It was in 1977, a gawky young man walked up and down the stairs of Shah House, Colaba at least three times before he mustered the courage to step inside for an interview with none other than The Man; A man who was then considered as a brain to reckon with and stood tall amongst contemporaries like Subhash Ghoshal, Ayaz Peerbhoy and the like.
It was no mean task to be sitting across the table of what the young man thought was a legend, and giving an interview for the post of a Hindi writer. Contrary to what he expected, the great man who was to take the interview stumped the gawky lad, standing all of 5 feet 2 inches tall and a voice that roared like a lion, barely audible to someone at the end of the room! He was K Kurian, the head of one of the best agencies of its time Radeus and that gawky man turned into me Jameel Gulrays.
A diminutive man but one who stood tall on the wealth of his knowledge and good sense, this man was a powerhouse who steered ahead brands like Amul, LIC, Limca, Maaza with teams he built, and made each a leader in their category. And I was one such person who was touched by his wand of wisdom and absorbed everything he said like a dry sponge.
I shared a strange relationship with Mr. Kurian. My colleagues said he was almost paternal to me. And I, who lost my father at 8 and my mother at 18 was eager for tutelage and a hand to guide me. In the 17 years I worked with this great man, I learnt 17 million things about everything… my profession, ethics, values, conduct, behaviour, manners and an endless list of everything.
He groomed my skill and encouraged my leadership; he taught me the value of everything I stand for today, both professionally and to a great extent personally. He taught me as only a teacher would to his favourite student, explaining ever so patiently with a pen and paper and then proceeding to junk the invaluable bits of learnings. Greedy that I was, I would stack away those scribbles and refer to them and polished my skill as a writer and a media planner. This grew into an inexplicable bond between two human beings which can only be called as one destined by God.
As time went by, I grew and thrived under this great tree of wisdom enacting his manners, emulating his style. I was a son to him and he was the father I never had. He was my role model in everything I did. And he was my indulgent boss. He taught me the value of treating people of all classes equitably. He ensured I flew equal class as him, stayed in an equal class hotel as him… a scary feeling for a guy who found it tough to keep home fires going.
He was my hero. He wrote a column for ET that reviewed ads, and oh so constructively, for 16 years under the pseudonym Zachary, and later Marco. It was the most respected advertising column of its time. I followed him and wrote advertising columns for Hindi dailies across the country. He was an ace strategist. His bits of paper earned me a reputation as one as time went by. He was a great speaker and I went on to follow him onto stage with the many talks I have given. Yes he led me, and by example. And what a great way we walked together.
It would have been a journey right up to his last breath, had it not been for one breach of trust on his part, when he sold my beloved agency, which I was led on to believe I would head one day, quietly, without a whisper. It was an earth shattering moment for an orphan like me, to lose a parent again. It broke my heart to turn my back on to him and walk away. And my back has been turned to him for 14 years now.
And yet the news that he is no more, is something I am unable to come to terms with. Maybe because everything I gained and lost was because of this one man. What I know and what I have earned a name for have been in some way linked to him. In that one moment of loss I saw what a great contribution this one person had made to who I am. And what was he to me? A boss? A father figure? No he was my beacon, who sowed my success and showed me the way.. and maybe the darkness I feel today is because this light has gone out of my life forever. Adieu sir… and yes there ain't any bosses like you anymore.