I had expressed my bewilderment with the very casual use of the word “love” in an earlier post. I had asked, in all seriousness, how a man can say, “ I love my wife” and after five minutes say “I love Masala Dosa” with the same intensity.

Another word like that in a different league altogether, but equally as casually used to describe all kinds of things is “Success”. I always insist on anyone using this word in any communication to me, to clearly define what exactly is meant and in what context it is used.

Let me illustrate.

I have two friends. The three of us were classmates in school and have continued to be friends for all these years.

One is a very wealthy entrepreneur who has just about every possible material comfort and status symbol that money can buy. He comes from a small farming family whose two other brothers are still farmers just about reaching what can be called a border line upper middle class level of life styles. My friend has nothing to do with his brothers and shuns them for having treated him very shabbily when he did not want to be a farmer and wanted to partition the property to take his share to start his business. Subsequent to his success, the brothers of course tried to get back into his good books, but my friend would have nothing of it. The schism, is supposed to be the cause of the death of both of his parents at untimely ages.

This friend has a son and a daughter. The son has joined the father’s business after completing his studies, which included an MBA from an American University. The daughter is married into another wealthy business family and is apparently comfortably settled.

The other friend was the most studious of the three of us and went on to become a Professor. He has got a PhD and is considered to be an excellent teacher with a very loyal student and peer following. Like most teachers, he has not made a great deal of money but is reasonably comfortable in his retirement with his pension and income from savings. His two sons, both in the USA subsidize his standard of living and therefore he has no financial problems.

I am retired from a lifetime of professional management and consulting, besides being a mentor to a number of young managers and entrepreneurs. I have a son who lives with us after his divorce from his wife of five years. He is also recovering from a failed entrepreneurial venture, and is now in regular employment paying off the debts that he had accumulated in his attempt at entrepreneurship. My primary occupation is to provide care to my wife who is semi invalid. I have a reasonably good life style though not anywhere near what my other two friends can afford.

My first friend has had two open-heart surgeries and is slightly handicapped due to a stroke. The other friend has been to the USA on three occasions and has returned to India a disappointed man, as he does not want to live there, and his two sons, do not want to return to India. He and his wife have just moved into a cooperative home project for senior citizens.

From among the three of us, who do you think is a success? Why?