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Friday, 22 February 2013

Dr R.K. Pachauri As I Know Him – III


Related earlier posts: 


Dr Pachauri used to repeat in professional and other meetings that the door of his office was open always and any colleague could just knock and enter any time to discuss anything with him, including grievances. And these were not just hollow promises made for the sake of making those. He used to keep his word, too. Any time you could knock and enter his room. But, yes, this was during the initial days of TERI when the institute was small and when Dr Pachauri was not as occupied as now. These days if one wants an appointment with him one might have to wait for up to several weeks sometimes. It is not because he has gone far away from his colleagues or his promises, but because he has become so much busier. He has now become a global personality.

It was Dr Pachauri’s unfailing habit to take a round of the Institute and greet and shake hands with every employee at his/her seat on the morning of the first working day of January every year. ‘Every employee’ means right from distinguished fellows to sweepers and gardeners. And he is sure to address everybody by his or her name, for which he doesn’t need to look in the records. Once or twice he could not make it to the library block which is located in another part in the India Habitat Centre complex, where TERI is located, on the New Year eve. I remember in one of the professional meetings arranged a few days later, he apologized for this. We actually used to look forward to this day when we could shake hands with him.

Dr Pachauri attends a number of conferences, workshops, seminars and other meetings every year, mostly abroad. In fact I feel Dr Pachauri receives more respect and recognition abroad than in this country. And several of the organisers used to give him honoraria apart from meeting his travel and accommodation expenses. He, without fail, donates all such money to TERI. This is one quality which I have not seen in many professionals. I have seen several professionals who have no hesitation in using every facility in the office to promote his/her position, and pocket any compensation received on that count without contributing even a small portion to the office. Without doubt Dr Pachauri’s is an example which could and should be emulated.

There were two distinct occasions (of which I am aware) when TERI colleagues surprised him. One was on his sixtieth birthday. We all got internal e-mail messages that we should assemble at a particular time at a particular location in the office. When the mails were received, there was only five minutes left for the designated time. And we all rushed thinking there was something unusual happening there. Only when we reached did we know that it was to celebrate Dr Pachauri’s birthday. And the organisers made sure that Dr Pachauri himself did not get even a signal.

At the fixed time he was requested to come out of his office and was pleasantly surprised to find that starting from the door of his office to the place of assembly, colleagues lined up with rose flowers to wish him ‘happy birthday’. According to the custom in Tamil Nadu state of India, the birthday ‘boy’ and his wife get married over again on this particular day. The organisers also mixed it with another custom where the bride and groom are separated by a curtain between them till the actual time of marriage. Somebody was brought into the place of assembly with a curtain covering her completely. It was amusing to see Dr Pachauri’s ‘eagerness’ to see who his ‘bride’ was! The anticlimax was revealed when the curtain was removed and it was found that the ‘bride’ was none other than his wife Ms Saroj Pachauri!

Another occasion was on his return after being elected Chairman, IPCC, for the first time. It was past midnight when he came out of the airport and a large number of TERI colleagues had assembled there to receive him with garlands, bouquets, roses, and huge banners welcoming him! This was totally unexpected and was a big surprise for him. It was like a real home coming for him.

When he is out of the office, which used to be several days a month, colleagues don’t even miss him, simply because that is the culture of TERI. The culture here is to carry on with one’s duties, whether or not the boss is around. You look for the boss only if you want to meet him or otherwise contact him. Another important quality I have seen in Dr Pachauri is that he keeps abreast of every important happening in TERI even when he is abroad. Messages used to be sent to him very frequently, almost daily, and he used to give directions either through mail or phone. So TERI doesn’t miss him, and he doesn’t miss TERI.

I have no hesitation in telling that Dr Pachauri is energy personified. Where can you find a 70+ aged fast bowler? His overflowing energy finds an outlet on the cricket ground. He has taken more than 550 wickets in corporate cricket matches in 26 years since TERI played its first match in 1986. The Institute has constructed two cricket grounds at its Gual Pahari campus, where several Ranji Trophy and other matches have been played. TERI organizes several cricket matches between corporate groups every year as tributes to not-to-be-forgotten heroes in the cricketing world. Dr Pachauri’s friends include several stalwarts from the cricketing field, too.

It may be true that Dr Pachauri promotes cricket so much because it is something he is very much interested in. But it does not mean that other sports or games are not encouraged. I remember we had started playing foot ball for some time, but due to lack of participation it didn’t last long. Table Tennis was another game in which several colleagues were interested. This game used to be encouraged for several years, maybe even now. We also used to conduct Table Tennis matches. In Gual Pahari TERI also has an excellent golf course where corporates as well as ordinary members come and play.

