The author traces events and circumstances in his career and pursuits that impacted his belief system. He recalls how he has been inconsistent on approach to life, while standing firm on values. Such shifts in beliefs that he held from time to time helped in his evolving as the person he is now. The journey continues with no guarantee that he will arrive at a point where consistency replaces inconsistency, his hallmark. The author claims that he has a brand new innings to play, having lofty vision and hazy plans!
“Impermanence is a principle of harmony.
When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality”.
- Pema Chodron
It is strange! Till now I have managed to maintain an image of a person of reasonable accomplishments with certain positive traits. (Truth is that most of it was cleverly manipulated). Despite the accolades I have received there has always been a nagging sense of inadequacy and emptiness. To me it appears that all good things that happened were despite me and were gifts of providence. One thing is clear; throughout my life I have been inconsistent on many things. On this score I was pretty consistent! If I have to sum up my life so far, it crystallizes into two words, “consistently inconsistent”.
This article aims at capturing the twists and turns in the way I approached life. It tells about the inconsistency in the belief systems that I embraced from time to time. Certainly this doesn’t attempt to capture chronological account of my work assignments and other engagements. At the same time, some unforgettable episodes and people who left an indelible mark in my life are added to this portrayal.
After three decades of career in Human Resources with well established corporate giants, I moved over to a green field HR assignment. It was almost at the fag-end of my formal employment when I switched over to FORD India. The excitement with every other job change was conspicuously absent in this move. It was not a change by choice. Rather, it was a change for compulsion. I didn’t contemplate of a change from the earlier organization as I was well placed as the Chief Executive – HR at the corporate level. The job was massive, challenging and multi cultural. There were well over 10,000 employees in ten manufacturing units spread over the country and serviced by five major regions. Though my professional colleagues from other organizations hailed move to FORD as a great accomplishment and a feather in my cap, I didn’t consider it so.
Compared to the then contemporary compensation package in India, Job at FORD gave the most lucrative remuneration package. There was an image of prestige in this position. HR fraternity considered this as a dream job. All these were not the factors for my move from the previous organization. The one and only consideration to take up FORD offer was to continue stay at Chennai. As I stated in the opening paragraph, this change happened despite me as an act of providence, Divine leading me for something different.
A new chairman joined the previous organization in the year 1996. He was flamboyant, pompous and highly articulate. He could convince the French bosses easily with his persuasive logic of a glittering plan. He led them to believe that he would take the company to great heights at a level the erstwhile chiefs never conceived of. Unfortunately he had no clue of the core business of the organization. He made radical changes in tune with his impressive claims. There was style in his actions and distinction in the communication. From business point of view all that was much ado about nothing. His claims were empty and actions devoid of strength. The company had to pay heavy price for all these before the principals decided to change the captainship.
One of the decisions that this new incumbent took without consulting anyone at the helm of affairs is shifting the head quarters from Chennai to New Delhi. Cash rich business operations were at southern locations like Chennai, Hosur and Pondicherry. The northern and eastern units were bleeding the company’s finances. Key employees were all located at Chennai. It was the most imprudent action on his part. But there was none who could stop him at that moment as the French bosses were under his spell, totally mesmerized by his grandiose plans. Shifting to New Delhi was not in my agenda and the hand that guided me thus far, dropped the FORD assignment in my lap.
As I stated at the outset, all that happened in my life were despite me and as gifts of providence. How else will one explain the turn of events in that the head quarters of the previous organization was shifted back to Chennai within a year of my leaving!
