Apoorva in Amsterdam

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All good

He had been up since 11 am but could only leave the house at about 5. It was still very hot outside but at least the sun was less vicious.

Hedges lining the manicured Mayo campus were burning in the summer heat. The Cricket field looked lifeless, and Bikaner Pavilion desolate. All the glorious buildings looked sadly under-appreciated during the school summer holidays.

He entered Gibson Pool from the back – where the massive filter was. It was uncool to use the main entrance at the front. Many staff children were already there. Laughing. Chasing each other. Screaming challenges.

He was never short of witty words when he was with the boys, and he was never able to say anything when there were girls around. Today was no different. He couldn’t even look at them in the eye. Like he’d be charged with assault if he did!

After swimming, he walked with a friend to Praveen Fast Food Corner just outside the campus. They had a Dosa each, and discussed political alignments among the staff children. Apparently one of the groups was far too arrogant.

It was past 8 by the time he got home. Chitrahaar was on TV, and Sunny Deol was looking surprised at Amrita Singh’s musical abilities. The next song involved Manoj Kumar refusing to let his hand move away from his face.

Dinner time. The Dosa was still sitting tight in the tummy, and nobody in the family could know about it! It was going to be a struggle to finish the mandatory two chapatis before he’d be allowed to eat rice. He somehow managed to do it.

Almost time for the football match. Italia 90 had not been terribly exciting thus far. This game was no different. So he decided to read another P.G. Wodehouse. That guy knew how to write!

He felt hungry again so he made a jam sandwich for himself. No sign of sleep so he picked up his grandfather’s Philips transistor and went to the rooftop. Lying on the cool stone roof of Jodhpur House he looked above. His friends always seemed to know where the constellations were. (Or were they making it up?) He didn’t have any idea. He only saw stars.

As he took the first bite, All India Radio decided to play Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya. And he thought to himself, “Man! This is good.”

Jo Jeeta – 24 years of soothing my soul

I was at the swimming pool this afternoon. As my friends settled into the rhythm of their respective routines, I started going through my Twitter timeline. Diptakirti tweeted that he was at a Mumbai Film Festival event where the cast of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar was gathered for a reunion.

My first reaction was, naturally, of deep envy! Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar is one of my all-time favourite movies. He then tweeted a picture that was used in the movie – a B&W pic of the four kids (where Imran is shown as young Aamir). I had an immediate lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes.

Jo Jeeta was released in the summer of 1992. When I was 15, and living in a world of my own. Day-dreaming, solving quadratic equations that I would come up with myself, and memorising one-liners from PG Wodehouse books. A loner. A very content loner.

Everything about the movie had a profound impact on me. First, I persuaded my Dad to take me to Hira Singh Tailors to get me a violet shirt stitched! (Aamir’s character Sanju wears this while dancing around with his friends in the song Pehla Nasha.) I would wear that over a white round-neck t-shirt and feel all Aamir Khan! While the shirt was eventually retired, the pattern of wearing round-neck t-shirts under my shirt continues till today 🙂

Much before the release of the movie, and long before it became the Valentine’s Day anthem of the nation, I had memorised the song Pehla Nasha note-for-note. Over the years, I had many opportunities to sing it in public settings. The first time was I think in a classroom in Jaipur – to the brightest 15 yo’s in Rajasthan (I have no idea what I was doing there!) who were being prepared for the National Talent Search Exam!

A really fascinating aspect of the movie for me was the interaction between Sanju and Anjali (played by Ayesha Julka). Whenever I saw them together in the movie I was filled with hope, and felt that, if I tried, one day I would be able to have a proper conversation with a girl.

There are so many things about the movie to remember fondly. Pooja Bedi’s Marilyn Monroe scene, the silliness that was Naam Hai Mera Fonseca, Asrani teaching differential calculus (which the kids are trying to sort out with a compass!), the “Merey pyaare Ratan, na jaaney mujhey kya ho gaya hai” scene ….the list is long!

The movie is an emblem of a delightful period in my life. A reminder of simple, beautiful, melodious things.

After summer

The lamps come on as I leave for my room, summer’s over now.
It’s still dark when I start my day, summer’s over now.

The walks in Amstel Park in May, the Cyprus sun that soothed us in June.
My memories – fond and distant, summer’s over now.

There’s still a spring in his step, and she still wears sunscreen.
Please. Nobody tell them summer’s over now.

That friend who couldn’t meet in July. The reunion cancelled in August.
A string of broken promises, summer’s over now.

But now we can order Thai. I can stain my blue sweater in the curry.
And burn my palette with hot Tom Yam. Summer’s over now.

Do you love less in Autumn? Does your soul freeze in winter, ‘Apoorva’?
Comfort your love with warmth in your heart. Summer’s over now.

To my future self …

A connected leader, you will be in future.
A leader who connects, you will be in future.

Your cynicism, you will leave behind. There’s no room for that.
A positive influence on your ‘friends’, you will be in future.

Think. By all means! And reflect all you want.
But a doer, a finisher, you will be in future.

The love of those who love you, you will carry in your heart.
Loving them, with kindness and generosity, you will be in future.

When they ask what purpose drives you forward ‘Apoorva’,
Say “creating beauty and joy”, you will be in future. 

A lyrical journey to Innovation

To succeed in this VUCA world, we need to innovate.
To create value, to earn margins, we need to innovate.

