Trust / Mistrust / Deficit Of Trust.


As part of my alma mater’s silver jubilee celebrations, alumni in Pune met some time ago, using the occasion of a visit to Pune by an alumnus of our very first batch, to felicitate him and another alumnus of the same batch now resident in Pune. During that meeting some alumni shared their experiences as flash-back to highlight the changes at the institute between the first batch and the latest in ten year gaps. One such alumnus made a particular mention of something that he found novel in the hostel dormitory where there was a pantry where residents would draw stock and make entries in a register and effect payment once a month. For him this was a novel experience and he was overwhelmed by the Trust factor involved.

Another alumnus who was present dug up an old article written by a media personality in a newspaper some years ago and shared it with us. I went looking for it in the web but instead of that, found another very interesting article by the same personality which is on the deficit of trust!

The only formula that I have on relationships is that I trust the other person till I am proved otherwise and after that, the relationship simply ceases to exist. This has saved me from all kinds of problems. Using my formula I have lived my life on a trusting relationship basis and have not suffered any major setbacks because of that. I therefore find the article a little unsettling for the truth contained in it.

How do you react to the article?

Old Friends And Their Families.

Abad lattice

In one of my posts Stories From The Past I had written about my friends in Ahmedabad and as fate would have it, Jalal had to come back into my life to a much pleasanter interface.

My Godson M and his lovely bride of 34 years V had come to spend some time with me at Pune and we had long conversations and caught up with many stories that had happened between our last meeting and now. The four days that they were here passed off very quickly and they left yesterday for Ahmedabad to catch up with some work and to visit an exhibition in which M is interested for his business.

Neither of them had any connections at Ahmedabad and requested me to arrange for their accommodation and transport for their use there during their two day stay there. I promptly rang up Jalal who features in my story to which I have linked above and that wonderful fellow made all the arrangements despite being preoccupied with his imminent departure for Saudi Arabia for his Umrah. His younger brother H took charge in his absence and tied up loose ends and as I write this, I get information from V and M that their stay has been extremely comfortable and well organised by the two brothers.

This little interlude gave me an opportunity to reestablish contact with the new generation of a family that I have known since the seventies of the last century! It has given me the enthusiasm to revisit Ahmedabad next year when my graduating class of 1967 intends having a half century reunion on the entry year, next year there at our Institute. (We have chosen the year of entry rather than the graduation as every year the casualty list is increasing and we hope to see the maximum number of classmates if it is held two years ahead of the graduating year’s golden jubilee.)

It is always nice to reestablish contacts with old friends and I am delighted that it was made possible due to completely unforeseen circumstances.  Has anything like this happened to you recently?

Story 18. Robert And Anton.

In 1961 and 1962, I was in Hyderabad living a very interesting bachelor’s life with a steady girl friend and making enough money to have a better time than most of my age group youngsters were having. One of the two favourite hanging out places for me and some of my friends was a place on Abid Road called Savoy which was a restaurant on the first floor. A very friendly Sardarji ran it and since it had a few cabins for private parties, it was a favourite place for cooing young couples to meet and have some snacks and coffee.

It was below this restaurant that I first made my acquaintance with Robert who would dust and occasionally even wash my scooter without my ever having to ask him with the expectation that I would give him a generous tip. He would do the same with the other scooters and motorcycles that used to be parked there and I suppose that he made enough to keep his body and soul together. He was a cheerful man around 45 then and so much older than I was or my friends but that did not stop him from being very friendly with all of us.

Over a period of time, I started using him to do other odd jobs for me like delivering letters and mail for which I would agree on a rate on each chore basis and he never failed me. Seeing me successfully do this, some of my other friends also did the same and he became a sort of courier operating out of that foot path. On some occasions when I had had too much of the good stuff, he would drive my scooter with me precariously perched on the pillion home and put me to bed and stay the night in my bed sitter till morning and leave after ensuring that I was operational. A kind of paternal bond that he developed with me that till date baffles me for its total unselfishness. There were many occasions when he had come to the help of me and my friends during our youthful capers and all my friends were also very fond of him.

Robert had joined the Indian Army as a young lad and had retired as a soldier after fifteen years of service. When his earning capacity became zilch and he had to depend on his meager pension, in a country with very opportunities for employment at that age for someone with hardly any skills, his wife took their children and went back to her parent’s place deserting him and leaving him to his devices. This was the reason for his enterprise that brought him into my orbit.

