Saturday, February 24, 2024

Mates find their Souls

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A Story of A Tale – 9

Life is a ride no itinerary can match. One travels from several friends to few friends to select friends at different stages of lives, many of who leave their stamp of impressions and influences; some delible, some indelible, some transient, some transformational, shaping our outlook and outcome in life.

Ninad Agarkar, in his mid-sixties, had a reasonably successful academic and vocational sojourn since beginning to work at the young age of 16, while simultaneously pursuing his academics. He had a sweet and sour union with a well-educated person and was blessed with two adorable sons who had passed out of prestigious institutions. Their success was in no small measure due to the limitless motivation and mentorship  of the tireless home maker in Ninad’s wife, Vishaka, who had give up her successful corporate career voluntarily to bring them up like only a mother can. Vishaka’s cosmos was her two sons, with no other end or beginning. Ninad distributed his time between taxing work schedules and active support to Vishaka and their two sons at home.

Vishaka hailed from a simple middle class old family of Mumbai, brought up frugally by her parents, but with values and good education. One of her siblings, Rashmi was happily married and lived in Mumbai, while the other, Vinita. a researcher in physics, was doing well in the US, having obtained her doctoral degree and teaching at a reputed university. A strong willed person, she was mildly autistic by birth, but the loving care of her parents and siblings had seen her cross several hurdles and beat challenges. She was coping well in the US, single and strong, having gone through a string of relationships. Vishaka would often visit her abroad and spend some quality time, given that Vinita was an infrequent traveller partly due to her hectic schedules and partly due to her inherent introversion.

Brihadish Kailasam, a close childhood friend of Ninad, from South India, was prodigious and prolific, as time would prove, in education, career and recognition. A bright kid, who had lost his mother when he was three, Brihadish was brought up by his father, who never chose to remarry so that he  could give his complete attention to bringing up his three young children, with the loving support of his elder brother’s family of six.


Brihadish had finished his schooling a year in advance, given his exceptional intelligence, inquisitiveness and ability to soak and sift information. He graduated in science from a college in Madras (now Chennai) and it was a matter of time before he got admission, with scholarship to boot, in one of the oldest mathematics institutes in the US. Inexorably, he went on to obtain a double master’s in computer science, quickly followed by a PhD. He had been a 99 percentile ranker through his academics and a top notch technology company took him in as a researcher, where he made his career and continues to work till date, having been inducted into its hall of fame recently for his meritorious contributions. Along the way, he authored ten books in the field of internet technology and privacy invasion. His company allowed him to be a speaker on the subject at various conferences and universities around the world. The world exposure, combined with his innate curiosity, saw him visiting libraries, vineyards and Michelin star restaurant around the world. Brihadish proudly claims to have read over two thousand books and know some of the most renowned chefs and sommeliers in several of the 56 countries. It was hard to tell whether Brihadish was bohemian or epicurean.

Brihadish and Ninad had stayed in touch over the years. Both knew each other’s families quite well. Over time it had morphed into a family friend relationship and endured the test of time notwithstanding that they were starkly different personlities with different interests and likes and dislikes. If Brihadish was an atheist, Ninad was a theist. Brihadish was voluble while Ninad was reticent. Brihadish tended to be self-righteous while Ninad had chinks in his armour and did not see the world in black and white. Brihadish never married, though he went through several affairs, while Ninad had a family. But both were practical in their outlook with an ability of a detached response to various stimuli, be it politics or world affairs or economy or social issues. Both liked travelling to exotic locations and classical music. Brihadish loved making his annual visits to India in December and spend time with Ninad and his family and travelling together to unexplored parts of India and attending the annual Carnatic musical festival in Chennai. It was an interaction of enrichment and experience for Brihadish and Ninad and a lasting bond over the years.

As a close friend, Ninad often used to ask Brihadish about his single status and urge him to find a companion at least at this late stage when he was to retire in a few years. Ninad and Vishaka had never tired of  offering to find a suitable match for him, which Brihadish always promptly dismissed and didn’t allow any intrusion in that space, while appreciating the good intent of his friend. Brihadish had everything going for him; fame, fortune, friends he had in surfeit, but he was loath to admit  that he was impacted in any way due to the absence of a fellow-soul in his life. In a moment of weakness, he did admit to Ninad that none of his relationships lasted or worked due to the intellectual gap and the dissonant views. Brihadish realised that getting a companion of the same calibre would be tough and had reconciled to a lonely ride to the dusk. He always said that his close friends more than make up for the absence of a companion in his life.

Some years flew by and it was yet another December month and Carnatic music times. Brihadish wrote to Ninad as usual about staying with him in Mumbai enroute to Chennai, but surprisingly asked him if it would be okay if he brought a friend along this time. Brihadish explained to a curious Ninad and Vishaka that over the past couple of years, he had happened to meet an highly regarded academic at a few science and technology seminars and had been impressed with the acuity and acumen of that person. Thereafter they had been in regular touch and at the last one such conference, they happened to be in opposite panels to argue for and against Chat GPT and its ramifications. Brihadish sheepishly admitted to Ninad that the panel headed by him had lost out to the panel headed by his friend. Brihadish finally had met his match.

Brihadish said that he and his friend have kept the developments away from their families and Ninad and Vishaka would be the first to know about it, given their deep friendship. Ninad and Vishaka were overjoyed to hear this and happily conceded to Brihadish’s request and looked forward to receiving him and his friend in a few days’ time.

In the early hours of December 1, Brihadish landed at the doorsteps of the Agarkar’s home. An excited Ninad and Vishaka opened the door, but were shocked and surprised like never before. Accompanying Brihadish was Vinita.

Life indeed is wondrous and joyous with all its twists and turns.


Nagesh Alai
Nagesh Alai is a management consultant, an independent director on company boards, and cofounder of a B2B enterprise tech startup. He retired in 2016 as the Group Chairman of FCB Ulka Group and Vice Chairman FCB Worldwide. Elder care and education are causes close to his heart.

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