Dr Pachauri is never tired, or his enthusiasm never diminishes, even after several years. TERI is as dear to him today as it was 30 years ago. He makes several foreign trips every month. The flights usually land during midnights or early mornings. On his way home, he comes to office and picks up all the mail piled up on his table. And as usual he reaches office at 7 or 7.30 (which is at least two hours before the normal office time) next morning by which time he would have already gone through the mails. Doesn’t he need to sleep? 

TERI once used to be located in 90 Jor Bagh. Dr Pachauri used to have duplicate keys to the building as well as to his office. Mr Laxman Singh, TERI’s guard, used to have his quarters at the rear side of the building. As per his usual practice, one day Dr Pachauri returned from a foreign trip and wanted to collect his mail. He rang the bell several times but Laxman Singh didn’t wake up. After some time Dr Pachauri decided that enough was enough. He jumped over the gate, collected the mails, and jumped out and went home. The next day he sent a note to Mr Srikant Mishra, Accountant, who also used to look after housekeeping matters during those days, saying that since TERI’s Director (he became Director-General a few years later) was a good sportsman, he could jump over the gate and collect his mail the previous night. The same day he got a duplicate key to the gate also.

[To be concluded]

Friday, 15 February 2013

Dr R.K. Pachauri As I Know Him – II

Related earlier post: 

One day Jayasree, my wife, came to TERI in the evening. I wanted to introduce her to Dr Pachauri. During those days, you could just knock his door and go in. I knocked and his voice came from inside, “Come in”. We went in. I introduced Jayasree.

After some initial chit-chat he asked her, “Do you complain that your husband comes home late every day?”  

She said, “Yes.”

Dr Pachauri said laughing, “Hmm. That is what wives are supposed to do. Husbands come home late and wives complain. He will again be late and you can go on complaining.”

Such was his way of mixing jokes with serious matter.

When TERI used to be located at the IIC, we used to watch secret rendezvous of young couples. We had the advantage of being located at the rear portion of IIC, which faced the Lodhi garden. Lodhi garden is frequented by walkers in the mornings and families and young loving couples at other times. Since there were no doors opening to the Lodhi garden side, they were unaware of human eyes watching them. They used to sit together, touch each other, kiss passionately, embrace … and … and … No, nothing more.

One day Dr Pachauri was going out of the office through the corridor and happened to see one such scene. He turned back and told us, “Oh! So you have nice scenes to watch whenever you get bored.” But these exciting opportunities were lost when the office was shifted to Jor Bagh!   

This incident happened a few months after I joined TERI. Dr Dilip Ahuja was organizing a workshop. We didn’t have e-mail, fax or even a photocopying machine at that time, which were either non-existent or rare. Several copies of the invitation for the workshop were, therefore, cyclostyled. A list of addresses too was prepared. All of these were kept in a tray on my table since I was to mail the invitations to those addresses. It was a Friday evening. On Monday morning some urgent work came up and I forgot all about the workshop invitations!

Only very few people turned up for the workshop. They were those with whom Dr Ahuja had regular telephonic communication. Later on when he called up some of the others to enquire why they hadn’t come for the workshop, they said they hadn’t got the invitation and hadn’t known about the event at all. I was asked to confirm if all the invitations were sent. I said that they had been, since that was what I believed. We all blamed the postal department for their haphazard working. The matter was thereafter closed.

After a few days, when I was cleaning my table tray, I found all the invitations along with the address list kept very ‘safely’ underneath some papers! Oh! God! I didn’t know what to do. A thousand thoughts rushed through my mind. Tearing and throwing them into the waste paper basket would have been the easiest and safest thing, since the matter had been closed in everybody’s minds. But I didn’t want to do that. I knew I would never be able to pardon myself if I did that. I took the whole bunch of papers to Mr Subramanian. I was working for him, too and he was looking after the administration. I told him what had happened. He advised me to go to Dr Pachauri and explain to him.

As soon as I entered Dr Pachauri’s office later, before I could even open my mouth he asked me, “So? … If the invitations are kept on your table safely, how will people come for the workshop?”

I thought he was smiling, too. Apparently Mr Subramanian had already briefed him. He was not angry, but the sarcasm did have the desired result. I apologized to him and owned up that I was responsible for what happened. He just asked me to be more careful in future.

