"A Son Never Dies" by Sunil Gupta - Moving Letter from a Father of an Ibanking Analyst
6/7/15 - 4:00am
This letter was cited in the DealBook here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/02/business/dealboo... - Unfortunately the letter was removed so I'm quoting it below
Long read but definitely worth the time.
"A Son Never Dies
By Sunil Gupta in April 18th 2015
San Francisco International Airport
The 16 hour flight across continents, seas, mountains and finally over the Pacific Ocean, landed at San Francisco airport, on a sunny spring day, a day anybody would give his last penny to enjoy, in the glorious Californian spring.
I moved hurriedly towards the arrival lobby, anxious, nervous and full of apprehension, 'tell me it is not serious,' I asked, shaking my son-in-law vigorously from his shoulders and looking straight into his eyes. "It is serious," he paused, 'We have lost him.'
The world swirled, my heart thumped and I thought, I am going to die. I screamed in utter disbelief, 'My Son, dead?' My wife, just behind me, clutched me from behind, as if we have not heard it correctly, there must be some mistake, it cannot be about us, but in a fraction of a second, reality hit us hard, we both burst into tears and slumped on the floor.
Our world had changed forever with a void which will never be filled in our lifetime, we shall never be the same family and this pain thrust upon us in a moment will ease only with our last breaths.
May 19th, 1992
The labor pains lasted nearly twenty four hours, and with no result in sight, the gynaecologist, who was my school mate, came out and asked me to sign permission to do a caesarean operation. A while later, the paediatrician brought in a breathing lump into the room, still smeared in the mother's blood, and thrust him into my hands, ' hold your son', he said. I took a step back,' doctor, at least wash him first', I said.
So came into this world, my son, the symbol of my male chauvinism, the manifestation of my alter ego. My joy was boundless.
Life seemed like a dream. Good corporate job in a leading newspaper, decent bungalow in an upmarket south Delhi colony, cars & above all, a sweet, chubby doll, my nine year old daughter. Life was too perfect. It appeared, life had no more to give and I had nothing more to seek.
The "brat" was, dusky with long thick eyelashes that could cause envy to any beauty pageant queen, anywhere in the world. The eyebrows were arched and winged, the nose aquiline, a poignant reminder of his father's arrogance.
The child would not sleep at night, and would emit the choicest of noises. I would walk for hours within the house with him in my arms, trying to get him to sleep. Finally, we found a way out. The four of us would go out for a drive, and his sister would put a pillow in her young lap and would try to make him sleep, like an experienced granny would have done. It worked, most of the time.
My wife and I would take turns at night to prepare his milk feed. If the process took an extra minute, (which it sometimes did, considering our sleepy state) or if we overheated the milk, only to try and cool it down by holding the bottle under running water, the child would holler no end, making us feel panicky and guilty.
Our blissful existence lasted exactly four months. It was too good to last. My company, by sinister and malicious design, usurped all positions and I was left with no job, no security, not much savings, a vulnerable family, and my four month old son to hold.
The next three months were the hardest. With no work to do, nowhere to go, I sat at home with my son in my lap and waited for things to happen. The family ration was going down, frugal meals were sustaining us. The euphoria of our son's arrival was subsiding fast. I was so shocked and hurt by the treatment meted out to me by my employers/partners that I had lost the courage or determination to fight back to mainstream life.
Along with me, two of my close associates too were victims of maltreatment. They resorted to alcohol and went deep into depression and despondency. Consequently, they left for their heavenly abodes, leaving their young, unattended families to the vagaries of nature and society.
I decided to fight on. My son, being the youngest and most vulnerable, became my inspiration, motivation and my driving force. I would go to a nearby gym in the morning, take regular walks in the park...sometimes when it seemed impossible, I would sit in my car, windows up, air conditioner switched off and howl at the top of my voice, sweating and shivering, asking for an answer to my life. The pain, anguish and desperation, at times, drove me to think about ending my life.
To get the kitchen fire going, I started a small manufacturing unit. Professional experience and training helped me meet my family's financial requirements. My vanity, my ego, my self-esteem had taken a blow, but my spirit, my doggedness was intact.
As my son started the second year of life, we enrolled him in the neighbourhood school. I got myself involved in his pranks, his joys and his well-being. I would give him a bath each day, sit and read out to him. My irregular and unorganized professional life had a silver lining I had abundant time for my son, and during those days, he developed a fondness for printed words, which was to last till the very end.
