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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Bank of Black Money

What are the most common acts of corruption that we see in India? Some which come to my mind at the spur of the moment are bribes (direct and indirect, giving and taking); using one’s ‘connections’ to influence decisions in one’s favour; favouring one’s own people; acting against public and/or the nation’s interest for one’s own or a small group’s benefit; and so on and so forth. What is happening today? Money, politics, power, and crime are quadruplets and they always help each other. If you have control over any one of them, the others also will become your slaves.

Let us take the case of black money. It is very well known that thousands of Indians have stashed away billions of rupees in foreign banks, especially those in Switzerland. The government has itself openly admitted this fact more than once. Not only that, the government has also owned up, pathetically though, that it was unable to bring this black money back to India. Nor does the government have the guts to publicise the names of some of the account holders. The Supreme Court was also ceased on this matter some time back. Billions of rupees which actually belong to the Indian public are lying utterly useless in foreign banks when millions of Indians go hungry. 

What should we do to bring this money back to India and utilise it for developmental activities in the country? Is there no way? Yes, there is. Here is a workable solution.

Establish a separate bank under an Act of Parliament. It will be called the Bank of Black Money. The bank will accept deposits of unaccounted money from Indian citizens. Indian citizens by domicile as well as foreign nationals will be eligible to avail of this facility. Special preference will be given to those who transfer their black money stashed abroad. Online bank-to-bank transfer facility will also be available for such transactions. This facility will, however, be available only between the Bank of Black Money and a foreign bank in foreign currency only. All transactions will be kept strictly confidential. The minimum deposit for opening a black money account will be one crore rupees. 

There will be separate counters for politicians, bureaucrats, defense personnel, and other Indians. Special dress covering the whole body will be arranged for those who do not want to be recognised. A small rent, say 10,000 rupees, will be charged for the dress per visit. Common men will not be allowed within a kilometre of the Bank.  While media people will be welcome to use the services of the Bank, they will not be allowed to carry cameras (spy or otherwise) or microphones (of any kind) inside. It is mandatory that prior appointment be obtained for visiting the bank, else the client, including VIPs, VVIPs, or VVVIPs, will be turned back from the gates. While all care will be taken not to make the customers wait even for a minute, in case of such an unforeseen and unfortunate event, special arrangements for secluded deluxe waiting rooms will be made available to them. Refreshments will be served for the waiting clients. All the employees of the Bank (including the Governor) are sworn to secrecy and no details of the clients or their transactions will be divulged to anybody.

This Bank will work only during nights from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on all seven days of the week. Security for life and identity will be provided within the bank premises to those who visit the bank. They will be allowed to enter the premises in unnumbered or unregistered cars. (The transport department will make special arrangements to provide such cars for the purpose, on demand and on payment.) Clients will also be welcome to use fictitious number plates if they prefer to use their own cars. No action will be taken against them for use of such cars or number plates within the bank premises. While the Bank headquarters will be located in a central place in Delhi, there will be regional offices in all state capitals as well.  All the services available at the headquarters will be duplicated in other centres also.  Deposits will be received only in cash or precious material (gold, platinum, jewellery, etc.). No cheques or drafts will be accepted. Special arrangements will be made to count the notes by engaging extra counting machines and employees at no extra cost to the client.

No interest will be paid for the deposits. Moreover, one per cent of the deposit will be deducted every year as transaction fees. These amounts will be utilized for the upkeep of the Bank facilities. No questions will be asked about the source of the deposited amount. No client will be asked to file income tax returns for the amount deposited in the Bank of Black Money. Names and addresses of all the depositors will be kept absolutely confidential. Even if the government or even the Supreme Court asks, such details will not be divulged to any authority or agency. An appropriate constitution amendment will be passed by the Parliament detailing the complete details of the Bank of Black Money and its activities. No criminal charges will be instituted or enquiries conducted on transactions with the Bank of Black Money. Any amount, not less than one crore, can be withdrawn any time of the night and no questions will be asked. Withdrawal of an amount less than a crore rupee will not be tenable.

The amendment will, however, make sure that if black money is found other than in the Bank of Black Money, the culprit will be severely and summarily punished. The trial and conviction of such persons will be conducted in special wings of the Bank and its branches by the legal wing of the Bank. These will be treated as special cases and no appeals will be allowed in courts, including the Supreme Court.  