Shifting to FORD impacted me in two ways. One was the compulsion that was thrust on me to take responsibility for managing personal life. The comfort level at the previous organization was so high that I or my family members didn’t have to do anything in managing the household affairs. Maintenance of the residential house provided by the company was its responsibility, which included utility maintenance, water supply, security guards and the like. The motor vehicle, maintenance thereof and the services of chauffeur were managed by the company. In addition, for local commuting for official purposes, there was always a vehicle with driver at beck and call. Highly pampered was the way few of us were looked after. All these changed dramatically once I shifted to FORD. FORD offered the best of compensation, but left the household management to the individuals concerned. What a shift in the way I had to lead life! It was most uncomfortable in the beginning, but I learnt to manage my affairs over a period of time. Had I continued in the earlier organization and retired from formal employment while being there, it would have been highly frustrating to manage post retirement personal life. Thus, I consider the shifting certainly as a gift in coaching me to be self reliant.
The major impact of working with FORD was my decision to leave formal employment with corporate world once and for all. The massive managerial challenge that was in the previous organization was totally missing in FORD. As a start up organization and even after putting the HR practices in place, there was no major challenge. For everything there was the in-house international practice. One has to learn, understand and transplant the practices as were obtaining in the plants worldwide. There were about 30 expats working at the Chennai plant, all having been with FORD for years (and some decades). They were swearing by FORD global practice on every aspect and there was little scope for creativity or for incorporating the cultural practices of India. There was no challenge and therefore no charm. Looking back, I consider that situation was for my good, as I consider that I am destined for something different.
Encounter with reality
“It was odd that a senior management guy from the corporate world dropped at my office volunteering his services in the work that we were doing. I was skeptic about his intentions, as I was wary on corporate designs”, says Dr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J., Director, Indian Centre for Research and Development in Community Education (ICRDCE). As per Dr. Xavier Alphonse’s narrative: Anto claimed that he approached the then Commissioner of Chennai Corporation, having read about Community Colleges under the aegis of their educational projects. The officials directed Anto to get in touch with me as ICRDCE was giving technical support to the movement. I had lengthy interrogation to decipher his motive for voluntary work. Finally, though not fully convinced of his motives, I accommodated his request and allowed Anto to be part of the ICRDCE team. Very soon I realized that Anto’s joining the team was a blessing as he brought the corporate expertise to take the social project to greater levels. He was instrumental in designing the concept presentation, learning modules and the training structure. He is associated with ICRDCE for well over fourteen years, of which the contribution in the first two years was massive and directional. More than his capacity to grasp nuances of Community College Movement, his willingness to adapt to the realities of the villages and the marginalized sections of society was amazing. In fact he coined the phrase, “Call of the Territory” as a pre-requisite guidance for those who were inclined to start a Community College.
As one who had enjoyed a luxurious and highly comfortable way of travel and living, travel with ICRDCE team was pretty hard and difficult. I accompanied the team for all the seminars through the length and breadth of the country. These seminars were organized to spread the concept of Community College among NGOs and philanthropic institutions. It is not that I didn’t know the woes of common man at that time. To be truthful, it was how I started my adult life………going through all odds, hardships, difficulties and challenges. But over the years, as I rose up in the corporate ladder, luxury and comfort became the way of life. To experience travel in unreserved compartments in the north, especially in states like Bihar, was a horrid nightmare. Dirt and squalor were all around in the compartments and the stations. Travel by such modes and to the interior parts of India brought me to confront reality in its face. I was humbled by the kind of work people were doing and the generosity despite abject level of poverty. A major shift occurred naturally in the way I looked at life and people. My perceptions changed dramatically. My pride was knocked down. Question arose, “If these people in villages and urban poor neighborhood can manage life with frugal resources and yet be good, generous and gregarious, what is the big deal that the corporate executives boast of their contribution to society?” I am reminded of what Khalil Gibran succinctly expressed, “I prefer to be a dreamer among the humblest, with visions to be realized, than lord among those without dreams and desires”.
Best to the Least
The Community College concept spearheaded by Dr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J. is phenomenal. It is the best fit in a climate where formal education system failed to recognize unique needs of the school dropouts. Community College throws open opportunities that would have eluded the youth neglected by the society and the formal education system. The twin objectives of Community College Movement – “Fit for Job and Fit for Life” – serve the target group most fittingly. The curriculum is structured in a way that responds to the needs of industry, while empowering the youth for self reliance. Outstanding success of this system resulting in 90% employment on completion of course can be attributed to the following factors.
