Pursuit of Happiness

A life in verse

Poetry helps telecom and power veteran Ravi Sharma make sense of life

Kya karoon samvedna lekar tumhari?’ (What should I do with your sympathies?)” Ravi Sharma recites a few lines from noted Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s autobiography, Need ka Nirman Phir Phir. The ex-CEO of Adani Power first read that book as a student in 1981. “Bachchan’s first wife died after 10 years of marriage. He recited this line to Teji, who became his second wife, a while after they met. They hugged, cried and decided to get married,” reveals Sharma. The poem had a deep impact on Sharma’s life. “It inspired me to write that ‘sentiments without commitment are like words without meaning’. This has since become the guiding principle of my life,” he says. 

Sharma has been writing poems, Urdu ghazals and nazms on subjects ranging from love, betrayal, nostalgia, longing and unemployment regularly for three decades now. The choice of topics is diverse, much in line with the happenings in his life. From going to primary school in a roofless building in Chakia village, Varanasi, to graduating from IIT Roorkee, and from corner offices at United Breweries, Alcatel, Videocon and Adani Power to giving it all up and adopting schools in Chakia, Sharma’s life has come full circle.

 Now, it is his Facebook page that buzzes with poetic activity. He reads some out loud — one verse views life from a negative perspective, another plays with brevity. Most of the poems revolve around hope and optimism, personality traits that Sharma himself possesses. His poetry transcends formats and flows from observation rather than experience. “I wrote my first poem way back in 1978 on the issue of unemployment in the country. At Roorkee, I was the editor of the college magazine and actively pursued poetry. Today, I support the extra-curricular activities of IIT students, something not many stand up for,” says Sharma.

When he turned 50 in 2012, Sharma decided that he had had enough of his 13-14 years as CEO of different companies. He says he felt that something was missing in his life — a sense of wholeness. “I quit my job and have since divided my life between my work on the boards of innovative firms, the four schools that I have adopted in Varanasi and the Prama Jyoti Foundation, my poetry and my spiritual learning with the Chinmaya Mission,” says Sharma.

How has his love for poetry influenced his work and professional life? Rather, has he observed any change at all? Sharma doesn’t see why the two should connect. “Everything should stand on its own, be it poetry or work. I don’t go looking for cross-subsidisation in the interests I pursue,” he says.

Sharma says writing poetry makes him feel refreshed and child-like; it has shaped a facet of his personality. “I believe in taking people at face value. If you trust your fellow human beings and show confidence in their work, they feel empowered to do just about anything.” He insists that a true pursuit of happiness is not possible. “Happiness cannot be pursued. I decided to be happy a very long time ago; now, the feeling comes from inside.” So does the poetry.