This is about the period when I had graduated from engineering and had got placed in a large multinational company after a rigorous session of campus interviews. Four boys from our college had been selected for the same company, and upon joining, we were provided lodging in the company’s hostel. The hostel was very close to the office but quite far from the city.
On the first day, we reached the hostel in the evening and met an old man there, who was in his mid-sixties. He introduced himself as Kakaji. He showed us around the hostel, and we were impressed with how neatly maintained it was. Kakaji helped us in unpacking and arranging our things. He asked us what we would like to eat at night, and we told him our choices. Kakaji told us that the grocery needed to prepare the food of our choice was not available, so we had to eat dal and rice. Kakaji told us about the rules of the hostel – and the first rule was that there were no rules, so we could do whatever we liked.
We knew that the money for the hostel was to be deducted from our salary, but we decided to pay Kakaji some amount as a token of our gratitude, so that he would take good care of us. The first night we were not at all comfortable sleeping there – and the dogs barking in front of the hostel the whole night only made things worse. But somehow we managed to fall asleep. When we woke up in morning, Kakaji was ready with our breakfast. He had prepared omelettes for us. Then came the next surprise – the omelettes smelled as if they were prepared in kerosene oil! We had to fill our bellies with biscuits and tea.
Then we went to our office, where we were guided to the Human Relations Department. We started waiting for the HR manager Mr K. K. L. Ramamurthy. Mr Murthy entered the office precisely on time. He saw us waiting for him and went inside his cabin. After half an hour his assistant asked us to meet him. We went inside his cabin and sat in front of him. He introduced himself and gave us one folder each. These folders had the details of our joining and the orientation schedule.
Then Mr Murthy called his assistant and asked him to get the forms for the joining formalities. Mr Murthy’s assistant guided us in filling the forms and showed us the place where we would sit. He also gave us some manuals to read on different subjects. He advised us not to enter the company until directed by Mr Murthy, as the company was facing some problems with the union members.
We went back to our hostel for lunch, and Kakaji had prepared potatoes, dal and chapattis for us. We told Kakaji that we would like to have better-quality of food, and he asked us for some more money so that he can arrange the food for us. We happily paid him, thinking that we would have a good dinner that night. Not surprisingly, Kakaji turned out to be a source of information about the company and told us about the unrest there. He told us that the union was getting stronger from the past few weeks, and there were chances that the company would shut down operations in this place and move to another place.
After having the lunch, we went back to our office and started reading the manuals. The first day was very boring, so we decided to watch a movie in the evening. We went back to the hostel and asked Kakaji where the nearest restaurants and movie theatres were. Kakaji told us that there we no restaurants and movie theatres nearby and that if we wanted to watch a movie we would have to go to the city. The only problem was that there was no way to travel to the city in the night, so we could go only during the day, and that too if the day was an off day for us.
The situation in the company, living in a remote place away from the city and without our families, having nothing to do in the office and having nothing to do even in our spare time – slowly all of this began getting to us. So all of us decided to call our families. I called up my father from the nearby phone booth and told him about the what was going on in the company and the hostel. My father already knew about condition of the company, and he advised me to come back to our hometown. The next day I just informed my friends and packed my bags. I told Kakaji that I was going to the city and would be back the next day. Kakaji just smiled a knowing smile at me, as if to tell me that he knew that I was leaving the place.
Kakaji called a taxi for me, and I went to city. The first thing I did in the city was to have a good meal. I called up my parents and told them about the flight which I would take from the airport. I had no regrets about leaving my first job and going back, as I knew that I had my father’s unconditional support for the decision. I reached my hometown in the evening and saw my parents and Rajeev, an old friend of mine, waiting for me at the airport.
After I was home, I told my father what the situation in the company was, which I had already discussed with him on our way back from the airport. My father advised me to take a break for a few days and then start applying for jobs. He had even got my CV updated. Back home, I discussed everything about my stay with my parents – including the weather in the town in which I had stayed, Kakaji, the food, my trip back home and what not. But the one remarkable thing was that I could not sense any worry on their faces.
My mother prepared my favourite dishes for me, and after a long time I got to enjoy the food that I was having. During dinner I kept thinking about my friends whom I had left back in that town, and the doubts about the decision started making their way into my mind. But while getting into bed I thought about my parents and the conversation I had had with them during the day and remembered that there was no sign of worry or doubt about my decision on their faces. This made all my doubts vanish, as it made me believe that if my parents trusted the decision that I had taken, then it was the right one, and so my journey continued.
The next day I went to Rajeev, who told me about a nearby place where we could sit and have tea and smoke a cigarette in peace and quiet. We both went to the place, which was in the iron market near my house. There were a number of boys sitting outside, and some were playing carrom, while others were playing cards. We entered the place and saw a tall, heavily built man there. He was the owner of the place, and he introduced himself as Heera Sharma to us. My friend introduced me to Heera and the other guys there. Soon all of us started talking, and the guys soon found out that I was the most well-read person there. The respect for my learning and education was evident in their actions. All of them took a liking to me – and even christened me ‘Bhaiyaji’. Needless to say, I was enjoying the attention that I was getting and had also started liking the relaxed atmosphere of the place.
