Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Steely Resolve

It was one of those evenings when Vijay Khanna was in the mood. The audience was a responsive foursome and arrayed on the side-table were the accoutrements that restore the frazzled nerves. Once the amber fluid started its ‘trickle-down’ effect, one was justified in looking forward to some hilarious real-life stories from Khanna. He took us back that evening to his early days in the public sector organisation which shall remain nameless for the time being.

He had joined the service as a management trainee in the early seventies of the century that just went by, along with Murad Ali and Peter Samuel. Those where the days when concepts like Human Resource Development, Corporate and Internal Communication, etc which today’s MBAs swear by had not yet made their presence felt in the company. But then, other counterparts were toying with these newfangled ideas and could the self-respecting institution they worked for be lagging? So it was that their own house-magazine was launched.

As they had by then demonstrated that they could wield the pen rather well, they were the natural choices for the editorial committee of the house magazine of the company. The first issue was launched with great fanfare. Supposed to be a quarterly, it came out only in fits and starts, for want of material worth publishing. It was then that a senior officer who had grown with the organisation got elevated to the executive cadre and two others got promoted to the senior cadre.

Young Vijay Khanna had a brainwave: why not publish an interview with all of them? The trio took on hand the job of preparing the feature. It was a motley crew that had to be interviewed: Yogendra Reddy’s promotion was a foregone conclusion, for he was streetsmart, a go-getter and a performer with a proven track record. The meek shall inherit the earth, Hector D’Souza seemed to believe. A man of few words and a strict disciplinarian, he was the dark horse. Sahasranaman was dapper and suave, though brash in dealing with subordinates. He was well-known for the colourful and flowery expressions he used to employ while speaking and in writing. (It was known to a close circle that equally colourful was his private life, for there was a strong streak of licentiousness in the pattern of his behaviour when it came to the fairer sex.)

The three-man task force swung into action. It was decided that each of the interviewees would be asked the same questions (Regimentation had, by then, started taking roots in the young team!) Ten questions were framed. The questionnaire began with ‘What was your first reaction when you heard of the promotion?’ and ranged from ‘What do you attribute your success to?’ to ‘What is the message you have for the juniors and subordinates?’ and ended with a ‘What is your resolution for the future years of your career?’

The responses were appropriate: they were glad that hard work, integrity, dedication etc had been rewarded; they attributed their success to the blessings of the God almighty, benediction of the parents and teachers, good wishes of the colleagues, etc; they wanted the younger generation to toil, be honest and keep the flag high; they had resolved to put the interests of the organisation above theirs and persevere so that it scales greater heights in the coming years. The sceptic in Peter dismissed the responses as ‘the usual blah-blah.’

The response of Sahasranaman to the question on the resolution for the coming years was, ‘I have a mission in my life. I have to proceed to accomplish it. I have to resolved to gird up my loins.’ Murad Ali cryptically commented, ‘The tighter, the better!’ Obviously, he had heard from the office grapevines about the proclivity of the boss to stray from the straight and narrow.

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