The Friend : a story
Story By Vikram Karve
My Office in Pune
“Sir — there is someone to see you…” my Personal Assistant (PA) says.
“Who…?” I ask her.
“A “Mr. Vijay”…!” my PA says, “he says that he was your classmate in Engineering College…”
“Vijay…? Is he standing in front of you…? I ask my PA.
“No, Sir — he is waiting in the reception lounge. The receptionist had called…” my PA says.
“That’s good…” I say to my PA, “Well — I don’t remember him. Tell the receptionist to tell him that I am not free — that I am busy in a meeting…”
“Yes, Sir…” my PA says — and I put down the intercom phone.
So — Vijay wants to meet me.
I told my PA that I don’t remember who Vijay is.
But — of course I remember Vijay — my best friend in college — my hostel-mate — the person who was closest to me for the 5 years we studied for our B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering — around 50 years ago — in the 1970’s.
Dear Reader — you must be wondering why I did not want to meet my best from college.
Let me tell you why.
I am successful industrialist — I now have multiple businesses — so — well — you can say that I am a business magnate — you can even call me a “tycoon”.
But — I am a self-made man.
After my Engineering — I worked for 10 years in the industry — on the shopfloor — learning everything — then — I became an entrepreneur — I started off on my own — I failed badly — but — I rose from the ashes — so to speak — and I tried again — worked very hard — and — I succeeded — yes — my success was even beyond my own expectations — and now — I have multiple businesses — manufacturing — trading — even shipping.
My success is due to hard-work and professionalism — and of course “luck” — and most important — my HR “mantra” — No Nepotism — No Cronyism — there is no place for “relatives” and “friends” in business.
Also — I remember the days when I was down in the dumps — when my first attempt at business had failed — at that time — no one had helped me — they all turned out to be “fair weather friends”.
When you fail — people shun you — even your near and dear ones think you are a “loser”.
But — the moment you become successful — they all swarm towards you — like bees around a honeycomb — they all want to take advantage of you — and seek undue favours from you — all “leeches” — who want to exploit you.
That is why — as a matter of principle — I avoid relatives, friends, classmates etc. — and I don’t meet anyone in office — or even at home — as far as possible.
My success “mantra” has worked — business is to be run professionally — No Nepotism — No Cronyism — no place for “relatives” and “friends” in business.
That is why I avoided meeting my classmate Vijay who suddenly turned up at my office.
I wondered what he wanted…?
Vijay had joined the Navy after his Mechanical Engineering degree — in fact — he had been selected in the “University Entry Scheme” and had been commissioned when we were in our final year of Engineering and was getting a handsome salary too — I remembered the party he had given us and he always treated us too.
Then we lost contact — since he was posted on ships — and — I took up my first job in a factory in Pune.
We had last met in the alumni meet held in our college 10 years ago when I had been awarded the distinguished alumni award.
On the insistence of our classmates — we gave a musical performance — Vijay sang a song — and played the guitar — just like we did during our hostel days.
Before we said goodbye — Vijay told me that he had quit the Navy and joined Shipping — the Merchant Navy.
Ah — so that’s why he wanted to meet me.
Maybe he wanted a job in my shipping company.
We were looking for a CEO, some Superintendents, even some Masters — and — maybe — he had found out.
It was a wise decision on my part not to meet him — I had avoided the embarrassment of refusing the request of a close friend.
I had upheld my principle — my success “mantra” — business is to be run professionally — No Nepotism — No Cronyism — no place for “relatives” and “friends” in business.
My Home in Pune
When I reach home after work in the evening — my wife says to me: “Your friend had come home in the afternoon…”
“Vijay…?” I ask her.
“Yes…” she says.
“He had come to the office…” I say.
“I know — he told me that you were busy in a meeting — and wouldn’t be free whole day — so — he came home…” my wife says.
“He came to the office — then — he came home — he must be desperately wanting something from me…” I say.
“I don’t think he wanted anything from you. On the contrary — he wanted to give something to you…” she says.
“He wanted to give something to me…?” I say — surprised.
“Yes — see that box over there — there is a musical instrument inside — it’s some sort of guitar — he told me the name — but — I don’t remember exactly…” my wife says.
I walk across to the table — and — I open the box.
I am overwhelmed by emotion when I see what is in the box — I experience a delightful feeling of tremendous happiness — thrilling joy — a sense of ecstasy I feel when I get something I have passionately wanted and yearned to possess — for a long time.
