Home / Opinion / Columns /  Jhunjhunwala: The public diary of a lifelong fan

Sometime in the first week of June, well over a decade ago, I met Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. On a typically humid Mumbai afternoon, an office boy led me into his chamber. When I walked in, my first impressions of him were based solely on his physical size and stature—he was well-built and quite simply: BIG. Leaning on the backrest of his chair with one hand waving about, he looked at me with an amused smile. I was, in contrast, much smaller and leaner at the time. What followed was a session of exchanges on nearly everything—life, drinks, money, marriage, women, family, literature and, of course, his beloved stock markets.

For four years before that meeting, I used to write a parody blog—The Secret Journal of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala—that had gained some popularity. It caused him some inconvenience, with many people mistakenly thinking he wrote it. But he didn’t mind it at all and felt I had every right to continue writing a parody blog.

For years prior to our meeting, like millions perhaps around the world, I had tracked Mr Jhunjhunwala’s life (I called him Rakesh Sir)—I read every interview, watched every video and analyzed his constantly churning portfolio like an art critic watching a master at work. If he mentioned a book, I would read it. If he mentioned a stock, I would track it.

His passion for the stock markets was unmatched. He truly enjoyed trading and investing to such an extent that he refused to do anything else. He recognized the intrinsic benefits of both and could compartmentalize different skill sets for each. He was a technically trained chartered accountant and had studied at Sydenham College; when he spoke about the economy, one listened no matter how much one was inclined to disagree.

In one interview, he mentioned that if he could envision his last day on earth, it would involve spending time with his family at the breakfast table, praying at the house shrine and then packing off to his office, where he’d buy and sell stocks—“fatafat lo, fatafat becho (buy quickly, sell quickly)". After the markets closed, he would meet managers and corporate representatives and then push off to down a few drinks at his favourite watering hole—Geoffrey’s at the Marine Plaza Hotel on Marine Drive. “After that, they can burn me," he said.

His most defining features, in my view, are his fearlessness and his staunch belief in the Indian economy. He based his investing strategies on his beliefs and would not back down from them. I remember him saying on the day of the 26/11 attacks that he wished the markets remained open and not closed as a way to show that India doesn’t bow to terror. His belief in India as a country and as a people was fundamental. His passion was infectious, and he wasn’t doing that because he needed a client’s money. He always invested his own money. Being a bull was his method, and believing in India’s growth potential the way no one else did was his philosophy.

Perhaps his greatest legacy apart from his family will also be his charity. He hated self-glorification and declined requests from me to write his biography. So much of what he has funded outside business is kept private—be it his support of the Olympic Gold Quest programme or supporting the education of underprivileged children.

He was always accommodating to me. Every year on his birthday, we’d communicate. I’d only tell him one thing: “Sir, please take care of your health".

Rest in Peace, Rakesh Sir. Thank You for your friendship and support.

Aditya Magal is an author and a satirist.

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