Of all the people I have met, I have never known anybody in whom the flame of a dream burned more steadily but strangely as Adhip. We were all in college, naïve and inexperienced, and vague hopes of being doctors, engineers and lawyers were a dime a dozen, with a few who had eyes on government or commercial jobs. Not Adhip. He had a dream – that most of us thought was a quirk. He wasn’t thinking of a job at all.
He wanted to start ‘on his own.’
Others were skeptical of what they considered his grandiose ideas, but I was at least a more patient listener. What did he have in mind, I wondered. I had heard his father had started from scratch and built a massive engineering works that produced railway parts.
“Do you intend to start a factory,” I asked Adhip.
“No,” he laughed, “I want to do better.”
He explained that India had an opulence of varied cuisine, but the city had not a single classy restaurant that offered a variety of such cuisine, let alone a fusion of some. He had been taking cooking lessons from a skilled chef that his father employed. He planned to form his idea of a pioneering restaurant that would revolutionize the concept of food service business.
I had to give this lanky young fellow the credit for uncommon imagination, though I had no idea how he could pull off the idea, given the amount of credit and resources he would need. I told him I admired his entrepreneurial spirit and would like to know whatever he did next.
The moment we graduated Adhip made a modest start by initiating a coffee shop with a few select food items. I invited some college friends and went there for a party. Since I had meanwhile found a job, I could afford to decline Adhip’s gracious offer to be the host. I liked the cozy warmth of Adhip’s place and it was a new idea, long before Starbucks. Still, it folded in a few months because a competing chain opened a café nearby before Adhip could develop steady clients.
That did not deter Adhip’s spirit when I met him next at a friend’s birthday party. He had lost the capital his father had advanced him for the restaurant; he had started a business that did not require a capital outlay. He secured orders for small parts from manufacturing companies, which were then made by his father’s factory according to the given specification. Adhip supplied the finished parts to his clients, paid his father the cost of making them and kept a decent margin. His company, he told me, was independent of his father’s and he operated from a tiny office rented near his father’s plant.
Adhip’s business prospered. He took pains to understand his clients’ needs and supply parts that met specifications perfectly. His reputation grew and his clientele. When we had tea together, he mentioned that his father wanted him to take over the parental factory, but he preferred to run his own separate business. I could see Adhip was now quite successful in his new line of work. He seemed to have dropped his food service idea; I was too embarrassed to mention it.
I was out of the country for some years, and when I returned I called old friends including Adhip. He invited me to lunch at a new restaurant downtown. It was a large, modern restaurant with an unusual open look, located on a major corner, and I was received royally when I mentioned the host’s name. In a minute Adhip came and joined me – not from the entrance but from the kitchen! I knew instantly then that he had never given up his idea of a classy restaurant that could do well in the city. The buzzing restaurant, packed with diners, told me what Adhip modestly elaborated later: his was now the prime dining place in town.
I looked at Adhip’s radiant face as he spoke of his plans. I had underestimated him. He had remained steadfastly loyal to his adolescent dream.