When Navin Jarecha’s dear friend from college wrote to him about his frustrating job as a gofer in a wholesale cloth market in Bombay, he
knew he had to do something.
The Natwar Gandhi he remembered was a
brilliant mind — after all they had bonded
over writing poetry — and he knew his friend
would be destroyed if he didn’t get him out.
Jarecha left no stone unturned — from
arranging admission for Gandhi, to getting
him a visa, organizing his tickets and a scholarship — in getting his friend to the United
This is the story of a rare friendship.
‘Can you imagine this guy
running around getting tea?’
In conversation with Chaya Babu, Navin Jarecha, the friend who helped Natwar Gandhi
escape a deadbeat job and come to the US, looks back at a friendship that
has lasted almost 60 years.
How did you and Natwar Gandhi meet and
We were students at Sydenham College in
Bombay. We used to write poetry together, so
that’s how we became friends.
He’s been writing poetry for a very long time
— this goes back to 1955 or 1960.
I came here in 1960, he came here in 1965. I
came for my MBA and I stayed.
We were still connected then through letters
and all that. And then he came too.
You played a role in his coming over to the
US? What was that like?
He wrote me a letter telling me that it’s not
worth living in India.
He was very frustrated. He was a brilliant
mind, and he was working at a cloth market in
Bombay. He was working as a, you know, peo-
ple tell him, ‘Go get this, go get that.’
Can you imagine this guy running around
getting tea and all this stuff?
It’s unbelievable the life that he lived there.
He wrote me a letter and explained the circumstances of living in a kholi (a small room), and he had to
change his house every three months because you can’t afford
to get a place in Bombay when you don’t even have a job.
I sent him some money and told him to get his passport
I was a businessman and had gone to school in Atlanta, so
I had to sign all the papers and take responsibility for him.
Then we sent him the I-20 and I got some funds together
for his tuition and transportation. Then I sent him the ticket
and he came.
I picked him up at the airport with his little briefcase with
all his papers, no clothes, nothing. I had told him not to bring
We stopped at a store and picked up clothes and everything
for him, and the rest is history.
You helped him tremendously...
I sponsored him. He was a student and then I got him a
Whatever other little things he needed, like going out to eat
and all that, I would take care of it.
The money he was making, he was sending it to his wife
because she was in India, and she needed support money too
because she was not working.
So, we worked it out like that.
When he finished and he started a job, he was on his own
Navin Jarecha has helped other people come to the US too, but, he says, Natwar Gandhi is the best
of them in what he has done for the country and the economy here.
recruited into working at the Government
Accountability Office. And from there, he was
picked by the United States Senate to head the
Washington job because Marion Barry (then
mayor of the District of Columbia) had messed it
up totally. He was running a deficit for quite a few
So, they put someone in charge who was reporting to a commission that was established by the
Senate. And he reported directly to them instead
of the mayor.
Once they were happy with him, they turned
him loose on his own, and he was his own boss; he
didn’t have to report to the mayor even or anyone
I am so proud of the job he has done. Beyond
any doubt, he’s a very honest person, so nobody
can point any fingers at him to even say, ‘You took
$2 worth of a bribe,’ and that is the greatest thing.
He has a very strong character. He’s a real
Gandhian, with the name, the culture and the
Natwar Gandhi has these two sides to him — the
finance and the poetry. How does he balance the-
After his MBA, he went for his PhD.
As his friend, how have you seen him change and grow over
all this time and through his career?
Well, he was always very smart.
When he was in India and we were writing poetry together, he was brilliant in that and almost anything that he did
was like this.
That was the main incentive for me to get him here. I knew
that he would just destroy himself, that the country would
destroy him, and he would not get a chance to grow at all
I’m talking about the ’50s and ’60s, when it was difficult to
get a job that will pay you even Rs 150.
In fact, I had the experience: I went back to India in 1970
to 1975. I couldn’t get a job with my MBA there. It was very
Right now it’s very easy, but in those days there were very
few industries and very few jobs. I could not work in a high
school doing clerical work.
You couldn’t get a job there unless you knew somebody.
I’ve helped other people come here too, but he’s the best
one who has rewarded himself and the country and the economy here.
He was working at the University of Pittsburgh and he got
He was writing even before college, and so was I, so it was
Him, myself, and Meghnad Bhatt — he was a part of us
three musketeers writing poetry, but unfortunately Bhatt has
passed away now.
Gandhi is very much into literature, but also very much
into the field of accounting and finance. He has written quite
a few poetry books, and the first one he wrote he dedicated to
I was a good friend of his wife and his children, Apoorva
and Sona. There was just a natural talent on the literature
Didn’t he want to pursue that as a profession?
One has to make a living (laughing). You cannot make a
living writing poetry!
Even with me, I have an MBA and a business, but I’m a
So, a lot of people have two sides because you can’t make
living out of one, so you have to stick to the other one where
you make a living.
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