During the annual appraisals, Dr Pachauri meets every employee and discusses his/her performance of the past year and plans for the future. The annual increment is decided after these meetings. This also is one occasion that colleagues look forward to, especially those who didn’t have many occasions to meet him otherwise. It has always been a pleasure to meet and talk to him. He talks pleasantly, he does not shout at you. Even when he is upset and wants to reprimand you, he does it mildly, but strictly, and the listener clearly gets the message. During these meetings he invariably enquires about one’s problems. He also asks you for your suggestions and complaints, if any. I remember I had at least two ‘quarrels’ or ‘differences of opinion’ with Dr Pachauri in two of such meetings.

One was in the appraisal meeting after Shri MG Ramachandran (popularly known as MGR), Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state, and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also called the Frontier Gandhi, passed away within a span of a few days in that order. When MGR died TERI declared a holiday to mourn his death. But the same rule was not applied when the Frontier Gandhi passed away. I questioned him on the logic of declaring a holiday on the death of MGR but not on that of the Frontier Gandhi. He said MGR was a national leader. I argued, “And Frontier Gandhi was an international leader.” Nothing was supposed to come out of the argument, but I thought I had to tell him how I felt on the ‘injustice’ done to the Frontier Gandhi. 

The second ‘quarrel’ was regarding an electronic typewriter. During an appraisal meeting I requested Dr Pachauri to sanction purchase of an electronic typewriter for me. This was when computers had not yet become an essential or even a luxurious part of office equipment. Manual typewriters ruled the roost during those days. He said he was all for automation of office but immediately that was not possible. I suggested that maybe the budget of a particular project that the Division in which I had been working then could be used. He then said that budgets of all projects belong to TERI and not a particular project or division.

So the next year during appraisal when he enquired if I had any complaints, suggestions, etc., I said, “I have a request, but it will be useless, so I am not making the request.”

He asked me, “What is it?”

I told him, “Well, I requested for an electronic typewriter last year and I didn’t get it. So I don’t think there is any point in raising the point again.” 

I don’t know if he thought it as a point blank attack. He didn’t show any emotions, though. Instead he asked me to send a note to him immediately so that he could arrange to get one for me in that year’s budget. The appraisal was sometime in February/March. I soon sent a note and surely enough, I got an electronic typewriter in a few days.

The typewriter was, however, transferred to his office after a few years. It happened like this. I was working with Dr V. Jagannathan for several years. The electronic typewriter was purchased during this time. When Dr Jagannathan left TERI I started working in Dr Pachauri’s office. Naturally enough, I took the typewriter along with me. But when I was transferred to the Ozone Cell project, I was ‘requested’ to leave the typewriter behind in Dr Pachauri’s office. By then, however, personal computers had slowly begun to show their faces on working areas. 

[To be concluded]

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Dr R.K. Pachauri As I Know Him – I


Photo courtesy: http://www.topnews.in/files/Rajendra-Pachauri_3.jpg
Some of you who know both Dr RK Pachauri and I, might ask me, “What is your credibility or authority to write about Dr Pachauri?”

Dr Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, in a nutshell, has been (a) the Director-General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) since the start of its research programme in 1982; (b) has built up TERI from a one-room rented accommodation in August 1982 to the present stature of six national centres (Delhi, Bangalore, Guwahati, Goa, Bombay, and Mukteshwar) and six international centres (USA, UK, Japan, Africa, UAE, Malaysia); (c) has been the Chancellor of TERI University since its inception; (d) has been elected as Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for two consecutive terms; (e) had successfully invited to the function and shared dais with Albert (Al) Gore, (then the future US Vice President) in the inaugural function of TERI, North America; (f) shared the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore, (then the former US Vice President) as Chairman of IPCC; (g) could get the late Mr KR Narayanan (then the future President of India), to lead a project in TERI; (h) could get retired Secretaries of the Government of India and retired chairmen of public sector undertakings to work in TERI; (i) was an invitee to the Agra dinner with US President Bill Clinton; (j) gets scores of present and past presidents, prime ministers, ministers and Nobel laureates to speak at the prestigious Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS), the flagship event of TERI, every year in New Delhi, and at several other events; (k) has been awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and Padma Vibhushan in 2008 by the President of India; (l) has been visiting professor in a number of foreign universities; (m) has won several awards including from the governments of Japan, France and Finland; (n) has been associated with scores of committees of Government of India, the United Nations and several other governments; (o) remembers the spellings of the names of all the people he knows; and (p) has taken more than 550 wickets in corporate cricket. And may be several other feats which I may never know.

Google ‘Pachauri’, and you will get nearly 1.5 million results (a few less on some days and a few more on some others). Without doubt this includes a few other Pachauris as well; but not more than a few thousands.

Now you know why I am likely to be asked the above question. My answer is simple. Dr Pachauri knows me. If we meet somewhere sometime, I know he will recognize me and he will remember my name. If he has the time, he might even ask, ‘Jayanthan, how are you? What do you do these days?’ I am proud to be one of the thousands whom he knows, rather than one of the millions who know him. That is my qualification to write this note.

