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Soumik Kar

Pursuit of Happiness

Sailor man
BookMyShow CEO Ashish Hemrajani has only one agenda for his weekends: sailing

Aditi Saxena

Ashish Hemrajani used to enjoy five (well, maybe five-and-a-half) day weeks and ‘regular’ weekends till eight years ago: he would see movies, go to pubs and clubs and hang out with his friends. Then, a trip to New Zealand changed forever the weekends of the 38-year-old CEO and founder of BookMyShow. A boat named Ganga 2, captained by a Canadian, caught his eye at Auckland’s Bay Islands. “I was amazed to see a yacht with an Indian name and decided to go and talk to the sailor,” recalls Hemrajani. The cheerful extrovert convinced the owner to allow him on board for a day of sailing on the Pacific, which turned out to be a life-changing experience. “I came back to Mumbai and started looking for clubs or other ways in which I could sail here,” says Hemrajani. “Now, unless there is an emergency, I do not miss my weekend sailing.”

It’s a telling transformation. Hemrajani spends his week managing the most popular online ticket booking portal, suited-and-booted. On weekends, he is to be found in his sailing shorts, slim-fit T, and one of his many Oakley sunglasses. “Our Saturday begins with a race from Gateway of India to Mandwa,” he says. Hemrajani is a member of three sailing clubs and usually partners with a fellow sailor every weekend. “We spend the night there [at Mandwa] and race back on Sunday.” Hemrajani, who is known for his dynamism and energy at work, approaches inter-club sailing competitions in much the same way. “The sea might look very quiet to a bystander but on the boat, everyone yells at everyone,” he smiles unapologetically. 

Hemrajani has tried sailing four different classes of boats: ‘Lightning’, which is an international class of vessels; ‘Seabird’, which is “a boat designed by an Englishman in the 1920s, specifically for sailing in the Mumbai harbour”; ‘J24’, the most-sailed racing boat in the world; and ‘Enterprise’, a boat with two sails manned by two sailors. He explains the machinery on the deck of Snipe, one of the boats that belong to the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, and then remarks ruefully, “People who do not sail will not understand what these terms mean to us.” 

Hemrajani would love to race professionally but there isn’t enough time. He does, however, expect to buy a boat early in the new year. “This will be my first ever boat,” says a happy Hemrajani, who is quite the fitness buff — rigorous gymming is no big deal and swimming 50 laps on alternate days is child’s play. No wonder his very-seldom updated Twitter account earlier described him as: ‘100% swimmer, 75% sailor and 50% windsurfer’.

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