Apoorva in Amsterdam

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एक ग़ज़ल

अंदर की आवाज़ सी रहती है
वो अनोखे अन्दाज़ सी रहती है

ढूँढता रहता हूँ ज़मीन पे उसको
वो किसी फ़राज़ सी रहती है

उसके ख़त खोले नहीं जाते
वो अनखुली दराज़ सी रहती है

कैसा ये गीत है रात गुनगुनाती
वो अनछुए साज़ सी रहती है

सब मनाते रहते हैं उसको
वो सबसे नाराज़ सी रहती है

मुझे कुछ मालूम नहीं ‘अपूर्व’
ये ज़िन्दगी राज़ सी रहती है

(जून २०२०)

मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

छीना है जिन्होंने अमन तेरा
उनमें मैं भी शामिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

हूँ बेशक तेरा गुनहगार
तेरी ख़ुशियों का क़ातिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

थोड़ा सा सफ़िस्टिकेटेड
और बहुत ही जाहिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

ज़रा भी दिमाग़ नहीं है
मैं बस पूरा दिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

ना तेरी दोस्ती
ना प्यार के क़ाबिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

Train to Belgium – a short story

I was on my way to Belgium on a hurriedly-arranged business trip. Everything had to be organized last-minute so I couldn’t get a seat on the Thalys (fast train). I found myself on an Intercity train taking a rather long route due to construction work on the tracks.

At Breda, I was joined by an interesting group. A man of about 40 with his parents and his little son of around 2 years. The toddler was very excited to be in a train and immediately claimed the window seat opposite me. They were off to the Antwerp zoo as part of a group discount ticket from NS (the train company). The little one’s mum was at work – I was informed.

My travel companions were pleased with my broken attempts at speaking Dutch, and seemed to have decided that I was acceptable company despite being from (“pretentious” and “weird”) Amsterdam. The toddler had big, expressive eyes and couldn’t stop smiling at me while making cute but incomprehensible attempts at engaging me in a conversation.

Those who know me well do understand that I tend to get hungry every 45 minutes or so. So it wasn’t long before I extracted from my bag a large triple chocolate cookie – with the diameter of a small pizza and probably containing about 5000 calories.

The little kid was fascinated by the cookie and kept looking at me point blank as I worked my way through it. At some point my instinct to share kicked in and I instinctively asked the father “Can he have a little piece?”

I regretted my words as soon as they left my lips. The atmosphere turned heavy and a nervous silence ensued. The father’s face first showed irritation, and then graduated to absolute horror. Sharing of food among strangers is not at all common in The Netherlands. On top of that, what I’d offered the kid was a sugar bomb (as against, say, a mandarin or a small raisin bun).

Before he could answer I quickly said “Or maybe not – this has so much sugar!”. “Yes, therefore it’s not a good idea”, the father replied. His son looked confused and very distressed.

As the dad and I were negotiating the awkward silence that followed, the child’s grandmother calmly opened the zipper of her travel bag, pulled out a packet of Dora biscuits, and handed the kid a small treat he was familiar with.

The twinkle in the child’s eye was back. Life returned to our little train compartment. The Dad got his heart rate down. The grandfather, once again, started looking into the distance with a sense of satisfaction. The grandmother smiled. All was well with the world again.

I finally exhaled.

Forget me forever

It occurred to me
As I read
Your message on Whatsapp
That I no longer
Depend on your approval
Or admiration
You are deep
In your inebriated meanness
I don’t have to
Drown with you.

Do me a favor
And forget me forever
Don’t be jealous
Or be fake-proud of me
Even if we need
To get to the same place
We don’t have to arrive
At the same time
And I’m absolutely fine
Taking a longer route.

Outline for a music video

I haven’t watched the movie ‘Meri Pyaari Bindu’ so I’m not sure how the song’s visuals (Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin) fit into the movie. However, in my head I’ve been thinking about a late 90’s / early 2000’s – style music video for this song (which could also double-up as a nice, long advertisement for Emirates Airlines) whose outline I’d like to share with you.

Scene 1: Early morning at the New Delhi airport. As they are collecting their bags from the scanner belt at security, a woman in her mid-thirties (played by Katrina Kaif) bumps into a man in his mid-thirties (played by Ranbir Kapoor) It seems they know each other. There’s awkwardness, half-smiles and polite greetings are exchanged.

(A little side-note here. I really struggled with the casting of the main characters. In the end I asked myself: “What would Yash do?”)

Scene 2: They realize they’re on the same flight (to Dubai), and start walking towards the gate. Katrina is wearing expensive preppy clothes. She has a big, black Kate Spade bag with her. Ranbir is wearing a button-down shirt with jeans. He has a “normal” laptop bag with him. It turns out after a bit that Katrina is traveling business class so she hesitantly excuses herself at one point to enter the special lounge. Ranbir takes a deep breath.

Scene 3: Katrina is nicely settled in the lounge – sipping on coffee and looking at some slides on her iPad. Ranbir is enjoying an ice-cream as he types away a few emails on his laptop. This is when the flashback vignettes start – how they met in college, how they worked together on presentations, how they were a good team.

(Side-note: Scene 3 is a gift to all you marketing folks out there seeking product-placement opportunities!)