While half of money deposited can be withdrawn any time, the other half can only be withdrawn after a minimum of 10 years. This latter portion will be utilised for developmental activities in India. Any amount can be deposited in multiples of a crore of rupees. The condition of the 10-year-moratorium will be applicable in all cases.

If a bank as depicted above is constituted as per a constitutional amendment act, one can reasonably be sure that most of the black money stashed abroad will be brought back to India and deposited in the Bank. Black money kept within India in underground bunkers, false ceilings, or cemented within walls or kept in relatives’ houses and so on and so forth will also be shifted to the Bank of Black Money. Poverty will be history in India once this happens.

If such a bank is established, we can be reasonably sure that deposits not only from Indian citizens, but also from foreign nationals, will become available for development activities in India. Any political party that includes the establishment of the Bank of Black Money in its election manifesto can reasonably be sure to win a majority of the seats. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Karna's Sorrow

[Karna, King of Anga and the valiant warrior of Mahabharata, the epic, opens up his mind and asks a few questions to Ved Vyasa, his creator.]

Hey, Maharshi Ved Vyasa, may I ask you a few things and raise a few doubts? Now that I am dead, as also the Kauravas, you have achieved your aims and objectives. Would you now care to answer my questions, which have been disturbing me since long? I know I have no holds over you, you being the creator and me, merely one character among many. But since I had been one of the important characters in Mahabharata, I think I have the right to raise these points before you.

You wrote Mahabharata to vent your fantasies about the greatest of great wars – the battle of Kurukshetra. But tell me, was not the war itself thrust upon the Pandavas and the Kauravas? You thrust the war upon them to declare that truth always triumphs. But what is this truth that you were trying to prove? You say that Yudhishtira was the lawful heir to the throne rather than Suyodhana (I know you enjoy addressing him as Duryodhana. This too shows the twist of your mind). First of all, why did you deny Dhritharashtra, being the elder of the two, the throne in the first place? Because he was blind? But he had an extremely intelligent and capable Prime Minister, Vidura, with him. Why did you not enthrone Dhritharashtra with Vidura ruling the country as his regent till Suyodhana was old enough to become the king? No, you couldn't do it. And what did you do instead?

You made Pandu the king, denying Dhritharashtra his rightful throne. And then, Pandavas wanted to rule the kingdom when they grew up. What right did they have to rule the country more than Suyodhana? In fact, didn't the kingdom belong to Suyodhana by virtue of being the eldest son of the elder brother? Also, if Yudhishtira had claim to the throne for being the eldest son of Pandu, Suyodhana had stronger claim, being the eldest son of the rightful heir to the throne. I know you won't listen to reason. You had already made up your mind to murder all the Kauravas in a war that was all along covered with betrayal and treachery. And yet you call it the Dharma Yuddha? And yet you call the battle field Dharma Kshetra?

All right, having made the cousins arch enemies, could you not have ended everything at least on the day when Maharani Kunthi visited me one evening? Actually she came to plead the case of Pandavas and to request me to join them, my own brothers, in the war against their cousins, the Kauravas. Could you, hey, Maharshi Vyasa, even for a moment, contemplate the thoughts that might have crossed my mind while my mother was ardently pleading with me to join the Pandavas? No, you could not. Or maybe you didn't want to. Why should you, after putting me under the severest of criticisms and ridicules right from my birth, try to understand my thoughts? You made my mother disown me at birth. You made me disown my mother later.  When Maharani Kunthi pleaded with me to join Pandavas since I was their elder brother, I told Maharani Kunthi that I would rather be called and known as Radheya, and not Kauntheya. She said I, being elder to Yudhishtira, could become the king of Indraprastha after winning the war, and that she would persuade Yudhishtira to agree to this.

I told her if she accepts such a situation sincerely, then the war could end at that very moment.  She was hopeful and very enthusiastic. She said, "Yes, Karna, that will be. After the war, you will become the king. I promise you." She almost thought I had decided to desert Suyodhana and join the Pandavas. How could she? By making me the king of Anga, Suyodhana actually respected my own existence and my individuality, which even my mother failed to do. In fact, to Suyodhana I owe everything.

