“The strong shore is my beloved/And I am his sweetheart,” this verse from Kahlil Gibran’s “Song of the Wave” resonates as Cesar Menezes stops walking to his car and asks a man standing nearby, “Did you have your lunch?”
The man in question is just one of the hundreds whose wellbeing is of concern to Cesar Menezes, who sits on a pharmaceutical empire worth crores of rupees. Yet, he does not let his money dictate his decisions.
Born to Pascoal Menezes on October 14, 1943, Cesar is known for his business sense and his love for sailing. These loves are entwined in such a way that one cannot cut away from the other.
“My father believed success would follow if one works hard, and that was my focus as I grew up. It is important to work to attain success. But our maids at home work very hard. Do they end up with a lot of money? We don’t look at that as success,” says Cesar, who believes money is not the only barometer to gauge happiness.
Cesar lost his son to cancer when he was six years old. “Prateek was six when he left us. It was a loss we could survive by looking after children in need as our own. We don’t gossip; we don’t get involved in other people’s business. But, I like to help when I think a person is in need of help,” says Cesar, as he walks towards a boat on the beach.
“My love for water began when I was a kid, and as I grew up, the seas became vast expanses that allowed me to think alone. Sailing does for me what yoga does for others. It helps me clear my mind and leaves me relaxed,” says Cesar, who is looked at as the godfather of water sports in India. He is the only person in India to have received the Life Time Achievement Award from the Yachting Association of India (YAI) in 2019.
Cesar’s office is filled with memorabilia from all sections of society. He smiles when questioned about his collection and quietly replies, “Seeing a smile on someone’s face is one of those rewards I silently cherish. It is not in the giving that should make one happy but in the fruit of the giving,” confesses Cesar.
A few days away from his 79th birthday, Cesar still loves sailing. He is out in his boat for over three hours on a hot day without showing signs of fatigue. Instead, he wants to make sure that everyone around him is having a good time. “I want all of you to have fun,” he advises other sailors who are with him.
“After the Portuguese left, I was kept at Loyola High School boarding in Margao to learn English. My parents thought that we would pick up English faster by being in a boarding school, and it was there that I learned discipline and precision,” recollects Cesar.
“My eye for detail developed during my time with the Jesuits. It is important to treat others the way one would like to be treated. It never mattered to me how much money I spent on water sports because I gained from what I gave,” says the man for whom sharing seems to be an intrinsic value.
Cesar Menezes is not a man who personally agrees with the tag of philanthropist attached to him despite his largesse. But his warmth towards others is undeniable.
If Cesar is not making sure everyone around him is looked after, his wife Mimi is. In reality, she is the “strong shore” of Gibran’s poem and Cesar, her “sweetheart”. The chemistry they share is truly unique.
“Ours is a strange story. Many people think of him as being indifferent. The truth is that he is profound,” surmises Mimi.
“My wife and I do not interfere in other people’s lives. When my father was alive, he gave all his children their share and left all of us as capable individuals. I have done the same for my two daughters. We have had a content life, and we try to share it with others,” says Cesar with serenity radiating from his eyes.
“Did you have lunch? Please go inside and help yourself. Feel free,” says Cesar to a lady sitting next to a sail, as he sets off home to catch a few winks to reinvigorate his connection with goodness and replenish his body with energy for another day of sailing.
As Cesar’s car drives away into the distance, the skyline epitomizes a hue that tells the tale of a man whose job is well done.