By: Steven SypultJ.P.Morgan
I will always remember the summer of 2014 as the best time of my life. It was my introduction to the J.P. Morgan family, and more importantly, it introduced me to two the best friends I have ever had: Raj Reddy and Travis Tunnell. New York City can be a crazy and scary place, and maybe that’s why three Southern guys bonded so quickly. Never have I met friendly, easy-going guys as Raj and Travis.
Throughout the 6 weeks of training, we would bond at newfound favorite bar’s such as Hair of the Dog and the standard Beer Garden. The place we loved most, however, was called Le Poisson Rouge. That bar was home to our favorite event: 90’s night. Every Friday night, we would wander over to that bar, which a massive dance hall underground. A cover band called The Bayside Tigers would play our favorite songs from the 90’s, and it would fill us all with nostalgia.
One Friday, Travis went out of town for weekend, and the three became two. I woke up to the sound of thumping on the wall and heard Raj’s voice yelling at me to make sure I wouldn’t be late to training. Somehow, Raj and I were randomly assigned rooms right next to each other, a fact that we didn’t even realize until a couple weeks into training. We would head down to training together every morning. Raj was always so sharply dressed that he looked like a GQ model compared to me. He was also very disciplined. Every morning he would wake up and go down to the gym and exercise for an hour. That always impressed me, because none of us went to bed particularly early and I surely wouldn’t have been able to wake up at 5am to workout. But that was Raj, he was smart, friendly, disciplined, compassionate and most of all, inspirational.
Back to my story. That particular 90’s night, there was going to be a guest of honor, the man who played principle Bellding in popular TV show, Saved by the Bell. There was no way Raj and I were going to miss that. I remember how excited we were when we boarded the subway that night. We arrived at the bar with plenty of time and when we went down the stairs we saw the man of the hour himself. Principal Bellding was there taking pictures with all of the guests. Raj and I stood on either side of him and gave a “thumbs up” to the camera. We must’ve sent that picture to twenty of our friends who could’t there that night.
That night almost perfect. Mr. Belldiing gave the opening speech to a crowed ridden with nostalgia, pretending to be our younger selves in our own fantasy world for the night. Suddenly, Raj yelled out over the crowed: “I got it! I got It” I look over to see him holding a guitar pick, one of several that were thrown into the crowed by the lead guitarist of the 90’s cover band. Every person around him started giving him high fives as if he had caught Ringo Starr’s drumstick. It was fun seeing him so happy over something trivial, I was actually kind of jealous. We had a great time at LePosson Rougue, and we didn’t leave the concert until 1.00 or 2.00 in the morning. Before heading to subway and back to the hotel, Raj and I walked past a McDonald’s. For some reason, he and I made a habit of ending our nights at a cheap fast food restaurant, if there such a thing in New York City.
“I'll have 30 chicken McNuggets," Raj said as he orders for both of us. Raj would never let anybody pay him back when he did them a kindness. I can’t count the number of times Travis, Morgan, or I would offer to pay him back for a drink and he would kindly refuse. I like to think I learned to be a better friend to others just by knowing Raj for short time I did. He’s the rare type of friend who made you feel happier just his presence. Over the past 12 months, he was always the first person I would go to when I needed help. I knew I could trust Raj, and I knew he would always be happy to help. I don’t think I did as much for him as he did for me, but then I think that’s likely the case with most of his friends. There aren’t many people who can offer unconditional support no matter their own situation, but Raj was one of those people.
He will always be one of my best friends, and thankfully, I have a token to remember him by. As we sat in that McDonald’s booth arguing about who would win a football game between Michigan and Ole Miss , I saw the guitar pick on the table in front of him. He held it up as if to gloat about how cool it was, and he could see me getting jealous. Then Raj did something that perfectly captures the kind of person he was. He reached into his pocket and pulled out another guitar pick. Sliding it across the table, he says “Here you go bud, I caught two of them."
I always remember the impact you had on my life, brother.