As he grew up and was enrolled in a formal, elite school, my task was to drop him and pick him from the bus stop. While we waited for the bus to arrive, I would read out from general knowledge books and encyclopaedias to him. These were great moments of togetherness. My son would, at times, chastise me, for coming to pick him in the afternoon,' papa, do not come in the afternoon, everyone will think you do not have a job'.
During the afternoons, we would read together, the books I bought from all over. Togetherness, being close to him, admonishing him, loving him, were the precious moments, which to an extent, nullified the loss of my corporate life.
Our evenings were special. We would go to the neighbourhood parks and play, on the swings, in the grounds, running and jumping. From the beginning, I inculcated in him the spirit of competition, of winning, of teamwork and above all the need for physical fitness and sound mental and physical health.
Our family's first out of station holiday was to pristine, quaint and silver beached Goa. While my daughter had experienced air travel before, for my son, it was a novel experience.
The lush property, the peaceful serene beaches, the cool winds of January, but, above all, the warmth of the family togetherness, made a memorable holiday. Blessed are those, who get such quality, blissful, family times together. And blessed were surely we. My son was initially afraid of the waves and their roaring intensity. But gradually, he befriended the Arabian sea, ran along the beaches, saw the dancing dolphins, went deep into the sea on water scooters and had his first taste of coconut water.
Those who have not cherished will never fathom the depth of the pleasures of a complete family. My son had a pivotal role to play in giving me that feeling of fulfilment. All good things have to come to an end, so did our holidays. We returned, tanned, satiated and blessed.
As my life went back to a corporate job, I was less at home and more at work. However, hardly a day would pass, (when I was not traveling,) without me reading out to him at night, and then we would embrace sleep, embracing each other. His gentle breathing, his soft flesh, his still baby body odour was my elixir. On Saturday evenings, the family would surely go out. 'Open Oven', was our favourite joint at that stage. Cream rolls, muffins and soups were the coveted delicacies.
My son was growing up, and he was gradually acquiring the qualities I desired in my son. He was a keen reader and I would get him books, from all over. Whether I travelled to the USA, the UK, South Africa or to Kerala, Gujarat, Mumbai, I would get books on history, science, local folkways, and culture. I got him biographies, collections of short stories, fictions and books on general awareness. I would mark pages with dates, as assignments for him. He would read them all. On my return, we would briefly discuss them. Those were our 'personal connect' sessions. He was obedient and sincere. He always wanted to prove, ' papa, I love you '.
Our playtimes were great fun and mutually satisfying. On the terrace of our house we played cricket in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays. These editions of "sleeping suit" cricket were enjoyable and were followed up by visit to nearby kiosks for my son's favourite cookies, 'Little Hearts'. We would than sit in a park, on swings or benches and enjoy our feast. No seven course meal in the most expensive Ritz anywhere in this world can give more value for money. During the week, we waited for these mornings, simple but most enjoyable and delectable.
As my son got into his preteens, I started taking him to our sports club, the Siri Fort Club. There I introduced him to Squash, Lawn Tennis, Table Tennis, and Jogging. I was so ambitious and enthusiastic that I wanted my son to learn all these games, my effort to ensure that he did not feel inadequate at any point in life. He did become the proverbial,' jack of all trades'. We played together, and at times, I would lose to him, so that he gained self-confidence. This ruse did not last long, he started protesting gently, 'papa please do not loose purposely, let me win on my own'. That was my son, out to win on his merit, the way his father secretly desired.
His swimming lessons were a fiasco. His ears would trouble him, and he started avoiding swimming. He did make attempts periodically, to take swimming lessons, but ultimately abandoned them.
From his early years my son was unlike me in many respects. This gave me mixed feelings. While he was much higher in intellect, was meditative and patient, he lacked my dynamism, my ability to reach out to people, my confidence (at times bordering to over confidence) and my ability to connect with strangers. I observed these differences and brushed them aside, convincing myself that the positive qualities he had were more important to live and succeed in life, considering mine to be superficial and superfluous.
What a lack of foresight on my part, how myopic and unpardonable, it would ultimately prove to our family, I had no inkling. It is often said that, "Hindsight is an exact science." An important adage that I realise is true today. At that stage I overlooked the most important aspect of his personality that would finally give me pain and anguish for the rest of my existence.
