Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Miracle in the Meeting Room

An Unreal Story, That Happened to Me...

I have over three hundred powerpoint files on my laptop, which can roughly also mean that I have made the same number of presentations in the past eight years, plus minus a few that may have got lost, not been backed up, or missing for reasons that seem irrelevant today.

There are few things that I have almost got used to the routine of making these presentations.

The drive to the client's office is usually a long one, sometimes catching up with emails, phone calls, ideations, small talk, but one thing doesn't change, traffic, and the impatience that comes along with it. 

A standard template text message to the client informing about the duration of delay, expected arrival time, and an apology which in most cases I don't really mean from the bottom of my heart, but more of blame the infrastructure that our honest municipality offer us here in Mumbai.

Thirdly, comes the irritating security at the gates, most of them untrained in basics of manners, mostly making you look like a hindrance in their lives, and almost giving you the feeling that your laptop is a ticking time bomb. 

A register to mark your entry, with your name, company, mobile number, and some more details I have to give voluntarily. I wouldn't be surprised if they ask me my education qualification, underwear size, and other intricate and personal details. There always is a completely stupid form field, called Purpose, and its Official all the time, I can bet my life that if I write, Bombing, Mass killing, Data Theft and I'll happily be allowed to pass through. This is then followed with a leash around you neck, with a big black font of 72 point size, saying VISITOR.
So much for Atithi Dev Bhava. 

Part 5, is a rude, or fake smiled receptionist, who will ask who you want to meet, but never dials to tell them you have arrived, which you then have to inform via your cellphone.  

Then comes the "reception meditation" - Which is the endless silent wait for the client to finally have some pity on you lingering around.

Followed by the hunt for a meeting room, after battling with others, which is no less than the Panipat Battle of the 18th century. 

Finally you are in. A few handshakes, exchanging visiting cards, the treacherous long wait for the laptop to load, the projector to connect and Eureka! It's camera, lights, action!

Only this time the story takes a new turn.
An unexpected turn I would never ever forget in my whole life. Who knew?

So its the usual, loading the laptop, cards exchanged and a wait for a few more colleagues to join in. 

Small talk.

The man on the head of the conference table, is a senior, grey haired, jolly looking man, content with his position, and fairly senior in designation. His personality exhumed confidence and an aura of experience.  

My colleague is elated with his presence.

"It is an honor to have your presence in one of presentations Sir!"

He laughs at the compliment and doesn't accept it, humbly.

"I like this guy", I say to myself. Something nice about him.

The wait is a little longer than we expect. The man picks up my card out of lack of activity going around, and studies it...

"You know my first boss' surname was also Merchant, he tells me. We were in Indo Pharma, Biddle Sawyer and some other companies together." He says fondly almost slipping into nostalgia.

The companies he names sounded very familiar. I had heard them, and not because I work closely with the healthcare market, but for other reasons. I had heard these names in my childhood. These companies didn't exist anymore, and No! I wasn't an ardent reader of the newspaper then.

I am tempted to ask him, and for some reason I don't hesitate. 

An unusual question.

Sir, what was your first boss' name?

Yasin Merchant, he replies promptly.

I feel a huge surge of emotion. 
My ears feel the gush of blood. 
Adrenaline pumps.
Heart beats faster.
My excitement cannot be contained. 
My hands feel a tremble. 
I manage to mumble a sentence.

"That's my Dad"

Six people in the conference room. 
All turn their heads to me, unbelievably.

The gentleman verifies my statement. 
"You mean, Yasin Merchant, from Kemps Corner?" 
"The building which was near Cumballa Hill?"
"Tall, lean man who used to smoke?"

And I am just nodding my head in approval. Yes yes yes....

I stand up and shake hands with him again. This time it was different, not like a business handshake. It was on an emotional level, because words couldn't not explain 'our' excitement levels, and the entire room sensed it.

The gentleman, begins narrating anecdotes about my father. He recalls the times when he interacted with him. He starts with his personality, tall, dark, sharp, very good at his work, how he was mentored by him, how he was 'brewed' by him, my dad was his inspiration and how he was a big reason behind this man's success.
It is a five minute speech. 

In between the man's boss comes in, but that doesn't deter him from going on.

I am overwhelmed. I cannot contain my tears. I can almost feel my eyes moist. I quickly blink a couple of times and try to stop them. I manage to, with extreme difficulty. 

For a person like me, who can have tears rolling down my eyes for a flop movie, like Waqt, starring Amitabh and Akshay Kumar, this was a real story... MY dad's story, so you can imagine my plight.

The man wants to talk to my father, right there, right now. I quickly dial my landline, but since its noon, the phone just keeps ringing, with no one to receive it. I then dial my wife, and ask her to hand the phone over to dad. She tells me he is sleeping, but I tell her to wake him up, someone wants to speak to him. 

Surprised, she gently asks dad to wake up. 

Its urgent, she says.

The gentleman takes my phone and humbly, very humbly, introduces himself.

Boss? Boss!
(And this wasn't like the Boss you refer to someone to meet in the train or bus, who you want to ask for way, or someone you intend to push of at the next stop.) in your senior. Someone who you call fondly 'Boss', because he or she is someone you look upto, and sometimes you don't want to refer by name, out of sheer respect.

