“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
Elbert Hubbard neither knew Joanne Chan Ming Choo nor me but it seems as if the quote which emanated from him was directed at the two of us. For in spite of all my eccentricities, quirks and unpredictable oscillations in mood, Joanne Chan Ming Choo not only puts up with me but doubles up as my personal sunshine. It is now exactly three years since I met Joanne. Initially it was not all hunky dory. I know not what she felt about me but I had this apprehension that there was an invisible albeit perceptible wall between us. I found her to be reserved, forbidding and to a certain extent opinionated. My career took a paradigm shift when I spontaneously decided to quit a successful albeit unsuccessful stint in a career in consulting to try my luck with a Fortune 50 Oil & Gas major in Malaysia. This was when I met Joanne. Although we had briefly met over dinner a year before I made this move as part of a client wooing exercise, the experience was fleeting and nothing to write home about. A bottle of wine, an hour or two of stereotypical small chat in a reputed Singapore restaurant commenced and concluded my tryst with Joanne, before I joined the very organization where she was holding the helm in a niche area in International tax.
The beginnings were to say the least inauspicious. Joanne came across as no nonsense lanky, professional who was reticence incarnate. With wavy black hair combed back complementing a more than average height, Joanne is one whose looks invariably has the power to turn heads her way. However, during the initial couple of months of my stint in the new organization, I was extraordinarily sure that one of those heads would certainly not be mine. Little was I to know how incorrect my assessment would be towards this person who turned out to be not just a phenomenal professional but the closest of friends that I ever had!
They say time has the potential to work wonders. This statement is not a mere exercise in trivial truism. The very time which had created an uneasy space between me and Joanne did a volte face by bridging the gap in a manner that is indescribable. The very time which created a constricting sense of emotions produced a calming sense of belongingness. Joanne the professional was also Joanne the person. A personality which signaled marked aloofness and intense reservation was transformed into a personality that exuded purity and transparence. As I understood Joanne the person, I began grasping the very essence of friendship and the very purpose of a meaningful relationship. In Roman Mythology there is a God who possesses two faces – Janus – an outer face of deception and an inner face shrouded in secrecy. Every one of us has a Janus lurking within us. But, not Joanne. With her what you see is what you get. The Joanne who erupts at an unfounded allegation is the same Joanne who sheds tears of uninhibited passion viewing a picture of underprivileged kids crying out for help. The Joanne who envelopes herself in silence working her strength out to meet a client deadline is the same Joanne who lets her hair down and exposes her inner self over a swig or two of Vodka. The Joanne who sets stringent deadlines for work commitments is the same Joanne who gets lost in herself at the very sight of her two little boys. The
The very testimony to the purity of Joanne’s character is her ability to extract the innermost feelings from the persons who trust her. For me nothing is a secret when it comes to Joanne. She makes me lay bare my heart and its inexplicable workings. Nothing is more relieving than spilling the darkest of secrets that one nurtures, over a steaming hot cup of coffee in the presence of Joanne. She brings out the human and drives out the demon in you. Unburdening myself in the presence of Joanne has always been the most welcoming and cathartic experience ever. Akin to a Swiss Bank vault, whatever one says to Joanne remains closeted within her never to be divulged. She has stored within her indomitable self my frailties and foibles, my disappointments and despondencies, my agonies and my ecstasies. Nothing stirs me more than the sight of her striding purposefully into work mouthing an effervescent greeting.
Yes Joanne Chan Ming Choo knows me. She deciphers me inside out. She is an impeccable judge of my emotions, passions and vulnerabilities. Yet she is an incredible friend. A friend to live with and to die for. A precious human being who expects no consideration for all the benevolent acts that she spontaneously gives. A friend who makes you repeatedly understand the values of life and love. Most importantly a human being who imparts the most precocious lesson that the greatest joy one gets is in giving rather than receiving.
The same time that has brought us together will ensure that at some point in time we separate and head into paths that are divergent. But even such vagaries of time cannot rend asunder the sacred bond of friendship which I have been lucky to forge with this wonderful, unique and fascinating human being. I will carry with me till times immemorial the humour, passion and genuine affection that are the natural attributes of this incredible woman. Elbert Hubbard was absolutely correct in his assessment of friendship!
Joanne Chan Ming Choo – THANK YOU!!!
Venkat, First visit to your blog and I am so amazed on seeing so many wonderful articles…. Not sure I have come across a person with this much intellectual curiosity. You have stupendous talent to read this much and added to this is the noble heart to share all these with us. Your command over the language is brilliant and you are so gifted. This tribute to a good friend is written very well with honest emotions and with lot of details. Thanks for all the knowledge that you are sharing. Best wishes, Chandra
Thank you so much for your kind words Chandra. You are being extraordinarily kind!