We look around the table, start with how we form teams.
To inclusion and diversity, we pay heed to innovate.

Bureaucracies won’t work, hierarchies won’t do.
A culture open and fair, we breed to innovate.

Yes processes are key, and discipline is a must.
But it’s creativity, in the lead to innovate.

There’s room for individual spark, we derive our own meaning.
And it’s collaboration at the core, we feed to innovate.

It’s about networks, and it’s about trust.
Command and control? We cede to innovate.

What leadership skills do we seek to promote then?
Visioning and coaching, we seed to innovate.

Now emails and slides don’t cut the ice, Apoorva
In the form of a ghazal, we plead to innovate.

Adhooree Baat

मत शुरू करो वह सिलसिला फिर
जिसे छोड़ कर चले जाओगे तुम
महीने बीत जाएंगे तुम्हारा हाल सुने

अचानक भेजोगे व्हाट्सऐप पर कोई फॉरवर्ड
फेसबुक पर हैप्पी बर्थडे लिख जाओगे तुम
साल हो जायंगे तुम्हारा हाल सुने

फिर एयरपोर्ट की व्यस्त चहल-पहल में
देख कर अनदेखा कर जाओगे तुम
एक अरसा हो जाएगा तुम्हारा हाल सुने

वो एक बात अब भी अधूरी है
बिन कहे बह जाओगे तुम
एक उम्र हो जायेगी तुम्हारा हाल सुने

Tumhaare Saath

इस चांदनी सी धूप में
एक-आध घड़ी चुरानी है
तुम्हारे साथ

द पाइप के किसी छोटे से चौक में बैठ
चाय की चुस्की लेनी है
तुम्हारे साथ

सर्फटी पार्क की उस पुरानी बेंच पर
जिस पर गेस्टापो भी बैठे हों कभी शायद
कुछ मीठी बातें करनी हैं
तुम्हारे साथ

इस गर्मी का
(अगर इक्कीस डिग्री को गर्मी कहें)
आख़री वीकेंड है
फिर बारिश और सर्दी निभानी हैं
तुम्हारे साथ

उस अँधेरी ठिठुरन में
क्रिसमस के बेतुके इंतज़ार में
कुछ चीज़ें डिसकस करनी हैं
तुम्हारे साथ

In a train

Memories painted in water colours, in a train.
Flashes come back to me splashed, in a train.

“What’s the point of Marwar Junction? Just makes the journey longer!”
“So that you can have Aloo-Poori, in a train?”

They will sing of the Khwaja, and bring you closer to yourself.
Between Kishangarh and Ajmer, every morning – in a train.

What shall we make of this, and how long shall we endure?
A cop asked me for money near Dhanbad. In a train!

Kalka to Howrah was running late and we missed the party.
Celebrated New Year’s with boiled eggs and tea. In a train.

Papa once stepped off for water at what was only a whistle-stop.
My insecurities still live in Rajasthan. In a train.

That ride from Zurich to Geneva did make me wonder ‘Apoorva’.
How much further can you go from yourself in a train?

Sunday evening

The cafes are all bare on Sunday evening
Awkward silences and a stare on Sunday evening.

You’ll find this odd but all weekend I think
Just how will I fare on Sunday evening?

The smell of gloomy expectation lingers low in the tram
When I step out for fresh air on Sunday evening.

Do they actually dim the lights, make them go pale
My eyes don’t find it fair on Sunday evening.

The world comes at you thick and fast
Warm comforts are rare on Sunday evening.

Emotional eating can easily go out of hand
They ask me to take care on Sunday evening.

They’ve read my message it seems, but haven’t responded yet
I have no emotions to spare on Sunday evening.

Stars slide off my sky tonight,
The moon and I despair on Sunday evening.

I come back to you and breathe your calm
A sweet caress I wear on Sunday evening.

There’s more out there feeling how you feel Apoorva
Would they lay it bare on Sunday evening?

(Edited: April 2017)

Main hee

बचपन की उस तस्वीर में

माँ के साथ किताब पढ़ते

मैं ही था

गर्मी की छुट्टी में

दीवार के साथ क्रिकेट खेलता

मैं ही था

अगस्त १९९४ में अजमेर जंक्षन से

दिल्ली की ट्रेन

मैने ही पकड़ी थी

उस दिन सुबह जो जूते

मेरे पापा ने पॉलिश किये थे

वो मेरे थे

मेल्बर्न के मक्डोनल्ड’स में

नानाजी को निराश कर

बीफ बर्गर मैने ही आजमाया था

कॉलेज की सीढ़ी पर

पेंसिल से जिस पर तुमने लिखा था

वो जीन्स मेरी थीं

जोका में जेटी पर देर रात

जगजीत सिंह की ग़ज़ल

मैने गाई थी

मुम्बई के कामथ रेस्टोरेंट में

रोज़ दो पराठे और झालफ्रेज़ी

मैं ही तो खाता था

दुबई की बॅंक स्ट्रीट पर

दफ़्तर के ट्रॅफिक में

अक्सर मैं फंस जाता था

कल की मीटिंग में क्रोध पर क़ाबू कर

मेच्यूर प्रोफेशनल की भूमिका

मैने ही निभाई थी

र आज

आज जब आईने में देखा

तो खुद से पूछा

क्या ये मैं ही हूँ?