Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Beautiful Beginning


Udaan! Ekalavya! SOFOSH!  These are the 3 names, very close to my heart and which have shaped my attitude towards life.


I started my professional career, in an organization where CSR had been imbibed in the firm’s culture, but I used to wonder – “What’s in it for me?”  I would like to share with you 3 sets of life experiences where I walked away with an answer to this simple question.



One of the first opportunities that came my way was through my association with SOFOSH. This required me to work with toddlers who had been abandoned by their parents/relatives and were now housed inside a government hospital. Many of these kids were physically or mentally challenged. Some of the smiling faces and giggling sounds were of kids who sadly had just a few more months left in this world.


Taking sweets or chocolates on the first day, for a bunch of 2 – 5 year olds seemed most apt, given that it is usually rare for kids to not like such treats. Imagine our surprise when we realised that all that these kids wanted was just to be picked up.  Yes! Not the delicacies, but just to be picked up in our arms.  Yet, when we tried to pick them up, we were admonished by the caretakers. They knew this would condition the kids to demand more of it once we left.


I was shocked.. I had never realized the importance of simple gestures in life and probably was more materialistic, but that experience was an eye opener for me.



As I continued my CSR journey, I joined another initiative called Ekalavya. This involved working with the children of commercial sex workers.


I expected this to be far easier, considering that they were relatively older (8 years and above) and healthier kids. I was wrong. The living conditions were inhumane, to say the least, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise. Our group was oblivious to the fact that these innocent souls did not understand the concept of a conventional male-female relationship. During our first interaction with these kids, we were asked intriguing questions, which we were ill equipped to answer, given that we went there as a mixed gender group of volunteers. They didn’t even know the things we take for granted in the outside world, such as a shopping mall, a zoo or a park. Taking them out of their shell to a normal world was the most difficult project I had ever handled….. and possibly ever will.



After a few years, I joined an organisation in Mumbai and almost immediately joined one of its CSR initiatives – called Udaan.  I’m a proud member of Team Udaan working with underprivileged kids from slums in and around Powai.  Around 4.5 years back, when we started working with them, we had to teach them to read, not just in English, but in Hindi as well.  We eventually graduated to spoken English, and even games. One of the students started beating me in chess, just after a few games, which probably makes me either a very good teacher or a terrible chess player.


What is heartening to note today is that some of those students are part of the Udaan teaching faculty. In fact, one of these students is pursuing a nursing course at Hiranandani hospital while one of them is doing Computer engineering from VJTI.


I’ll close with an incident, which happened when I was visiting Pune a few months back. I was in the Pune Central Mall food court when I suddenly came across a couple of girls simply standing in front of me with big smiles on their face. As I observed closely, they seemed to be looking at me with an air of familiarity. It was then that one of them said “Bhaiya, did you recognize us? We are now working for McDonalds.” I then gathered that they were the same girls whom I had worked with around 7-8 years back under the Ekalavya initiative.


I had managed to bring some positive change in a stranger’s life and at the same time undergone a transformation myself.  Are you also ready to change and be changed?


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Day 16: Over the top praise

O Dear Boss ...

HR has asked me to
write a 360 degree review
but O dear Boss, how can I
write anything about you...

O you're the Jack Welch in leadership
the Steve Jobs in innovation
Vlad Putin, Kim Jong-Un,
Trump and Modi, all rolled into one

You're M S Dhoni, you never drop the ball,
You're Wikipedia, you're the know-it-all

You keep everyone in loop, you're the London Eye
Disrupting the normal, you're James Bond - The Spy

You're the black hole, you can shift paradigms
You're brainier than Sherlock Holmes, can even solve crimes

You're so well connected, you keep touching the base
Breaking a Guinness Record for you, is too commonplace

Look at your beauty, the world is awed
Handsome-r than Apollo, you're the Greek God

You're the Pope, globally revered
You're George Clooney with sexiest beard

You make everything shiny, you're Swarovski
You're such a sport, you're national hockey 

You got the built, you're Salman Khan
You're so mature, O you're Babylon

Gosh your jokes, you're funnier than an orangutan
You can do the impossible, You're my Hanuman

Boy, you got the jaw-line, 
O you're the Brad Pitt
Deeply humbled am I, 
this appraisal, I hereby submit

© Ankush Agarwal

Friday, April 17, 2020

Day 15: A Poem on sound

She loved poetry
The buzzzzz of a bee
The whoosh of a tree
but, she didn't like the click of a key.

O She loved it when

choo-choo goes the train
whoops the singing crane
but she hated the drip-drop of the rain

The honk and the vroom scared her
The murmur and the hiss prepared her
Giggles and whispers felt tender
But, the boom, the hiss were terror

She gets goosebumps, when leaves rustle
Driiiin of the alarm, always hustles
It's simply poetic, the ruffle and shuffle
but it was gross, the crack of a knuckle

She even loved to read music
The note, the C-sharp, the octave-clef
But she would have preferred much more
not being born as a deaf.