So I told her, "But, Maharani Kunthi, by virtue of my having surrendered everything I have, including my life, to Suyodhana the day he made me king of Anga, the day he gave me an identity, it automatically turns out that the kingdom I would have won, would naturally be surrendered to him. Therefore, just believe that I have joined you, Pandavas have won the war, I have become the king and then surrendered the kingdom to Suyodhana. The kingdom is with him anyway now. So why don't you ask my younger brother Yudhishtira to declare the end of the war so that hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved?"  

She very much wanted to accept my argument. But then, you did not want that to happen. So you made Maharani Kunthi tell me, "No, Karna, that cannot be. Even if Yudhishtira accepts my arguments, Bheema and Arjuna will never let this happen. And remember Draupadi's open hair? No, Karna, that won't be. The war should be fought at any cost." She returned disappointed telling, "Whatever has been designed by the Almighty will happen". But hey, Maharshi Vyasa, it was not destiny that decided the fate of the battle, it was you, and you only.

After Maharani Kunthi left, you made me cry like a child! You made me think of my mother, think of my younger brothers, the Pandavas, think of the joy I would have shared with them all these years. I loved all of them. I loved Arjuna too. I was not jealous of him, nor was I angry towards him. I only wanted to teach Dronacharya a lesson by defeating Arjuna, who he considered the best archer in all the fourteen worlds. It is the same Dronacharya who rebuked and laughed at me when I went and requested him to accept me as his disciple. It was your crooked mind that made me fight against Arjuna, my own brother, and in the side of Dronacharya, whom I wanted to take revenge upon!

By the way, tell me where do I fit in? Am I a Pandava? Or a Kaurava? You never gave me an identity. I am as much a pandava as any of the five Pandavas. Why are they called Pandavas? Because their mothers' husband was Pandu? The only difference between the Pandavas and I was that I was born of unwed Kunthi, whereas they were born after my mother was married to Pandu. But does that make their existence more legal than mine? If I was born of Lord Surya, they were also born of Dharmaraj, Vayu, Indra and the Aswini devas.

What am I to you? I was borne of Kunthi, I was never called Kauntheya, you never let me enjoy her love and affection. You made me a better Gadadhar (fighter with mace) than Bheema, but you never gave me a chance to prove it. You made me an archer far ahead of Arjuna, but never allowed me to prove it, too. You made me a king, but you never allowed me enjoy peace even for a day. You made Lord Surya, my father, give me the Kundal and the protective chest-cover, but you sent Indra to beg for those of me. You made sure that I am such a generous and benevolent person that I could not decline the request, even when my father had warned me of the impending tragedy.

I could have won the hands of Draupadi much easier than Arjuna. You knew it, so you made Draupadi declare that she would not marry me even if I won the competition, due to my low caste. You did not even spare Bhishma Pitamaha. You made him say that when he leads the army, I should not fight under him. The weapon that I got specially to kill Arjuna, had to be used against Ghatolkacha. And then, at the end, you made the wheel of my chariot catch up in the sand. And you made Krishna advice Arjuna to kill me. I could have very well escaped from his attacks, but you had already made sure it did not happen by way of the curse of my revered Guru, Parashurama. You made him curse me that I would forget all that I had learned, at the most crucial time.

Hey, Maharshi, why did you do this to me? Why did you give me everything that a valiant warrior could dream of, and then turned everything against me? You wanted a pawn to play with, just like a cat playing with a mouse before killing it. Hey, the great Maharshi Veda Vyasa, I don't think I would ever be able to pardon you for doing this to me.

In conclusion, let me plead with you not to create another Karna ever! Also, let there not be another Mahabharata, or a Kurukshetra, or a dharma yuddha!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Mousehunt


What was that sound? It was midnight. I rushed to the kitchen. A stainless steel plate was on the floor. A cat? A mouse?

I saw him (him? How did I know it was a he? I didn’t). A huge mouse. I tried to scare him away. He ran out of the kitchen. Sleepy as I was, I didn't pursue him. Next day Jayasree (my wife) said he was still in the kitchen.

