a friend in deed…

“Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof”. Richard Bach’s exhortation rang through my heart & mind when I heard about Jayant Tanna’s death.

Jayant & I go back a long, long time. I met him first in 1982 when I joined Siemens HO in Worli; and for the past 40 years we have celebrated each others’ lives & milestones like true brothers of the soul, bound by respect & love for one another & our entire families. The man whose philosophy was to “Live Life Kingsize”, burning the candle from both ends for a larger glow all around, & a “devil may care” attitude and outlook for the future…I truly got jolted when I heard Jayant is no more. This blog is a tribute to my friend and an attempt to recount some of the lessons I learnt from Jayant, which helped enrich my, and my family’s, life.

When I joined Siemens HR, I was a very withdrawn & introverted soul…absolutely the opposite of Jayant’s personality. Jayant was full of energy & laughter, ebullient & loud, challenging & confrontationist, suave & well dressed, a real “ladies man” : point-by-point, everything that I was not!! Other stark areas of difference were: beautiful handwriting & a way with numbers. And why not? He came to HR after spending 20+ years on the commercial side. The whispers in the corridors were that he had had a falling out with his Business Head & the Functional Corporate Commercial Boss & so Jayant was parceled off to HRD, a nascent effort of Siemens Personnel Department; cobbled together with an outdated EDP Manager; an electronic Microscope Sales Head (as that Business was stopped); 2 young turks, fresh MBAs in HR; all under an ex-Internal Audit Manager as our boss. Viva la Human Resource Development. The-then Personnel Director had put together this motley team to change the way Siemens looked at its Talent Management & Development!

I don’t think we had much impact on the organization and its people processes, but from Day 1 Jayant took me under his fold, with the express purpose of changing me & making me more effective & less scared of the big, bad world. One of the first learning from Jayant was : NEVER TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY. Jayant was the proverbial bull in the Siemens HO ever ready to pick issues and people by the horns and toss them around till people got the message. Still remember a placard he made in his beautiful cursive hand to announce to the passers by,” If you have Nothing to do, Please don’t do it here”. This because Siemens HO building always had many visitors from other offices and factories, who were wandering around “like cows looking for grazing grounds & green grass” (Jayant’s words) wanting to chat with someone till their next meeting. So, “please don’t do it here”.

Another major learning from Jayant was to laugh everything off. Jayant could puncture the ego, or argument, of anyone with his earthy, common-sensical questioning. Forever with his feet firmly on the ground, he made it a point to flatten all kite-flyers and theoreticians with his heavy hand, interlaced with humor. He had a style of laughing loudest at his own jokes, and continuing to laugh till such time you gave up your inhibitions & joined his laughter. More senior & serious opponents invariably brought out the “best” from Jayant as he stooped to scalp & conquer anyone who stood in his way. Just to exemplify, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi had just been released and there was lot of talk how Hollywood had omitted Sardar Patel’s character…a strict no no for many Indians. Jayant classic counter was, “So what Richard Attenborough has also omitted my father’s role in the freedom struggle! Sardar may be imp to you, my father was more imp to me!” How can you counter-argue with that? Siemens was full of pompous egoistic souls, so that Jayant had much fodder for his mills to grind.

Jayant joi-de-vivre was legion. He loved parties and was always the soul of any party he attended. He had such a strong animal magnetism that all action always circled around him & his victims. Fun loving to the core, he was a great singer & a fabulous cook. He sang from his heart: the entire song/lyrics/mood was etched on his expressive face. A more solicitous host I have not seen. Going out of the way to make everyone comfortable and engaged were second nature for him. Exotic recipes brought out the best in him. Burmese Khow Suey, Grilled Chicken & Rice casseroles, Mexican & Turkish dishes, Barbeques, Smoked dishes, so many firsts we have had at Jayant’s house. Once I have stood next to him drinking my rum while he cooked Chickoo halwa for full 4 hours to get it perfectly right. His experimentation in the kitchen was always blessed, & we ended up stuffed to the gills every time.

Even till the very end, his love for life and people shone brightest in his eyes and body language. Giving & entertaining was like second nature to him. And all this he did with genuine, heartfelt love. Accepting others as they are, and loving them to the hilt, the greatest extent that he could love, was his strong suit. Never did a word of criticism or censure escape his lips for any of his circle of friends & acquaintances. He embraced people just as they are and loved them to the best of his ability. Even if others had some words of criticism of mutual friends, Jayant always sprung to the defense and explain the other person’s point of view. He managed to carry himself like the lotus in the pond, aloof, unsullied and standing tall. In Jayant’s loving presence, you ended up feeling big and tall yourself, & forgot your own pettiness, in his benign presence.