I came back to the house in the evening and found my father waiting for me. He handed me a list of companies to which he thought I should apply and also gave me a bunch of copies of my CV. The next day I took my CV and posted it with the job application to different companies. Then I went to the same place and spent the rest of the day there. When I came back in the evening my parents asked me where I had been for the whole day, and I told them about the place, the guys there and Heera. They advised me not to go there, as the people who hung out there were not to my standard. They knew about the place and had heard about a numbers of boys being spoilt, all because of hanging out there and falling into bad company.
But as it were, I didn’t listen to their advice. Then one day I got an interview call from a company. This company was a few kilometres from my house. The interview went very well, and I was asked to join the company after fifteen days. I went straight to meet Heera and the guys after getting the appointment letter. Heera felt happy that I had been appointed but advised me to keep trying, as he felt that I deserved to be in a better company. Then I went back home and told my parents about the job. I could see tears of joy in my mother’s eyes. But when I told them about Heera’s reaction, the worry and the fear that Heera’s influence might spoil me also became evident on their faces.
Fifteen days passed, and I joined the company. After the formalities were over, I underwent the orientation programme. I went to various departments and met a number of people. My boss Mr V. K. Singh had asked me to prepare an orientation report which I had to submit after the orientation was over. I was very happy with the new job and started preparing the orientation report wholeheartedly. I submitted the report to my boss on the seventh day, and he was very happy with it. He asked me to make a few changes and submit it again, which I willingly did.
Life was going well, as now I had a job, a bunch of friends to hang out with and no accountability at home. Day passed by, and I became the supervisor of the paint department of my company. Every new day brought me a new learning experience, until the day I got an interview call from a giant multinational company which had one of the most famous brand names in the market. I went for the interview and saw a group of people who had come to be interviewed for the same position. We all were handed a form to fill. After filling the form we started to talk to each other, all the while thinking how we stood apart from the others. I was feeling confident of being selected. Then my name was called, and I went for the interview. There were two people there who took the interview – well, it was less of an interview and more of a grilling session. One of the interviewers kept asking me technical questions, and the other kept asking me about management theories.
Finally the HR manager came and told us that he would inform us of the results of the interview after a week or so. My interview hadn’t gone as well as I had expected. The week passed by very quickly, and I didn’t get any response. I knew that I wouldn’t get selected. Then after two days when I came home I saw my mother waiting for me at the gate. She embraced me and told me that she had received the letter and that I had been selected. I was on top of the world.
The next day was salary day in my company, and I collected my cheque and went back home. This was my first-ever salary cheque, and I handed it to my mother and touched her feet. She was very happy and showed the cheque to my father when he came back home. My father kissed my forehead and blessed me for the future.
The next day I had to join the new company, so I got up early in the morning. My father was already up and was waiting for me, and he handed me the keys of his car and told me to take it to the office. Now I had a new job and my own car.
I reached the office right on time. I would have reached earlier, but I got lost on the way and had to ask directions a number of times. I entered the office and saw the HR manager guiding the new trainees towards the conference room. I saw some guys whom I had met during the interview. We went through a number of presentations by the top brass of the company. In the afternoon we went for lunch in the office canteen. The food was good and, surprisingly, nominally priced. I was quite happy with the atmosphere of the company. After lunch, we were taken for a tour of the factory where we would work.
The day went extremely well, and the HR manager told us that he would allot our departments to us the next day. We got our uniforms, shoes and photo IDs before leaving for the day. The environment, the industry and especially the people all made me look forward to working with this organisation. I went back home and told each and every detail of my day to my parents, and they couldn’t be happier for me.
The next day when I reached the office we were again made to sit in the conference room. The two young guys who had taken our interview called the names of the people who would work in production as shift supervisors. Then came an elderly man who called out the names of the people who would work in the quality department. I was the only left in the conference room. Then an office attendant came and told me that I had been called by Mr S. N. Srivastava. I followed him, and he made me sit in front of a cabin. After half an hour the cabin opened and an elderly, thin, tall man called me in.
He told me that I would be reporting to him and would be working in the process department. He gave me an overview of the department and asked me a couple of questions. He then showed me my seat. Two guys sat in front of me, and an office attendant sat right next to me. The guys were busy working on their computers, so I started talking to the attendant, who showed where I could have tea or coffee. The course of our training was such that we had to work half the day in the training room with one of the toolroom employees; the other half we were required to spend in our department.
