Friendship……Really!!

~Aishwarya Mishra

“Do you know what’s the most precious thing that I have, Dhruv? The thing thats the dearest to me?”

“Hmm. Yeah sure I would love to know about it. But let me guess. Maybe Plutus. Or your new McLaren. Or probably this splendid home. “, I offered. 

Now this was Abhay. Abhay to be specific, the first investor of my company,  Oculus Infrastructures and one of the most successful investors of all time. The founder of Plutus Investments Pvt. Ltd., the largest Indian investment firm. At 56 he was a man worth 5 billion dollars. One of the most enthusiastic men I ever knew. A person who has always lived his life and inspired others to live theirs.Even today.

Today here he was perfectly aware that he had stage IV cancer, and that he had no ray of hope for living very long. He had just returned from his doctor’s clinic who had promised him less than some six months and asked him to get his chores in order. Yet he stood beside me in the balcony of his splendid sea-facing sky bungalow leaning on the elegant glass railing with utmost composure radiating optimism and infusing inspiration through every single person he met. It was a beautiful evening , the sun was apparently diving into the depths of the fathomless sea while a cool sea breeze brushed against our faces. Speaking to me, he kept staring at the buzzing Arabian Sea with an unwavering focus as it lashed against the hexagonal concrete blocks off the Marine Drive. Actually as the sun was setting, his face seemed to glow brighter and brighter with satisfaction and bliss. Maybe that was something, I just felt. But it was his nature. The harder life got on him, the darker it grew for him, the brighter he glowed himself. When life didn’t provide him with a guiding light, he became one himself. 

Turning towards me, Abhay said, ”No. Not at all!! Those things are something I enjoy having but those are not the most precious thing I have?”

“Then what is it Abhay?”, I asked with sheer curiosity. 

“It’s my friends Dhruv. They are the most precious component of my life”

“Really?“,  I amazed at his reply. 

“Oh yes that’s what I feel. We humans have a habit of forming connections, be it at school, college, work or just anywhere else. We like knowing people and friends are the closest connections that we have besides our families. You see Dhruv, the greatest of all human longings have been those of being loved. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi waged such a huge non-violent battle against apartheid just to make sure that everyone was loved and not discriminated on the basis of their colour. Victor Hugo put the whole of the idea beautifully, 

‘The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves, loved in spite of ourselves. ‘

So you see Dhruv. Friends are the wonderful guys whom we love to be with. We love them and we are convinced enough that they love us too. They add a dimension of happiness to our lives by making sure we are loved. I might love my McLaren but I’ll always know that it can never love me back. Love is what one seeks here on this planet. And one can get it only from his family and friends. That’s why they matter to me. 

You see friends are just so important. They help us in our personal as well as our professional growth. They foster our emotional ,mental and physical well being. They are the guys we spend most of our time with. 

They accompany us on this beautiful journey called life. They stand by us during challenging times. They motivate us. They inspire us. They help us follow our dreams and let us be our true selves. 

Personally saying I have experienced each of these aspects of friendship Dhruv.”,  Abhay paused to get a seat in the balcony on one of his cherished coffee table collection and he asked me to do the same. All the heavy medication had affected his physical strength. So he couldn’t stand for too long. 

“All ears Abhay. Would love listening to your experiences! “,  I offered. It was always great to have a conversation with Abhay. He always explored topics to great depths offering newer perspectives and ideas to ponder on. We often had such conversations ever since he was diagnosed with cancer and reduced going to office to give more time to his family. He was just a couple of years elder to me but the depth of his analysis made me feel as if he had spent hundreds of years on the planet studying human nature. 

Now seated on his chair, Abhay began, “It was 2007. It was my fifth year at Ernst And Young, one of the leading Accounting firms in the world. I was the Managing Director of its Bengaluru Office. I’d loved the financial sector ever since I’d known that I’d loved something. I had done Masters in Accounting from Yale. And got my MBA from Harvard Business School. And there I was, living quite a cool life. Quite a stable life indeed. I had just shifted from the rented apartment to my own place near the office. Everything was going on so smoothly. Perhaps back then I thought it was all so cool. Not many insecurities. 

Then one day something happened. Something life-altering.It was Sunday and I was going through a latest study on Economics and our targets for the next financial year by the CEO of Ernst when the phone rang. I picked up the phone. No hello, no greetings. Somebody ready with a question for me. 

”Don’t you think Abhay that you are forgetting something really important?”. It was Frank,one of my best friends. He asked the question in his usual friendly accent but this time his voice had a tinge of seriousness to it. 

“I don’t remember anything bro.”, that’s what I replied. 

“Hey Abhay while you were at Harvard you were always so passionate about your idea of setting up an investment firm. But today you are just working on somebody else’s dream?” Then there was a long pause. Neither of us said anything for a few seconds. Finally he broke the silence, “Think it over once again. I am always there for you whenever you need me. Hey just don’t ever forget who you are Abhay! “

After keeping the so perfectly made iPhone back on my table I just revisited the conversation and the days at Harvard over and over again. That entire night as I lay on my bed with my eyes open, I was just reflecting and contemplating. Though I loved my job,it was not what I had always dreamt of doing. I always wanted to establish an Investment firm but with kind of money that I was making here and the kind of stable lifestyle I had, that idea had completely gone into the dark.I needed some amendments in my life probably. After about a month from that day, I was sitting in Prutus’s first office. To be honest it was not so much of an office, it was my home, I had turned the Living Room and Study into Prutus’s first ever office. The first team of Prutus consisted of some four of my friends. We would work by the day at Ernst and in the evening we would be juggling through different aspects of Prutus. It was quite a challenging thing to manage both of them. But the joy of working on my own company somehow overshadowed the entire struggle. After an year or so I was working on Prutus entirely. I had quit Ernst. Today Prutus is valued at some 18.3 billion dollars. It is on the board of some of the largest companies in the world. Probably if Frank had never called me that day, today I would still be sitting in the Bengaluru office of Ernst, managing some big clients of theirs.”

