The Haiku and marathon man

Updated: Oct 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) chairman Arun Mairas latest book Remaking India, One Country, One Destiny forces you to look at the author as one who is a lot more than just an insightful business manager.

To weave memoir with history as deftly as he does, and present a conceptual roadmap for Indias future where collaboration between business and government is a must, one has to be a thinker of sorts. But, what we get here is more a poet!

Poetry marks the begining of almost all the chapters of his book. Maira does little to hide his admiration for Robert Frost, and gives away his own passion for verse in one of the chapters that begins with lines from his own poem The Old Man on the Mountain.

Arun Maira
I was very impressed by Haiku poetry that uses just 17 syllables to express very profound thoughts, using purest words in a very elegant way, says Maira. The passion began when he was with Telco (now Tata Motors) and has continued ever since writing on nature, feelings and trying to find out answers to existential questions like:who am I Why do I pay so much attention to myself. Maira has recently started transcribing his collection of 30-40 poems into the computer as the writing ink has started fading from some of those.

A lot of these poems were written, says Maira, when he was training to participate in the Boston Marathon. In the winter of 1992, when he would keep running through the snow and darkness, a lot of these thoughts would come to him in a flash. When you run long distance, after a while a rhythm starts flowing through your blood, its a big high, he says. This rhythm, coupled with the oneness that he felt with nature, and especially when that is of the Boston countryside from where Frost hailed, was sure to create magic.

The zest for running too was a gift from the Tatas. It was discovered that employees at Telco in Pune were an unhealthy lot. Maira started this trend of running from the training hostel sharp at 5 pm every evening and invited officers and workers to join him. I would go home straight after the run, which meant that I would manage to finish my days work by then. This had a cascading effect, making the Telco office in Pune a quiet place, where tempers did not flare and productivity and efficiency increased. What started as a mission is now a means of staying fit.

Book by Arun MairaWith his third book to be out in the market next week, it is pretty evident that Maira has a flair for writing. Working with JRD Tata, Jamshed Bhabha and Sumant Moolgaokar, I saw how meticulous they were in finding the right expression that was not only accurate but also pleasant. Earlier, even during his days at St Stephens, Maira was a prolific writer for the college magazines. He would contribute to Onset, a magazine that would encourage people to think and write seriously. Nevertheless, the colleges punch magazine Cooler Talk, would also have Mairas write-ups in its unmistakable tongue n cheek style.

This profound thinker and poet is also an impassioned dancer. Not only has he outdanced a belly dancer in a yacht party across the Nile, but also forced a couple of Englishmen to admit that it is the never yielding attitude of the Indians like Maira and M K Gandhi that had forced the English to quit India. High praise indeed! He chortles recounting those words. It so happened that at his farewell party in Malaysia, at around 3.30 am, Maira decided to call it quits as most of the people were tired dancing. But, on the provocation of those two Brits at the party, he decided to continue on conditions that they join him. At 5.30 in the morning, the firangs couldnt manage to jive their tired legs any further while Maira was merrily grooving. I enjoy dancing and am a party starter, he shares.

What sometimes bothers the man is the thought that maybe he is being abstract and useless, but with that is a greater realisation that he is an agent of change who can only aim to arouse aspirations and hope through what he knows best writing. I am a drummer boy who will continue to drum, he smiles. Let the drums roar.u

Remaking India, One Country, One Destiny is published by Response Books, a division of Sage Publications and is priced at Rs 295 for the paperback and Rs 550 for the hardbound edition.