I am singularly fortunate to be associated with this movement and I owe it to Dr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J. for this great opportunity. Our partnership enriched the movement magnificently. He had the vision of empowering the youth from disadvantaged sections of society. His passion was outstanding in this respect. I brought to the table content packaging technology – best way to project and market this unique product to social entrepreneurs. Also, my expertise in training was a boon to the movement. My association with this movement made sea changes in my values and belief system.
A former Director of Collegiate Education, Government of Tamilnadu was associated with the Community College system initially for some time. He was instrumental in connecting the efforts of ICRDCE to the attention of the Government officials at the early part of the movement. He had seen me in action in the conferences and training sessions. Around ten years later, manufacturer of a natural health drink, came into contact with this former official of the Education Department. When this entrepreneur desired to start a community college in Wellness Education, he was advised to rope me in for consultation. Ultimately, I was asked to take up the position of Principal of the proposed college.
There was huge fanfare and excitement when this community college under the banner of IGNOU was launched. Best in class course curriculum was prepared by respective Program Directors. Each one of them was a proven leader in her/his area of wellness education. I was fascinated to be associated with this institution for three reasons:
1.The course curriculum was designed to spread wellness movement. Following courses - unique, non-commercial, relevant and pertinent to the world of wellness – were offered:
a. Natural Living
b. Nutrition Garden
c. Integrated Healing Solutions
d. Family Money Management and
e. Communication and Relationship Management
2.There was total freedom and autonomy in course design and implementation. As the subjects were unique and till then out of conventional academic frontiers, IGNOU acknowledged the wisdom of Program Directors. There was total empowerment in unfolding the courses.
3.The organization that sponsored this Community College gave total support and encouraged students by waiving course fee in the first two years.
Hijack, Rise and fall
On the third year of functioning of the IGNOU Wellness Community College, we had to abort the initiative. It was a noble initiative, well planned, brilliantly structured and enjoying all the support one could wish for. Nevertheless, we had to abort, for two reasons, the major factor being suspension and subsequent withdrawal of the patronage by IGNOU. When the Community College movement was gathering momentum, ICRDC was knocking at the doors of Government bodies for support. The support it was seeking was recognition of the system by way of credit allocation for upward mobility. Also, ICRDCE requested for grant of scholarship to students and extension of benefits like bus passes for students etc., Impressed by the concept, potential reach of the target group and massive opportunity before it, the Central Government hijacked the idea. The Government empowered IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University) to form a wing for Community College under its banner.
In right earnestness and with laudable objectives, IGNOU embraced this concept. It opened the doors for private initiatives for starting community colleges under its umbrella. IGNOU issued Certificates and Diplomas to the students of these institutions, if the local Community Colleges complied with certain criteria. Everything was in perfect order. Where IGNOU erred was failure to ensure support only to genuine aspirants. Commercial motives seeped in and many money chasers started Community Colleges charging hefty fees, which naturally excluded the target group. One of the mottos of Community College system, in its original form, was “Include the Excluded”. This motto warrants inclusion of school drop outs and those who could not pursue higher education due to social backwardness. Levying hefty fees shut the doors to aspirants from the target group.
In addition, there were numerous complaints on the working of Community College wing under IGNOU. Timely response was lacking and there were several rumors and complaints. Ultimately, IGNOU closed this division. Hard hit were genuine institutions like the Wellness Community College. The major benefit we projected was issuance of Certificates and Diplomas by IGNOU, recognized and valued in the employment market. In the absence of IGNOU patronage, the appeal lost its charm.
