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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]

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