I was preparing him for big time life, to win all wars and battles, but forgot to nail the hoof of his horse, ' but for the want of a shoe nail....'
My son had the privilege of going to the best public school in the national capital. He became an ace debater, an incisive writer with a natural flair for poetry, and finally the vice head boy of the elite institution. It was as if he wanted to prove to one and all, that the personality problems of his early teens were an aberration that needed immediate correction. His later teen years were full of confidence, success and satisfaction. He excelled in academics, represented his school as a member of the debating team in national and international forums, and was the cynosure of the school faculty...our young strapping teenage son.
The family holidays, in those years, to Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Goa, were enjoyable and entertaining family get-togethers. We ran on the beaches, we loitered in the shopping malls, went to game parks, and jumped into the Pacific Ocean at Great Barrier Reef, Australia. He developed a dry sense of humour, and his off-the-cuff remarks, were moments of great joy, for the family. He would raise his eyebrows and protest in miffed voices, to my casual and humorous conversations with stewards, taxi drivers, janitors or shopping assistants.
His best comments were, however, reserved for my sense of direction. Often, we would walk around strange cities, looking for milestones, going to and fro. I would, in my indomitable style, refuse to consult a road map, or even ask for directions and we would end up going round in circles. He coined a term for me,' disoriented compass', and told everyone, not to follow papa, but rather follow him. He thereafter, armed himself with guide books and road maps and became our road guide.
An average, middle-class, Indian citizen, could ask for what more? A great family- of wife, daughter and son, all healthy and able. Children going to the best schools, doing exceedingly well in their academic and co-curricular activities, a good position in one of the world's best and the biggest American multi-national companies, financial security and perfect bonhomie amongst all four.
Life was a song, a dream, a contentment, that made me smug and arrogant. Who could now come between us and eternal bliss? Destiny was to answer this question, later.
When my son cleared his High school examinations with aplomb, we went to his national award winning Principal, to take her guidance on what career options to choose for him.' Do not send him to a factory of human talent', she said. 'He is so gifted and exceptional, send him to an Ivy League University in the Unites States of America', she continued.
Now looking back we can sigh with regret and guilt. His life's die was cast, his destiny, his fate was beckoning him, from where he would never return to us.
This is the irony of life. One of life's biggest paradoxes. When you think you have won it all, you have all the happiness, your heart is contented, you overlook nature's uncanny way of telling you, that, 'in today's happiness are embedded the seeds of your tomorrow's misery.'
Triumph and Foreboding
Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
I remember very distinctly, it was the summer of 2010 in India. Around midnight, our son barged into our room, waving his fist in the air, 'Got it, ya, got it. I have been offered a seat at Wharton'.
We were speechless at first, than we got off our bed, tears rolling down our cheeks, hugged our son first and then each other. It was a dream come true, for me, who had always wished and dreamed that one day my son would study at an Ivy league college. The dreams were being realized one by one. Our daughter was already an engineer and pursuing a management degree from a prestigious university in California, married to a post-graduate from the very prestigious Ivy League, Stanford University.
Our joy knew no bounds. It seemed, at that point of time, as if we had been specially chosen by the supernatural power for his benevolence. Chosen we were, surely, but not for benevolence. How, deceptive some happiness can be, was to be revealed later.
The extended family, all over was informed. My communication to each one of them had pride, satisfaction, happiness and arrogance. ' Why not', I thought,' who can boast of such a feat.'
My son had taken me to the pinnacle of my success and joy.
Preparations began in the right earnest. My wife started making lists of major and sundry items, which her darling child would need in sub-zero temperatures, more than ten thousand miles away. The culture was different, people were strangers, the journey was arduous and above all, the cuisine was unpalatable. The young man was inundated with countless list of do's and don'ts.
We told him, to enjoy the next three months in India, as, his career path was well defined and struggles that many youngsters face at this juncture of life, were not for him.
But it was not to be. Suddenly from nowhere he developed a crippling pain in his lower back.
Was the supernatural sending some ominous signals? Was it a silent message from up above, to hold on? Was it harbinger of things that would ultimately cause immeasurable pain and endless anguish?