While that being a major cause, our inability to attract students in sufficient number was another important factor in bringing down the shutters. People were looking for conventional and familiar programs that will fetch instant employment in recognized industries and business houses. Though we demonstrated potential of a vast field of wellness entrepreneurship, people were not willing to take the road less travelled. 19th century saint of Tamilnadu, Vallalar Ramalinga Adigalar (1823 -1874) went around the region spreading concept of love, equality and ahimsa. In the end, in utter despair he said, “I opened the shop, there were no takers”. Similar was our frustration when we had to shut down an excellent avenue for spreading wellness concept.
Future of Community College Movement
This brings us to the question, “In the present context, what is the fate and future for Community College movement?” This movement in its pristine form is a fitting proposition to empower marginalized children excluded by the formal system of education. The concept will continue to hold good and will continue to spread, but at a snail’s pace. Considering the vastness of the country, number of Community colleges through the breadth and length of the nation is abysmally low. Today the number is around 480. This miniscule presence cannot even touch the fringe of the challenge. However, the movement serves the motto in its humble way. Like the story of the man throwing stranded star fish back to the ocean. What is heartening is the commitment of the beneficiary industry partners supporting the institutions they are associated with. This level of commitment will certainly continue, for there is immense personal satisfaction for the personal associated. Besides serving industry needs (hospitals, small entrepreneurs etc.,) Community Colleges provide scope for fulfilling individual urge to contribute to social causes.
This movement can grow only as a private initiative by social entrepreneurs. What Government can do is support in the form of scholarship, grant for infrastructure and recognition of credits for upward mobility. Any attempt to formalize and institutionalize the movement will meet with the same destiny as in the case of IGNOU.
Power of Prayer
I vividly remember the date. It was October 25 in the year 1975. But for timely intervention by the police authorities and the will of God, two of us would have been brutally murdered. I was with . Appavoo, my boss at MRF. It was just after the end of the day shift and start of evening shift. MRF, those days, was known for frequent labour troubles. Once in two years, as a matter of routine, there would be stoppage of work. Disruptions were either due to strike by workmen or lock out by the management.
A major issue on casual/contract workmen was brewing. There was no possibility of a negotiated settlement. Violence was in the air. The Union had a qualified, Harvard educated, young and energetic person as the President. A novice to the field of trade union movement, he chose this leadership as stepping stone to his political entry. In his eagerness to establish an image of savior to the working class, he actively supported every move of workmen. He believed in everything the office bearers conveyed. His lack of trade union maturity did not endow him with required strength and assertion to dissuade workmen choosing faulty steps. As against taking leadership and insisting on the right way, he was naïve to endorse every other viewpoint of the team. The team itself had new faces, most of them coming from a neighborhood community, with no prior exposure to union matters. The situation emboldened the Union office bearers to take decisions on their own, without consulting the President. Equally, they did not feel any need to take workmen into confidence on major issues and contemplated course of actions. Prevalence of such a climate ultimately led to a situation that happened on 25th October, 1975.
Instead of allowing the day shift workmen to leave factory premises, the Union asked them to stay in. There was convergence of employees of two shifts, a mob of well over a thousand agitating workmen. All of them assembled before the cabin of Appavoo, head of Industrial Relations. His cabin was closer to plant entrance within the campus but isolated from other offices. Sensing trouble and to be of support, I rushed to his office, entered the cabin and sat down facing him. Almost instantaneously, slogan shouting at highest decibels filled the atmosphere with hostility and anger. Suddenly from among the crowd there was a shriek, someone giving a shout for attack. As if the mob was waiting for this, the crowd started throwing missiles through the window of the cabin. Appavoo instinctively recoiled, squat on the floor and shielded head with a thick bound book. Following suit, I sat under the table, keeping the nylon inter laced chair as shield. Missiles of all kinds went through the head, on the table and around all sides.
