Ajay Oak – Made of sugar, spice and everything nice…

I am writing this as I mourn the loss of my cousin, Ajay Oak. He was trekking in the mountainous Ladakh region of India. He tragically passed away at Leh on 26 Jan 2018, due to medical complications. He was just 44 years old.

Ajay – The Achiever

Ajay held high offices at Citibank and Reliance prior to co-founding Shubham Housing Finance with Sanjay Chaturvedi. In just about 6 years, Shubham has motored along to 1100+ employees and 88 branches across India. Only a few days back, Shubham raised Rs. 3 billion in a Series D round. Ajay had already achieved many great things and was on the cusp of even greater. His best years were surely ahead of him.

But more than the glamour of big biz and $$$, Ajay and Shubham have had a deep social impact. They have provided 1600+ crores of housing credit to people from the informal and unorganized sector. So tailors, grocers, priests, shopkeepers and more, have built their dream homes thanks to Shubham.

Ajay used to often talk about how hardworking this segment of society was, and yet how they struggle to get credit,  and are spurned by mainstream banks. He would also talk about how home ownership leads to a rise in social responsibility and the overall well-being of a neighbourhood.

2018 Jan – With Ajay & Charu
1989 Nov- With Ajay, Seema and Charu
Early 1980s – With Ajay

Ajay – The person

When I think of Ajay the person, I am strangely reminded of the opening lines of the Powerpuff Girls cartoon. “Made of sugar, spice and everything nice…” . Ajay had even skipped the spice and was perhaps just made of sugar and everything nice…

He was always a pillar of strength for me. He had even lugged our materials during IndicThreads’ conferences in Delhi, and had lately provided valuable inputs for my new undertaking at Oracle. Going out of his way to support friends and family was just normal for Ajay.

I am not writing nice things about him only because this is an obituary. I am sure that anyone who knew Ajay well would have agreed with me, even when Ajay was around.

Way Forward

For all the misfortune involved in his passing, Ajay was fortunate to have a great team at Shubham, including his remarkable wife, Rupa, who joined Shubham a couple of years back. His kids Kunal and Riya are still in their early teens but already seem to have acquired all of Ajay and Rupa’s charm and warmth.

On Life

I am sharing this piece partly because I have always been so proud of Ajay the person and Ajay the achiever. I regret that I never explicitly told him that. But I am hopeful that he had got that sense from my actions and interactions.

I am writing this also because Ajay’s death has been such a tragic and moving reminder – Of the ephemeral nature of life and how in the larger scheme of things, “none” of the petty things that occupy us everyday actually matter.  And that it’s always the things that we take for granted that matter the most. (Usually good health & loved ones)

My approach to life in recent years has anyway been that of treating life as a tour to a new found land. I look to appreciate and enjoy the sights and sounds of every moment with equanimity, and I try to not hold on to it so tightly that I am unable to move on to the next place on the tour map.

Life is beautiful, but just too short for us to not cherish every moment, every person and every interaction.