I closed all doors except the one to balcony. I tried to shoo him away with a mop. He ran and hid under the sofa. My mop followed him. I followed the mop. I was in his hot pursuit with the mop. Jayasree was standing now on a chair and then on the table, or on the sofa, or the dining table scared that he would bite her.

He took several rounds of the room ...  under the sofa, under the fridge, on the TV stand, over the show case, on the dining table, on the chairs … He spared no place, but couldn’t escape from my scaring mop. On to the TV stand for the fifth time. And on the grill of the cooler, which was running. Oh God! I didn’t want his severed body in the cooler. I switched the fan off, but it was too late. The fan blade had hit his nose and he had become motionless.

We were stunned. NO! NOO! We didn’t want this to happen. Certainly we didn’t want to kill him. Never! We only wanted to shoo him away. Oh! God! Forgive us! Agreed, I was running after him for an hour, perspiring profusely, hungry (the hunt had begun at about 12.45 p.m.), angry, desperate. Yes, I was all that, but I didn’t want to kill him. 

And look at him, stuck in the grill of the cooler, motionless.

It took a few minutes for me to come out of the shock. We should remove the body. I approached him with a polythene bag to collect the body. (Please, don’t look at me like that. I was not going to take him to the crematorium with a priest following me!)

Lo and behold! The ‘body’ was moving! YES! He was not dead, after all. He had only become unconscious. THANK GOD! We heaved a sigh of relief. (I hear a voice there ... a doctor? No, he would recover on his own, I was confident.) Maybe the fan blade hadn’t hit him after all. It was probably the strength of the air that caught him. Or maybe the prospect of being hit by the blade had scared him so much as to make him unconscious. Whatever be it, we were relieved. Very much relieved indeed.

He was moving slowly. He crawled on to the fan of the cooler, which had by now stopped completely. I opened one side of the cooler for me to have some free space to catch him, now that he seemed to be recovering fast. I tried to get him into the polythene bag which had been passed on to me by Jayasree so that I could leave him somewhere far away. But he had better ideas. He jumped on to the floor and dashed into the rain water pipe. At last!!

He could have done this an hour ago! And saved the tension of all of us!

I was thinking of taking a little rest when I heard this piercing shriek. I rushed to the kitchen. Jayasree was frozen and horrified. Her eyes were fixed in a corner. There was another one looking at us! Oh! God! Not again! I could read her (her? ... just for a change) eyes pleading, ‘No, please. Let me go.’

This one had probably been listening to what had been happening for the past hour. So she knew she had to escape and better make it fast. After taking a few rounds of the room (she didn’t want to surrender without a fight!), she headed straight to the balcony and into the water drainage pipe.


We had to do something. Very often mice came into the room or kitchen and it was certainly not a pleasant thing. They come in through the drainage pipe. I tried temporarily to close the pipe using several methods, but nothing worked. I did not want to use rat poison to kill them. I believe they have as much right in this world to live as I. But, well, I have my rights to prevent them from coming into my home. The next best thing was to get a mouse trap.

I started hunting for a mouse trap. None of the nearby markets had any shop from which I could purchase a mouse trap. And they didn’t also know where I could get one. Does it mean a mouse trap is not on the list of regularly demanded items? Are there no mice in the hundreds of flats in all sides of the market? I searched in Khoda village market a few kilometres away. At last I could find the trap in a shop. The shop was ‘boyed’ by a boy of about 12 or 13 years. On enquiry, he enthusiastically showed me a few of those he had got. I picked one of the conventional traps.

He immediately asked me to wait and ran inside. He brought a few new model traps. They were ‘doubled decked’. The mouse would enter the trap through a door to eat the food kept inside. The food is kept beyond a trap door. The moment the mouse steps on the trap door it opens and the mouse falls into the ground floor where it gets trapped and the trap door immediately shuts over it to welcome its next victim. The boy was so enthusiastic to sell this particular trap to me. He demonstrated how the mouse would enter, step over the trap door and get trapped inside. He assured me that more than one mouse gets trapped in it. He emphasised that it was very useful and even gave the names of a few people who purchased such traps and were happy with its performance. Though I was not very convinced, I was carried over by the boy’s enthusiasm. More to please him than looking at the extended usability, I purchased one of the double-decked new model, though it was costlier.