I moved to Chennai in December 1962 and lost touch with Robert till the middle of the following year when I went back to Hyderabad on business and met him. He requested me to find some kind of employment for him in Chennai as he was a Tamilian and wished to spend the rest of his life in Tamil Nadu. I promised him to do what I could and on return to Chennai, I did without much success.

In the meanwhile, in Chennai I had made friends with Anton, a very unusual fellow. A Franco Indian of French father and Indian mother from Karaikal. He was a Marine Surveyor for a French company and would survey ships for hull insurance claims on behalf of his employers in France. He was unusual for many reasons notably for his very flowery Tamil spoken like a trooper and English with a peculiar accent which made him stand out in a crowd. He would look like any Tamilian but wore his French ancestry like a badge of honour. He was a French citizen with Indian relatives and that was a formidable combination. He had a streak of wildness about him that was inexplicable and would take risks that normal mortals would not. He had a Ford Jeep with the steering wheel on the left side and would inevitably get into scrapes with other drivers on the road driving on the left side of the road in vehicles with the steering wheel on the right side. And when he had had a few under his belt, he would become a maniac and would drive like he was on open ground with no other traffic on the roads.

Anton was divorced from a lady who was back in France and lived alone in a middle class neighbourhood in an upstairs flat and had endless problems with his neighbours but since he paid a much higher rent than his landlord would get from an Indian, the landlord who lived downstairs would assuage hurt feelings and keep things from getting out of hand. He had trouble with his servants too and I must have seen at least half a dozen of them passing through his life in the three years that I knew him.

On one occasion when Anton was sans servant, I remembered Robert and asked him if he would consider employing him as a butler to which he readily agreed. I wrote to Robert and asked him to come down to Chennai to see if it would work out and when he did, it was obvious that these two were meant for each other. Robert moved in with Anton around the middle of 1964 when I was too busy to keep tabs as I was busy with my own life and adventures. We would occasionally meet at Anton’s and it was obvious to me that both of them were happy with the arrangement and that was enough for me.

Before I went away to Ahmedabad in 1965, Anton threw a farewell party for me completely arranged for by Robert and it was a memorable one in more ways than what I can write here.

In 1966, I received a letter from Robert announcing that Anton had died in an automobile accident and that he was moving back to Hyderabad. I received a couple of letters from him from Hyderabad advising me that he was unhappy there and whether I would be able to help secure him some employment in Ahmedabad. I was lucky in doing so with the help of a very dear friend who arranged to take him into his company as a watchman. Robert moved to Ahmedabad and stayed on in Ahmedabad even after his retirement after getting himself a local lady for a wife, till I lost touch with him after I moved to Pune in 1990. In between, every time I went to Ahmedabad, I would meet him and we would spend some time reminiscing about old times.

This is one story that I do not know the ending of. I do not know if Robert is alive or what happened to his wife and children if any as many changes have taken place in Ahmedabad since that time. The company that he worked for closed down and the land was converted to residential plots and the total landscape of the city has changed. I doubt very much that I would be able to go there now and find him. A strange ending for a man who wanted to spend his life in his beloved Tamil Nadu who landed up in Gujarat and just disappeared from my life.

But at an impressionable time in my life he played a valuable role as well as in the life of another amazing character. He is certainly one of my Unforgettable Characters as was Anton whose wild ways finally got his life as payment.

Stories From The Past – 2

I had assured my readers yesterday, that I would share another story from Ahmedabad with them and here it is.

Ahmedabad is the commercial capital of Gujarath, the only state in India with total prohibition of alcohol consumption. There are cumbersome procedures to get a permit from the Excise department to consume alcohol for medicinal purposes, but that is another story.

For visitors from other states without prohibition, there is a facility in most hotels to procure temporary permits to purchase alcohol within the hotel’s premises.

On one of my trips to Ahmedabad, I had obtained such a permit and also purchased a pint of whiskey. Unfortunately for me, during my stay during that trip, I did not have the time or occasion to consume the whiskey and the unopened bottle remained in my overnighter.

