Story 14. Doing Business With Friends.

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I met S for the first time in 1974. I was a visiting customers and he too was as an agent for a big textile company. We kept meeting each other in the market for many years till 1990 I joined the company for which he was the agent. By that time, we had known each other fairly well and both of us had visited each other’s homes many times.

S is a deeply religious person forever going off on pilgrimages and visiting temples. An activity in which his wife actively participated and they were well known for their fervour including their significant contributions to the establishment of a local high school based on Hindu traditions.

S has been blessed with two children the elder a daughter now a grandmother who lives in the same town that S lives in. Her daughter, son in law and grand daughter live in the USA and the proud grandparents often go to the USA to baby sit and shop.

The younger child M, our hero, is a son and also a grand father now. He too lives in the same town and shares the same residence with his father. His two young sons were the first ever in my life to call me grand father. The grandparents doted on the two boys and in many ways, at least in my opinion, spoiled them silly.

When S was our agent for a few years before I retired, M used to work along with his father in the agency. He however decided to branch off on his own as S was quite a control freak and would not let the young man have much freedom. He set up a manufacturing unit rather than start an agency and by all accounts, he flourished. He also became a sourcing agent for a European company and did well on that business as well.

This was however galling for S and when M decided to move his residence to a near by city where his establishment was, relations between father and son broke and they stopped talking to each other. They however needed to communicate with each other on various family matters, and I was elected by both of them to be one of the links. I was and continue to be registered in M’s mobile phone as God Father!

In due course, the grandchildren grew up and the elder boy unfortunately became an alcoholic. He caused havoc in the small town where the family’s reputation and businesses suffered and the family spiraled their way into near penury in a short time with neither the grand father nor the father able to spare enough time and funds to mend damages constantly caused by the errant son.

I had to step in and arrange for the young lad to be admitted into a rehabilitation center and what happened to him subsequently is an entire story by itself. Suffice it to say that for the past one year he has been sober. In the meanwhile, the younger lad was sent to the UK for advanced education at considerable expenditure and on his return he joined M in his business but relations quickly soured between the two as the youngster did not like the way the father was conducting the business.

By now, you would have gathered that the family had become totally dysfunctional and it took a toll on S and his wife’ health with both suffering heart attacks with the latter succumbing to one of them three years ago. M too had an attack and recovered to find everything in shambles and started to rebuild his life with some vigor but had to simultaneously play a number of care giving roles which started to affect his life in multiple directions.

I had linked some of my business associates with M to supply raw materials for his business and when M started to default on payments, I was dragged into the mess with increasing frequency. It was during this period that M stopped taking my telephone calls, which he was doing with his suppliers too. I went through some tough times resolving these issues, which I was able to with some dexterity by linking up with M’s customers and forming a syndicate to sort out the cash flow problems.

As I write this, the problems where I was involved have been solved and M came to meet me last week to apologise and to make amends as it were. He requested me to intercede on his behalf to restore supplies of raw materials on credit, so that he can get back on his feet. I flatly refused and informed him that what made me withdraw my support to him was his refusal to take my phone calls. He pleaded with me that he was going through so many difficulties and was not in a position to answer me with any assurances, but I held firm and said that I had had enough and despite our long lasting and special relationship, I would no longer get involved in business matters but would be available as a family friend. He went away sulking and it broke my heart to see him in that condition but I decided that at my age and stage of life, I can do without such melodrama. I still do not know if that was the right decision but, I have decided to be firm on my resolve.

One of the maxims that is very popular in Indian business circles, observed more in the breach, is not to do business with friends but to make friends with business associates. I give this advise to all my mentees. In this case, I followed the maxim but a friend made via business turned out to be my Waterloo.

Story 10. The Abused Wife.

“All of us are going around with an entire story of our lives, completely different from the story of our lives that anybody else would tell. So much of our lives never breaks the surface.  ~ Claire Messud in The Guardian.
raped-girl-248In my earlier story on Addiction, I had mentioned my stay in Tirupur when my own problems with addiction was a significant part of my life.  Apart from all the other tools that I used during that difficult period, I also sought divine intervention.  I used to visit a Ganesha temple near my home on my way to my office in the mornings.  I had no doubts that the Remover Of Obstacles will come to my help and He took his time but come He did.

This story is about someone else and not how Ganesha helped me.  That story has already been told.

I was living in a small developing suburb and there were very few occupied houses there then.  I suppose that I must have been some kind of a novelty for living alone and working for a very well known company in the town.  There is little that can be kept secret in small towns and I was not surprised when this story unfolded the way it did.

