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Sunday 10 February 2013

Dr R.K. Pachauri As I Know Him – I

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Some of you who know both Dr RK Pachauri and I, might ask me, “What is your credibility or authority to write about Dr Pachauri?”

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]


  1. Received via e-mail:

    Nice to hear this blog. I was at TERI from 1991 through to 1994.

    Good memories about Dr Pauchauri ...

    Raj Kurup

    1. Thank you, Dr Kurup, for your comments. Thanks also for reading my posts. Yes, I know you worked in TERI. Thanks again for your kind words.

  2. Received via e-mail:

    Interesting read, Jayanthan sir - wait for the next edition.
    Best regards

    1. Thank you, Shikha, for your kind words. Thanks also for your constant encouragement.

  3. Received via e-mail:

    I just read through your blog on Dr Pachauri…It is great to know about the initial days of TERI and your observations on Dr Paachauri. He is really a great person and I feel privileged to have had an opportunity to work directly under him. I had heard about these initial days but it is nice to read a note from somebody who was actually part of it.

    Atul Kansal

    1. Thank you, Atul, for your kind words. Thanks again for taking the time to read my posts.

  4. Nice one Jayanthan. I was also lucky to have opportunity work with Dr Pachauri and you. I am sure, both of you, see me some where, would definitely say hello Pappu.

    1. Thank you, Pappu, for your kind comments and for reading my posts. Please continue to read the posts in future, too.

  5. Nice Jayanthan Sir, for taking me to the good olden days... as always it is written very nicely...

    1. Thank you, Lakshmi, for your encouraging and kind words.

  6. Received via e-mail:

    It is written so beautifully. I enjoyed reading this and ... i will be forwarding this to friends and colleagues. Meanwhile i got a message from my brother Mony (present on a vacation in Kerala) about this article. He too enjoyed reading. Great going Jayanthan.


    1. Thank you, Sankar, for your ever-encouraging words and comments. It is comments from friends like you that keep me going. I hope I shall be able to continue doing this in the future, too.

  7. Dr Pachauri comments on this post:

    I was very deeply moved by what you have written about me in your blog. I am very impressed with your memory and particularly the details about several persons and events.

    R.K. Pachauri

    1. Thank you very much, Sir. I have been honoured by your comments. I am glad you liked my post.

  8. Received via e-mail:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts that always show the other and more brighter side the coin.

    Pl do keep me posted.

    v kathuria

    1. Thank you, Vineet, for your kind words. I am glad you liked my post.

  9. Just what did he tell the obscene caller?:) Hope Dr Pachauri will give some clue in his memoir, if he writes one...

  10. Mr Jayanthan

    I must tell you one thing very honestly before I even start writing about your posts. Though I did accept your invite to read and comment on your articles, I have never really had the opportunity to give it time and read through them. The reasons could be many, not that I justify myself. However, I went through all your writings last night and I must say, it is a pleasure to read them and get insights. I worked with TERI for 5 years but now that I read your posts on Dr Pachauri and his life, I realized that I have rediscovered TERI as an organization. It is a great read and an eye opener to how one man's efforts, taking with him select others, has now resulted in an international think tank, that is doing wonders in the field of energy, environment, and sustainable development. The individual, his work, way of thinking, and the fact that he believes that one certainly can be the change one wants to see in the world, are truly inspirational.

    Thanks for letting me be a part of the readings

    Keep up the good work

    1. Thank you, Ambika, for your kind words. I hope you will continue to read my posts, even those not related to TERI. Your comments will be appreciated.

  11. You write:
    -----shared the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. This is utterly false if not absurd. IPCC Shared the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. I have known Dr.Pachauri for nearly 3 decades.
    Here is the Nobel Prize Citation:
    "The Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded jointly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change"(Source: "The Nobel Peace Prize 2007". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 22 Feb 2015.".
    Consistently press has had been proclaiming him as Nobel
    Laureate. At least in 15 Journals I ridiculed it.
    Who said Dr.R. K. Pachauri is Nobel Laureate? The organisation IPCC along with Al Gore were recipients of 2007 Nobel Peace prize.
    Dr.R.K.Pachauri by allowing this false claim in the press,sends wrong signals. Please issue a statement for the benefit of Indians and to yourself that you are not NOBEL LAUREATE ,Dr.R.K.Pachauri.
    o Rabindranath Tagore
    o C. V. Raman
    o Mother Teresa
    o Amartya Sen
    o Kailash Satyarthi

    Laureates of Indian birth and origin who were erstwhile Indian citizens
    o Hargobind Khorana
    o Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
    o Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

    Laureates with Indian connections
    o Ronald Ross
    o Rudyard Kipling
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP) India

  12. Thank you for your comment, Dr. Jagadeesh.

    I have not written that Dr Pachauri is a Nobel Laureate. What I have written is, "shared the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore, (then the former US Vice President) as Chairman of IPCC". The last portion of the sentence makes it clear that Dr Pachauri received the award on behalf of IPCC.

    Pardon me for not commenting on your other contentions, because those do not concern this note.

    Thank you very much for taking the trouble of reading my note.