**************

It was in early 1983 that I first met Dr Pachauri when he interviewed me for a job in TERI. I had started responding to advertisements inviting applications for the posts of secretaries or to positions connected with publications. When I got an interview call from Tata Energy Research Institute (that was TERI’s name then), I was pleasantly surprised. I knew TERI because the Institute subscribed to the journal Alternatives, the subscription of which I used to look after then at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). I, however, wondered how it was that I was asked to appear for an interview in New Delhi when the Institute was located in Bombay (now Mumbai). I was later to know that TERI had only an information and documentation centre in Bombay which funded research in other organizations then, and the institute was in the process of setting up its own research facilities in Delhi. Those were the days when TERI in Delhi was like a toddler learning to walk. Dr Pachauri himself interviewed me. After a second round of interview a few days later, I was appointed.

When I joined TERI, the Institute was located in two rooms, a corridor and a bath room in the members’ flats at the India International Centre (IIC). [The whole area has since been reconstructed to accommodate an auditorium and other smaller meetings rooms.] One room was occupied by Dr Pachauri. The bath room attached to this room was used as the office of his secretary, Ms Anupam Chopra. The other room was occupied by the Consultant, (the late) Mr K.S. Subramanian, and two fellows, Dr Dilip Ahuja and Dr D. Bhattacharya. The corridor was occupied by four Research Associates, Leena Srivastava, Charu Gadhok, Ranjan Bose, and Satish Sabharwal, and the stenographer, I.

IIC was TERI’s third home in Delhi. First it was located in a room in the rented residence of Dr Pachauri in Nehru Place. The Institute was then shifted to Jeevan Tara building, owned by the Tata Group. Several offices of the Tata group are located there. It was from here that TERI shifted to IIC. 

I was attached to the fellows, RAs and the Consultant. But one day Dr Pachauri gave me some urgent work. He used to give me work only if I was not doing any urgent work for those with whom I had been attached. While I was doing it he said, ‘I am looking forward to the day when I shall have two secretaries working in my office full time.’ His office grew along with the Institute and now accommodates half a dozen or more people.

The bubbly young Anupam Chopra was Dr Pachauri’s secretary for the first few years. Anupam started receiving obscene calls on the office telephone. Initially she ignored it. But when it became unbearable for her, she complained to Dr Pachauri. The caller had the habit of disconnecting the phone if he heard a male voice. So one day Dr Pachauri asked Anupam to pick up the phone, say hello, and then hand over the receiver to him. She was then to run for her life out of the room, for he didn’t want her to hear what he was going to tell the ignoble caller. Nobody, except Dr Pachauri, knows what he told him, but that was the last day he ever called on that telephone.

On one of the initial days I asked Dr Pachauri whether TERI can provide me with a two wheeler since I was staying at a place far from the office. He said there was no provision for an official vehicle, but sooner than later TERI would institute provision for vehicle loans which I could then apply for. Several months later TERI instituted a system for vehicle loans. Even before the proclamation was officially circulated, he told me, “We are going to start provisions for vehicle loans. Only three persons each (for car and two-wheeler) will be allowed loans in a year. So you apply fast.” I thus became the first person to apply for and obtain a vehicle loan from TERI. One day when Dr Pachauri saw me riding my two-wheeler, he asked, “Oh, so this is your horse?”

The first official car of Dr Pachauri (and of TERI) was a second hand ambassador car with a Maharashtra number plate donated by Tata Chemicals. Later on a brand new Maruti 800 became Dr Pachauri’s official car. I know some of you might be raising your eyebrows. A Maruti 800, for Dr Pachauri? That is right. But at that time, which was the initial days when Maruti began to release its cars, a Maruti 800 was a priced possession and a status symbol. After booking one had to wait for several years for delivery of the vehicle. When Dr Pachauri got his brand new Maruti 800, the ambassador car was designated as the staff car.  Maruti 800 was India’s smallest and cheapest car which ruled over Indian roads till Tata Nano entered the scene a couple of years ago.

[To be concluded]

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Fish Curry with Bones!


I have taken part in an excursion (tour) from school only once, when I was in the ninth class. We visited Mysore (now Mysooru) and Bangalore (now Bengaluru). Usually students from ninth and tenth classes are discouraged from taking part in excursions because these are supposed to be the most important years in one’s school life. Tenth is the ultimate class where one appears for a public examination for the first time. Eleventh and twelfth classes used to be in college and was called pre-degree course. My parents allowed me to take part since the previous year I could not go having fallen ill at that time. 