I lovingly pick up the musical instrument — and — I say to my wife: “This is the Bağlama — the “saz-bağlama” — a Turkish Lute Guitar — I wanted this so much — I have all types of guitars — now — my collection will be enriched by this beautiful Bağlama…”
My wife smiles and says: “Your friend told me that you would be very happy to see this — he told me how you two would perform during your college days — you would play the guitar and he would sing…”
“Yes…” I say — I strum the strings of the Bağlama — and I say, “it is nicely tuned…”
“He told me that he bought it in Istanbul — from the best musical store — and got it tuned for you — he said you would love it…” my wife says.
“Istanbul…? He must have signed-off from his ship over there…” I say.
“No. He told me that he had gone to Istanbul in connection with chartering of a ship…” she says.
“Chartering of a ship…?” I say, surprised, “I thought he was still sailing — that’s what he told me the last time we met…”
“That was 10 years ago — he seems to have done well since then — I think he has his own shipping company now — that’s what his card says…?” my wife picks up a visiting card from the side table and holds it out.
I gently put the Saz-Bağlama back into its case — walk across to my wife — and take the business card from her.
“Wow — Monaco…!!!” I say — full of awe — Vijay is the “Director — he owns the shipping company
The shipping company name looks familiar.
I google his company name — it becomes quite clear — he has taken over the company a few days ago — bought it.
I feel very guilty for avoiding to meet him — just imagine — I thought he wanted a job in my shipping company — when actually — he owns a shipping company much better than mine.
I feel ashamed of myself.
I thought he wanted something from me — but — he wanted to give this priceless guitar to me.
I look at my wife and ask her: “Where is he staying…? I must meet him…”
“He must be on his way to Singapore…” my wife said.
“He told me that he was going to fly directly from Istanbul to Singapore — but — he found this guitar…”
“Saz-Bağlama — this instrument is called the Bağlama…” I interrupt.
“Yes — whatever it is called — he said that he knew of your fascination for guitars — so — when he saw Turkish Guitars while window-shopping in Istanbul — he immediately decided to gift one to you — so — he changed his flight — and — flew via Mumbai. He came from Mumbai to Pune by Taxi just to give you the Guitar — you refused to see him in your office — so — he found out your home address from the receptionist — and — came here to deliver the gift…” my wife says.
“I wish I had met him in office. I am so feeling so guilty for my boorish behaviour — what did he say to you…?” I say.
“He had a cup of tea. He talked a bit about your college days — about your love for music — how you loved playing the guitar while he sang. I asked him to stay for lunch — but — he said that he had to catch the evening flight to Singapore — and — he left for Mumbai Airport in the same taxi…” my wife says, “He wanted to speak to you — but — I told him that you don’t like being disturbed in office…”
I feel terrible — extremely contrite — filled with remorse — never before have I felt so ashamed of myself.
“Everything has gone wrong today…” I say, “what will he think of me — that I am a snob. I will call him right now and apologize…”
I call the number on the business card — but — it is switched off — the flight must have taken off.
My wife looks at the “Saz-Bağlama” and says: “It is such a beautiful guitar — it must be quite expensive…”
“For me — it is priceless…” I say.
I pick up the “Saz-Bağlama” Turkish Guitar and say to my wife: “I am going to the music room…”
“We are supposed to go for that dinner party to…”
“No…” I interrupt my wife, “I am in no mood for parties. I am feeling upset. I need to be alone with my music. And — I will not feel at ease till I speak to Vijay…”
“Okay…” my wife says, “Oh — I forgot — he has brought one more thing for you from Istanbul…”
She points to a bottle of Raki — the deliciously tasty liquor from Turkey — which turns milky white when you add water to it.
“Keep the Raki bottle in the liquor cabinet…” I say to my wife, “I will enjoy it with Vijay when we have our music session together — I will play the “Saz-Bağlama” and he will sing…”
“Will he come…?” she asks.
“Of course he will come…” I say, “I will speak to him the moment he lands in Singapore and ask him to spend a few days with us in Pune on his way back to Monaco…”
“Hope he has time to stopover…” she says.
“The only way I can make amends for my churlish behaviour is to play this “Saz-Bağlama” for him — which he got so lovingly for me — and — if he doesn’t have time — we will go to Monaco…” I say to my wife.
Copyright © Vikram Karve
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
- This story is a fictional spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
- This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)
Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2021/04/the-friend.html
This story is also posted in my writing blog at urls: https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/04/25/the-friend-story/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2022/02/10/the-friend/ etc
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.