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Stories. 
Pride in Friendship
by Ramendra Kumar

Dinesh and Rajeev were the best of friends. They had been together since childhood. Dinesh was an orphan staying with his grandma, while Rajeev lived with his parents.

Rajeev’s parents had come to Dinesh’s aid whenever he needed money for his school fees and to buy books and later to attend job interviews.

Both Dinesh and Rajeev after completing their graduation joined Paras Soap, a company manufacturing and marketing soaps and detergents.

After a few years, Dinesh had and opportunity to make a presentation before Jayant Grover, the Managing Director of the Company. Grover was impressed and took Dinesh in his secretariat. Overnight Dinesh became very powerful due to his closeness to MD. Dinesh started working very hard. he knew this was his best chance to make it big. Slowly an surely he made himself almost indispensable to the MD. Often he would go to Grover’s house on some work of the other. There he became friends with Grover’s daughter Shilpa.

One evening, after everyone had left, Grover called him to his chamber and asked him if would like to marry Shilpa.

Dinesh was ecstatic. What more could he want. Dinesh and Shilpa got married. Three months later Dinesh was promoted to the post of Vice President, Marketing. Rajeev who was Senior Manager had now to report to Dinesh. Rajeev was a friendly sort of chap who was quite comfortable with taking things easy and enjoying life. He was genuinely fond of Dinesh and had no problems in reporting to him or anyone else. He had got married four years ago to Malati his sister’s classmate. And they had a two year old son Yash.

One day Dinesh called a meeting of his team. They were discuss the advertising strategy for launching a new soap exclusively meant for kids. Dinesh spoke for the first ten minutes explaining the advertising campaign he had in mind and then invited feedback from those present.

“Listen yaar, Dinesh I think the idea of launching a soap for the kids is a great one. But the advertising campaign you have in mind really won’t work.. It is too serious. A campaign for a product meant for kids should have a strong element of fun.”

Dinesh did not reply. After glaring at Rajeev for a few seconds he turned his attention elsewhere.

Later he called Rajeev to his chamber. When Rajeev entered Dinesh was standing with his back to him.
Dinesh turned back and looking straight at Rajeev said, “Listen Rajeev, we are childhood friends, bosom pals and all that. I am also grateful to your parents for what all they have done. But you should keep it in mind that I am first and foremost your boss in the office, not your childhood chum. Outside you can call me anything, behave with me as informally as possible. But once we are in the office you have to observe the official decorum and dignity. You can’t address me by my name and call me yaar and all that. What will other’s think - a senior manager taking liberties with the Vice President of the Company.”

Rajeev stared at Dinesh open mouthed. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“B...but Dinesh, you and I....”

Dinesh raised his hand.” Enough. There is no point in discussing further. Just remember in the office I am Mr. Dinesh or Sir okay,” he turned back in a gesture of dismissal.

Rajeev walked out. His face red. He couldn’t sleep for two nights. It was unbelievable Dinesh - his best friend who had always been more than a brother to him behaving in this manner.

~*~

On February 4th, a month later Rajeev rang up Dinesh in his house. It was their birthday. Both of them had been born on the same day. However, Dinesh was a year older. They had celebrated all their birthdays together, even after Rajeev’s marriage. This was the first birthday after Dinesh had got married and Rajeev was keen they celebrate it together. Though Rajeev had felt very bad after their last conversation he had rationalized Dinesh’s behavior.

“He may be right after all. Seeing my informal behavior Dinesh if all his juniors start taking liberties with him, it would create a real problem,” Rajeev tried to convince himself.

Dinesh lifted the phone.

“Happy birthday, yaar,” Rajeev yelled on the phone.

“Ah! Yes. Same to you,” was the sedate reply.

“What is the plan of action for today?”

“Plan of action? I don’t understand.

“Arrey for the last twenty five years we have been celebrating this day together. And this year we have Shilpa also with us.”

“Oh!” Dinesh said and then there was complete silence at the other end.

“I am waiting.”

Dinesh cleared his throat.

“Actually Rajeev I am throwing a party at my place. It was my father in law’s idea. This is my first Birthday after marriage and he want to celebrate it on a grand scale.”

Rajeev thought for a moment and said,” Okay yaar, doesn’t matter. We’ll come over. Your place or mine? Does it really make a difference?”