We did not want to know at that point. We were on a crest and nothing could bring us to a trough. Superstition was not acceptable. Nothing could go wrong with our family. It was just one of those things. 'Oh! It is nothing, but a muscular spasm', we convinced ourselves.
What if we had listened to the silent voice? What if I had listened to the whispered advice from my wife?' How do you expect him to travel, live and study with such debilitating pain?' I was relentless, ' Oh! Come on. It is a man's world. He needs to toughen up.'
Life will never be able to answer this question, 'if and only if, we had allowed him to drop a semester... Would it have changed the course of events?' Can we rewrite our destiny? Can we alter the course that the supernatural has determined for us?
Well, logic and rationality prevailed and our son, with acute back ache, cushion at his back, painkillers in his pockets, stars in his eyes, took off for a new, promising and proud life. We both saw him off, with pride and optimism. 'I am on top of the world,' I thought.
How wrong I could be. Time was to reveal later.
Our son arrived at Pennsylvania, and was received by his sister and brother- in- law, who had flown down from the west coast to help him settle at Wharton. His woollens, his comforters, his gadgets and every minute thing that the eighteen year old would require, was provided for, by an indulgent sister and brother-in-law. He was trained to be tough and overcome challenges. My son, in no time, settled down to the gruesome schedule. He was on a mission, a task, an assignment. He was there to make his father proud.
Now, he too was a young man, rearing to go and to prove to one and all, that now we had two men in our family.
However, it was here that he faced certain challenges for which I had not prepared him. My strengths, which I thought, were not of much help in academic circles, and were missing in him, started creating mental agony and pain for the young man.
He lacked the confidence to reach out, to befriend, to make small talk, to convert small opportunities into big wins. He was too simple, played by the book, was reticent and shy, and, in common parlance, was not street smart. He would never confide on these issues, with me.
He would often complain to his mother, 'Mama, I am not able to integrate with other students.' We would patiently counsel him, ask him to attend weekend parties or go out on weekends to nearby scenic locations. He would try hard but was not comfortable. His backache also hindered his sports activities, running or gym workouts, thereby, pushing him further to seclusion and isolation.
His academics continued to be excellent. Food was a perennial problem but he would manage Indian cuisine from food carts, outside his campus.
We were realizing that his supposedly 'best days' in college were turning out to be a nightmare. Decent, determined and dogged that he was, he continued to slog it out.
His best breaks were either to his sister on the west coast or back home with us during his vacations.
In India, his homecomings were like a celebration for us. His mother would cook his favourite food and the entire menu for his five-week stay would be carefully planned out.
We would go to his favourite restaurant in the evening. He would order the same thing with the same emphasis, 'exotica, cheese garlic bread'. In the end, always, we would leave the last morsel for each other. ' I am full', we would tell each other, knowing very well, we were not, but desired that the other should have one last piece. Laughingly, one more serving would be ordered, to disappear soon enough from the table,...so much for being full.
During the four years that my son was at Wharton, he visited us thrice. One summer he had to go to Germany, for his internship at Deutsche Bank. During his visits to India, we would plan outings to hill stations, bird sanctuaries, world famous mausoleum et al.
Those were great, memorable sojourns through trains, and on roads. The warmth of our son being with us on a holiday provided us security, confidence, immense pleasure and bliss. We would eat, play and walk to our hearts content. The only despondency at such times would be that, these holidays would come to an end, and he would have to fly back to his college.
During his stay at home, my son and I would take long walks in the evenings, discussing his courses, his life, my work, family matters and other issues. I would always feel proud and internally fulfilled, my young, strapping son walking by my side, shoulder to shoulder, at times running, trying to outdo each other. Oh! What a life that was... Oh! What can I not give to get it back?
The super billionaires might be having so many other ways or things or gizmos or possessions that can fetch them happiness in so many ways. But unadulterated, pure, pleasure at no cost, I have cherished and enjoyed. The only pain being, that now, it is in the past. We live in the present, we live for the future, but I will live now, only in the past, and that is the misfortune, which I will live with, forever.
Our days at home, during his vacations, would be filled with unending games of chess. We would sit on the floor, in front of each other, and days would melt into nights and nights would again become days, the games of chess would never end. A proper account was maintained, of games won or lost, ridiculing each other, casting aspersions on each other's intelligence, playing as friends or brothers, the father-son line getting obliterated in joyous guffaws.