Always one to challenge rules and processes, he made me more confident in bucking the stream and standing up for my own thoughts. He had a way to go quickly to the root of any issue & then think of innovative, different solutions. Explaining his differing point was second nature to him and he was ready to debate and argue till he convinced you or got convinced himself. An out-of-box thinker he brought me out of my own box, the boundaries I had set for myself, and helped me overcome my resistance to think radically. He showed me how important it was to sometimes throw the baby with the bath water, and begin afresh. For Jayant manner of thinking, nothing was ever anathema and the solution sets were always infinite. This insight helps me even today.

I will indeed miss this great friend who helped me become what I am & throw out many of my shibboleths and pet peeves. Not only me, but my wife and daughter were privileged to be amongst his favorites, & both have gained enormously from his undemanding & unquestioning love. A towering presence in our life, a guiding post who helped us find our paths, an epitome of accepting and all-encompassing love is no more…and the world is poorer for that, we all are at loss.

Jayant, dear friend, Keep the seat next to you warm….keep the beer chilled…I look forward to being with you soon….we shall keep the party rocking in your inimitable style

खुब जमेगा रंग… जब मिल बैठंगे तीन यार…. आप, मै और अपनी old monk: your friend in grief, vikas

25 Replies to “a friend in deed…”

  1. Vikas, What you have written about Jayant is so touching and so expressive of your friendship with him. Of course in Siemens one is bound to have a lot of friends but what you have described is much more than the friendship. You have written with so much genuine warmth and friendship that it makes so sad that I was not blessed to have contact with Jayant.

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    1. Hello Vas Raman
      Good to reconnect after so long
      You were mostly in Delhi while Jayant never worked outside the HO
      He began in Med Division and then in CDC and then HRD
      I was indeed fortunate to know him so closely
      and I really am grateful to Siemens as I made many great friends and met a whole spectrum on people in that great company

      Hope you are doing well
      all the best to you and family in these challenging times

      Like

  2. It’s a real subtle love towards your friend Jayanthi from the. Bottom of the heat.God bless him in peace & your friendship forever.

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    1. Dilip really appreciate your comment
      Jayant was a real brother in every sense of the word
      and we had remained connected
      so it was a real shock for me
      But one has to accept
      Thanks for your good wishes

      Like

  3. Jayant.. what a man!; and Vikas ..what a writer!

    I have never met Jayant ,never heard about him..and now he is all in front of me

    I can see his picture as a ‘man of all seasons’…I almost feel ‘j’ ..how can one man have so many virtues stuffed within himself!

    A remarkable man ..a remarkable obituary !

    Jayant , despite being no more , will keep inspiring many ,through your write up!

    The only part I did not like was your desire to join him soon…

    Isme Bahut nainsaafi hai…for all your friends and well wishes around you!

    Love u Vikas

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    1. JLS
      bacche ko rulao ge kya?
      Thanks for your love and words of encourage ment
      I have always been fortunate to have very loving and giving people all around me
      who have inspired and motivated me and taught me to live a good life

      Jayant was indeed a remarkable humna being
      he had his share of bad deals and difficulties
      but his never say die attitude brought him and his family anfd friends out of many a crisis
      Vinita was a very very conservative girl till our marriage and when I was in HCL delhi
      her first “boy friend” was Jayant
      we were staying in Borivali LIC colony with my parents, and so every weekend, Jayant’s house and parties were a chance to breathe fresh air and enjoy ourselves
      His wife Bhanu ben was also a superb, traditional Gujju cook
      so our love for all things Gujrati began in Jayant & Bhanu’s house and peaked at Sunil Lalbhai’s Atul
      The friends we made in Atul and the gujrathi community gave us so much all along that I can only sing
      एहसान मेरे दिल पै तुम्हारा है दोस्तो ये दिल तुम्हारे प्यार का मारा है दोस्तों
      in gratitude always
      vikas

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  4. Tannaji’s fabulous handwriting was a treat to look at. When I complimented him about it when he was writing on a folio for the OHP (remember that dinosaur?), his irreverent comment was – “that way I don’t need to bother about the content..” What he said after that, I won’t repeat.

