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Shabbir Sangani - A tribute

Shabbir is dead. A friend, who lived his life to the fullest. Stretched to the limits, both in pursuit of excellence in his businesses and to the fullest of physical endurance in adventure. A rare combination indeed!!

Traversing across the island to the east coast, Shabbir met his tragic end, off the coast of Batticaloa. It was in pursuit of adventure. Strangely, whether it was rafting down the rivers of Sri Lanka, or cycling down its mountainous slopes, it may have been to him his chosen way to exit, taking risk and enjoying its rewards. To his family and friends, it is a void that can never be filled. Shabbir would have wanted it handled with courage and fortitude. Just as he handled all his matters.

Shabbir was generous in his giving, as he was demanding in his pursuit of excellence in his businesses. A moment in time of my life, when I was out of employment, he gave me a job. It was not simply employment, it was a task to fulfill as Chief Operating Officer of one of his group diversifications. He demanded and expected results. He pushed me to my limits. We never had a contract or exchange of letters. It was an agreement amongst two friends. The assignment was over and I exited. Shabbir had fulfilled his agreement to the fullest. I can only hope that I had worked to his expectations.

In my perception, in the group, Shabbir called the shots, but gave leadership to a team of equally driven and committed individuals. Their collective spirit was however foremost in his mind.

One incident, which is proof of this, was an employee training session organized by, and for, the CEO’s of his group and the more senior staff. The instructor insisted that everybody be at their seats precisely on time and that all mobile phones and even watch alarms be switched off. The session was in progress and a mobile phone went off. It was in Shabbir’s pocket! The session was stopped. There was to be a forfeit as the rest of the group required. It was put to the house and the verdict was that the Chairman should stand on his head.

For a moment Shabbir was caught off guard. He turned red!! After that brief moment he came up and announced he couldn’t do it himself and he had never before stood on his head. Help was forthcoming and everyone rushed up to turn their Chairman upside down! In a few moments Shabbir was back on his feet, this time much redder than at first! There was a standing ovation. A while later there was a break. I spoke to Shabbir and asked him how he felt. His remark was "without the support I had, I could never have been upside down, that’s what you call team spirit!!!"

In my own way, as a tribute and a prayer, I humbly bow my head and shut my eyes. To his widow and his family, may they have the courage to move on, as Shabbir would have wanted them to.
Keerthi Wickramasuriya