The physical presence of my son, in front of my eyes, was more enjoyable than any intricate game of chess. Fleetingly, I would cast an eye on my son, while he was busy contemplating his next move on the chess board, and would feel happy and satisfied that my son was right there with me.
How much can a father and a son, speak to each other? What could be the common points for discussions over five weeks? How do I ensure that he spends maximum time with me? The humble game of chess provided the answers. The game gave me the opportunity to stay in close proximity to him, see him intently, smell him, laugh and talk with him and above all, play pranks on each other.
Simple, innocent, inexpensive moments which were invaluable, intense and inaccessible to everyone.
But is it true, that things and moments that give us extreme happiness and joy are short lived?
When he reached his final semester, and we sent the last instalment of his fees, he called us up, 'both of you go and take a dip in the holy Ganges,' he said. He continued, 'you have spent a lot on me in Indian currency, now I will earn in American Dollars, and return it all to you'. We would laugh and tell him, 'you please save your money for your life and marriage, we are fine.'
During his three visits to India, while, completing his college, he visited our school, at Bikaner, twice. He would proudly walk around the campus, play Lawn Tennis, have lively discussions with young students, and would share his experiences, his successes, and his apprehensions. He would interact with the school associates, and I would proudly admire the way he conversed, the knowledge he demonstrated and the depth he possessed in his thinking.
My wife, though reluctant to visit Bikaner often, proudly accompanied her son on both the occasions. For a mother, it was a joy par excellence, to bask in the glory of her young son. Our son would often say, half in jest, 'if I do not manage a decent job, I at least have our school to fall back upon'.
He graduated in May 2014 from Wharton. As luck would have it, we could not attend his graduation ceremony, for some inconsequential reasons. He also did not encourage us too much to come.
In May, 2014, my wife reached Pleasanton, California, as our daughter was to give us the priceless gift of our first grandchild. Our son, was already there, enjoying the "golden period" of any young man's life. He was a graduate from an elite college and had a job under his belt, for he had been offered a position in the Investment Banking division of the hallowed, Goldman Sachs, in San Francisco.
Could there have been higher pinnacles of happiness and success than this? Was I beginning to consider myself as God? Had I won it all? Who was between me and ultimate salvation on this earth?
Well, surely destiny was laughing at me. My pride, my arrogance, my ' I told you so' attitude was to get the jolt from which I would never recover.
The Golden Summer
I landed at the SFO airport in hot summer sun, in mid-June.
Our daughter was expecting her baby in the last week of June. My son and wife were already there. Our daughter's house was perfectly located amidst mountains on one side and downtown Pleasanton, on the other. The city of Dublin, was just across the Bart station. I liked the picturesque setting immediately. Behind her home was a creek and parks, with jogging tracks, bike lanes and steep but inviting mountains.
My son and I went for our first evening power walk. He, with alacrity, showed me the beautiful parks, jogging tracks and mountain range. All along, on day one, he tutored me on the traffic and road culture of the city. He cautioned me when to cross, when to stop, when to press the pedestrian crossing button and when not to cut corners while crossing streets.
To keep his high spirits going, I purposely refrained from reminding him that I had worked with Coca Cola India for five years, and visited the head office in Atlanta numerous times.
We walked and jogged, challenging each other's stamina, and watched in admiration the scenic beauty. What an evening, my first in the USA, with him, was. We had so much to catch up on; he had so much to tell me. I could feel a sense of confidence and satisfaction on his face, a confidence which comes, when you are no longer borrowing money from your father, but in fact, are in a position to spend on him.
He wanted to buy me jogging shoes, branded track suits, up-market shirts and an iPhone. I politely reminded him,' but your first salary is yet to be credited to your account.' He quipped, 'Oh! Do not worry about that, I am just making a list of purchases I have to make for you, mama, sister and brother-in-law, so that I can plan my expenses'. So much for a green-horn Investment banker, in the making.
Our days started with cycling to the gym, a good four miles away. While bicycling in the bike lane, if either was in front and would turn back to look how the other person was doing, the person following, would call, 'I am fine, do not look back, you might trip your balance'. We pumped iron together, me, an enthusiastic teacher and him, an avid learner. He knew and realized that good health is the first stepping stone to doing the hard work at the workplace. The meticulous person that he was, he learned each exercise minutely, the stance and the inclination of the exercise benches, the weights to be carried, the number of repetitions and the schedule of training.
