It was almost four decades ago when cricketer Arun Lal moved from Delhi to Kolkata. Around the same time the right-handed batsman was playing for the Indian national team, the young son of the local laundryman would arrive at his house every day, and Lal's wife Debjani would tutor him in English.
"I would go every day to study because she would give orange squash," Bikash Chowdhury told The Economic Times' Akshay Sawai in a recent interview.
Chowdhury, 39, is now the associate vice president of treasury at JSW Steel, and based in Mumbai. The amazing rags-to-riches story of the boy who grew up on the footpath in Kolkata and then cracked one of India's toughest colleges to become a corporate honcho is inspiring.
"I would go every day to study because she would give orange squash."
Chowdhury grew up in Kolkata's Bhawanipore area and is the first in his family to study in an English-medium school, Julien Day school. He was 12 years old when the Lals, who didn't have any children of their own, began helping him with his education.
Arun Lal, former Indian cricketer during the second day of the two-day players' auction for the fourth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL), in Bangalore on 9 January, 2011.
Chowdhury graduated from high school after studying in the commerce stream, and went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in commerce from St. Xavier's College. Two years later, he cracked the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, after competing with thousands of other students in what is one of the toughest exams in the country. Right after college, he was offered a job in Mumbai in Deutsche Bank to manage balance sheets, and within a few years, he was made a Vice President there.
It wasn't quite like a fairytale. Six and a half years into the job, in 2008, he was laid off by Deutsche Bank. But his gritty attitude and hard work helped him land another job within a week. He worked for HDFC bank and Crédit Agricole, and the Singaporean multinational DBS bank. Last June, he moved to JSW Steel as head of their treasury.
The quick rise in his career hasn't made him brash, or conceited. "They say I talk softly, but that doesn't mean I'm less aggressive," he told ET. "I don't like being strict."
"They say I talk softly, but that doesn't mean I'm less aggressive."
Instead, he credited his success to his hard work and also the many people who helped him in his journey. His gratitude to his "adopted" parents, Arun and Debjani Lal, is evident. A few years ago, he gifted them a Mercedes, and also helped them finance a house they were buying. In his interview with ET, he recalled how his friends in Bhawanipore would take him out for movies, or share leftovers with him for dinner. In IIM, his classmates and seniors would help him in studies, especially mathematics, with which he struggled initially.
He said he tried to "give back" as he had received help in life — by feeding stray dogs, planting trees, helping people who were visually-challenged. Three years ago, he named his daughter after his "second father" Arun Lal — Arunima. Lal, who has been struggling with a rare form of jaw cancer, has described how he "gained a son" in Chowdhury, who is equally fond of the 60-year-old retired cricketer.
"I keep telling my wife Kamna that even if I am around 50 per cent of either of my fathers, I would have achieved something," he said. "I have got a lot and try and give as much as I can."