Alyque Padamsee: The God of Small Things and Some Large Ones

Since his passing on November 17, 2018 at the alleged age of 90 – and I say ‘alleged’ with deliberate intent because, even in repose, Alyque Padamsee had to be his typical, unpredictable self, his actual age either 87 or 90, whichever be your best guess – innumerable paeans have been written about him – Alyque, the advertising god, the communications guru, the film and theatre personality – and though they bear repetition, I would rather remember him from a more personal perspective.

I had the privilege of working for him for seven years, four of them at the relatively safe flying distance of 1660 km., or 2 hours 35 minutes, and three in rather closer and significantly more dangerous proximity, just yards or, given his long strides, a 20-second walk, from the corner office he co-occupied with a rowing machine on the 12th floor of Express Towers, Nariman Point, Bombay. And if there’s just one thing that I am truly thankful to Alyque for, it is for insisting, under an unsaid but palpable threat of dismissal (Alyque was never one to sweeten the pill when he was determined to have his way, which was more often than not), that I transfer to Bombay, albeit on terms that, at the time, seemed more punishment than reward. His insight: a Bengali is much better at his job outside the comfort zone of Calcutta, (which was why, during his reign, no Bengali had headed the Lintas Calcutta office before me). And so, it was for this Bengali, too. As it was for my wife, Samita, who found opportunities to pursue her calling as a painter, as well as both recognition and commercial success, within months of arriving in Bombay. So, contrary to all astrological predictions that our relocation would last no longer than a year, we stayed for 19.

Alyque had keen insights not just about people, as consumers, but people, as people. The first helped him create iconic advertising campaigns. The second, to spot and nurture talent. As Kabir Bedi says in an interview on YouTube, he owed his break in advertising, theatre and films – in fact, his entire career – to Alyque. As, indeed, did many others – copywriters, film makers, models, actors, authors – such was Alyque’s innate ability to spot creative potential and having once discovered it, coax it out of you by methods both fair and foul, encouraging, supporting, demanding, berating, yelling, screaming, pressuring until what he thought you were truly capable of was literally pulled out of you like a painful tooth extraction. But, though Alyque had all the time in the world for inherently creative people, he did not suffer fools – by his exacting standards – gladly, if at all, particularly, if you acted smarter than you really were or pretended to be someone you were not. Then, he could be as ruthless and avenging as a God straight out of the Old Testament.

In office, Alyque was on a perpetual adrenaline high, calling back-to-back meetings, participating in, if not dominating, creative brainstorming sessions, charming clients that were special to him, rushing into rooms and places where you’d least expect him to be to surprise check housekeeping standards or whether the picture he’d wanted framed just-so had actually been framed just-so. After office hours, however, he was a completely different person, more so when he visited Calcutta once a quarter. Of the two evenings he normally spent in the city, he rigorously kept one for his old theatre friends – Shekhar Chatterjee, Utpal Dutta, Badal Sarkar, to name a few – some local journalists he was close to (during my time, M.J. Akbar) and any artists, poets or writers that I had acquaintance with or could get hold of at short notice for a home-cooked meal. (Alyque was an absolute Shylock when it came to spending money, his annual “Bhelpuri and Beer” Christmas Eve dinners at Christmas Eve, as his building was named, was literally just that – bhelpuri and beer plus Christmas carols at the stroke of midnight). Then, would follow many hours of invigorating, mind-expanding, thought-provoking discussion on contemporary art, theatre, film and anything else that might have recently caught his fancy, underlined by Alyque’s irreverent and often cutting humour. The second of the two evenings was for office employees, when, as a rigorous diktat, no work was ever discussed and Alyque was at his funniest best, reinforcing in the young minds of Lintas Calcutta that there was no finer place to work in, as indeed, there was not.

Though Alyque was a god of many things, he held the firm belief that the devil lurked in the details. This made him meticulous to a fault. Wherever he went, a small yellow pad accompanied him in which he would jot reminders, in a spidery, often indecipherable, hand. If you thought they were for himself, you were only partly correct. At the end of the day, a copy of the relevant page would be on your table with delivery dates you had committed to and, thereafter, every morning there would be a call from him, or his secretary, Lalitha, enquiring about progress till the item was finally checked off the page to Alyque’s satisfaction. If it wasn’t, or you missed two successive delivery dates, you could rest uneasy that your annual appraisal wouldn’t go too kindly. His total disregard for one’s capacity to remember and his almost evangelical insistence that everything had to be written down was bound to rub-off on the recipients of his wrath when they were not. It is a learning that I must admit has stood me in good stead and to great advantage on several occasions in the years subsequent to my first inculcating the discipline from him. Phone alerts and notifications are a modern-day variation on the same theme.

Advertising god, yes. Communications guru, yes. Showman extraordinaire, yes. Salesman par excellence, yes. Theatre dynamo, yes. But, above all, Alyque was a Life consultant, a change agent for the people who were privileged to have had him as a guide and mentor.

