I don't recall when we met first, but it must have been a good meeting of mutual like and respect, and probably at Gokul, the advertising industry watering-hole behind the Taj, probably in the early 80s, when I was a tyro, and you already a guru.
A decade later, when we plotted about inventing India's first brand consultancy, chlorophyll, this dream transformed into anthrop™, our first brand model, our first intellectual property.
It made us so f***ing proud!
Instead of rehashing old concepts, we had created something no other brand company in the world had done.
Then one day you inveigled me into co-authoring a research paper along with Pravin Tripathi. I still remember the name: The Roots & Fruits of Brand Equity.
Research paper by a creative person???
That earned me temporary ostracisation from the creative community, but deep respect for research creatively conducted.
Later, at chlorophyll, you institutionalised this very creative style of research, where the respondents rarely realised that research was on:-)
In 2003, you single-handedly created for chlorophyll a new model for corporate brands, again never-done before: it attracted brands as strong as Infosys.
We had not worked together in an agency, and when chlorophyll started, there were dire predictions of a rapid split due to ego battles, but thankfully, that never happened between you and me.
We loved our brand so much, we did not change salaries for years, and as one of chlorophyll's headline said, "It took us 15 years to become an overnight success."
I had watched you at industry parties perform the famous 'patella' dance (Eeks, my nomenclature:-)), where you twirled on your knees, while balancing a glass of Old Monk on your head.
You really didn't care a damn what people thought, so long as you were enjoying yourself.
Because of these legendary parties, one dawn, the Indian Navy trainees out on a morning jog in Colaba discovered you fast asleep at the wheel of a Maruti 800, enjoying a tilted worldview: your car's two left wheels were resting in a dry gutter. The athletic youngsters casually picked up the car and set you home. That was the last time you sat behind a steering wheel:-)
"You know KK, people who meet us separately say we say the same things," you would say (you called me Kiran only when you started a conversation in Marathi) and I would say, "More than that Andy, more than that... is our common and fierce desire to learn, to not be considered also-rans in anything we do."
Last year, when I said we should franchise out our brand models because they are so original, I asked you whether they would withstand scrutiny from someone as learned as a Dr Philip Kotler, and you said with quiet confidence, "Yes. I can take him on."
Rabindranath Tagore said, "A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it."
Your razor sharp intellect, thankfully, had a wooden handle.
Your fertile right brain.
You wrote the unforgettable "Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao anday" for the advertising world, but you wrote over one hundred touching Urdu couplets for your fans in India and elsewhere.
You single-handedly invented the discipline of account planning in India, and your books, still used as course material in IIM-A, are testimony to the quality of that original thinking.
You loved to teach, and the wall in your room in chlorophyll is adorned with letters and drawings offered at the altar of gratitude.
Youngsters whose lives changed because of your advice and insight.
As news about your departure spread this morning (I have unfortunately watched your struggle with your lungs since 2007), I've had phone calls from as far away as NY and South Africa. They were sharing with me the size of the hollows you have carved within them with your absence.
I listened wordlessly. I didn't have the strength to tell them about mine.
With your permission, I would like to give away your book of poems, watch their fragrance spread to those you did not have the privilege of meeting you.
You were always a private person, yet as years passed, you gingerly stepped forward to trust me, and I discovered the hidden pain in some of your relationships.
Probably the subterranean source of your lyrical Urdu outpourings.
That desire for privacy also translated into zero moments of PDA (Public Display of Affection): except once, in all of 17 years in chlorophyll.
I had forced you to attend a social media workshop in Singapore, which you enjoyed despite your initial apprehensions, and when you returned, you handed over a miniature from Star Wars, and said, "You are chlorophyll's Yoda."
I was terrified of breaking that trust, as fragile as a bell jar, and to that was added a promise extracted from me by your 'shraddha-sthaan', Kersy Katrak, the greatest maverick creative director in India...you worked with him in Fulcrum.
You had just four icons in your life (Woody Allen, Steve Jobs and unknown) and Kersy was the fourth.
On his own deathbed, Kersy told me, "Andy is older than you, but he will need you. He is a good man, tell me you will look after him."
I did not tell you this story till three months ago.
Please tell me I kept my promise, Andy."