Story 15. One Of The Apples Of My Eyes.

My stories so far have been about out of the ordinary and sometimes bizarre experiences with people that I had come in contact with. Here however is a story, very ordinary in telling but of great courage and grit shown by a father and son team from very small beginnings who underwent a lot of difficulties, but overcame them all to build a successful business and family life for all members of their family and a partner who for all practical purposes a member of their family. I am now involved with the third generation of the family with the young men in college testing their brains with me. A family that I am extremely fond and proud of.

Balram is a friend from my Speakeasy days of the late sixties and early seventies of the last century in Mumbai. We used to run into each other in the same dives and became good friends over time. The ties between our two families have stood the test of time of 46 years.

This story is about the success of Balram’s family and one particular individual in it. The family has had its share of ups and downs and all the in-betweens like broken marriages, reconciliations, deaths, births, laughter and sorrow like any other family, almost all of which has been experienced by me along with it either close at hand or from a distance. Just an ordinary garden variety family out of which one risk taking individual paying attention to satisfying his customers has overcome many hurdles to become a successful business man.

Balram is from an agricultural background from the Konkan. His elder brother stayed back in their village looking after the parents and tilling their family farm. Balram worked for a British company as a clerk but had big ambitions. He loathed the atmosphere in the company and the white collar trade union which had a strangle-hold on the management and wanted to get out. He found a way out by getting a couple of his relatives from his village trained as electricians in an ITI to come over and started an electrical contracting business to which he eventually added house painting contracts as well.

He did well enough in a decade after I had met him for him to quit his job and concentrate his energies full time on his business. His two delightful two young sons and two daughters were studying well in Mumbai and the eldest, Suresh is the hero of my story. I had given the contract for rewiring and repainting of my flat in Bombay to Balram and he brought Suresh along one day and the youngster simply stole our hearts. My late wife particularly took a shine to the young lad and the feeling was highly reciprocated.

Suresh completed his graduation in due course and joined his father’s business and diversified into fabricating made-to-order furniture as well. For the latter, he took on board his childhood friend a trained designer, Dinkar as his partner. The furniture business did so well that Suresh eventually separated from Balram’s business to go for larger contracts which the latter was loath to get into. The two girls got married and went to their husband’s homes, one of who eventually divorced her husband to build a career for herself only to get married again, and the younger son has gone on to build a strong and successful career in the private sector as an employee. Balram and by default I are grandfathers many times over.

While Balram was making a life for himself in Bombay, things soured between him and his elder brother following the death of their parents and over the division of property. Due to this and when the time for Suresh’s wedding came along, a role I had to play, the bonds between my and Balram’s families were strengthened further.

Balram fixed the wedding of his eldest son and the eldest daughter in one ceremony which is quite common in our families with relatives having to come from distant parts to cities to attend weddings. Normally Balram’s elder brother would have taken a daughter in marriage for his nephew as in our system the brother’s son is also considered to be a son rather than a nephew. Since relations between Balram and his brother were not good, at the request of Balram and his wife, Urmeela and I adopted Suresh as our son in a Vedic ceremony and took the daughter in marriage as our daughter in law. Thus Suresh has been my religiously adopted son since 1991. I have seen him grow into a fine and level headed individual and he is a particular favourite of mine.

About fifteen years ago, just about the time when I was also retiring from active corporate life, Balram retired and went to his village to repair his old ancestral home and take charge of what his portion of the inheritance came to. Their old home in Central Bombay was converted into an office for the business which was taken over fully by Suresh. Suresh and his friend/partner moved to New Bombay and eventually bought accommodation for themselves. Balram often visits their New Bombay set up but is usually impatient to get back to the village where he claims that his health remains better!

The business started to grow with good word of mouth references till four years ago when a very satisfied customer suggested that with their regular and well trained crew, they should consider diversifying into new construction and also advised them to go outside Bombay and New Bombay to find opportunities. That is exactly what these young men did and went to a town near their ancestral village on the Bombay to Goa highway and bought up some tracts of land. Phase one of their new business has been completed and they have started phase two of a gated community. On the border of their property abutting the highway, they started a restaurant with clean rest room facilities, sadly lacking for miles in either direction on that busy highway, and that business has also taken off like a rocket under the capable management of a local working partner/manager.

As I write this, Suresh spends most of his time at the project site while Dinkar stays behind in Bombay to look after the business there and to service clients from Bombay with interests in properties being developed in the Konkan. Sons of Suresh and Dinkar do not want to join the business and would rather study and get into what they hope will be 10 to 5 jobs. I do not want to disillusion them and just goad them into studying well. There is enough time for them to experiment and there is always the safety net built for them by the earlier two generations.

Among the various options that I have been considering for my long time retirement, moving to the Konkan is one that keeps cropping up with annoying frequency with Suresh wanting me to do so immediately and I wanting to savour Pune life for just a little more. My readers will know all about this piece of information soon with photographs etc. Till then, please bear with me.

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