In the early summer evenings, when it was still bright sunlight, we would go for cycling. We would pedal down to the Pleasanton Bart station, take the elevators with our cycles, cross the overhead bridge and reach Dublin downtown. We would cycle for hours, our favourite location was the bike track, by the side of the mountains.
The companionship, the joy, the fun was inexplicable. My young son and I, cycling together, admiring nature, inhaling the fresh, pure air.
Occasionally, we would stop for a beverage, at Starbucks. Our other favourite was, fruit yoghurt from Dublin's Safeway. Life was on a roll, life was on a high, nothing could be better.
But could it be worse?
In the evenings, we would have our games of chess. He got his brother-in-law, interested in the game too. So we were now three, and by rotation, the winners continued to play. As the day of my daughter to give us, our first grandchild drew closer, we stopped going out to restaurants, and would rather stay at home and be ensconced in the living room with our chess board.
During the day, my son and I, walked down to the nearby Stoneridge Mall, ate titbits, made purchases, or just sat in the lobby and felt the presence of each other.
Finally, the superpower gave me another gift. A fairy, a bonny baby, was born into our home. Life was moving towards completion. Joy was abundant and near the brim. My son was thrilled to become a maternal uncle. Now, the entire house revolved around the baby. She became the centre of attraction, the cynosure of everyone's eyes.
My holidays came to an end. I had to get back to work in India. My son came to the airport to see me off. We hugged each other, he touched my feet, in the great Indian tradition and I boarded my flight.
The Last Goodbye
I came back to US, to be with my family again. My dear son was now a proud member of Goldman Sachs. Immediately, I rushed to see him in San Francisco.
I vividly remember him walking towards me, outside his majestic office. It is difficult to narrate the barge of emotions that swept my heart, as he approached me. I hugged him strongly, did not let him go for few minutes, he touched my feet and tears rolled down our cheeks.
What can I do to get back that moment again in this life? Why does life give such precious and memorable moments, which cannot even be retained in your heart?
It is unfair, unjust and unfathomable.
We both went for a coffee, and pizza. There was so much to hear from him. His experiences, his associates, his feelings and job satisfaction. Obviously, he was happy and excited. During the flow of intense conversation, we ate garlic bread assuming it to be the main course pizza. We laughed heartily at our stupidity when the waiter brought a sumptuous pizza after we had pigged out on the complementary garlic bread. It was great fun. After, the meal, my son offered to pay the check. My chest swelled with pride. Emotions were uncontrollable. Eyes were moist with love, pride and happiness.
Now that he was working he could come to Pleasanton only on weekends. Even when he came, he was tired, and sleepy. 'Papa, I do not get enough sleep. I work twenty hours at a stretch.' During certain weeks, he was working on weekends too.
I protested. 'Son you will ruin your health,' I complained. He would say, 'Come on Papa, I am young and strong. Investment banking is hard work.'
I could not say anything beyond this, but obviously, my wife and I were not pleased with the scheme of things.
Autumn was not turning out to be as good as summer. He had less time, was mentally and physically fatigued and above all, without sleep. However, we made the best of the time available to us. We did go for our walks, a little cycling, and occasionally to the gym.
On my last day, he could not come to see me, he was busy. So I went to meet him in SF, we drank coffee and with a heavy heart bid adieu. I still remember him, waving to me as I went down to the underground Bart station.
An image... that is all I am left with.
Nothing can give me peace now, no one can return my moments of bliss, nowhere can I find peace, never will I be that spirited again.
Is there really an order in the nature of things? Surely there must be. How else can we explain day and night, change of seasons, growing up.
So where does the order go when nature has to play its game of keeping balance of life on this planet? Can we have spring before winters or summer after autumn? So, why to disturb the order of age? Why is the supernatural so whimsical? Why so heartless? Why irrational?
I know, no one will ever answer my questions.
Beginning of the End
The New Year began modestly and silently. It gave no indication that it was carrying in its womb, a catastrophe, a calamity, which no parent can envisage in their life time.
The granddaughter was growing well, daughter was fine at her job, and her husband's company was doing well too. Our school at Bikaner , Rajasthan, was consolidating its position.