On my departure from Ahmedabad airport, I had the overnighter as a carry on baggage and was asked to open it for inspection by the Airport Security Detail of the Gujarath Police stationed there. When the bottle of whiskey was found the policeman took me aside and took me to the senior officer in another room. I explained that I had a valid permit, showed it to him and said that I could not consume the whiskey and was taking it back with me to Bombay. The Inspector accepted that I was not doing anything illegal but said that I could not take the bottle with me. I said that I could not very well drink it there and still make the flight. After much hemming and hawing and looking up the rule book he pleaded his helplessness, but suggested that I check in the overnighter with the whiskey inside to solve the problem of the rules. Checked in luggage were not subject to x-ray inspection those days. I had to go back outside the security area, re check in, explain to the airline staff the problem and check in the luggage and finally made it to the flight.

When I shared this story with some of my more savvy friends, they said that I should have offered to split the bottle half and half with the Inspector, and I would have been allowed to carry it on board!

Stories From The Past.

Last week, I had shared with my readers a story from my Delhi days which came back to revive a friendship after almost three decades. Today, I shall continue with another one from the mid-eighties, which too came back in a most unexpected way.

Some few weeks ago, I came to know about the passing away of Kader from Ahmedabad, for who I had a great deal of respect and affection. He was a customer of the company with which I was working in the eighties and one of the most honest and trustworthy men in a highly competitive field. Kader was highly respected by his customers in turn and in his passing away, one more interesting personality from my active business days had gone to make his peace.

I had known his family too and knowing that his son Jalal was already in the business, I sent a message of condolence to the young man with some references to his late father’s excellent character and reputation. Jalal in turn rang me up to convey his and his family’s gratitude for the most unexpected communication from me.

On the day that I had the meeting with my airport friend from Delhi, when I returned from the supermarket, I received another telephone call from Jalal to just hand over the phone to his family doctor who wanted to share with me his memories of the time that I had an accident in Ahmedabad, The family doctor had to be summoned to attend to me in my hotel, late in the evening. The family doctor was reminiscing about various people that he had met through Kader and he remembered me for that memorable night which was an experience that he had never had earlier nor since then. This is the story about that accident and a retired GP’s memories of that incident.

As Sales Manager, I was visiting customers at Ahmedabad and had checked into a hotel for the night. After checking in, the bellboy before leaving the room after depositing the luggage and turning on the Airconditioner etc, asked me if there was anything else that I required. I said no and sent him on his way with the usual tip.

I took a shower, changed into my off duty dress of lungi and kurtha and started to read a book when there was a knock at the door and the same page boy once again asked me if I wanted any other service. I told him that I would order for food from the room service and did not need anything, thanked him and shut the door.

After a few moments he once again knocked to ask the same question but with a sign language of “do you want to drink something?” Ahmedabad is in the state of Gujarath, the only state in India with prohibition of alcohol consumption in force with a thriving bootlegging trade. I had made my own arrangements and now having understood the keenness of the lad to be of service to me, I declined and sent him off.

After a few moments, the same lad appeared again with a sly grin and was just beginning to ask if I wanted some other service, when I lost my temper and decided to give him a good kick and send him on his way. I did, and the next thing that I remember is being flat out on my knees with a throbbing and bleeding forehead. I had forgotten that I was wearing a lungi, which is a cylindrical garment from waist down to the ankles, and had tripped over while executing the kick, but by some instinct turned around before falling down and hit my forehead on the sharp corner of the door’s latch.

The young man panicked and ran away and I got up to try and stem the bleeding with toilet paper and water but had little success. I rang up Kader and told him that I had cut myself and needed a doctor to come and put in a couple of stitches. He promptly rushed with his family doctor and it was done within the next half an hour. I still carry that scar on my forehead.

The doctor when told about how I came to cut myself like that, laughed his heart out and said that he was glad that he and Kader wore pajamas at home and not lungis. After all these years, he remembered that incident and was reminiscing with Jalal about that evening when Jalal decided to share the story from the doctor himself.

Since then a flood of memories of my visits to that beautiful town, has been visiting me. Ahmedabad is special for me for another reason in that I went to Business School there for two years in the sixties. I have many interesting recollections of those two years too. I may write about some of them later, but my next post will be on a really funny experience that I had there with the security detail at the airport on another occasion.