I have indeed been fortunate to call Suhas “pudhe taak” Bagwe, my friend; quite easily the most large hearted person I have met and one of the finest human beings I have known.
I joined Pepsi way back in 1998; it was my second job after Godrej-Ge. Day 1 saw the normal formalities getting done at our Chembur office, forms to fill, ids to be created.. Towards the end of the day, I was told to report the next day at the Sakinaka warehouse. I get back home — one of the rare Pepsi days that I reached home in daylight, spoke to my elder brother. He goes, “I knew this guy Suhas Bagwe, I believe he joined Thums Up and now is with Pepsi, do look him up”…
So day 2 of Pepsi found me at Sakinaka around 7 a.m. where i first met Suhas. I remember distinctly he was standing, cigarette in one hand and a glass of tea in the other, surrounded by a huge stack of Pepsi crates. Introductions done, i mentioned my brother, he remembered him from their cricketing days in college.
The thing that struck me first was the enormous amount of respect he evoked from every single person working in the warehouse. He seemed to know each outlet, each route agent, each loader, basically everything that happened in his territory.
We hit it off almost instantly. His encyclopedic knowledge of the soft drinks industry was enhanced by his great relationship building skills. There was hardly anyone that would not meet him with affection. He could get away with blue murder, no one found his words offensive, no matter how harsh he wanted to be, the recipient somehow always took it positively. It was fascinating the way he managed this, always bringing in decent amount of metaphors to state his point and never ever afraid to speak his mind. I guess this is his strength, he speaks his mind, calls a spade a spade, people always knew that what’s going on in his head is also on his lips. Over the year or so that I worked with him in Pepsi, this was always evident no matter the size of the outlet. He introduced me to all the key accounts in the territory, worked the market with me and was my guru in hard core, ground level sales.
Our friendship continued after i quit Pepsi, I became a regular in the sessions at his home, sometimes on the terrace where we have had many a great time. The barbecues under a huge Pepsi umbrella with rain pouring all around us, the huge variety of people one met at this “addas” were evident in the wide range of topics which came up. Everything from cricket, music, politics, travel.. the list is endless. I have always been reminded of “Raosaheb” — a character sketch by Pu. La Deshpande at these events, Suhas being the conductor of the orchestra around him enjoying thoroughly every bit of the din around him.
The trips to Wada near Mumbai, Borivali National Park with families in tow, Kanheri caves where the Pepsi team was always the last to leave, getting together at Ganapati, so many memories flood my head as I write this. Alas, i find myself struggling to get them all down on paper.
We meet occasionally now but its almost always like we just met the day before, the thread of conversation picks up just like that. I guess thats what great friendship is all about. It survives — nay blossoms despite the travails of distance, time and even political differences. Like life, it finds a way.
Have fun Mr. Bagwe, keep rocking.