I kept a piece of bread in the trap and kept it at the mouth of the drainage pipe in such a way that if and when the mouse comes through the pipe, he has no other way to go than right into the trap. I prayed to God to help me catch at least one mouse so that we will be rid of that much nuisance. The first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was to go and check the trap. It was dark and I had gone to check even before switching on the lights in my anxiety. I could hear some movement inside the trap and was very happy. I found to my pleasure that there was not one, but two, mice in the trap. In my mind I bowed before the shopper boy. I had not believed him at all till I actually saw two of them together. They looked at me: fearfully, pleading, apologising. 

The next problem was to dispose them off. I couldn’t kill them, nor could I let them off. I took the trap in the car to a distant (about half a km away) waste collecting spot and opened the door. They jumped out and ran away. They must have been laughing at me to have let them off without harming, which they probably did not expect. To cut a long story short, I caught nineteen mice in six days flat. Except for one or two days, the catch was always more than one. The highest number of mice caught in one night was five! Every time I took it to the waste collecting spot and released them.

Now, there are no mice in my home. They must be happy wherever they are. And we are happy here.

Friday, 8 March 2013

The True Friendship!

It was a few years after I reached Delhi. I was working in the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. I was staying in a rented accommodation in Timarpur, a few kilometres away from the Centre. I had a friend from Kerala, Mohanan, who was also staying in the same area. Both of us had together joined the distance education programme of the Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education to appear for their Intermediate examination.

During those days Kerala had school education of 10 years. The ‘plus two’ used to be in college and used to be called ‘pre-degree’. It was actually due to the constant ‘nagging’ of my elder cousin with whom I stayed for the initial few years in Delhi that I joined the course. I thought I did study fairly well and I was confident of writing the examination. Mohanan and I travelled together to the railway station to catch a train to Gwalior, which was the nearest examination centre. All the examination centres were in Madhya Pradesh.

We had received the students’ concession forms for train tickets, by way of which we could avail of a 50 per cent concession in the cost of tickets. There was a special counter for concession vouchers and we joined the long queue. We soon found that just in front of us there were two other boys like us who were also speaking in Malayalam. Speaking in Malayalam used to be the direct entry to friendship those days. They were also going to Gwalior, and to appear for the Intermediate examination. What a pleasant coincidence indeed! In the next half an hour or so, or let us say, by the time we were able to exchange our concession vouchers for tickets, the four of us had become very close friends – Balanujan (Bala), Chandran, Mohanan and I. The friendship seemed so strong that we felt as if we had been childhood friends. From that day, till we bid goodbye to each other in Delhi on our return, we lived together. We travelled together, we stayed together, we took food together, we studied together. We commented on girls, together, too.

From the railway station in Gwalior, we went to the nearest place to the examination centre, where lodges were available. We rented a large room in a lodge in Morena where all four of us could stay. The examination centre was a few kilometres away from the lodge and we had to share seats in the huge three-wheeled tempos (  – as on 25 January 2013. The tempos, I should note here, were cleaner than shown here). In the initial days it used to be very easy to get a tempo, since there used to be several of them waiting for us in line. But as days passed, when several students left the place after appearing for a few papers, availability of the vehicles became scarce and sometimes we had to wait for 15 to 20 minutes.

There was this Sikh girl who also had come from Delhi to write the examination along with her parents. They were staying in the same lodge as we were. They owned a sweet shop somewhere in the Delhi University area. The girl used to study walking on the terrace. We used to study walking on the adjacent verandah. It was interesting to see her throwing glances in our direction when her parents were inside the room. I am sure she must have enjoyed it, and so did we. However, she left after the initial few days, which indeed had a dampening effect on our enjoyment. We were no more interested to study on the verandah, but preferred to stay inside. Or on the terrace, which had lost its original charm as far as we were concerned.

The fortnight-long stay in Gwalior was one of the best in my life. I know some of you are smiling meaningfully. But, no, it is not because of the presence of the Sikh girl. But because of finding new meanings to friendship which at that time had felt very strong indeed. We thought all four of us would be friends for ever. We exchanged addresses and telephone numbers and promised, before parting ways at New Delhi railway station on return, to keep in constant touch.