I started moving around the office and met some more people, who were quite friendly and had been working with the company since it had started. They told me about their expertise, their experiences and their profiles. After some time I started reading some manuals. Then I saw a fat guy approaching me. He asked me if I had a matchbox, and as I also smoked, I went along with him for a smoke. His name was Arun. He told me about the different people in the office and asked me a lot of questions about myself, my family and my education. He too shared some of his experiences in the organisation with me.
Days passed by, and I was happy to learn a number of things in the toolroom, but my boss was not assigning any work to me. One day I approached my boss and told him that the second half of my day was spent sitting idle, and I therefore wanted some work. I even told him that I was willing to assist anyone he wanted. He told that he had an important assignment for me and that he would give it to me the following day. The next day Mr Srivastava called me to his cabin and told me that the managing director of the company wanted to change the design of the wooden packaging, so I should work on designing the packaging.
I was very happy and started working on various designs. I even created a few prototypes with the help of the company’s wood contractor and showed them to Mr Srivastava. He was not pleased with any of the designs and told me to keep trying. Almost after two months Mr Srivastava called me to his cabin and told me to attend a training programme on environmental health and safety. While I was leaving the cabin he told me that I would be required to attend all the seminars and programmes because the others were busy with their work. I felt bad, as I had to attend the training sessions just because the other people were not interested. I went back to my seat and saw Arun coming to me. He took me out for a smoke, and I told him everything. Arun laughed and told me that it was good for the future of my career, as the training sessions would give me more exposure and knowledge. He told me that I should spend most of my time on the production floor and should prepare all the workflows. In addition to this he also guided me in preparing the cost matrix, which he said would help me in gaining more knowledge about the product.
The journey of my knowledge gathering began. I started spending time in gathering data, learning about the bottlenecks in production and going through various training programmes. The toolroom employees had become quite friendly with me and had started discussing various improvement processes, and even their personal lives, with me. Days were going by very fast, and my knowledge about the process, the product and the people was becoming deeper and deeper. Even the other people in production and quality started approaching me for help whenever they faced any difficulty. Soon enough, I knew all the operators by their names, and they all had taught me much about their fields of expertise.
One day I saw our production head asking Mr Srivastava about the documented process of a certain machine. Mr Srivastava asked his team to take out the brochure of the machine from the cupboard and prepare the process flow. The team was not able to find the brochure, and Mr Srivastava felt completely helpless. When the production manager left, I walked into Mr Srivastava’s cabin and handed him the workflow which I had prepared along with the operator of the machine. I asked him what the problem was, and he told me that the operator of that particular machine had left and that nobody else knew how to operate the machine, because of which the production had come to a standstill.
I went to the production floor and modified the tooling on the basis of the machine requirement. I had finished loading the raw material into the machine when all of a sudden the supervisor came to me and told me that I was not authorised to run the machine. I called Arun, and he was able to convince the production head. The start button of the machine seemed to be a satellite take-off button to me. I pressed the button, and the machine started successfully. The first piece which rolled out was a perfect one, and our production manager came on to the floor. He was the one who had taken my interview. He congratulated me on my success and took me to Mr Srivastava’s cabin.
In the six months after joining the company this was the biggest achievement I had had. I was moved to production and became somewhat of a hero there, as I knew more than what the supervisors knew there. I was promoted the very next year and was the blue-eyed boy of my new boss. Whenever Mr Srivastava would meet me, he would say, ‘We gave you a lot of training and exposure’. But it didn’t take long for me to find out that the packaging project which Mr Srivastava had given me never existed. He had only wanted to keep me occupied, as he was not in favour of having young talent under him and preferred experienced people.
I had gained knowledge of the entire machinery and all the products in the company, which was in addition to the personal bond I shared with all the people in the company, who had taught me what I knew. I thanked Arun and told him that his guidance had helped me not only in my career but also in becoming a successful human being.
Arun told me a few things which have become lessons of a lifetime for me. He told me that we have to find the path to success ourselves by finding out what the other people are not doing and what is required. To be a shining star we should be close to earth and shine more than others. Find the solutions and not problems; turn your weak points into your strong points. I found my own path and turned what others thought was my weakness into my strength.
I had become the most successful out of all those who had joined the organisation with me. I never used to leave any stone unturned when it came to increasing my knowledge. Then finally one day Mr Srivastava called me and told me that he would retire the next month. He confessed that he never liked me and never wanted to work with me, as he was not the one who had chosen me. He told me that he had always liked experienced people who had worked with different companies. He then went on to share some of his experiences in other organisations with me.
I still remember that Mr Srivastava told me that even though he was my guru he had become like jaggery and I had become sugar, as I was more refined than him and had gained much more knowledge than he had. I thanked him for the time and independence he had given me to learn and gain knowledge. I never wanted to show him any disrespect him and told him politely that I had found my own path because I was not being guided by anyone. I will always remember the lesson that I learnt – that when we are not being guided by anyone we have to find the path to success on our own.