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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.]


  1. Received via e-mail:

    Hi, just thought of letting you know that your writings are very interesting.

    I really like reading your articles. Very original !

    Kapil Narula

    1. Thank you, Kapil, for your kind words. Thanks also for reading my posts. I hope you will continue to do this when time permits.

  2. Dr Pachauri clarifies:

    I have read your latest blog entry. I thought I should give you the facts about the accusation that the Sunday Telegraph had published against me. Well, I appointed a very well-known firm of lawyers in London, Carter Ruck, who are specialists in defamation cases. They agreed to work for me on a ‘no-win no-fee’ basis. When they went after the Sunday Telegraph, the newspaper decided to settle the matter out of court. In doing so, they paid around British Pounds 53,000 directly to Carter Ruck as legal fees, and I, of course, did not want nor received any part of this payment.

    You are right in saying that I never take any part of the payments I receive. On several occasions, I receive handsome amounts for delivering talks in different parts of the world, and all of these go directly to TERI, essentially to finance our programme on ‘Lighting a Billion Lives’ and making a difference to those living in some of our poorest villages.

    R K Pachauri

    1. Thank you very much, Sir, for your clarification.

      I had heard about the accusation and collected the information from the Internet, since I did not want to leave out such an important fact. It now appears, however, that those details are either incomplete or wrong. I had not wanted to trouble you with this matter, but maybe I should have.

  3. swapan kumar das5 March 2013 at 15:03

    I enjoy reading your writings. Pl keep writing on any issues you like, for your readers, for the nation.

  4. Received via e-mail:

    Many thanks for sending these links -- I enjoyed reading all the blogs.

    Shaily Kedia

  5. Received via e-mail:

    Enjoyed reading your blogs both on Dr P and others as well. Trust you are keeping well.


    1. Thank you, Leena, for your encouraging words. Thanks for taking the time off to read my posts. It is very nice to hear such words from old colleagues.

  6. Received via e-mail:

    You write excellent. I read two of your writings on RKP and another on Corruption sometime in the past. All are interesting to read and thought provoking.

    I will do go through the following links as well, whenever I manage time.

    Pl keep writing and enriching your blog.

    You are an established blog writer.

    Swapan Kumar Das

    1. Thank you, Swapan, for your kind words. Thanks also for reading my posts.

  7. Received via e-mail:

    Thank you very much for sharing the links to your blog.

    I am feeling an inner happiness on reading about your experiences during your life at TERI, which resonates with experiences that I have heard from other colleagues of TERI in different parts of the country and the world. It would be a privilege to meet you and learn more about this awesome organisation that I feel proud to be a part of!

    Priyanka Kochar

    1. Thank you very much, Priyanka, for your kind words. I believe even those who have left TERI would be proud to have been a part of the great organization. I am. Thanks also for taking the time off to read my posts.

  8. Received via e-mail:

    It was extremely interesting reading your remembrances of Dr
    Pachauri. Undoubtedly,he is a man of many parts and his contribution to research and thinking in India and overseas is quite remarkable.Undoubtedly,an inspiration for all our colleagues in TERI.

    Ashok Jaitly

    1. Thank you, Sir, very much for your encouraging message. It is very gratifying to learn that you enjoyed reading my posts.

      Having 'lived' in TERI for 25 years, I still, after five years of leaving the organisation, feel part of it. I don't think I will ever be able to shake the feeling off.

  9. dear u presented us a ' good reading '. Thanks

  10. dear u presented us a ' good reading '. Thanks

  11. Hi Jayanthan,
    Greetings from Brisbane, Australia.
    I am deeply moved and refreshed my memory after reading your posts on Dr. RK Pachauri As I Know Him I – IV, that reminds me of those golden days working with him back in 1984, and having shared office room at 7 Jor Bagh with Leena, Charu, Ranjan, and later moved to 90 Jor Bagh when Mr. AN Chaturvedi joined TERI, then we were just about 40 staff including the guard.
    Jayanthan Keep posting … I enjoyed reading every bit of what you have posted on your blog. Absolutely Fabulous! Cheers, Dr. Syed Moinbasha