We started off on a bad note. And office politics made a friendship untenable. Until, a fateful night when the conflict was extinguished…and some new fires lit!
It was an unusually chilly winter day in 2007 as I waited to board my flight to Bangalore. An ex-colleague, Faisal, needed some help on his new project, and I had been requisitioned to help make the sales pitch. He was to fly down directly to Bangalore via Dubai and we were to travel together to the hotel which would be our home for the next few days while we dealt with the client requirements. I was dreading the prospect of having to spend the next few days with my former arch-nemesis when Pankaj called.
Pankaj was my ex-Boss and the man who made this deal possible. Me & Faisal had not been on talking terms for years, so Pankaj had to play the intermediary and get us to talk. The money was damn good for a then struggling consultant to refuse, and I signed on.
P: “You are worrying too much as always! Load मत ले यार! Who even remembers where your stupid fight started?”
Me: “When he stole our account from under our noses? And then outed me in front of the office like a rat?”
“OKKAY! So I see the wounds haven’t quite healed!? But the money is good! Time to be professional about it!”
“चलो! Flight has been called! I gotta go! Call you once I land.”
“देख भाई! I would suggest you two get drunk and talk it out like we used to when we were working together! Tension मत ले! You both are adults! It will work out!”
I shrugged as I cut the phone. I didn’t share Pankaj’s optimism. Faisal could be stubborn & obstinate like a little child. And he was not one to let go!
Faisal’s flight had already arrived by the time I landed and I found him waiting in the arrival concourse outside the airport, with his coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. We greeted each other formally and discussed the modalities of hiring the taxi. You could cut the tension with a knife!
The next 2 days passed in a similar fashion. He would have finished his breakfast in the time I was working out and then he would wait smoking while I finished breakfast and got ready so we could leave. Appearances were maintained in front of the client, but the moment we got back to our hotel, we would go our separate ways.
However whatever the equation between us personally, we did great work together professionally and the clients were sufficiently impressed to give Faisal a thumbs-up on the third day. So he was pretty upbeat as we got into the taxi to ride back to the hotel on Day 3. We decided to celebrate the days success by going out for beer later that evening. The differences had not gone away, but they were certainly melting away. By the end of the evening, as we boarded a taxi to return home, we discussed the possibility of him returning to Mumbai to meet up with his old friends instead of heading to Delhi to meet his parents. It was positive.
The following day was supposed to be our last working day in Bangalore. On Saturday, I was supposed to catch an early morning flight to Mumbai while he left for Delhi. Over lunch with the client team, I learnt of their plan to visit a jungle retreat not too far from Bangalore. And I got an invite! I rushed to inform Faisal not to cancel his Delhi ticket since I planned to join my new friends on their roadtrip. To my surprise, he expressed his desire to come along. So after getting our tickets rebooked for Monday, we both ended up joining this new bunch of friends on their roadtrip.