The intensity, force and vigor of the attack were gathering momentum. There was a threat that at any moment workmen advance towards the room, enter the cabin and directly attack us. I was almost certain in coming to the conclusion that the end was near. I thought of the family. Ours was a unitary family. Maggie, my wife, and my son, just three years old were with me. I said a silent prayer with all confidence. I surrendered the family to God’s care and prayed that He takes care of wife and son. The prayer lasted for lesser than a minute. It was not a longish or ritualistic prayer. It was a prayer of gratitude, faith and confidence that God would take care. The moment the prayer was over, peace and tranquility dawned. Immensely I was calm. There was no sign of tension, anxiety or worry. Never ever before in my life I witnessed such composure and serenity. I realized the power of prayer. This experience caused a deep imprint in my mind of the power and potency of prayer. It was a lifetime experiential learning. Till date it is my firm faith: “The power of prayer is enormous and the efficacy phenomenal when it is focused and non ritual”.
No need to dwell long on the events that ensued. Police came and ensured halt to violence. We were rescued on time. Eventually after a long spell of lock out, a settlement was reached before the Deputy Commissioner of Labour. The Union President and the entire team of Office Bearers were parties to the settlement. Among other things, the settlement provided for certain compensation to the 42 workmen dismissed from services of the Company. These persons were those identified as having indulged in the violence. The 42 included all the nine office bearers of the Union! One may wonder how such a settlement could be agreed to by Union leadership. Answer is simple. But for such an agreement, Management would not have reinstated rest of the 119 workmen terminated along with the 42. That was the end of this Harvard graduate’s trade Union career. He straightaway went to join the Congress Party in Tamilnadu to enjoy a meteoric growth.
When I reminisce the days at MRF I must admit shrewdness of T. Appavoo in IR strategies. It is possible to label some of his actions as scheming, but who knows truth behind his actions. At any rate he was exceedingly brilliant in strategizing the moves which resulted in tangible results in favor of management. On the same breath I must also acknowledge that he did a lot for the welfare of workmen from long term perspective. One such commendable action was bringing the Government scheme on housing to the attention of workmen and roping them in. I have great admiration for his intelligence, shrewdness and sharpness with which he could lead negotiations.
Trade Union as a Profession
In the first semester at Madras School of Social Work, Dr. Radha Paul, my revered teacher, taught us the distinction between social service and social work. It was then I understood the value of professional social work. I was able to accept that it was ok to be paid for rendering service to humanity. Trade union leaders accept payment from workmen when major events like Bonus, Wage Settlement etc., are concluded. This, in my opinion, is commendable and necessary. This open practice is far superior compared to payments under the table from managements, which is unholy but not uncommon.
In the midst of varying practices and leadership styles, I admire and respect leaders from AITUC and CITU streams. It is tough to bargain with them, particularly with CITU leaders as they are hard bargainers. However, once an agreement is reached they are firm that workmen abide by the terms of settlement on productivity and discipline. Another point worth commending is their leadership. They do not permit workmen to dictate terms and stake undue and unjust claims. They don’t allow greed to creep in. They are highly disciplined and respect trade union democracy.
Compare them to the mushroom growth of new outfits. Like several educational ventures run purely on commercial motive, these trade unions function as business ventures. They thrive on the gullibility of workmen. Seldom do they counsel the workmen on the right path. They whip up emotions, incite workmen for untimely direct action and arouse their expectations to sky high levels. These unions have scant regard for long term wellbeing of workmen and least concern for national economy. Their only interest is how best they can prolong the struggle, conclude for a hefty settlement amount and collect a portion thereof.
They are not to be blamed singly. Barring exceptions, very many HR executives of new age industries lack relevant exposure in strategies and practices of healthy Industrial Relations. They are swayed by emotions and easily misguided by vested interests in the garb of respectful veterans in TU field. There is an acute need for well groomed HR executives well trained in theory and practice of Industrial Relations. I recall the days at Madras School of Social Work where I learnt quintessential wisdom on Collective Bargaining coming from a learned Professor on the subject. His teachings were razor sharp and penetrating. Again, it reflects the quality of the educational institutions and commitment of teachers. I salute my teacher Dr. T.K. Nair for this learning. Though not directly related to hard core Industrial Relations, an allied subject is Industrial Psychology. We were fortunate to have a loving and compassionate teacher Dr. M.T. Paul. Many of us, alumni of MSSW, owe it to four eminent teachers (including Prof. K.N. George) who shaped us for great career in HR. I wish that present day students of HR are blessed with such dedicated faculty.