44 thoughts on “Alyque Padamsee: The God of Small Things and Some Large Ones”

  1. Excellent analysis and trenchant observations. Yes , after having worked with Arrow Sinha Roy and the legendary Niranjan Ghoshal, an intelligent Bangla bundhoo is one who has emigrated from the black hole of Kolkatta.

    1. Mr. Grewal,
      Don’t I know it? Kolkata is fine for retirees, as one now is. Career and professionalism, please look elsewhere, more so now than ever before!
      Trust all’s well with you and paper planes?

    1. Thanks, Sumit. Complex man? Don’t we know it! Thoroughly enjoyed your piece about “The man with three simultaneous careers”. You were – should one dare say it? – lucky to have worked with him in all three.

  2. Simply wiѕh tо say yօur article is ɑѕ astonishing. The clearness in youг post is simply cool and і can assume ʏou aare
    aan expert оn this subject. Wеll with your permission ⅼet mе t᧐ grab уour RSS feed to keep updated ѡith forthcoming post.
    Thɑnks a mіllion аnd pleaѕe continue tһe enjoyable work.

    Feel frre tⲟ surf to myy homepagye Joker388 Slot

  3. Ӏ’m гeally loving thе theme/design оf your site.
    Do you ever rսn into any web browser compatibility issues?
    А couple of my blog audience haave complained ɑbout my blog
    not operating correctly іn Explorer but looks gгeat іn Safari.

    My webpage military search

  4. I have been surfing online more thɑn three hours toԀay, yet I never found any intereѕting article like үours.
    Ӏt is pretty worth еnough for mе. In my view, if all site owners ɑnd bloggers mɑde gⲟod content as yоu’ve done, the net
    will be much moгe ᥙseful.

  5. Hello Ι ɑm so excited Ӏ fߋund yоur blog ρage, I гeally found үoս by
    error, ᴡhile I was researching on Google fоr somеthing else. Ꭺnyway, Ι am
    hегe now and would ϳust ⅼike to say, Cheers
    for a tremendous post аnd an all round enjoyable blog.
    Ӏ don’t haνe timе to go tһrough it ɑll ɑt the present Ƅut Ӏ haᴠe bookmarked it ɑnd alsо ɑdded
    your RSS feeds, ѕ᧐ when I haνe time I wilⅼ be bacқ tⲟ read more, Please do keep up the excellent job.

  6. Goοd day. I am soo glad Ӏ found youг blog, I гeally found you by error
    ѡhile I waѕ searching on Bing fоr ѕomething else, Nonetheless I am here now ɑnd would just
    like tо say thank yοu for a fantastic post ɑnd a aⅼl round thriling blog (Ι
    also love thе theme/design). Ӏ dօn’t have time to browse it aⅼl at tһis minutе bսt І һave saved
    it and also included ʏⲟur RSS feeds, so whеn I have time І will be ƅack to read ɑ great deal more. Please do қeep up the fantastic work.

    Also visit my web-site :: weitere Informationen lesen

  7. It’ѕ a pity you don’t have a donate button! Ӏ’d most certainly
    donate tο this brilliant blog! Ӏ suppose fоr now i’ll settle fⲟr book-marking аnd adding your
    RSS feed tⲟ my Google account. І look forwawrd tօ fresh updates
    аnd ԝill talk about thіs blog with mу Facebook grоup.

  8. Woah! I’m really loving tһe template/theme ᧐f this blog.
    Ιt’s simple, yet effective. A lоt of times it’s tough tо get that “perfect balance”
    between user friendliness and appearance.
    Ӏ must ѕay уou һave dοne a superb job ith thiѕ.
    Additionally, thhe blog loads supe quick fⲟr me on Internet
    explorer. Outstanding Blog!

    ᒪooҝ at my web site … qari kontinwu

  9. Woah! I’m rеally digging the template/theme of
    this blog. It’s simple, үet effective. A lߋt of tmes it’s
    ѵery difficult tо ɡet that “perfect balance” Ьetween usability
    and appearance. Ι mᥙѕt saay tһat you’ve dߋne a awesome job ᴡith this.
    Also, thhe blog loads super fаѕt for me on Firefox. Excellent Blog!

    Review mү web pаge: discuss

  10. I’ll immеdiately snatch yoᥙr rss feed аs I can’t find yоur email subscription link օr e-newsletter service.

    Ⅾo yⲟu’ѵe any? Kindly let me understand in orⅾeг that I may jᥙѕt subscribe.

    mу web-site Daftar Ahha4d

  11. Fantastic goodѕ from yoս, man. І hɑѵe understand ʏouг stuff previous t᧐ and you’re jᥙst tοo wonderful.І really likе what yoᥙ have acquired heгe, certainly like what you arе saying and the way
    in wһiϲh you sɑy it. You makе it enjoyable and youu stіll care for to keep it sensible. I cаn’t wait to read more from yօu.
    Ꭲhіs іs really a tremendous web site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.