While at the temple, I used to see a middle aged couple come about the same time that I would be there and after a few occasions of seeing each other, we started to greet each other with a Namaste.  Some times the lady would come alone and then too she would inevitably smile and do the Namaste to me and I would reciprocate.

On one such occasion when she was alone she was distracted somewhat and also very nervous.  For the first time ever, I spoke to her and asked her if everything was alright with her and she said that she would appreciate it if she would be allowed to meet me at my home.  I told her that it would be perfectly alright to do so when my daily help, a lady would be at home in the mornings before I left for the temple and the next day she landed up at my home.

She informed me that her husband had lost his job and that they were in dire straits.  She requested me to employ him in my organisation.  I said that I would need details before I could commit and asked her to send her husband to me with a resume.

The husband landed up the next morning and on seeing his resume I could see that he was a habitual job jumper and on being queried on that aspect, he came up with bizarre reasons for his not being able to stay in one job for any reasonable length of time.  I offered to take him on on a trial basis for a month and if he came up to scratch would offer him a secure position.  He agreed to this and he was to start from the following Monday.

He never turned up and I did not see either him or his wife for the next week or so at the temple either.  Then one morning I saw the lady alone at the temple and it was obvious that she had been bashed up.  When she saw me looking at her, she broke down and started to weep which was very embarrassing.  I requested her to compose herself and meet me next morning at home, which she duly did.

The story that I finally pieced together was that her husband was drinking heavily and that was why he was losing his jobs.  He would also get drunk and beat her up while under the influence and she was at her wits end.

At that time I was still not involved with AA and I really did not know how to handle this situation.   I asked her if she had tried to defend herself when her husband was beating her up and she said that it was impossible as he was very violent and would use any object near at hand to grab and use it as a weapon to bash her with.  On an impulse I suggested that she might try assaulting him first, if necessary with a rolling pin or something like that and she recoiled like as though she had been hit by me.  She went off on a tirade about how ridiculous that I suggest that she could lift a hand at her husband etc and I allowed her to let off some steam and explained to her that bullies would normally back off when they were confronted and she simply and quietly, said Namaste and went away.

About a week later I saw the pair together at the temple and both were looking grand and quite cheerful.  No words were exchanged but smiles and Namastes were and this continued till I left Tirupur to handle my own problems.

I have always wondered if that lady took my advise and walloped her husband to bring about the change.

“God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest.”

~ J. G. Holland

Explanation.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine had sent me an illustration which I shall insert into this post at the end.

Strangely enough, yesterday a young man of my acquaintance faced the axe in his company and was devastated. It caught him totally unawares and he is in quite a quandary as to how he will manage his considerable debt portfolio.

Be that as it may, this picture clearly shows what the problem was for the young man and I was able to show him this and how he has been caught in a reinforcing cycle of self destruction. Counseling sessions will continue till he recovers his equilibrium which should not take too long, but my readers may be interested in the message that this illustration sends loud and clear.

Sanyas!

My friend K came today on his monthly visit. The topic of discussion today was on parenting.

K’s last born, now eighteen lives with him. K as my readers may recollect is a divorced single parent. K’s two elder children are daughters and now married and settled down to domestic and career bliss in India and the USA. K did not need to consult me on parenting for them, but now finds it necessary at least to discuss the matter to see if he is doing the right things with a growing young man who lives at home.

I started off by telling K that I know of no father who has been totally successful in providing the right kind of parenting and that it has been my observation that almost all, bungle their way around this and eventually come out smelling like roses. I also suggested that things will be alright and there is no need to worry unduly about this matter.

Interestingly, the topic then changed to some other matters that have been worrying K and on top of the agenda was the problem of an alcoholic in the family. That discussion took off in a direction that neither of us had anticipated. I had just been south to tackle the same problem for another friend’s family and I shared my experience of that visit and the course of action that we followed there. K is likely to get another meeting organised for me with the people concerned in his family soon and perhaps something will come out of it.

That discussion took us into another matter. K wanted to know why I don’t drink or eat non vegetarian food any more and whether I will start to do both ever again . This has been a topic that I have not discussed with many people, and certainly not with K. K knew that I was quite a bon vivant some years ago and wished to understand what brought about the change and whether the path that I chose is something that I enjoy being on or whether it is a distasteful experience that I am undergoing with some other self imposed compulsions.

That broke some dam inside me. I simply cannot figure out why it happened, but all the whymeitis that has been kept bottled up inside me for years, came out in a torrent, much to the surprise and eventual delight of K. At the end of it all he said, and I quote him verbatim, ” you are now ready for Sanyas.” Some friend!

I now have an idea for a post on whether I am ready for sanyas or not. In the meanwhile, some of my readers who have been following my rants here may have their opinions on the matter. I would be interested in reading their comments.