Height of humaneness
This too I will never forget in my life. The erstwhile GEC of Calcutta got merged with the English Electric Company, taking the new name GEC ALSTHOM. It was a marriage of two partners whose culture, finances, marketing style and business ethos differed vastly. Many operations of the erstwhile GEC were bleeding. One such business, a Division by itself, was Marconi Marine Division. Though small in size, the division was losing exorbitantly. Sooner after merging of the two entities, it was decided to close down this division. The division had around fifty employees on its rolls.
Duly advised by company’s labor law consultant, we prepared letters of termination for all employees. Procedure as laid out in the Industrial Disputes Act was meticulously complied with. By way of abundant caution, calculation of closure compensation including pay in lieu of notice period was made liberally. Armed with these letters I landed at this office after prior notice. The message was that a HR executive from Chennai would be visiting their office. The Manager of the Division was advised to get all employees assembled on the stipulated day.
I was warmly greeted by the employees who were keen to know the purpose of the visit. At the outset I had a private meeting with the manager. I informed him of the decision to close down the unit and that we were to serve orders of termination. I made a request to him that he help me in translating my talk with the employees collectively first and individually later. This he did willingly and excellently. I talked to the group and explained justification for management’s decision. I could see grief writ on their faces. However, they received the information without exhibiting any protest, agitation or complaint. They were highly disciplined and waited for individual meeting.
This was contrary to my assumption of militancy and aggressiveness in West Bengal employees. Over a period of time I realized that workmen in Madras were lot more violent and hostile than their Calcutta counterparts. Driven by Marxian ideology the workmen from Calcutta were certainly not greedy like the Chennai guys. Bengalis by nature are more emotional, but certainly friendly. They look forward to respect, equality and freedom of expression. If only managements could understand this basic characteristic and treat them with respect they could accomplish lot more through them. Indisputable need is this: Workmen have to be given freedom and space for expression like any other human being. I salute Abraham Maslow, proponent of the hierarchy of human needs, for his brilliant insight. Managers can get more from employees if they creatively explore means for satisfying employees’ higher level needs. Students of Human Behavior are well aware of the amazing power and potential in the higher level needs of human beings. The urge is inherent to perpetually seek means to satisfy needs of sense of belongingness, esteem and self realization.
Let me revert to the story of closure of Marconi Marine Division. I never imagined that the job would be so easy. We had individual meetings with employees. The manager of the Division was so supportive that with patience he translated what I had to communicate. And he did that perfectly well, truly conveying the message and the niceties surrounding it. One by one the employees received the letters with no expressed rancor. The process was well executed, thanks to the assistance and moral support of the manager.
When everything was over and job completed, I profusely thanked the manager for his help. After expressing my gratitude, I had to tell him with a heavy heart, “Mr. Vaidayanathan I have yet another unpleasant task to do”. It was one of the most unpleasant tasks in my life when I handed over the order of termination of his services. For the same reason he supported me in delivering the letters, he had to receive a similar letter. I do not know how I would have reacted if I was placed in similar situation. But Vaidyanathan, though shocked at this sudden turn of events, took it in its stride. He had every reason, if he chose so, to be furious, sharp and pungent. He was not any of those things. ………….. The story doesn’t end here.