    I enjoyed every bit of time I spent with him – it was too little, unfortunately.

    Remember him very well…together with Mr Kapadia and Giri Doré.

    Hari Om

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    1. Ravi
      I can imagine Jayant saying that with his famous twinkle in the eye
      I can also reconstruct what he must have said later, as Jayant suffered humanity and idiots very very badly
      he believed that the world at large deserves a kick in the arse to keep it functioning properly
      but the beauty was , the people who were at the receiving end still felt Jayant’s love and warmth and understood his rationale

      Giri Dore, Kapadia, Jayant, MR Thatte(if you please) Suresh Karl & me were really the INGLORIOUS Bastards of Siemens HR
      People dreaded coming to 2nd floor as they knew not what will transpire
      But we had a most enjoyable time prooving to the world at large how superior we were and what stupid dolts they were
      Everyone was happy!!!
      Those were the days my friend.
      MRT left under V(C)RS, AJK retired in his while safari suits. Jayant also opted for VRS later. Suresh was transferred to Nashik. I was moved to 3rd floor to assist Arun Bhende and HRD was reduced to a one-Giri Dore show
      Thus the cookie crumbled

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  5. A masterpiece obituary ever read. It’s straight from heart. Although I have never seen him, your description painted a portrait of Tannaji before me.
    Vikas I take strong objection to your last sentence “ I look forward to being with you soon ” You are at least 20 years younger than him. I wish you long life.

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    1. Sathe ji
      thanks for your kind words of encouragement. Jayant cast a huge shadow on every life he touched: so I speak on behalf of all his friends. He was truly a giant.

      as re the last “wish” I have been a strong proponent of euthanasia amongst my friends & family, much against everyone’s views. My desire stems from the fact that one would like to live life hale and hearty and well till one is capable. But I would certainly avoid dependency and becoming a burden on others.
      Vinita and all traditionalists warn me that life is not yours to give or take away. Let us see what the future holds but would certainly like to quit when I am still ahead in the race.

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  6. Dad would be reading this & reading it again & again …. Vikas Uncle & Vinita Aunty were Dad s favourite & they lived in his heart till his last breath & will continue to live through memories shared by Vikas Uncle…… For me he still is very much around watching , listening , observing …..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nikhil
      we were fortunate that got an opportunity to know and love Jayant and he taught us life is about Giving, Giving, and Giving some more
      Indeed we were blessed with his friendship and his undying love
      He will always keep the most sacred place in our hearts reserved for Jayant Tanna

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  7. Written from the depths of your soul Sir. Am sure he was an amazing human and the loss is terrible. But that’s life, it goes on. We can only say that great souls never die, they only fade away. May he be in eternal peace 🙏

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    1. Col sahib
      well said. Indeed such souls are forever around you and protecting and encouraging you in the most difficult trials of life
      We should be happy that they chose to be in our lives and showed us the true path

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  8. Lovely Vikas
    Appreciate Frank words
    Straight coming from your heart
    For your true friend
    I can see Some influence n similar traits in you of your friend
    Specially your open nature warm heart n throwing party for your luv one
    Always With you
    Br ….. Nautiyal

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    1. Mukesh, my dear MukuBaba
      you gave me the best compliment by comparing me with Jayant
      he was indeed walking so tall that we small & petty people were always in awe of him
      Fortunately I have benefitted from parents who taught us that in giving we receive and then met friends and well wishers who only encouraged us to go forward on that path
      Caring and Sharing were Jayant’s second nature and as they resonated in our upbringing and our thinking, I think that cemented our relationships that much more
      Truly a Life well lived

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  9. A heartfelt tribute to an awesome human being. The world has indeed lost a great and precious person. Will miss you Jayant. You will always live in the hearts minds and actions of the lives you touched. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Straight from the heart, Vikas ❤
    I did not have too much of interaction with Tannaji as the Godfather for our commercial trainee batch was Giri Dore.
    Tannaji took over two batches after mine.
    Entirely my loss but this was possibly because I got posted in kalwe.
    May his soul rest in peace 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SSD thanks for your comments
      You reminded me onf this great dimension of Jayant
      He was forever young at heart and took genuine interest in the lives of all around him
      Surrounded by the CTs I used to get an image of Krshna and the gopis
      his capacity to love and give was indeed limitless
      May God rest his soul

      Like

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