The joy of many selves

Creative pursuits

The joy of many selves

Graphics: Krishnakumar

A senior, Indian  executive working for a multi-national  group in the US, and a highly sought after doctor in Delhi,  dabble in creative and imaginative cooking over weekends to counter work stress. An actively working  chartered accountant in his 60s loves  the harmony created by  crafts, and creates wall-hangings and crocheted table-covers for his drawing room. A retired engineer of robotics  writes books on astrology. A young professional in a multinational telecom company paints and does Reiki healing in her spare time. A young doctor at Lady Harding Medical College is a highly accomplished Kathak dancer. A senior surgeon at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, Delhi, creates masterpieces in Origami. A successful business tycoon relaxes by doing riyaaz for Hindustani  music. And a builder in my neighbourhood personally tends a flourishing kitchen garden on the terrace of his home.

Surprised? Surprise is a normal reaction under the circumstances, given most people’s predilection for categorising people into slots on the basis of  preconceived ideas. For instance, a high-profile corporate professional is associated with serious pursuits—even her/his modes of relaxation or hobbies are somehow expected to be serious and earnest. Likewise, anyone perceived as ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ by virtue of their everyday professional pursuits is expected to be creative in most areas, and somewhat lacking in a business sense.

The  abundance of research about ‘right brained’ and ‘left brained’ people seems to support this school of thought. But is everybody really as unidimensional as research would have us believe? Let’s take a look at some prominent people who are living refutations of this.

Dancing to the beat of life

Currently a Member of the Planning Commission, Arun Maira, a widely acknowledged expert in leadership and organisation transformation, has a lively passion for dancing. A frequent speaker at international fora and a regular contributor to management and business journals, he is the author of several non-fiction books.

Maira has advised clients across a wide variety of industries and in many countries on issues of strategy and organisation. He has worked with clients in industries ranging from automobiles, steel, and oil, to pharmaceuticals. He has also advised governments and international agencies on leadership processes.

Dancing is however one of the greatest passions in the life of this highly esteemed technocrat. Says he,  “I enjoy dancing very much. And I enjoy getting people to dance.” Relating a memorable incident that happened a few years ago, he says,  “At the WEF Davos in 2004, when India was being celebrated, India was the host at the concluding dance-dinner. Several guests were there. We had Indian food, Indian stoles for the women, scarves for the men. And we had Shiamak Davar and his troupe to entertain the crowd. As they danced on stage, the President of CII, who knew my passion for dance, turned to me and said, “Arun, you have got to get the world to dance with India.”  So, I asked a lady in a gown standing nearby, tapping her feet to the music, if she would like to dance. She did. Then I turned and asked another man and woman to join us, and then another, and soon the floor was alive with dancers swaying to Indian Bollywood rhythms. At which stage, Shiamak’s dancers came down from the stage to dance with the crowd. One of them wanted to dance with me. She said, “You should have been one of us!”

Even though dancing will never be his primary vocation, it  will always be his primary passion and the reason behind the spring in his step as he goes through the business of life.

Passion for cinema

Apurv Nagpal, Managing Director Saregama, has gone beyond his corporate vocation to address  his passion for cinema. An IIM-A graduate with an impressive list of former employers in the corporate world, Apurv writes reviews of Hindi films   on his highly popular blog (www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com) with its readership in 75 countries across six continents.

Asked what inspired him to  take out time from his extremely demanding work schedule to write film reviews, he says, “I had always been a Bollywood fan, ever since childhood. But sometime around college days, I stopped watching Bollywood movies. I felt they had become too cheesy and formulaic. Then MBA happened and my work took me out of India and out of touch with Hindi movies. But when I returned to India after 11 years, I was pleasantly surprised to see a major change in Hindi movies—in terms of content, technology, music, everything, and I was hooked again. Plus, writing has always been something I am passionate about. So, for me writing film reviews became an ideal way to combine my passion for writing with my rediscovered passion for Bollywood.”

Asked about his current post as MD of Saregama, he says, “I have always been passionate about whatever work I have  done, be it selling cigarettes, beer, soap, or whatever, but this time I am actually working with something I have always been passionate about.”