The job was completed in all dimensions. There was nothing else to do. The shutters were brought down, door was locked and the keys were handed over to me. I felt uneasy, uncouth and extremely uncomfortable. Without uttering a word except a mute ‘thank you’, I started proceeding towards the car. At that time it started raining. The peon, an elderly Bengali gentleman whose services were terminated just twenty minutes before, rushed to me with an unfolded umbrella. He took me to the car, ensuring that I didn’t get wet. He opened the car door, let me in and with a genuine smile parted company saying, “Namaste saab”. I could see grief and sadness in his face but he was surely a gentleman to the core. He didn’t betray any bitterness towards me. I witnessed the height of humaneness in the most cordial act of that peon.
It was at that time and as I was returning to the hotel I cursed the profession I had embraced. I kept on asking myself, repeatedly, “Why, why should HR do all the dirty work all the time, when the top guys who allowed such a situation for long time should be spared”. I felt that HR guys are to be blamed for offering their services to be the funeral directors. The appreciation that I received from the Directors could never help me erase the pain that was deeply etched.
Leader par excellence
“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test”, so said Elbert Hubbard.
Ultimately, leadership is about creating other leaders. That is the finest legacy a leader can leave behind. Enable and empower every associate to be a leader. This is precisely what M.R. John (Head- HR) did during his long career with Union Carbide. When he discovered an opportunity to empower and coach his associates for bigger roles, he threw open such opportunity most willingly.
Being highly ambitious and willing to take risks in a big way I was hopping from job to job in search for spectacular growth. After about two years’ stint at Union Carbide under John’s leadership, I developed the much accustomed itch, urge to change. Young and articulate as I was, I approached John, my boss, and sought a position in sales division. I gauged that there was no big scope for impressive growth in the Personnel Department I was in. John is an embodiment of patience. Rarely have I seen him perturbed. He invested quality time in listening to me, my ambitions, career history and what I was looking forward to in life. He made a brilliant assessment and told me that I was drifting rudderless with no specific goal.
He suggested that I wait for a year when he can arrange work for me in late evening shift continuously for two years. Such work arrangement, he said, would enable me take up full time post graduate program in Personnel Management. Madras School of Social Work was the pioneer in Chennai to offer a post graduate program in Social Work. It was a two year program offering specialization in about four disciplines, Personnel Management being the most popular. It was a full time program and thus only those fresh from college could pursue this study. John had already helped two persons, one from Production Department and the second from Personnel. Both were brilliant and ambitious. When John made this statement, one was in the second year and my colleague from Personnel was in the second year. Claude Menezes, Production supervisor, finished his two year program meritoriously with Gold medal. Soon, after he completed this program, he was reverted to regular work timings and absorbed in Personnel as an Executive.
Sreenivasan, my colleague from Personnel, moved to the second year. True to his word, my boss allowed me to adopt special evening shift timings to take up the PG program in day time. That was how I got qualified for executive position in Personnel/HR paving way for spectacular growth in the corporate world. I am eternally indebted to him for the timely counsel, guidance and help in putting me in the right path. Credit goes to him for my growth and progress in HR. Within few months of finishing my two years program, I approached John for placement in executive cadre in HR. It was not possible for the organization to find such a slot at that time. Like Sreenivasan, I also left Union Carbide looking for greener pastures. John, the most helpful and understanding boss I ever had, willingly approved the transition, in a gesture of extreme generosity.
After me there were two more to follow suit – one each from Production and Personnel. They followed suit on both aspects – getting qualified and thereafter leaving the organization! At a stretch, there were five persons benefitting from John’s leadership philosophy of creating more leaders than followers. I imbibed this quality from him. However, I could never ever surpass the magnitude of his magnanimity.
Beliefs and paradigm shifts
During the post formal employment period (it is not post retired life!) many of my beliefs were challenged. I continued to evolve and there were paradigm shifts from time to time in my beliefs. I could sense inconsistency in the way I approached life. There were moments of uncertainties, wavering and vacillation.