Nothing could be more wrong than expectations of everlasting friendships.

Mohanan and I were staying in the same area and we used to meet on several occasions. Moreover, we were, kind of family friends. I knew his parents back in Kerala. I stayed for a few months with Kunjaphan (paternal uncle) working in his small typewriting centre at Moovattupuzha during 1974–75. We stayed in a small rented portion in Mohanan’s home. There was no doubt that we would be eternal friends. Or so I believed.

After working for some time in Delhi Mohanan shifted back to Kerala and we lost touch completely. Once I did meet him when I had gone on leave. But by then he had somewhat changed and I felt he did not want to go beyond the usual “Hi, hello!” It is several years since we have had any communication. So much for the eternal friendship!

I also tried to get in touch with Chandran a few times, and left a few messages, but somehow our contacts never developed beyond that. Later on I came to know that he had left the organization in which he had been working. That was the end of our friendship!
Balanujan and I, however, kept our communication intact and our friendship grew as years passed by. We also visited each others’ families on a few occasions. After some time, however, the ‘regular’ contacts gave way to ‘occasional’ contacts. But at the back of our minds the friendship always remained strong and even without constant contacts we felt each other’s presence. Once I met him after a few years, during a cultural programme in Delhi. Then again we met during my son’s marriage more than a year ago. I hope these contacts and occasional meetings will continue for a long long time.
I also do not mind admitting shamelessly that I often took advantage of our friendship. Bala used to work (and still works) in the PM’s office and I used to seek his help in getting wait-listed train tickets confirmed during summer holidays when it used to be nearly impossible to reserve tickets to go to Kerala. Not even once did he fail in helping us (and maybe others, too). Not even once did he show any hesitation in helping us.   
Bala, I dedicate this post to our friendship.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Dr R.K. Pachauri As I Know Him – IV

Related earlier posts:

Dr Pachauri always travels business class. I have no idea what the differences are between economy and business classes (because I have never travelled business class). Maybe more space, more comfort, more luxury, better treatment. Maybe. But I know one thing – that they get small gift items and sometimes toiletry items including shaving sets in small fancy plastic pouches, face wash, hand wash, and other items. Dr Pachauri, however, doesn’t shave. He used to collect these items and when he has a good collection, send an internal mail to all TERI colleagues, inviting them to come and collect whatever they preferred. I still have two of those plastic pouches which I collected when I worked in his office during early 1990s.

He never let his driver or any other person carry his luggage. He always believed in carrying those himself. I have seen him coming to office after trips, with three or sometimes four heavy suitcases, all of which he carried himself. This is when several of the office staff would have considered it a privilege to get an occasion to help him carry his luggage!

Dr Pachauri is a recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, respectively the third and second highest civilian awards (after Bharat Ratna) instituted by the Government of India and given away by the President of the country on the eve of Republic Day celebrations every year (in January). It is common for recipients of such awards to use it as a prefix to their names such as ‘Padma Vibhushan Dr XYZ’. When some of his colleagues started using that, Dr Pachauri immediately sent out a circular restraining them from doing that. He wanted to remain only Dr Pachauri, and not Padma Vibhushan Dr Pachauri. He also followed (or preceded? I don’t remember) this up with restricting using army, navy or air force ranks before names (Col., Air Cmmde, etc.) by some of our colleagues who had joined the Institute after their retirement from defence services. Such ranks were replaced by ‘Mr’. 

What would happen if an extremely active and untiring person like Dr Pachauri has a spinal cord problem and advised bed rest for several weeks? The disease can restrict his physical movement, but not his regular activities. He used to direct the Institute for several weeks lying on his bed at his home through telephones and personal meetings which took place at his home! Even routine meetings of research areas used to be held at his home in the initial stages.

After a few weeks, he was slightly better and entered the second stage of treatment. In this stage he could either stand up or lie down, and not sit. I remember Dr Pachauri standing full time for several days in his office room. He used to keep a stool on the table to make his working area conveniently higher. But he insisted that any visitor to his room should sit, and not stand to give him company. During those days his office was temporarily located in a cabin on the third floor of India Habitat Centre (IHC), where TERI is located. Later on he shifted to his own office on the fifth floor.

