The Kirit I knew
11 Aug 2016
Approximately 16 years ago I met Kirit Patel, Day Lewis Pharmacy, for the first time at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, for a Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee(PSNC) conference. After my election to the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) board, I was fortunate to meet Kirit again, who at the time was a contender for the chair of the NPA.
Kirit was always a friendly gentleman who filled the room with constant laughter and lively animated personality. He always went out of his way to be friends with everyone and introduced himself to anyone he had not met before. One would never expect him to introduce himself because of his success or the number of shops that he owned, or his wealth, but just as a genuine and humble human being that he was. Before we went on one of our trips to Paris, he was looking for ankle socks and we saw an old man selling them on the footpath. The generous and kind hearted soul that he was, he bought the entire stock of socks and paid more than the asking price, which was probably 6 months worth of the old man’s income. Such was his generosity.
Over the years our friendship grew and both my wife and I were fortunate to travel with him and his wife Nalini across India. On one particular trip to South India, he took the entire group of passengers on the train to a soft drink factory manufacturing Torino, an orange soft drink that is widely distributed in southern India. His father had financially supported the owner to establish the business. Kirit was very proud of this gesture of his father, and this trip reinforced the importance of family and business to him. That afternoon we all returned to the boat and had a wonderful time eating and dancing. He never understood or liked Indian Bollywood music but enjoyed the culture of India. During our trip to India, we really experienced Kirit’s enthusiasm for travel.
He was a person who would take on challenges to prove that he could overcome any difficulty. He always made sure that he achieved his full potential. He would take huge financial risks to expand his empire of pharmacies but always with the right people at the core of his business. This ethos enabled him to survive economic downturns, NHS funding cuts and the credit crunch. “Aim for the stars, and when you hit the moon that will be a remarkable achievement,” was his message.
Kirit loved to entertain people and would do this often. He would always buy drinks for everyone and even for those he was meeting for the first time. He believed in unity and never liked disharmony in organisations or the pharmacy bodies that he represented.
My recent memory of Kirit was when we had a meeting in his pharmacy in Harrods at the end of June 2016. I remember him coming down the steps very smartly dressed, as always. Before the meeting, he went straight to the pharmacist who was fasting for Ramadan and advised her to take a break if she needed to or was tired. Kirit had a lot of respect for his staff, as well as all other religions. During our meeting Kirit thought I was in financial difficulty and offered a substantial amount of money to me without any security. Although that was not the purpose of our meeting, it was a display of his trust and generosity.
We often exchanged text messages until midnight, at least once or twice a week. One of the last text messages I sent him was to help draft his speech for receiving his honorary doctorate at Bath University. His speech was outstanding and was truly inspirational. This can be seen at: https:vimeo.com/172914086. His speeches were never to be missed; his wise words united various factions in the world of pharmacy in our country.
On the 12th and 13th July, we attended a PSNC meeting in Liverpool. Kirit and I sat together discussing a whole range of issues affecting pharmacies during these challenging times. He said to me that his aim was to build an empire of 500 shops in the next 10 years with the intention of handing them over to his children so that he could spend more time with his future grandchildren, his wife and travel with his friends to different parts of the world.
Kirit loved Liverpool football club. I had invited him and a group of friends to Gaggan in Bangkok – one of the top restaurants in the world for fine Indian dining. After finishing the first course he was getting restless. I asked him what was wrong and if there was anything I could do. He requested to be excused for the rest of the dinner so that he could find a hotel or bar in Bangkok, where the Liverpool football match was being shown live on TV. Such was his passion for football. Kirit also enjoyed skiing and if the entire globe was covered in snow, he would be the first to ski from one end to the other. He loved adventures including bungee jumping, sky diving and climbing Kilimanjaro.
There is a huge vacuum in my life now, which was once filled by Kirit, a supporting brother. Pharmacies across the UK have lost an excellent ambassador, and the world of pharmacy has lost a true friend. He wanted his life to be celebrated rather than mourned and fittingly his family arranged a champagne party to celebrate his life.
One of his best friends Manvil Patel says that if we were to write a book about him, the title of the book would be “Adhoorie Kahani” (incomplete story). That would fit the life story of this outstanding person.
That was the Kirit I knew.
Author: Umesh B. Patel MBE