Some books inspire you, so do some people. Some people walk with you and give you just the push to find and use your own wings.
They are often inconspicuous and unaware of how they influence you. Yet, you realise their worth and contribution when you pause to take stock at some juncture. Or, like it happened this morning, an obituary catches your eye and pulls you back in time.
A gruff introduction
Chandrakant Khandelwal. I met him at a time when I had just stepped into the unknown domain of business, leaving the comfort of a job. Life was fun. I was earning money doing what I enjoyed. That I could not escape some mundane stuff like keeping books and filing returns had not yet sunk in.
It was my accountant who introduced me to Khandelwalji. He was a chartered accountant and his firm was to handle my tax matters.
Maybe I expected a warm welcome and exclamations of how happy he was to get my business. Instead, the hello was intimidating to say the least. “This is what we charge and we don’t help you cook books,” was the gist of his introductory proclamation.
I was tempted to find another CA, one who smiled, at the least. For some reason, I decided to stick on. “He has got a great reputation; his firm is very respected,” my accountant reassured me.
The senior Khandelwal and I barely interacted because his son handled most of my work. Very often he would walk by when his son was helping me make sense of the numbers. “Good morning” was frequent; a smile, rare.
I got to know from the son about his father’s work ethics. Don’t try to dodge hard work. If you can’t do it ethically, walk away, no matter what the price. Whenever I faced a problem, the son would resolve it but I would draw reassurance from the fact the father was backing that resolution.
After some years, his firm went on to become my client. The senior Khandelwal would participate in briefing sessions but barely spoke. He would keenly watch the interaction among others. His occasional comment made it amply clear that he was with us and thinking ahead. In fact, he even smiled at me once or twice.
The firm grew in leaps and bounds. He could have sat back and enjoyed the success. Instead he preferred to come to work every day. Until he was too frail and ill.
This morning the obituary told me he was gone, never to return.
At the condolence meeting, a speaker pointed out that Khandelwalji was always available to solve problems, whether it pertained to regulations, to relationships or to religion. From the little I knew of him within the confines of his office, I was sure that was no eulogical exaggeration.
As mobiles sullied the chanting of the prayer and the members of the sizeable gathering surged to pay their respects to the family, I imagined his small figure walking past my chair. His booming voice would have requested everyone to be patient and not to rush. If that failed he would have sat down on a chair, hand to chin, pensively waiting for the world without him to settle down.
Accounts and returns are no longer a terror and I manage the little I need to do without help. Did that searing introduction fire me up to handle my own battles with numbers? Did the unacknowledged desire to be in the good books of a tough task master inspire me to balance my books? I would like to believe so.
Thank you, Khandelwalji!