Apoorva in Amsterdam

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Each year, in mid-August

Each year

In mid-August

I think about how

I should have held on

Just a little longer 

To those beautiful long days

In May and June 

I should have walked more 

In the Amstel Park 

Felt the late evening sun 

On my face 

Grabbed more beers 

In the Heinekenplein 

Lounged around a bit more

At the Sarphatipark 

How will I endure

I am already thinking

The cold gusts in October

I will meet on my way back from work

The three annual throat infections 

Which will each take 

Two weeks to heal

When it will be pitch dark at 4pm 

And the pesky drizzle won’t stop 

I think I know

What I will do this time 

I will speak my mind 

Not pretend to be someone else

I will stay warm 

Through appropriate clothing

And by allowing

People to be warm towards me

I will over-celebrate Amrita’s birthday

(I hope she agrees to this!)

Watch Arsenal’s mid-week games (!!!)

And freely use expletives 

Make Yash laugh

And laugh a little

Myself

Friend at Work

Do you have a friend at work?

Not so long back I read somewhere that our engagement at work is strongly affected by whether we have someone at our workplace we can call a friend. It seems having just one friend could be adequate to keep us engaged. So of course I was tempted to think about whether this was true in my case. I took a trip down memory lane and did a check.

I started my career at Deutsche Bank. There I was too much of a rookie to get any love from the haughty relationship managers (the group I belonged to), and too much of an outsider to be included in the operations inner-circle (the colleagues I trained with). I was like a lost puppy. In fact the only friend I was able to make at Deutsche Bank was my boss in Chennai, and that too during my notice period when we finally had some open conversations with each other. So what was my engagement like at the bank? Well, I left within less than a year of joining.

Next was Hewitt – easily the most enjoyable part of my career. I had SO much fun there! Working there was about having this incessant quest for fun and humor. There was banter throughout the day, and serious partying in the evening (on weekdays *and* weekends). I had so many friends at work. Some closer than others, for sure, but dear friends all of them. We went out a lot, Amrita and I were invited to their homes, and we hosted some parties as well. It was an amazing time! It was also a period where I learnt a lot about the work I’ve since done in my career. I was really engaged!

ABN AMRO Dubai was lovely too. Within the HR team, it was a trusting and caring environment. My boss and my HR colleagues picked up on my weakness for food early on, and used it effectively to humor me as well as indulge me! The only time I’ve cried at work was here, and I had the license to do it. I count individuals from that team among dear friends.

ABN AMRO in Amsterdam – this I see in two parts. Before the bank’s break-up, we were like a happy family. We’d hang out together, go out a lot, and I also had a chance to visit homes of several colleagues (not standard here in The Netherlands). Still get invited by some friends I know from that time, and can still have honest conversations with them. The part after the bank’s break-up was more sedate. It was like we were mourning something. Wait, was that the reason I left the bank?

HEINEKEN. This is interesting. I had people I could have a laugh with, and a couple of generous confidantes who’d take me out for Lunch every now and then, but I can’t say I had a BFF. I think I was older and more cynical, and probably didn’t make the effort. Also this was a phase in which I was not very communicative so I think people didn’t really know what to do with me. The funny thing is that I am *now* (after having left the organization) friends with many lovely people I worked with at HEINEKEN. Some still work there while some have quit.

There are many friendly people I work with at my current workplace but I don’t have a friend at work yet. I might be close – but I know I have to make the effort. The way we work means that we don’t get to interact with the same people everyday. This is a problem, but also a blessing in a way because your engagement is probably not a function of that one friend. I find myself really engaged any way!

What have your experiences been like in this respect? I’d be curious to hear from you.

A collage from college 

So watching some old Hindi songs on YouTube, I started wondering about what it would have been like if some of the leading ladies of 60s-70s Bollywood were in College around the time I was at Stephen’s.

Waheeda Rahman would be this elusive, introverted being who’d only hang out with this one friend she went to school with. Plus she would probably be in Philosophy so you’d only have one elective lesson with her each week. She would look in your direction once every two months. So your unit of measurement for pretty much every thing would be two months.

Saira Bano would be extroverted and overwhelming. She’d buttonhole you in the main corridor as you’d be heading for the cafe – and tease you about the way you look, the way you speak, the way you walk. Next time you’d take a longer route to avoid her, but she would suddenly emerge from the Chapel and catch you off guard. You’d be scared of her but then she’d be the only woman who would ever talk to you.

Sharmila Tagore. Sigh! Always surrounded by her pals from Welhams (where she would’ve been School Captain) and Doon, there’d be just no way to get to know her. Then one day, via a Mayo friend, you’d get invited for a party she’d be hosting in a South Delhi farmhouse. She wouldn’t speak to you during the party, but the food would make it worth the long trip.

Sadhna would be from another city. She’d attend classes, hang around a lot in the library, and do meaningful extra-curriculars like the Social Service League – so you wouldn’t get to see her much. But one day, in a compulsory Hindi class you’d show up for to kill time, you’d read a Bachchan poem and smile at each other. That would be your only interaction with her for the three years.

रसीदें

कुछ रसीदें मिली हैं
नीले कोट की जेबों में
सोचा
रखूँ संभाल कर
काम आ जाएँ कभी
कहीं पता नोट करने के
फिर ध्यान आया
अब स्मार्टफोन्स में
सब नोट हो जाता है
और वैसे भी आजकल
अपने घर का पता
कौन बताता है.

At the château

What I’ve learnt from life I’m applying at the château
Loose ends of my brain I’m tying at the château

A forest simmers on low heat, an iceberg freezes and unfreezes
A slow death my metaphor is dying at the château

Did I cook up my data? Did I overstate what I heard?
Thankfully no rumours of people lying at the château

We heard a plea for empathy, there was a call to humanity
Not everything is landing, but they’re trying at the château

I did the story well and nailed my conclusion
But questions on correlation had me crying at the château

They looked at your mind-map, and admired your thought-bubble
A lot’s in there – there’s no denying – at the château

This is primary research and it’s grounded in theory
Fads and fluff – nobody’s buying at the château

They arrived well prepared, set to strut their stuff Apoorva
But on warm eye-contact from friends, they’re relying at the château

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.