I was really intrigued, “That’s amazing Abhay. Something of that kind happened with me too. It was one of my closest friend who motivated me to establish Oculus while I was not able to decide between forming a new company or sticking to my existing job at L&T.”

“Hmm that’s how it is. Friends always help us with the right choices that end up leading us to our dreams.” Abhay took a pause, sipped his tea and then resumed, “What I have learnt Dhruv is that there are many things in life that one can only share with friends. Literally there are just so many things you can’t talk about with anyone else but your friends. They really are the listeners we require so much at times in life. There are times when I discuss things just with friends. They help me find a way out of every circumstance I face just everytime.”

“Friends have always been my pillar of strength. During all these years there have been so many ups and downs. It’s always been amazing doing my work but then as a way of nature, one can never escape challenges. There have been some really really bad days. Whenever I got low, the first ones to offer solace were my friends who were always ready to help me in any possible way. I still remember that day a few months ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer. As I came out of the doctors room, I somehow didn’t want to talk to anyone but Isha. We both talked for a while sitting there outside the hospital at the Starbucks. Everything was just the same as before yet all of it was so different for me then. Future plans fading into that harsh reality. I felt lonely. I felt strange. 

Upon arriving home I was just so overwhelmed to see you all there waiting for me. I was absolutely surprised to find you all. It somehow made me happy. That feeling of loneliness vanished somewhere into our jokes and discussions.The excitement over each ball as we saw the India versus Australia T-20 match. Virat teasing the bowlers with sixers. The ever cool Dhoni in his vintage style as both of them steered India to a successful chase.Then the epic food.You all made me forget just everything that had happened earlier in the day. 

And then friends have been the first to celebrate my victories and  good times. Treats as we’ve always referred to those damn cool parties. 

Even today when I came out of the clinic. I took out my phone from my pocket. I had a call from Frank, one from you, from some other friends as well. Seeing that tears trickled down the edges of my eyes. It was amazing to see that there was someone to think of me. That’s what truly matters Dhruv. My Mercedes AMG, waiting in the parking lot didn’t make me emotional, it was the fact that I mean something to someone, that did. It’s fantastic to know that there would be someone to remember me even after I am gone. 

And in one sense my work has been my friend also. A friend with whom I always loved to be, one whose company I have always enjoyed. One who has given me every single thing I have today.”

“You have got some really great friends Abhay. How do you get to make so many friends? And yeah what characteristics to look out for in a friend?”, I asked to know about this art of making so amazing friends from Abhay. 

He chuckled and then began, “Hey wait bro. We are talking about friends and not about buying some property. Characteristics. Really!! A three BHK friend with a study and servants quarters. And he must also be sea facing. You just make friends bro. I have just made sure they are good guys and whom I like to be with. Just that.

First of all Dhruv as a golden rule it’s always the quality that matters and not the quantity. Though its always riskier, I have always believed that investing big in a single potential company is better than diverging the money in many not so promising ones. I have a lot of people who are more than just acquaintances and yet less than friends. Friends as I have them are not many in number but they are friends. And that’s what matters.

And then one never gets to make friends I think. You just find friends. But you develop friendship. All of my best friends are but people whom I met along my life, and somehow got connected. All I did was develop that connection.Nothing else. Let’s take our case.I met you at that Architecture fair in Delhi. Just so randomly while we both were gazing at that  Burj Al Arab model at the Atkins exhibit. Who between the two of us knew back then that we would be so cool friends someday.

Though yes , it goes unsaid that there are always some common background among friends. And yes we should make make sure that we have a progressive core group because they are probably the ones we spend so much time with. And you become you companions. 

So though I do not know how to find great friends what I do know is how to take care of developing friendships.”

“How to do that?  How to develop friendship then?“, Abhay was really making me impatient to know about it. 

“It’s been quite simple Dhruv.

‘One for all,all for one.’ That’s all. 

I think, as is with just every connection we have , trust is the basis of friendship too. Trust is foundation of friendship probably. In my entire life I have made sure that I always maintained that trust among my friends. Trust to the extent that  all of us know that none of us is ever alone. I have left important meetings, skipped holidays at times just to make sure I am there to attend a friend with fading health or other with something important to be taken care of. I have always been available to them how so ever busy I have been.

I have ever made sure that our friendship had only two things in between : trust and honesty. I have always tried to be utmost honest with my friends. Honest in opinions, comments and conduct. I have always tried to be just Abhay with them.

Perhaps that’s all that one needs to take care of friendship.”

“That’s epic Abhay.” We both were now joined by Isha, Abhay’s wife. All of us sat there around the coffee table relishing the scrumptious snacks prepared by  her. We talked on some light topics as I absorbed the beautiful insight that Abhay had just offered me. 

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