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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]