The charges for the three-day trip were 30 rupees including food and lodging. [A few days after we returned, an amount of one rupee and thirty paise were returned to each participant as balance.] We started in a brand new bus named CTS. It was a 51-seater bus. But our number was more than the capacity of the bus. We, therefore, put a bench in between the two rows of seats which was also used for sitting. During the journey we cracked jokes, sang songs and enjoyed the journey as much as we could. Travelling through Nilgiri hills was an ecstatic experience. The hair-pin bends were actually hair-raising. We had breakfast at Ootty which was our first major stop after starting the journey the previous night. We were feeling cold, but our enthusiasm and energy could not be dampened by the little cold weather.


We reached Mysore, our destination, late in the afternoon around three o’clock. Everyone was terribly hungry. We got out of the bus and as soon as we got the signal, we barged into the hotel pointed to by the teacher. This was certainly not a five-star or even three-star hotel. But who counts the number of stars when there is fire in your belly? Rice was served to us along with some curries. It was only after we had taken the food that we even looked around for our friends.

When we got out from the hotel I heard Joseph telling to another boy that there were fish bones in the curry. I thought he was cutting a joke. Or he wanted to make fun of me, a declared vegetarian brahmin. But he seemed not to notice me at all. He was not even looking in my direction. And he looked and sounded serious. I was worried. Was it true? Did I consume fish? I couldn’t believe it. No, it cannot be true. I was sure it was a deliberate attempt by some of the boys to malign me. But his words echoed in my brain again and again. I tried to find out some signal which would tell me that he was joking. But there was none. At last I took Balachandran, who was a good friend whom I could trust completely, to some distance and asked him if the curry was prepared with fish. He said, “Yes, it was fish curry.”

I actually wanted very much to hear a ‘no’ from him. I wanted to think that those friends who talked of the fish curry were trying to fool me. His confirmation fell on me like a bombshell. This was unbearable and beyond any stretch of imagination. I consumed fish! I silently went and sat in the bus. I wondered why I haven’t fallen unconscious after hearing Balachandran’s words. That would have confirmed that I was actually a true vegetarian. It could also have made me a hero among the whole group. They would have said, “Look at him, he took fish, and he has become unconscious. He is a true vegetarian.” But, unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

How I wished I vomited. At least that would have showed that my body didn’t accept the food I consumed. I even pretended that I felt like omitting. But it was useless. Nothing of the sort happened. I was silent the whole day. The realization that I did something which amounted to a religious or ethical crime troubled me a lot. I could not enjoy the trip as I would have wished. Some friends sympathised with me, but others didn’t care at all.

The next day when we were going to a hotel for lunch, I stopped right in front of the hotel and refused to move. Others had gone in. They didn’t even notice that I was not going in.

Chacko Sir, who was coming much behind us, came near me and asked, “What happened, Namboothiri? Why don’t you go in?” (Namboothiri is my caste name as well as surname, which I had formally done away with, a few years after settling down in Delhi.)  

My throat had become dry, and no voice came out. My eyes were to the brim too. I just pointed to the hotel’s name board where it was written ‘non-vegetarian’. He suddenly understood my agitation. He then took me to a nearby vegetarian hotel where I was the only one from the whole group. He also made the payment in advance to the manager. He asked me to meet the others outside after my meals.

From that day onwards it has become my habit to read carefully the name board before entering any hotel. I do it even today. It has become part of my routine.

This is my first confession of the incident after that fateful day. Why didn’t I relate it to my parents on return? In fact I had discussed the matter within myself several times, almost for the entire duration of the trip. I knew they would not outcast me. It is possible that they might scold me, but mildly since it was not entirely my fault. But most of all, they would feel extremely unhappy and troubled. I was sure that mother would have cried for several hours or even for a few days thinking of the horrible crime I had committed, though unknowingly. At last I came to the conclusion that it was better to forget the whole episode as if it hadn’t happened at all. But can one actually forget such an incident? I couldn’t.

Tailpiece: I had borrowed a muffler from one of our neighbour-relatives since we were told it could get quite cold and we needed to carry some warm cloths. When I was taking bath on the second day in Mysore, I had kept the muffler outside the bath room. But when I came out after my bath, it was missing. So careless of me! Later on some people told me it had been foolish of me to have left it outside the bath room. But that was the first outing in my life, and I did not anticipate that such a thing could happen. We purchased a muffler (it costed ten rupees in 1969) and gave it to them, but they refused to accept it. The family was our relatives and was comparatively well-to-do. They said the one I lost was an old one and they didn’t mind at all that it had been lost.  I used this muffler for a number of years in Delhi.