An Ode - To a Seed of Thought

One Californian summer evening in 1985 a young 24-year-old and his wife were walking back to their hotel after attending a dinner hosted by the President and CEO of a company his family business represented in India.

Though it was a private annual event, the CEO had invited the couple because he took somewhat of a shine to the young Indian who was going to spend three weeks learning and understanding the American end of the business.

“Let’s just stop to take it all in,” said the young man to his wife. “Let’s stop for a drink, a coffee if you want, before we return to the hotel.”

Glancing at a menu on a pavement cafe and checking his wallet discreetly he declared they could barely afford this place, but what the heck.

There was so much to talk about!
The grand setting of a marquee in a garden, the flowers, lights, catering, all those new faces, the special attention paid to them and of course the conversation.

The host, a big, burly, gregarious American of Irish descent, Jack O’Hara (name changed) took it upon himself to introduce the young couple from guest to guest.

“This is my neighbour, a Democrat, who I allow into my house because his dog prefers the treats, he gets here than at his own place.”


“Jack O’Hara’s is always so kind to invite us even though we are Democrats!
*wink wink*
“We never miss his warm hospitality because it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet his friends from all over the world”.

O’Hara’s Republican friends were proud of his fund-raising abilities and his charm that embraced the young and old across all hues.

It was indeed novel for the young couple to hear how Americans declared their political affiliations in casual conversation having, rarely heard something like this at home.

They themselves had never exercised their franchise till then. The young man had no interest in politics, unlike his wife. But even she had never called herself a supporter of any party. For that matter neither did either family.

Of his own eight children, each with an independent career, five O’Hara’s were present that evening. And it was while being introduced to one of his sons, who would then go on to be a lifelong friend, that suddenly everything under that marquee came to a sudden halt – fading all voices, all sounds.

“Meet the son of our Indian representative” said Jack O’Hara to his offspring. “They are our largest importers of asbestos”.

“Asbestos?” asked his son, surprised. “Isn’t asbestos …?”

That one quick, sharp look Jack O’Hara gave his son, changed everything for the young man from India and his wife that summer evening in 1985.


“I don’t know if you noticed…?”
“I did,” said his wife.
“I know asbestos is now no longer used in First World countries, but I want to know more about why and how”.

So, where to start?
They went to the San Francisco Public Library over the next two days and made reams and reams of notes because of which only a week into the three-week program the young man knew he didn’t want to be an importer for asbestos.

On their return to India, after all the stories of amazing hospitality had been told, travel adventures shared, the young man asked his father whether he’d like to diversify into aluminium because he didn’t think the family business should be associated with asbestos.

“Associated?” exclaimed his father. “It gives us our bread, butter, and jam! A poor country cannot afford aluminium whereas slum after slum, one room tenements across the length and breadth of India require asbestos”.

“Are you aware of the long-term health hazards? How will I explain to my children one day how I contributed towards tuberculosis and God know what else ?” responded his son.

And so, it went off for weeks, till one day the young man returned home to declare he had resigned, and would his wife accompany him to an office of friend who had been kind enough to lend him the usage of his telex machine for a few hours?

Seventy-eight long, anxious days later the young man signed his first agency – within five years the Big Five. But first, they went out to celebrate with the most delicious Dal Makhani ever, with three plain naans for the princely sum of ₹12.


September 2022.

After the euphoria of having beaten it, the cancer had returned.
This time it was aggressive and unforgiving. Given only six to twelve weeks by his doctors, that young man now sixty-one began sorting out his affairs. He had always been meticulous but this time there was a determination. He looked at it with a certain stoicism- not everyone was this fortunate to be told when they would go.

He had taken a chance on aluminium at a time when consumption in India was so low. But then was fortunate to ride the high wave of power transmissions towers, the construction boom and the automotive industry which took off - his company alone accounting for over 50% of total imports into India.

There had been so many firsts! Leading the way for the industry, followed by achievements and accolades.

He would joke, Prime Minister Modi had timed Atmanirbhar Bharat so well with his retirement. By the time he would be sixty-five, India’s aluminium imports would be negligible. So what if he was going to take a Golden Handshake and quit the game earlier...
“Tension nahi lene ka.”

“Follow your passion,” he told his son and closed his company down without much sentimentality – the one he had nurtured from seed.

“Legacies are burdensome! But yes, come back to India. Never thought I’d say this in my lifetime, but this is the right place to be. Hope, opportunity, and pride!

After one of his last social evenings at their home where the awkward conversation of hospitals, medication, doctors thankfully drifted to politics. It was raucous, passionate and the room soon clearly divided into two!

He turned to his wife “Coming for a walk?”.
“Do I have a choice?” she laughed.
Labouring with a walking stick this once physically agile man said, “You won’t believe it how often recently I’ve thought of that evening in San Francisco! Such a journey it has been, and you know – we are there NOW.”

“We haven’t done too badly have we,?” he asked pointing towards the living room where a very loud argument was still carrying on.
In 2019 it was us two versus eight and now it’s eight versus two!”

“Contrary to what most people believe, I don’t find it polarising. It is in fact promising, revealing that each side knows what they want, what they stand for, what they will fight for. We are no longer meek sheep being led to the slaughter. I’m going to miss such exciting times ahead!”


“Remember to tell me all, when we meet”.



  1. Best wishes while you wait for that arrivederci (see you soon). Very moving

  2. So Meaningful and Moving. I wish you And all of us Peace and Happiness in our time ahead.

  3. Moving story touched deep inside ruffled emotional chord.

  4. Inspiring, so well written. Hope, opportunity and pride 👍

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Apologies! I might have done it inadvertently. You could repost!

  6. Revisited to refresh experience the moving spirit while going through the write up ...


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