Boss? Its me. (Introduces himself by name) Pehchana?

Kaise ho? How are you? Long time sir?

All good?

Your son is in front of me, making a presentation.

Very happy to speak to you Sir!

Yes Sir! Aata hoon. Ill come and see you soon.

Of course Sir!

See you.

Bye Bye Bye!.....

I am handed over the phone. He is beaming with joy. 

I am confused. I am now really wondering if my dad could really place the guy. But one thing was for sure, this man respected my dad to the end of the world.

The tough part begins now.

I am to start my presentation. Most of the times, I am labelled as passionate, energetic, and dynamic in my presentations. But I am full of doubts this time....of myself. 

I was suddenly going to be measured against this huge mammoth of a man, who meant the world to someone I was presenting to, and the bar was set so high, that I knew I would never be able to meet that standard, forget beating it. I had to only ensure that I don't create the impression of being a loser, compared to the man I was being put against.

It was like Rocky Balboa and his son.

I manage to put up a decent show, the ideas are liked, a few are shortlisted, its seems like the mission has been accomplished of getting the assignment. I am not even considering the impression part. I cannot contest this competition, and I am ready to succumb to my defeat. The white flag is raised in that department.

Nope! This is not a case of "Haar ke bhi jeetne waley ko Baazigar kehte hain"

We all stand up to sign off for the day, and we get the parting speech.

"There is no doctor who didn't know him. When he entered their clinic, they would stand up and greet him. They knew him by first name."

"Merchantsaab bolne ka."

"Yasinbhai bolne ka."

"Even the directors of the company would never accept his resignation.They went to his home when he put in his papers, and didn't allow him to resign."

He wanted to say more...I could sense it. But he stopped himself, I guess he was getting emotional talking about his mentor. My dad. 

I manage to gather some words...

"Sir, I make presentations almost everyday. But today I was nervous for the first time, not because of anything else, but because my dad's name was at stake"

He laughs. "Don't worry. You did well."

I'm still dazed. The drive back is mostly in silence. I had lived a moment that probably will never come back to me again. No discussions on the outcome of the meeting. No talk on the future possibilities. Just about the utter coincidence.

Coincidence- is too small a word for this. 

Serendipity - too frivolous.

Miracle, is what I am talking about.

God's perfect timing. 

Truth is, the past few days were worrisome for me. I was worried about my dads health and overall well being. Anything remotely bad happens to him, and I am all nerves, and this was just one of those times when I needed a little hand holding to get me through.

Imagine something like this happening to you, and it reinstates your faith in God's grand plan for each one of us. I was filled with optimism, hope and love.

I don't go back to office. I rush home. I want to see my father, hug him, and tell him how proud I am. I run up to the lift. Open the door, but he isn't home. I am disappointed. 

After a few minutes he arrives, but in my head that moment was lost. How I hate myself for that.

We look at each other, smile and I am still excited. I call everyone in the living room and narrate the incident. My dad smiles proudly at my story. I somewhere guess that he  senses my emotion.

He narrates his side of the story. Only this time I listen differently.

These stories I had heard from him many a times. About his work, his interviews, how he trained his juniors, how he knew all the doctors of Mumbai, and how they knew him. How his boss wouldn't accept his resignation and how they had come home to convince him. How he was liked by his colleagues because of his deeds and another hundred stories.

But this time I heard it in a new light.

I wasn't hearing it from my dad. I was hearing it from one of the best sales officers in the world. 
My world, and that gentleman's world, and God knows how many peoples world who he had touched in more than one way.

For me he was till yesterday, a humble, fun loving, sometimes solemn and strict, generous, talkative man. 
But starting today he was a larger than life hero.

A man who's standard I would never be able to match. I can only pay ode to.

I know for sure that I wont ever be able to reach where he has reached...ever. And the truth is I don't want to even try. What I want to do, is learn from him, and continue his legacy of touching peoples lives, transforming them in my own way, and maybe never know....I can just barely, slightly aspire that Samaira will meet someone, someday who will tell her. 

"I knew your dad, nice guy"

That much also will be enough for me.

Thanks Dad! You always were my hero, but now you are bigger, better, stronger! 

This made me feel like going back to nursery and telling my friends..."My dad is so strong, so strong, so strong, that he can.......


Love You Dad! You are an inspiration.


  1. As we grow up, our childhood heros grow more and more human. You got a lucky glimpse of your hero again.
    Happy tears were made for moments like these :)

  2. Beautifully written (along with the 59 minutes of Nostalgia). Can only imagine what you must have felt in that meeting room. Keep writing my friend and one day when reading your books (hopefully) I'll tell my kids "you know I went to school with Aleem Merchant"
    - Nikhil Pasari

  3. Really a heart touching tale Aleem!!!.... When I was reading it, so many things crossed my mind, I thought of my father and me being father of Vedant (my son).... It really great play of almighty and we all just keep playing our role in it without knowing the actual script of the play...
    May god bless all the fathers :-)

  4. Hi Aleem. Loved your blog! - Harshal

  5. Heartwarming! ����

  6. Very touching story. Moments like these are precious or miraculous as you said 💙💙