Again their was silence.

“Actually Rajeev let me first tell you the guest list. My father in law will of course be there. We have invited Mr. Sameer Tandon, President, Rakshak Tyres, Mr. Shrilal Khsatriya, the Chairman of Jhaveri Industries, Mr. Feroze Baltiwala, CMD of Modern Textiles, Mr. Ram Tarneja, Vice-President, Citi Bank etc etc. Now tell me Rajeev will you, Senior Manger, Paras Soaps feel comfortable in their company? I am sure you won’t. To save you the embarrassment I decided not to invite you. Of course I will send you an exclusive gift from my side.”

Dinesh replaced the receiver while Rajeev stood holding it for, he couldn’t remember how long.”

Finally something snapped inside him. He went to his room and bolted the door. He emerged only in the evening.

~*~

From the next day, Rajeev Stated looking for opening elsewhere. Three months later he got a chance. A multinational company manufacturing consumer goods was opening a branch in Dubai. Rajeev applied, attended the interview and got selected. He resigned his job and shifted with his family to Dubai.

Before his departure Dinesh did not even bother to arrange a farewell for him.

~*~

Rajeev worked very hard and soon the branch started flourishing. Five years later he was brought back as the Vice -President of the parent company.

In the meanwhile success went to Dinesh’s head. He started behaving in a very arrogant manner with everyone. He thought since he was the MD’s son-in-law he could get away with anything. Soon he became very unpopular. One day he had a fight with Gautam Chawla, the Senior Vice President. Dinesh was sure the MD would support him However, the MD backed Chawla instead. Dinesh couldn’t tolerate this and started taking his anger out on Shilpa. This made matters worse. Soon Shilpa left her house and shifted to her parents’ place. Dinesh with a view of taking revenge on his father in law started creating problems in the factory. In one swift stroke Grover dismissed him for service and made Shilpa file for divorce. Dinesh went to court challenging the dismissal. He spent whatever savings he had on the legal battles, but he ended up losing both the cases. Stunned by the twin reversal he took to drink. His reputation and Mr. Grover’s efforts made sure he couldn’t get a job anywhere. He sold his house his car and whatever else could be sold and drunk his way into the gutter.

~*~

One day Rajeev parked his brand new Ford Ikon in the parking lot and walked towards his office. On the way he saw a man standing in front of a pan shop. He was clad in a tattered shirt and trousers. He was sporting an unkempt beard and his hair had gone almost white. He looked vaguely familiar. The man turned towards him and their eyes met. At the instant Rajeev recognized Dinesh. As he took a step towards him Dinesh turned and started running. Rajeev ran after him and soon caught up. He placed his strong hand on Dinesh’s bony shoulders.

“Dinesh what is this? What have you done to yourself?”

“Dinesh...I... you are mistaken.”

“Come on Dinesh. Don’t be an ass. You think I can ever make a mistake in recognizing you.

Dinesh didn’t say a word. He kept looking down. Rajeev took him to a nearby restaurant and inside a cubicle and made him sit comfortably.

“Not tell me what happened?”

Bit by bit the entire story came out. By the end of it Dinesh was weeping like a small child.

“It is all my fault, Rajeev. God has paid me back for the way I treated you. I deserve all this and more. I think the little bit of success I tasted I couldn’t digest. I became a megalomaniac.”

“It can happen to anybody Dinesh.”

“You...you are not angry with me?”

“No, I am not. Where there is true friendship there is no room for anger, only understanding.”

Dinesh did not say a word but his eyes once again grew misty.

“Come with me,” Rajeev told his friend.

“Where?”

“My house of course. You can’t roam the streets like this. You are going to stay with me till you settle down.”

“B..but Rajeev after the way I have treated you, how can you still be so nice to me.”

“May be because I am crazy,” Rajeev smiled and getting up took Dinesh to his car.

~*~

Slowly, with the help of Rajeev, Dinesh rebuilt his life. Rajeev got him a job in another city. There Dinesh did well. Four years later the two friends left their jobs and started their own consultancy. They named it PIF Consultants.

“What do the initials stand for?” Once someone asked Rajeev.

“Pride in Friendship,” he said smiling at Dinesh who smiled back.

Image under license with Gettyimages.com

13-Jun-2008
 
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