October 7, 2016 Leave a comment
Last night, prompted by this extraordinary story of a 40 year friendship (Link) I went to bed thinking of the most notable friendships of my life….The beginnings, the highlights and the endings and the different flavours. In this post, I share the story of an extraordinary friendship that grew most unexpectedly out of networking.
Late 2013-Early 2014,I wished to connect with a “Person”. I’ve always liked his approach to work. And I believed that I could add value to his work in a way that no one else could. However, the most obvious person I could enlist to make this connection was far from tech savvy. I wished to be taken seriously for my abilities, not accommodated as a favour. So I spent a couple of months feeling stymied and was considering just trying my luck and cold calling. That’s when IndiBlogger announced the BigRock #Word-Up on the 20th of September,2014.One of the keynote speakers on e-governance was Vinit Goenka. He was the National Co-Convenor of the BJP-IT Cell then. The IT bit sounded good , though I had no idea where he stood in the party’s scheme of things or with the “Person” I wished to connect with . In anycase, I was game to try. At least I could draw closer and make my way towards what I really wanted, never mind the steps in between. So, I made contact ,drawing on the name of a family friend I judged as unlikely to draw extremely negative responses from any quarter. The name of our mutual acquaintance worked well enough to get me a visiting card and a first appointment. Below is a photo of me from a little while before we met. Yeah ! Life is strange we met in a pub……………a man who doesn’t drink at all and hates the very smell of liquor and a woman who hates the taste of most liquor and disguises it with copious doses of additives to manage the required social drinking to network…………..
A man is known by the company he keeps and my earliest insights came from the afternoon Vinit ,Robin and I spent together.First Satkar in Churchgate it was, with Vinit feeding us Southies masala chaas (mor) and uttapam .Then it was off by train to Borivali. Robin and I had quite a noisy debate while poor Vinit tried to catch some shut-eye and get some relief from his conjunctivitis. At the time I had no idea of how much Vinit drives himself and cuts down on sleep and generally compromises with his health. Train ride over, it was a pile up into an auto and off to Vinit’s Mumbai office for more chaas and dabelis and finding me some work to do. At the time, I didn’t get how rare a day it really was. Never again have I seen Vinit with so much time at hand, free to do ordinary stuff such as ride trains and patronize the Satkars ,and generally relive his college days.
A man is best vouched for by his opponents. Remember my original goal was to connect with someone else? A professional politician might say just about anything as long as his purpose was served. A year later I had reason to believe that Vinit might not be the worst person to confide in but I had no confirmation that he was the right person to depend on. That confirmation was to come in late 2015, when an opponent independently conformed facts unwittingly. This confirmation came in the nick of time to save our connection.
Vinit himself I find personally congenial. I love his sense of humour .He’s an excellent raconteur .And he has great talent at mimicry. I’m almost always laughing in his company. In fact recalling his jokes at other times is guaranteed to get me smiling. If there is one habit of his that I find a bummer, its his timetabling. I find the habits he has to guard his timetable pretty rude. But have found my own ways to minimize ,if not totally avoid the irritations rising from his habits. And I’m happy to adjust, as overall when he’s nice, he’s really very very nice. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the people round him. To begin with, I prefer to work alone or occasionally in groups I find highly congenial and have zero tolerance for intra-group politics. When I take up a task, my work-ethic requires me to turn in perfect work and deliver whatever I’ve promised. I won’t ever compromise on work once I’ve agreed to do it and expect the same of others. And personal excuses galore, patronizing references to my supposedly easy life as a single woman without cares and responsibilities without the need to earn a living, an ignorance of my work history and capabilities, envy, petty jealousies, withholding the papers I needed to get the work done, carrying tales……….etc etc. would have made me quit and try some other way to achieve my ends. All the pluses of Vinit’s own habits were no match for the plethora of aggravations of his people. All that had saved the day was my own work ethic and a promise I made very lightly at the time to Robin, that yes I could work with Vinit on his pet project .
Time passed. I demonstrated a measure of success to change the tune of erstwhile critics. I matched my commitment level to that of others on the group and generally asserted myself and my priorities and took back control. More interestingly the relationship between myself and Vinit changed. Not only did he drop some of his management techniques that were guaranteed to get a poor reaction from me, but I also got a free hand to do my thing. And I’d say the results improved. The last I met Vinit, a few days ago, I was pleased to note that he said that he could not have done what he did without me. Feels good. Friendship is for equals. Vinit is my elder by 7 years. He has experience of a lot of things I know nothing about. He has skills I admire. Some of which I would love to cultivate myself. And some I know I can’t ever do as well as him. He is my rakhi brother for 2 years now and has proven himself willing to put up a massive offence when I need it, a mentor for a while longer and I have benefitted by his wisdom, but I’m loving the fact that I’m now my own person with skills that Vinit values highly.
Not sure either of us is guaranteed 40 more years on earth. Vinit has a history of hanging onto friends. I have a history of sudden changes in my life situation. Even when I have reconnected with old friends, things are nothing like the past. I am the one who has changed drastically. I’ve no idea what the future holds. But so far he has proven to be Destiny’s Gift to me. At his instigation, quite often most grudgingly, I have cultivated skills and capacities that have had far reaching positive results in other parts of my life. At this point in my life, he is probably the biggest impetus for personal growth. I think I’ll watch #YaaronKiBaraat to try and pick up how people maintain such long lasting friendships for I now have one I’d love to grow.