One more thing ! ......

Teacher's Day 2016 !!


|| om tat sat ||

Remembering the "Teachers" from Naini

In our teachers day remembrances of 2015 we remembered the three teachers who left their indelible marks on me. They were my teachers by definition and by profession too. They remain so to this day.

However as we wade through the life we do come across people who lent their invisible hands voices knowingly or unknowingly guiding us through various troughs and peaks or even the plains. They might not even know that they have a done a service or a favor. They are all much like the Twenty four Gurus in Uddhava Gita.

While there are many such silent Gurus over a seven decade run, this Teachers day I would like to remember all the unheralded teachers from my Naini journey.

The Naini journey started on the day of my interview in Bangalore for a post in far away Naini. For me it was a day of life long impact. I still cannot fathom how or why I got that appointment with possibly the longest designation. Three of us were interviewed and one was definitely euphoric after the interview. He was certain of his selection. He was possibly more than ten years senior to me in age. Even before I could enter the interview room he was talking to me in more or less consoling tone considering his own white hair and my green looks.

When I entered the interview room I found myself sitting opposite an imposing man with booming voice. Only later I came to know that he was the Chairman & MD, Mr I K Gupta. At that long table his imposing frame was flanked by a panel of fifteen or more experts. Fortunately only two spoke, the imposing man and the one at the far end of the table. Only thing noted was that I was from Indian Institute of Science and did my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in US. It sounded like they knew of Minnesota since nobody asked where is Minnesota!

When the interviews were over I was very quietly told to wait while the other two were quickly let off. I was told that I was selected could expect the letter in a few days.

Finally I reported as the Senior Deputy Chief Engineer to the then Chief Engineer Dr S K Hajela who to this day remains a mentor and teacher to me. That time he was already on the way moving up the ladder.

I was there as a green horn as far as the Telecom engineering is concerned. My selection was probably a true case of enormous trust based on flimsy evidence. For me it was a true case of learning. Learning all the time. Learning from all those who were under me even if they did not know that they were instrumental in my learning. In particular there was one Mr Chakravorthi who was to retire in the first few months after my joining. That first week he sat with me and called each of the people who would work in the engineering Division which I was to head and would let them brief me. And after they left he would brief me on his thoughts of what they said. My learning process was a breeze , more because of the perception of almost all that I knew what they were telling me !!

Then I had the biggest break as a learner and beginner. Dr Gopalakrishna , a good friend, a former room mate at Minnesota, and a few years senior at IISc Bangalore came as my boss with Dr Hajela moving up the ladder as his boss !

By that time I had the complete grasp of what is needed what can be done and what should be done. I also had the grasp of what the concerned engineers want to do too, which to me was the most important thing.

With all this I would wage relentless battles with Gopalakrishna on what R&D should do. He would look at everything from the prism of the needs of his parent department from which he was on deputation. The best thing that happened was that those battles remained strictly between us. We would have difficult arguments and I would accuse him of not thinking about the unit etc. My thinking was local probably his thinking was global. There were occasions when I would not talk to him for couple of days.

Any body in his position would not have liked a subordinate arguing so forcefully. Indeed if anybody else was the boss, I would surely not have lasted in my job for one more day too !

He could have put me down publicly without a question. He did not. In the process he became my biggest teacher. Teacher not of technology or technical issues. It is about leading and being led. It is about the fine lines between arguments and insubordination. Through all this and subsequently too we remained very good friends. That is surely more of a credit to him than to me. It so happened that his wife and my wife too became good friends in that small community. We were friends for ever thereafter.

This is also period I had intense project reviews with all the engineers . Even at this long distance in time it seems to me that they were all too good and there can never be a team better than those teams with me as the beneficiary in working with them.

I enjoyed that stint because I was learning.

Whether it is that engineering team of Chaturvedi who to the last day remained a friend, a very knowledgeable GS Shukla , simple and ever smiling BDShashank, a singer with mellifluous voice Deobhakta, and Kanjilal or the design groups of Manocha, Bandopadyaya and Govindappa and the later addition of Ramdas along with the bands of real experts in the always cheerful Banwasi , always confident Bansal , silent worker Chugh, Dam, Rajesh Saxena, TarunTapan, PK Gupta, Mehrotra, RN Srivastava , and the ruraphone Kansal - they were all Great! Apart from all of them, there were a few engineers who initially worked directly with me. That group included a Buddha like Mukt Bihari , a very ebullient Vinay Kumar and a very efficient filter designer in AK Srivastava. There was a Mittal from thick film Hybrids and a Chandrarkar from Thinfilms. There was a very very special man-friday Vijay Eima who would do what is required by the boss, also get all the blame and yet keep a disarming smile. Finally the purchase Maestro, Ravi Agarwal , who was my associate later at Mankapur too. They were all great in their own way. Then there were also some workers who were good like the Pegamat tester Krishna Kant , Ashok Sachan, Pande , and Quadri from our machine shop. Best part about them was that none of them could ever be accused of shirking their responsibility or being disrespectful..

Having all of them as part of the Naini team , the best part was that the "whole" was better than the "sum of the parts". I enjoyed the learnings of owning and being part of that whole !!

There were also a few more senior colleagues like Mr VB Shetty , BLK Rao, ML Gupta heading the P&A department and Mr Sengupta heading finance. They were all too senior in age and experience.

I probably had the best training in Finance because of a gentleman who was our chief internal auditor. He had a liking for R&D and spent enormous time with me discussing some audit issues and in that process enhancing my understanding of finance and audit functions. This unforgettable training helped me last through all the subsequent public sector appointments. He was a true teacher for me.

With the moving away of Dr Gopalakrishna and Dr Hajela I had a new boss in the form of Mr B M Khanna. By this time my domain expertise had increased enough for others to see me as an expert on Telecom equipment. He would take me along with him to Advanced level Technical Training School programmes as well as some high level meetings as his R&D man. He was a down to earth man with a swagger, a flash of smile and being humble is not his style. But on occasions he would be humble and that taught me lessons on being humble.

The last of my bosses at Naini was a Brigadier, Brigadier Balasubramaniam. He was fiercely loyal to his troops. He took me as one of his troops and without a doubt I got benefited by his code of honour in supporting his troops. Eventually I moved out of Naini and moved to Mankapur for a very different kind of environment and an even more learning!

Without a doubt every interaction at Naini whether it is positive or negative had a learning effect on me. Probably I was never too vocal thanking many who I should have thanked. I was happy to see all my Naini acquaintances grow in stature and grow in their career and retire successfully too. When the corporate headquarters at Bangalore was virtually invaded by Naini friends I was too delighted !

Some time ago I had a call from Quadri of our R&D machine shop telling me about his son joining as a doctor in Bangalore !

That call from an old Naini acquaintance was an icing on the cake of my fond remembrances of learnings from the unheralded teachers at Naini.

Happy Teachers day!

||Om tat sat|