Poetic  musings

Y S Rajan, distinguished professor at ISRO Headquarters, is the co-author of India 2020 along with former President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam. But within this scientist’s  heart, pulses an abiding love for poetry. 

Formerly Principal Advisor to CII, he has held a number of eminent positions including that of scientific advisor to Government of Punjab, Chairman of Board Council and Vice Chancellor of Punjab Technical University, Founder and Executive Director of TIFAC, etc. One of the foremost Indian experts on space science today, his contributions in shaping ISRO from its initial experimental phases into a major service delivery organisation have been remarkable.

While holding various positions of responsibility related to science and technology, he has shaped key policies and implemented several successful R&D projects but in addition to his achievements in science and technocracy, professor Rajan is also a highly acclaimed poet, with three published books of poetry in English and seven in Tamil.

Writing poetry for children is his special passion and he feels impelled to constantly spread his wings in as many directions as possible. “‘By the grace of God, I am able to foresee and perceive a lot of things and I like to make the best possible use of my talents apart from developing technologies for the betterment of all sections of society,” he says. His spirit of experimentation extends not only to his work with science, but also to his writing and his poetry. He shows with his life and work that dichotomies can co-exist and with a great deal of harmony.

Happy crafts

Kochi-based freelance writer and blogger, Resmi Jaimon loves to make soft toys in her spare time. “I made my first soft toy in April 2008,” she says and adds, “I am associated with Gurumahima,  and was  asked if I could come up with some craftwork. Since I had been for a while thinking about learning to making soft toys, I grabbed this opportunity. I got the idea of what materials to use from a book. Then, I worked on designs to create a soft toy. Fur being costly, I mostly use felt that helps in reducing the cost. I also make fancy pillows using felt and cotton dress material and make earrings and chains as well  for  many of Gurumahima’s shows.

Elaborating on the personal aspect of her hobby she says, “Making soft toys, helps me to be creative and take a break from the regular writing schedule. It also  gives me the satisfaction of doing something for  kids. I feel happy when I see their innocent faces brighten up at the sight of the colorful toys, I gift them.”

Aquamarine passions

Anand Iyer, a busy medical device scientist in Birmingham, Alabama finds bliss in creating beautiful aquariums. “I have put together about 10 to 12  aquariums of varying sizes and complexities, starting with a 10 gallon tank with plastic decorations to a 75 gallon tank with live plants, carbon dioxide infusion for the plants, etc,” he says and adds, “ I started my first aquarium in 1998 when I was single and in graduation school. I spend about two hours on it every two to three weeks, really minimal for a hobby that gives you fun literally round the clock. My kids love it, and it gets them interested in learning about eco-systems and responsibility of caring for pets in an easy way. I have also put together aquariums for friends and family members. I do the initial setup, and guide them to care for it.  Anyone who has lounged at the end of a busy day in front of a peaceful aquarium can attest to the calming effects that only a school of peaceful colorful fish can bring,” he states.

So what is it that drives these people (and many, many others like them) to explore he myriad facets of their personalities? Is this diversification of pursuits a defense mechanism against what is called the ‘stress of modern life’? Or is it, finally, the liberation of the individual from the shackles of social typecasting?

“A bit of both, probably,” opines Upasana Pahwa, a chartered accountant who has now turned into a Vaastu practitioner.  “I took a lot of flak, from both family and peers, when I started studying Vaastu, astrology, Reiki and other occult sciences 10 years ago. But now that I have a sound base of clients who swear by my advice, everyone has backed off. Of course, the trend in society too has changed in recent years, and more and more people are doing things that, some years ago, would have been considered strange.”

Nature has always been generous in  endowing many talents but we choose to concentrate on just one facet, to the exclusion of all else. My own great grandfather, I am told, was considered ‘strange’ by the people around him because apart from being a successful legal practitioner in Lahore in the early 20th century, he also practiced healing through a combination of homeopathy and hypnotism.

Today, however, there is a definite shift in social consciousness, from specialisation to diversification and  multifaceted people are unabashedly exploring various aspects of self-expression.

The Aquarian age of untrammeled individualism and self-realization has finally arrived.

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