January 22, 2014



It was in the middle of ninth standard, sometime in November 2004 when I first met this fair, tall guy who had just rejoined Mushtifund High School after a short stay in his hometown of Pune. We had very little interaction back then; one which I distinctly remember was at the Fire Brigade ground in Panjim during the practice for the Annual Sports Day where he told me that he had a copy of Dr Salim Ali's The Book of Indian Birds. I asked if I could borrow it for a 'few days' and he obliged; the book which is a field guide to the different avian species found in the country remained in my possession for six months and not even once did he complain or fuss about it. Still, to be frank, we were not 'buddies' in true sense. However, things changed in Mushtifund Higher Secondary when the two of us landed in the same division. In fact, over a period of time, we came to know each other well and soon became good friends.

Apart from the fact that we were and still continue to be Habbu Sir's ladkos (favorites), back then we would talk a lot on a wide range of topics - politics, history, share market, sports, social issues, books and yes studies too, although that was quite rare. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by his versatility and floored by two qualities which in my opinion define him - humility and honesty. While our friendship grew deeper in those two years, things changed in Goa Engineering College. We traveled together, sat on the same bench, bunked the same lectures, copied the same assignments (in fact the whole class copied it from Sav), studied from the same books and most importantly 'admired' the same girls. In fact at the end of those unforgettable four years, we were not friends anymore, we were more than that - we were brothers, well not just me and him, everyone in that group which sat on the third bench - the witty Niketh (Please note that the extra 'h' is not a spelling mistake, it is just the way he writes his name), the genius Savalo, the lover-boy Sai and the brainy Datta. Today, as Ambarish Kulkarni or Amba as I prefer calling him, turns a year older, I want to go down the memory lane and dig into the memories of the time we have spent together in the last nine years, something that I will treasure for life.

I have always idolized people who have fought against odds, who have risen from the ashes, defied the norms and won when the world had written them off. This is precisely the reason that I love the 'Comeback Man of Indian Cricket' - Sourav Ganguly and personally consider Emperor Humayun to be far greater than Akbar. I am extremely proud to say that Amba has been blessed with this quality. It was in February 2007 and we had just finished our prelims. In those days, answering chemistry exams was nothing less than a nightmare. However, by this time, many of us had figured ways to tackle Miss Menon's googlies. Unfortunately, Amba was not one of them. To be frank, chemistry was never his forte; not that I was brilliant at it. Meanwhile, he had not scored well in the exams - the semi-final before the all-important boards and was highly dejected. Habbu Sir later told me that he had never seen Kulkarni so sad. Not being the one to take things lying down, he put in extra hours, working on the problem areas (Organic Chemistry) while perfecting the topics in which he was already good. In the next few months, he scripted a fairy tale, faring well, first at the boards and then coming out with flying colors in GCET. Not many would have expected him to do so well, especially after the prelim results. However, through sheer dedication and hard work, he turned things around, much to the delight of all his family and well-wishers. In fact, he faced several such setbacks during Engineering too yet he fought them and won. They say 'Whatever does not kill me, makes me stronger'. Ambarish for me personifies this.

Another of his strengths is the strong value system that his parents have imbibed in him. While it is true that his parents deserve credit for this, you have to give Amba his due for not wavering from them. He is a man of principles; I have seen him falling into trouble for standing up for what he thinks is right. I am not sure how many of us have that kind of courage. In the eight years we studied together, one more thing that I have envied about him is the fact that he has an extremely clean public image. An episode in this regards is the election to the Computer Council - CURSOR during the third year of our degree. The post of Treasurer or the Finance Secretary was an important one. Besides the prestige, you are also responsible for the collection of funds and its proper utilization. It was very common for people to fall for greed and swindle money for personal use. This had happened many times in the past. Considering this, I was a little surprised when Kulkarni told me that he would contest for the post. One thing that we all knew was that he was the best candidate for this position considering his in depth knowledge of finance and economics. To add to it, his clean image helped him get the coveted post unopposed... yes you are right, he and Niketh (Technical Secretary) were the only ones to be elected unopposed. In a class like ours which was fragmented into numerous groups, this was a huge feat. The best part of the whole thing was that in the entire year, not once was any allegation of wrong doing made against him. You know, these positions come with a high amount of risk; people with malicious intentions can easily malign your image even when you have done no wrong. To see Ambarish come out of this Agnipariksha without any blemishes was indeed a delight. Our Council Adviser Miss Maruskha was highly impressed with him for the manner in which he had conducted himself. Believe me, to get a compliment from her is quite an achievement in itself.

There are so many things that I have personally learnt from Kulkarni. He was the one who introduced me to the world of blogging; I distinctly remember him asking me to blog about Indian history as early as 2008. I am extremely grateful to him for introducing me to this hitherto unknown world; seriously, I cannot imagine my life today without Abhiprai. Secondly, his flare to learn new thing is indeed appreciable. Tell me who has the determination to learn German after office hours? I have been wanting to learn Kannada for nearly two and half years now and all that I have done till now is nothing. His social network is huge; he is even in contact with friends whom he made in Standard II. Now that is quite some time back. Finally, I do envy his lean physique. However, with my unhealthy eating habits and hatred for exercise, I am not sure whether I will ever get into that kind of shape. Now as I end this post, I want to recollect one more incident that happened in 2009. While coming back from college, we were arguing and things went a little out of hand. While I was stating facts when I said that Emperor Ashoka's empire was far bigger than Shivaji's kingdom, Amba was deeply hurt. There was a heated exchange of words till I gave up. When I went home that night, I wondered whether things would ever be the same again between us. However, when we met the next morning at the Panjim bus stop, the first thing that he did was offered an apology for losing his temper. Of course, both of us stood our ground in that argument, I still believe that the Mauryan Emperor is great whereas he still continues to worship Shivaji, but his ability to accept his mistake of losing his temper made me respect him all the more. It was then that I realized how much mature our friendship had become over the years; we could be friends in spite of having diverse opinion on so many topics.

The last one year has not been a good one for Ambarish. On the personal front, he did face some serious problems. However, like always, I know he will bounce back; he had done this so many times in the past and I see no reason why he would not this time around. As a colleague, as a friend and as a brother, I wish that the next twelve months be the best of his life so far. Happy birthday Amba. May you find success in everything you do throughout your life.