My heartthrob, my son was settling down well in his job. His phone calls, were far and few, he was extremely busy, but mails and messages were keeping the life line working.
From mid-January, he started complaining.' This job is not for me. Too much work and too little time. I want to come back home.'
As probably, any parent would react, we counselled him to keep going, as such difficult phases were inevitable in a high pressure new job. 'Sonny, all are of your age, young and ambitious, keep going,' I would say.
Gradually, his complaints, his discomfort with his job increased in intensity and frequency. Our mails, our messages our phone calls continued to empathize with him, but we did not give him an open mandate to quit, as he probably, wanted.
In third week of March 2015, he submitted his resignation, without consulting us, and called us. My first sentence to him was, ' Sonny I did not want you to quit, but now since, you have done so, we are with you. Come back home'. He sounded sad and disturbed, 'Papa, it will take some time to exit. HR will close in some time.' I asked, 'what you want to do now?' 'Well, I will rejuvenate myself, eat home cooked food, walk and go to gym, and finally work with and expand our school,' he replied.
Not something I wanted him to do, at this stage of his career. I desired, that he should complete his one year at Goldman Sachs, learn something about corporate life and then decide.
Destiny was marking its time for the family. We had no clue that we were going to be hit by a tsunami, which would uproot our lives, never to be rooted again. By a quirk of fate, he was asked by his company, to reconsider his resignation and under pressure from me, he rejoined.
Now, I, who had nurtured him, carved him, possessed him, took the fatal decision for him. Why did I ask him to continue? Why didn't I ask him to come back? What if I had not forced him to continue? What if his company had not given him the window to reconsider his resignation?
These painful questions will never be answered. There is no power in this universe which can undo the tragedy that hit us.
Poor son, he re-joined and did his best to come to terms with hard, continuous work, no breaks, no sleep and no respite.
April, 16, 2015, 3.10 pm, India time. That is,+ 12.30 hours, California time. He calls us and says, 'it is too much. I have not slept for two days, have a client meeting tomorrow morning, have to complete a presentation, my VP is annoyed and I am working alone in my office.'
I got furious. 'Take fifteen days leave and come home', I said. He quipped 'they will not allow'. I said, 'tell them to consider this as your resignation letter.'
Finally, he agreed to complete his work in about an hour, go to his apartment which was half a mile from his office block and return in the morning.
The dawn never came in our lives, my sonny boy, never reached his apartment.
A monster, a devil in his giant motor vehicle, sniffed the life out of him.
My son, whose bones, blood and flesh were my very own, was victim of a cruel, momentary lapse of an individual, who too, is surely somebody's son.
The San Fransisco police may finally trace him, the law may give him the severest of punishments, but, who will give me my son back?
My wife and I, our daughter and son-in-law, are now living vegetables. His love, his liveliness, his companionship are all in the distant past, never to return.
Who will play chess with me? Who will go out for cycling and to the gym, with me? What will give me the confidence that I have a highly educated and capable son walking on this earth? Who will give the warmth of a son to my wife? For whom will she cook? For whom will she select a bride? In whom will our daughter find a companion, a friend and a support? He had promised our daughter that in two years he would take them all to Disneyland. And now?
Everyone is telling us, keep faith in God, be strong, time will heal.
Well they do not, perhaps cannot, comprehend that it is not a soul we have lost, but a living entity, whose physical presence we require every moment.
My wife is steadfast, confident and sure that our son will come back in the family. Early next year, she says, the laws of nature will take a turn for our good.
So my son, continue your walk for a while without me, since I cannot catch up with your young strong legs, I am waiting for you to come back, hug me, buy my things and have our games of chess.
Next summer will be ours.
Nature will change for our good."
Reflections on Stress and Long Hours on Wall Street
Earlier this year, a 22-year-old first-year analyst at the
The analyst, Sarvshreshth Gupta, a graduate of the
In March, against his father’s wishes, Mr. Gupta quit. However, a week later, “By a quirk of fate, he was asked by his company to reconsider his resignation and under pressure from me, he rejoined,” his father wrote in an essay. Others at Goldman said he asked for his job back.
When Mr. Gupta returned, he was originally put on a reduced schedule, and the firm had him meet with its employee assistance counselors about dealing with work-life balance issues and the stress of the job.
