Ace banker Deepak Parekh, credited with creating some of the largest financial institutions in India, once saw his plans going “awry” when he fell short of money during his 21st birthday party and the friends he had offered to treat had to fill the gap. Delivering a lecture here at London School of Economics Students Union India Forum, Parekh was recalling his own days in London decades ago and said India’s bright future often makes him wish he was “in his twenties again”. Parekh, who now visits London at least 4-6 times a year for work, said he was having “a strong sense of nostalgia”, recalling his student days in the city when he was doing chartered accountant articleship decades ago. “You may perhaps figure out how dated I am when I tell you that I celebrated my 21st birthday in London, inviting three of my friends for dinner. Considering myself a good accountant, I told my friends that I had earmarked 2 shillings and 6 pence for each of them and they could eat whatever they wanted within that budget,” the eminent banker said.
“I prided myself on being rather organised and meticulous, but that was only as far as the food was concerned. “Plans went awry when the drinks flowed – and flowed they did to land me with a grand bill of 13 shillings! My friends had to shell out the rest and till date, they still hold me ransom for that party of mine,” he said in the keynote address delivered here last weekend. Parekh said despite “the extreme frugal living”, his days in London turned out to be one of the best years of his life and it made him independent and open minded. “I met people from so many countries and made some of my best friends. While I was way too broke to have any dates, I compensated by experimenting with a lot of new cuisine — mostly an array of animals, much to the horror of my mother who had brought me up as a staunch vegetarian.
“This apart, my student years in London gave me the foundation and ground training that has held me in good stead throughout my working life,” he said.
In the lecture on whether India was a superpower in making, Parekh also told the students that India had never been in a stronger position than today. “Let me end by saying that in over four decades of my working life, I have never seen India in a stronger position as it is today. The opportunities that are opening up are immense. There is a huge premium for talent and I am sure that those of you who choose to return to India will reap the benefits,” he said. As you transit from being students, do remember that no matter what field you work in, always ensure that your basic values of honesty, integrity and humility stay with you. “India’s future is intensely exciting and it is for this reason that I wish I was in my twenties again!”
At the Forum, also addressed and attended by several Bollywood celebrities, Parekh also let loose his sense of humour. “Let me end by saying that I recognise I can’t direct a ‘Don’, I’m no dude to ‘Rock On’ and I don’t match up to a ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’. So here’s a special thanks to the organisers for having the common sense to allow me to speak before that Bollywood hunk,” Parekh said. “I know you all are looking forward to the next session, but do hold on to my words that India’s best is still to come. Make the most of this opportunity for you all know better – “Zindagi na milegi dobara!”, he added.