Mumbai: It’s indeed a sad day when a dear friend passes. Friends aren't easily made and acquaintances take years to qualify as friends. They are hugely cherished commodities. I, for one, cannot make friends easily. It takes me a long while to get close to someone. To let my guard down enough to let them into my space. They're not easy to come by.
So, when one loses a friend, it’s like losing something really special. Words can never do justice to that kind of close connection or convey one’s feelings of grief sufficiently well but I must attempt to do so anyway. Anant entered my life many moons ago and I’m delighted that he did so. We started as colleagues at Star and unwittingly evolved into friends, for life. That day was so far back, almost three decades ago, that I can barely remember but I do recall that we had some fun times along the way. Anant was a great storyteller and was able to get people on his side as a result without offending anyone. He was innovative to the core and occasionally, ( read frequently ) broke boundaries in his quest for securing his relationships. He once turned up at my office with a great big cardboard box ( the size of a box that could carry a washing machine or a dishwasher ) full of airline tickets which he collected from a client of his instead of an outstanding payment for an on-air sponsorship of a cricket event worth a lot of money, even in those halcyon days. This was after Anant was being put under pressure to get his ‘collections’ under control. As an aside, the airline in question went bust shortly after and all we had to show for it was a boxful of airline tickets, which had neither value to man nor beast. I remember telling him that he should have at least got us an aircraft in lieu. His response was classic Anant- ‘well I could stick them with a few more sponsorships in that case,' he said!
I never once saw him lose his cool even after he was made to knock back spurious quantities of what we called ‘liquid refreshment'. I remember one evening when a group of us were out celebrating a milestone achievement (in those days we would celebrate everything as everything was a milestone ) and young Anant, like the rest of us, had a few too many and we were all getting 'tired and emotional'. The club we were at was closing, in the early hours, well after closing time of course. Anant was sitting by himself (or he could have been sleeping ) by the exit door. Someone put him in the back of our car and drove him to the hotel he was staying at but as he couldn’t get out himself, he was carried into the hotel. The hotel manager came running out and refused to accept Anant in that state. Anant was made to sit out the night at the reception but bless him - he made it to his red-eye flight the next morning to Chennai and he was back at his office at the start of the day. That’s what made Anant special. He was dedicated to his work and was a great team player. He worked hard and played harder.
He was a charmer during work hours and also after work. He was one of those chaps that could talk the hind legs of a donkey if he was convinced about something whilst also being able to be as stubborn as a mule if he didn’t want to do something. Even though there were times when I came close, I never pulled rank on him except, when at times, he simply never claimed his out of pocket expenses - something I could never understand. I would tell him that either he was being paid so much money that he was happy to fund his employer or that he was simply too lazy to attend to his finances. I’m afraid it was always the latter.
Many years later, Anant convinced me to write a book and had it not been for him I would never have done so. We argued incessantly about several aspects of it and to be fair I changed so much of what I had originally written thanks to his point of view. He persevered diligently and would remind and nudge me to get it done until I did. Over the years I thought of Anant as a confidant, a family member and a true friend. He was indeed a great ally and in my troubled times, he was the first one to stick his neck out and rally people in my support. He never stopped doing so. I am deeply touched by his actions and sentiments. He never needed to do that. He did that purely out of the goodness of his heart and never once did he ever expect anything in return. He owed me nothing but I owe him a lot.
Anant, I will miss you.