Scene 4: On the plane now – in their respective seats in the different parts of the aircraft. Flashback to the fun times they had together in the college canteen as food is served on the plane. Katrina is thinking of the time she spilt ketchup on her white lucknowi kurta. Startled, she checks if she’s dropped food on her clothes. She hasn’t!

Scene 5: Out of Dubai airport and in their respective hotels now getting dressed for work. It’s getting intense and the flashbacks are imposing now. The hotel room(s) take them back to their intimate moments during the college offsite. But this is immediately followed by flashes of the misunderstanding, the fight, and the fallout.

Scene 6: Of course they end up in the same meeting! Katrina is in a deep turquoise business outfit while Ranbir is in a dark grey suit and a (surprise surprise!) turquoise silk tie. Katrina and her junior colleague (yes you guessed it – Pakistani actor Fawad Khan) are pitching for business to Ranbir and his boss (I’m thinking Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki) somewhere high up in the Burj Khalifa. There are nervous little mistakes and there is uncomfortable eye-contact. The atmosphere is heavy. And beautiful.

(OK. A little pause here. How do we close this? I’ve come up with two ways to end the video. Let me know which one you like more, OK?)

Final scene (the Bollywood version): Katrina and her firm are hired to do the project. Ranbir is the project lead from the client side. Over time, they get their friendship back. Then one day, in an email titled ‘Project Status’, Ranbir sends Katrina a picture of a diamond ring 💍 as an attachment.

Final scene (the O Henry version): Nadine is very happy with the meeting and Fawad is also excited about the project. On their way back to the airport, from their respective cars, Katrina and Ranbir both leave voicemail messages for Nadine. Katrina tells her that she’s withdrawing her firm from the selection process. Ranbir informs her that he won’t be able to work on this project.

Say something

My friend

You are so quiet

 

As you

Enjoy

Protect

Perpetuate

Your privilege

 

Please know

There’s no happiness

On our planet

Without justice

 

Today

If you accept violence

(Or derive happiness from it!)

One day

(In the not so distant future!)

You

Will be subject to it

 

Your sweet ambrosia

Of personal happiness

Will taste awful

With the stench of misery

All around you

 

There’s time

There’s (almost) always time

Say something

Say something

Because your voice

Is usually heard

 

If you are silent

In despair

Say something

If you are silent

Because you’re complicit

Say something.

This year

In much fluster did my time pass this year

I saw as half-empty my glass this year

 

Much to their chagrin they caught me smiling

My frivolities left me en-masse this year

 

You probably ran into some cold souls too

We’ll see them again at the Midnight Mass this year

 

Some let me down and I was betrayed by some

Should’ve spent more time with Amrita Das this year

 

Bitterness can make one lazy as hell

I spent summer lying on the grass this year

 

What do we say of the world we live in

I watched gold turn to brass this year

 

Are you broken? You didn’t even write, Apoorva

A poem for Sinterklaas this year

मेरा साथी

मेरे साथी ने हसीं बाग़ को कुछ वीरान बना डाला

जो महज़ आदमी थे उन्हें हिन्दू, मुसलमान बना डाला

 

कुछ यूँ बुनी इस मुल्क़ की एक नयी हक़ीक़त उसने

जो सदियों मेज़बान थे, उन्हें मेहमान बना डाला

 

हम तलक तब पहुँचतीं थीं बस प्यार ही की बातें

अब बहन को बहन की नफरत का सामान बना डाला

 

मैं ये नहीं कहता कि पहले ऐब न थे वतन में

पर हालात ने इन्हें मौत का फरमान बना डाला

 

हालात-ए-क़ौम को देख कर क्या मुस्काएंगे मेरे ख़्वाजा

मेरे खोटे-से सच को भी अरमान बना डाला

 

मगर तुम्हें इससे क्या? तुम तो परदेस बस गए ‘अपूर्व’

ये कैसी चोट है जिसने तुम्हें इंसान बना डाला?

Navigating the road ahead: Limericks for Change Agents

Christmas is done, a new year is here
For us change agents, the message is clear
Things that have previously worked really nice
Will, alas, no longer cut the ice
We need to shift into a whole new gear

I thought I’d write an essay on the subject
But that idea I had to quickly reject
Innovation is the theme of our time
I must, therefore, resort to rhyme
Hence these limericks – however abject

We almost always have a lot to say
To our own web of words, we often fall prey
Our models and tools we wish to flaunt
But to listen to them, is what our clients want
So let’s talk less and listen more, OK?

For excellent UX you need empathy, we propose
And where does empathy come from you suppose?
To be empathetic, we must relate
Curiosity and diversity celebrate
And divergent views welcome, not oppose

It’s tough to disagree with those who pay our bills
Easy to hide the core issues and focus on the frills
But challenge and provoke we must
This is the path to gaining their trust
They’ll appreciate the “value –added” and the thrills

A safe environment for ourselves we must provide
Where for being who we are, we aren’t cast aside
Where to take a risk is OK
And what we feel, we can say
Where our feelings too have a place of pride

Finally of ourselves we must take care
Carve time out to learn, to reflect, to heal, to repair
To enable change is a really tough role
And into it we put our heart and soul
But to our body and mind, we need to be fair

I have shared in these verses what I have found to be true
Hope this lyrical manifesto was found useful by you
And if to react you should choose
I would absolutely love to hear your views
For now, I must bid adieu.

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