with her and ask many unanswered questions.

Q12/ Multitasking has been very much a part of your life as you play multiple roles through out the day- Designer, writer , entrepreneur, activist? How do you slip on and off from each so easily ?

If you do things you love and passionate about, it comes naturally to you. It has become a part of my life. I take care of my work, cook , do all the household chores, meet up with friends, coffee and conversation, call my parents and do many other things. It just flows, I think you can’t plan it, you just do it when you feel like and this is one of the perk when you work for yourself.

Q13/please share with us your secret of effective time management.

Shh…come closer, secret is there is no secret to effective time management. Each individual has different lifestyle, so there is no formula to it. You have to build your own way out . All I can say is do things you want and don’t waste your time doing things you don’t want to.

Q14/Any message to our readers?

Life is beautiful! If you do not agree , look in the mirror and ask why? Listen to what the person in the mirror has to say. Now close your eyes and ask thyself why did that person in the mirror said life is not beautiful and try to listen to your heart. There will be an answer to your question.

Q15 / And finally , we would like to thank you for your precious time, but before taking leave could you please share a few fashion/lifestyle tips with us keeping the christmas season and winters in mind.

This festive season, try to make handmade gifts for your loved ones but take extra care to make it special. If time is the problem there are many online stores where you can get up-cycled gifts. Use ecofriendly products to decorate your house and do not go OTT when it comes to decor. For example you can use bees wax candle for a change instead of regular parrafin wax.

Layering is in when it comes to fashion for both sexes. Accessories like beret, muffler and scarves are back in use. Try to go for checks and plaids they have made a come back.

We welcome your comments at letters@friedeye.com

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