© Ankush Agarwal

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Day 14: A dedication to my inspiration

Day 14 challenge to write about poet(s) who have inspired me, is both highly interesting and complicated. The writing-bug was injected in me by my hugely inspiring "Roli Didi" - and the major names, who have inspired me to write are many.

Hence, to do justice, I am writing the poem in two completely different styles. The first part is in the same simple childish style, with which I had started writing ages ago, and the second part is in the style of each of my favorite poets. As most of my earlier influences were in Hindi, today's challenge poem is also in my mother tongue.

Additionally, I have tried to divide each stanza in the second part in each of my favorite रस - i.e. शांत रस, श्रृंगार रस, हास्य, वीर and finally भक्ति रस।

उन दिनों, जब A. C. , जेनेरेटर न था

"बिजली चली गई", कमरे से निकलने का बहाना था

गर्मी की छुट्टियां, orange वाली आइसक्रीम की चुस्कियां

और बस नानी के घर जाना था ...

ऐसी ही किसी "जेठ की दुपहरी"

बैठे उस गलियारे में,

खेलते थे हम कविताओं की अंत्याक्षरी

लिखते लाइनें, इधर उधर के बारे में

वो लाइनें अब भी लिख रहा हूँ

कुछ संजीदा, कुछ व्यंग भरी

आप जैसा शायद कभी लिख पाऊं

है ये उम्मीद, अभी भी कहीं


मैं 'दिनकर', 'गुप्त', 'भारती' नहीं

जो गीत लिखूँ  कालांतर के

बस शब्दों में भाव बहे

उद्गम हृदय के अंतर से।

वर्णों की पुष्पमाल से,

हो श्रृंगार उस छवि का

सूर, तुलसी , रसख़ान  ने जिसे

अतुल्य सजाया था रवि सा ।

शैल, काका, और चक्रधर की

वाणी से ज्यूँ हास्य मिला,

यूँ मेरी पंक्तियों में भी

मधुर अधर से काव्य खिला।

जिन शब्दों की वीरता का

सुभद्रा जैसा न हो सानी

उन बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुंह से

मैं भी सुनूं कोई कहानी

हे श्वेतवर्णी , कलाधारा,

हो कविता की देवी तुम

मेरे शब्दों को शक्ति दे

माँ , इतनी विनती सुन।

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Day 13: A non-apology for stealing

I wouldn't have done it otherwise
It was just too tempting
Who would've let such a precious thing go
But I do apologize for attempting

I am sorry if you felt bad
why did you keep it in open
Those three rings on its top
Oh! it looked so golden.

It was perfect, just like I wanted
casting its magic, far and broad
not too shiny, just so subtle
Even old jewelers couldn't forge

The first time, I had only touched it
It had filled me with utmost affection
A shiver had run down my spine
I had felt that special connection.

I didn't think you would notice
After all, you had plenty
But I'm now admitting
as I'm awfully guilty.

Dear neighbor,
I do love thee
But "Thou shall not steal"
is probably not for me

I do feel extremely sorry
for this request so absurd
but could you please, once more
remove your Wifi Password.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Day 12: Triolet

"What the hell is a Triolet ?",
A poet was once asked in a quiz.

He said, "It's the place you go after death."

"What! The Hell is a Triolet ??"

"Well, No easier answers, yet
So, now you know, this is
What the hell is a Triolet."

A poet was once asked in a quiz.

Day 11: A flower's story

Carnation flowers

Sitting in the park
On that winter's evening
sounds of kids were mixed with the birds';
A book of my favorite stories,
dozing off on the grass near me.
My eyes were fixed on that snoring page
when your fingers had first touched mine.

I remember, that day, you'd given me a blue carnation.

You visited me in the hostel room
The warden frowned but let you in
You didn't care for my friends' pretence
my room mate had also found an excuse
Tinkle in your smile was all I heard
were there also giggles outside?

I later found a mauve carnation on the bed.
It smelled the same as
the scent on the bottom of your neck

You held my hand through that lecture
The professor decided to not notice
Sitting in the back row, you wrote me a note
to meet you in our special corner
we went separately to those stairs
where we talked about so many things

You told me about the crimson flower.

Those classes bunked, lies to parents
secret routes for afternoon with you
Giving naughty names to hidden moles
no profanity of name or promise
life felt pure, as it should be.

Time blossomed with pink carnations

Leaving your city, it was my final day
You woke me up before the cuckoo's call
We didn't waste a second that day
but the dreaded night did fall.

Standing near your door, to see you off
Couldn't muster courage to say good bye
Just touched your face, and turned away
The world was hazy, to my eye

Between yellowed pages, I found a carnation today
Gone years have taken away its colors
But those must be signs of drew drops
'coz you once told me, "Flowers don't cry"

© Ankush Agarwal