Nov 30, 2008

Personality - Prahlad Kakkar


There was a time when Prahlad Kakkar wanted to be an army general and a horse breeder. Traces of such youthful dreams though are now found only in his cowboy hat and flowing hair.
But Kakkar, a man of many interests, doesn’t wear just one badge of identity. Adman, restaurateur, scuba diver, cigar manufacturer, what makes this charmer with a roaring laugh different is his penchant for turning hobbies into callings.
Making a mark
Even making a mark in the big bad Ad world early in life couldn’t hold Kakkar; his love for cooking found a simultaneous pride of place. He takes you by surprise when he says, “Every office of mine has had a full-fledged kitchen attached.” He gave in to his interest by starting two restaurants in Mumbai.
His love for cigars too found a way to a manufacturing unit in the Philippines, and his passion for scuba diving has also panned out in a similar fashion. Today, he runs two flourishing diving schools in Lakshwadeep.
Recalls Kakkar: “It was a total accident .” During a scuba diving trip in Mauritius, while the others went under water, he “sat like a scared dog on the boat”. With much difficulty, he gathered courage to jump into the water. “Initially it was scary and I was cold in the water, but I soon found the undersea world so fascinating, it gave me a high.’ So he signed up, along with wife Mitali, for a training course. “I am a certified scuba diver today,” he proudly states. Though his wife “can beat him any day”, he adds with a naughty laugh. She is a qualified instructor at their diving schools.
Early days
Recollecting the early days, Kakkar says, “We started going to Lakshwadeep for scuba diving and ended up starting a school there and then another. In the last 10 years, we have 3000 people in the alumni corpus.” What draws him to underwater “is the silence where you can hear your own breathing, communicating with your partner only with hand signals. It is a true buddy sport. If you run out of air for instance, it is your buddy who would come to your rescue.”
Some of his exciting moments under sea include “coming face to face with a shark once, seeing turtles and dolphins swim by”. Says Kakkar with his inimitable chuckle, “Under water you are weightless and for someone like me who has never been on the slimmer side, it is a great feeling.”
Besides scuba diving, what has caught Kakkar’s appeal lately is yoga. He does it thrice a week. And before he says I have a plan; you ask, is he giving it a business touch. He repeats the naughty laugh, adding, “I am not quite ready yet.”
This column features little known aspects of well known personalities.

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