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Scribes, visitors swarm hospital

Archana Chaudhary

MUMBAI, June 26

MUMBAI's scribes fought a grey downpour and chilly breeze outside Breach Candy hospital while business tycoon, Mr Dhirubhai Ambani, continued to battle for his life in the hospital's intensive care unit for the second day in a row on Wednesday.

Journalists, photographers and cameramen from almost every publication, television channel and newswire in the country spent hours standing outside the entrance to the hospital. Some even chose to spend the night waiting for news — more news, any news — about the senior Ambani's health.

For the second consecutive day, the compound of Breach Candy Hospital looked like a journalists' convention ground.

For the journalists, what made their wait worth the effort was the long stream of visitors calling at the hospital. Two Chief Ministers, several MPs and MLAs, a parade of corporate chiefs and film stars.... the hospital has been swarming with celebrities visiting Mr Ambani.

One interesting visitor was Mr Bharat Kumar Shah, Chairman, Al-Mustaneer Trading Company, Dubai. Mr Shah claims to be Dhirubhai's friend since the latter's early working days in Aden in Yemen.

"It is sad to see such a strong man fight for his life in the ICU. Ambani was always rough and robust. And, we (his colleagues) were in awe of his overbearing, healthy physical presence," Mr Shah said.

"Dhirubhai always dreamt of setting up his own business, even when we were working for the salary equivalent of Rs 200 per month in Aden and sharing a dormitory with 30 others,'' said Mr Shah.

Mr Shah, who says he is one of the biggest commodities traders in Dubai today, spoke fondly of his days spent with the senior Ambani. According to him, both joined A. Bessie and Company, an agency for Shell products, in Aden in 1949. While Mr Dhirubhai returned to India to set up the country's largest private sector corporate in 1957, Mr Shah left Aden in 1959.

Both the businessmen even share the same birthday. Said Mr Shah: "We are both from Kathiawad. And, we were both born on December 28, 1932. Dhirubhai is only an hour older than I am."

According to Mr Shah, Mr Ambani has kept in touch with his friends after all these years.

Said Mr Shah: "Dhirubhai used to tell us to think big even then. He often talked about building big projects; he used to say, `Don't forget, all big industrialists were once paupers'."

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