Soon, however, Mr. Gupta, who worked in Goldman’s telecommunications, media and technology group, was working flat-out again as the firm’s deal business became busier and busier.
About 2:40 a.m. on April 16, Mr. Gupta called his father in
“He calls us and says, ‘It is too much. I have not slept for two days, have a client meeting tomorrow morning, have to complete a presentation, my V.P. is annoyed and I am working alone in my office,’ ” his father wrote. “I got furious. ‘Take 15 days leave and come home,’ I said. He quipped, ‘They will not allow.’ I said, ‘Tell them to consider this as your resignation letter.’ ”
Mr. Gupta told his father that he would work for another hour, then head to his home a half-mile from the office, and return in the morning.
Later that morning, at 6:40, Mr. Gupta was found in the parking lot next to his apartment building on the corner of
Mr. Gupta’s death, one of numerous unexpected deaths or suicides of young bankers over the last year, has caused a new round of reflection and re-evaluation by Goldman and other Wall Street firms about their work policies just two weeks before a new class of college interns descend on the industry for the summer.
Just last week, Thomas J. Hughes, a 29-year-old banker at Moelis & Company, was found dead with drugs in his system after falling from a building in
“The only explanation is that I know he’s been working very hard and has been under a lot of pressure,” Mr. Hughes’s father told The Daily Mail. “His work did not leave much time for enjoyment, but that’s the nature of the assignment that he chose.” An investigation is pending to determine the official cause of death.
For more than a month, Mr. Gupta’s death has largely remained held in confidence among a small group of his colleagues and family. After Mr. Gupta’s death,
“We are saddened by Sav’s death and feel deeply for his family,” Goldman said in a statement. “We hope that people will respect the family’s expressed desire for privacy during this difficult time.” Mr. Gupta’s father wrote an essay about his son’s death, which he posted on Medium and later removed. In an email, Mr. Gupta’s father said, “At this time, the grieving family does not wish to speak to the press.” He said his essay about his son was intended for “the grieving family and a means of dealing with my deep anguish and catharsis.”
Of course, it is always difficult to directly link a death or possible suicide to work conditions. Other factors can be in play, like family problems, medical issues or a history of
Still, the string of deaths on Wall Street appears to rise above the level of simple coincidence. Last February, Fortune ran an article titled: “Is there a suicide contagion on Wall Street?”
Studies have suggested that financial service employees are at higher risk than those in many other industries. According to the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance, individuals who work in financial services are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the national average. The highest suicide rates in the
It is possible that the finance industry attracts more people with depression, just as it is possible that the pressure-cooker work environment overwhelms some people who have been high achievers their entire lives. It could be a tragic combination of multiple factors. Wall Street has always thrived, in part, on its eat-or-be-eaten culture. Would curbing its competitive nature cut into its success?
Most top Wall Street firms have sought to change their work policies for young investment bankers in recent years, in part to combat some of the problems and because they are increasingly in heated competition with Silicon Valley for top talent and are seeking to make themselves more attractive.
Goldman, for example, has required that analysts take Saturdays off.
Many of those steps were taken after a 21-year-old intern died at Bank of America
As the economy has heated up and the deal-making market has improved, however, young bankers are once again working long hours. Perversely, young analysts now say that having Saturdays off has often added to their stress because late nights on Sundays have become the norm.
Some banks, like Goldman, are also taking new steps, like introducing more efficient software and technology to help young analysts do their work more quickly. And investment banks say they are hiring more analysts to help balance the workload.
That may help. But as long as young analysts are expected to work 80 to 100 hours a week, invariably some run the risk of finding themselves in a situation they cannot handle. With new classes of such analysts arriving each year, it is incumbent on the industry to make sure it is doing everything possible to make sure that no one is too overwhelmed.
The DealBook column on Tuesday, about Wall Street’s reflections on stress and work hours after the unexpected deaths and suicides of some young employees, misstated the age of Sarvshreshth Gupta, a Goldman Sachs analyst who was found dead in San Francisco in April. He was 22, not 24. The column also misstated the time of a call he made to his father on April 16, the day of his death. It was about 2:40 a.m., not just after midnight. And the column misspelled, in some editions, the name of the company that employed Thomas J. Hughes, a young banker who was found dead in Manhattan last week after falling from a building. It is Moelis, not Moeis.