Flying the Indian flag during Independence Day celebrations.
Mohammad Yusuf, Feature Writer
Human resources professional Neha Soni, who works for a Tier 1 strategy consulting firm, has lived with a commitment to performing and contributing to cultural events since childhood.
An expert in Indian folk dances and Kathak, she is also a writer; this didn’t stop at writing thoughts, but also led her to write song lyrics.
A speaker, her corporate career has given her the opportunity to speak at professional forums – one of the most recent was when she held the microphone during Independence Day celebrations at the Consulate General of India to Dubai.
She became a trainer in written communication and a podcaster and participated in many women’s conferences.
She turns the questions posed by Gulf Today into answers
What made you take an interest in culture?
Having a Rajasthani background, my family and roots have been very active with the culture: the compulsion to give back to society has been with us for generations.
Thanks to my parents, my brother and I were raised in an environment where studies, cultural activities and philanthropy were equally important.
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The message was loud and clear: stay close to your roots, your culture and your society, because they do a lot to shape you. Therefore, you must return it in all forms and ways.
What draws you to Indian folk and kathak — the latter being a particularly strenuous dance form?
Rajasthani folk dances such as Ghoomar and Kalbeliya were incorporated into my upbringing from childhood.
I’ve been honing the stage for over 15 years, performing various forms of Indian folk, and enjoyed every bit of it! The craze for Kathak came from attending concerts or cultural evenings with parents and yes, Bollywood also played a major role (wink). While I missed golden opportunities to learn this art form in my youth, I became even more nervous about picking it up later. But all credit goes to my guru in Dubai who helped me dive into it. I’m still an amateur striving to keep polishing myself.
As a writer, what are your subjects?
There are two forms that I admire – shayari or poetry and professional topics such as articles on corporate events and articles on diversity and inclusion.
You are also a songwriter. Give us some lyrics you wrote. I prefer to remain anonymous here. But here are some lines I wrote in Hindi for India’s 76th Independence Day celebrations:
Vividhta mein ekta darshata hai ye vatan
Unnati ka khaata hai ye vatan
Vibhinn sanskriti ko apnata hai ye vatan
Ullas Poorvak 75 saal ki uplabhdiyan gata hai ye vatan!
(This land displays unity in diversity
It’s the treasure of progress
It embraces many cultures
He sings the joyful achievements of 75 years!)
As a speaker, besides the subject of HR, what topics do you speak about?
Diversity and Inclusion; empowerment of women; image and communication consulting.
How do you fulfill your role as a communication trainer?
Although I’m playing this role alongside my main job, it’s one of the most satisfying gigs I’ve played.
In the corporate world, especially in the UAE, we have colleagues of different nationalities who have different styles of understanding messages and speaking in different tones.
It becomes even more important to be clean, precise and professional, to be able to convey your message appropriately.
You have spoken at women’s conferences. What is your message for women on Emirates Women’s Day, which falls on August 28?
Today’s world has understood that to be able to achieve the prosperity and development agenda, women and girls must be at the heart of its action.
There are many initiatives funded by our honorable leaders to advance women’s empowerment and unleash their hidden potential. Women excel in everything – you name it, and they’ve proven that nothing is impossible.
With such power comes great responsibility. It’s time for every successful woman to stay connected to the real world challenges facing the community of women at large and find ways to support their upliftment and growth by creating greater awareness, strengthening their capabilities and preparing them for the future.
You have also participated in podcasts. What’s the difference between talking about a scene and podcasting?
The podcast is a wonderful experience; however, it requires good preparation as it is real-time and spontaneous and listeners have to relate to the speakers to stay hooked to a single audio track and would like to get something meaningful out of it. The voice modulation, tone and beat lines are really essential to make it more interesting. A similar type of preparation is also needed on stage, but in-person presence with gestures and facial expressions can add more magnetism to content and tone.
You held the audience spellbound with your masterful stewardship of the program during India’s Independence Day celebrations at the Consulate General of India in Dubai. What goes into making a good host?
Thank you very much for your kind words. Although I should be passionate about my topics, to prepare the content it is also good to aim to be humble and accessible to the public.
I try to meet the performers and program coordinators well in advance to understand the flow of the event and be able to build a good story.