As of now, I am coming to the belief that I have to be me. Respect people, respect their views, honour them for what they do. At the same time, there is no need to concur with every other so called noble thoughts and lofty visions. I used to be concerned, agitated and frustrated by what very many people do. Now I realize that all those fret and fuss are unwarranted. Does it mean that we need not be concerned about what is happening? Certainly not. But why should we internalize the anguish? If we can do something about it, do it. Just do it. Otherwise, meditate; send waves of goodwill and love and stay cool. Universe will take care taking cues from such vibrations. As Larry Eisenberg makes it crystal clear, “For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe”.
For a long time, I had resentment to amassment of wealth and some unknown contempt for rich people and business men. This belief system has been there right from childhood, may be due to certain religious outlook on wealth. Even though I relished being conferred with generous financial rewards, the inherent belief system did not give respect for wealth. I remember an occasion when I told a trainer friend of mine that I was drawing filthy rich salary. This belief system, deeply embedded in the subconscious, brought about situations inimical to my interest. My association with Community Colleges and knowledge of the pathetic conditions in which a great multitude live reinforced this attitude to money.
Even though I attended several seminars and workshops on money, apathy for riches and wealth continued to linger persistently. Just a year before, during the visit to my daughter’s place at New Jersey, USA, we were almost confined to the house due to severe winter. What came to my rescue were books. The local library run by the District authorities had a marvelous system of serving the community. Indeed it was a treasure house of excellent books. During the pretty long stay I had wonderful time with books that impacted me profoundly. Books of Esther & Hicks, called Abraham’s teaching on Law of Attraction, A course in Miracles, channeled writings of Helen & William and books on the Toltec teachings by Don Miguel Ruiz and the like are some of the books that appealed to me considerably.
It dawned to me that lighting lamps is far more meaningful and beneficial than cursing darkness. Good hearted and genuine people need to become wealthy and rich. That will enable them contribute significantly to the welfare of the not so fortunate. And, it is necessary that this tribe of benevolent rich has to increase. Instead of blaming the merchants and business people of unhealthy ways of conducting business, let us create entrepreneurs who will be honest and ethical. We need to stop lamenting on the quality, caliber and character of the politicians. Instead, let us encourage youth in our families to embrace politics as a respectful profession.
This radical change in my belief system gives me new fillip and impetus to engage with lot more vigor and determination in empowering youth. It occurs to me that my life begins now. There is a great challenge and therefore a huge opportunity. All that I have gone through, every other set back and every other accomplishment thus far is to prepare me for a new innings. To me, as I bring conclusion to this article, it appears that life begins now. The role yet to be will have to be greater and more significant than the roles I have been playing till now.
This I consider as possibility as there is yet another major paradigm shift in my belief system. I was all these years averse to seek help from others. I viewed seeking help as equal to invoking sympathy. I felt heroic in helping others. Giving was a delight while I was shy in taking help. If anyone at some point of time should help me, I thought I should repay soonest. I was always uncomfortable in seeking and receiving help. I suspect that I had lost many opportunities due to this crippling attitude. Participation in a recent seminar of T. Harv Eker helped me overcome this hindrance. Today I am not only comfortable in seeking help but immensely delighted to receive help and assistance.
As I look at the future, I know I will have to be consistent in raising the bar on a daily basis. I know I will have to be consistent in upholding a value system which is congruent with much needed human evolution. Also, I know I will have to be consistent in endurance, perseverance and tenacity in carrying out the task ahead. The way forward may be hazy but the vision is clear.
While that be so, I can equally guarantee that I will be inconsistent. For, there is nothing permanent. Everything changes, especially in me. While the principles that I cling on to will be consistent, the steps will certainly be inconsistent. There is no need to condemn myself for inconsistent behavior. Epictetus, the great Greek philosopher rightly said, “No one can step into the same river twice”. This is an echo of Thirukkural. “Planet earth has the unique pride that the person of yesterday is not the one today”. Change and impermanence are eternal sweeteners that make life delicious. The challenge before us is to discover excellence in the midst of inconsistencies. I am certain I will meet this challenge.
Former Chief of HR, GEC Alsthom & FORD India
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