Dr Pachauri is not one of those who come to office at any time that suits them but insist that other colleagues should come in time to office. He sets his own example for others to follow. Every day he comes to office at least a couple of hours before the start of office time. And he leaves at least a couple of hours after end of office time. Sometimes we used to have difficulty in getting time to meet him, when he used to be very busy. We then used to come much before the start of office time, when we were sure he would be in the office, and meet him. He also encouraged his colleagues to come to office on Saturdays, which are otherwise closed days for TERI, and work. In fact TERI had five-day weeks even several years before Government of India adopted the five-day week norm.

He was, moreover, very particular that colleagues should keep punctuality very strictly. He couldn’t tolerate even senior colleagues arriving late to office. He used to talk about this in meetings and followed up the instructions through e-mail messages. When sometimes even this didn’t work, occasionally the human resource division was asked to direct late-comers to put in applications for half-day leave. He had a peculiar way of greeting late-comers. He used to greet them smilingly, “Good afternoon, so and so.” How does the other person respond? Would he say ‘Good morning’ thus contradicting Dr Pachauri, or ‘Good afternoon’ thus admitting he is late? These were some of his small tricks. At least for the next several days the colleague would make sure that he/she is not late.

Another thing which he could not tolerate is any colleague cheating TERI. The first-ever staff meeting arranged in TERI (while the office was located in 90 Jor Bagh) was to explain such an incident. One colleague had been staying with a relative of his. He, however, claimed house rent allowance from TERI for several months. When the matter came to light, it took, in Dr Pachauri’s own words, “only two minutes” for him to take the decision, and the colleague’s service was terminated immediately. The message was supposed to be a warning for all colleagues.

He did not believe in the common dictum that researchers are elites and administrative staff members are inferior. While admitting that both had different sets of responsibilities, he considered both as two sides of the same coin.

The taller the tree, the harder it receives the blows of winds. Likewise, Dr Pachauri has not been free from controversies. The severest had been connected with his IPCC chairmanship. It is all over there on the Internet. He was accused of personally making ‘millions of dollars’ by misusing his official IPCC position. The accusation had been raised by the Telegraph, a UK newspaper. Dr Pachauri was unperturbed. He asked TERI to get his accounts audited by the internationally acclaimed auditors, KPMG. It was very likely for skeptics to laugh at the suggestion that it was TERI which instituted the enquiry on its own Director-General. Even Dr Pachauri’s supporters could have raised their eyebrows in doubt.

There is, of course, no doubt that TERI is Dr Pachauri’s baby. And Dr Pachauri has never shied away from pampering his baby. Usually it happens that the father is proud to say that he is ‘so and so’s father, when the son or daughter grows bigger than the father himself. But here the case is somewhat different. It is difficult to say who grew more than the other. The growth has been parallel. In 1982 TERI started its research activities in New Delhi Directed by Dr Pachauri, who was not a very well-known entity then. Today TERI has grown very much international playing a very important role in the field of environment and so has Dr Pachauri. 

Dr Pachauri opened up his personal account and that of TERI for KPMG to scrutinise. It was found that he had in no way personally benefited and that he had not misused his official IPCC position. The report got wide publicity and Daily Telegraph too accepted the report and apologised to Dr Pachauri for the baseless allegation that it had made. It has also been reported that he was paid one lakh pound as legal charges by the newspaper. If this is true, I am sure that he must have deposited the money in TERI’s account, too. [Kindly see Dr Pachauri's clarification on this matter in the comments column below.]

One aspect of Dr Pachauri which many may not have encountered is his ‘other’ side. He has published a book of poems, Moods and Musings (with his daughter Rashmi) and a novel. I had known about the book of poems, copies of which I happened to see several years ago. News of his writing a novel came to me a few years ago. I was invited by the Institute of Book Publishers to take a course on book indexing in their annual week-long advanced course on editing in 2009. While interacting with another faculty, a freelance editor, she told me that she had recently copyedited a novel written by Dr Pachauri. This came as a complete surprise to me. Dr Pachauri writing a novel?! But it was true. The book, Return to Almora, was launched in January 2010 in Mumbai.

[Concluded temporarily. More later.]