|Photo courtesy: http://www.topnews.in/files/Rajendra-Pachauri_3.jpg
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 near 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]