Standing in the balcony of Harpreet’s house, we watched the Jet Airways aircraft rising in the sky and celebrated the same with the clinking of our glasses.
We? My colleagues Harpreet, Atul, Arvind and I. We were senior employees- General Managers and Vice Presidents! We were working in a pharmaceutical company in Ahmedabad.
Celebration? Yes. My boss, the MD of the company was leaving for US for 15 days. We were celebrating the same. Since he was going to be away for 15 days, we had organized the party on a grand scale and it continued till 1 o’clock in the night.
Celebrations for shorter periods of absence were done on a more humble scale. For example when he went out for a meeting for a couple of hours, we used to celebrate in the lassi ka dukkan off CG Road. His day trip to Mumbai warranted a lunch at Restaurant Mirch Masala.
Was boss’s absence such a big deal?
Yes, it was. Consider the following.
“Hariharan, we need to go to Ankleshwar factory tomorrow. I’ll send the car to your house at 2.”
“Sure sir. I will go home for lunch at 1 and will wait for your car there.”
“I meant 2 in the morning (!!!). We will reach Ankleshwar at 6, when the first shift starts.”
When the car came to pick me up at the auspicious time of 2 in the morning, I saw Ramparasad and Nagarajan in the back seat. I was heading the Bulk Drug business of the Company. Ramprasad was in charge of production at Ankleshwar plant and Nagarajan was the Research Head. We smiled at our fate and went to boss’s house to pick him up.
Once in the car, my boss started discussing the plan for scaling up a new molecule. I had to take minutes of the meeting- in the car at 2.30 in the night!
“Choksi, why are the margins of oncology products so low compared to the budget?” That was my boss questioning the Head of Finance during a monthly performance review meeting. The meeting was at the Dholka Factory which was 25 kms away from Ahmedabad.
“I have a product-wise analysis. Unfortunately the file is in Corporate Office, Ahmedabad.”
“Then go and get it.” It was 9 o’ clock in the night. We were all hoping that the meeting would end in the next half an hour and we would be leaving for home. We had been reviewing the performance of the previous month since 8 in the morning.
At 9 in the night, my boss was telling Choksi to go all the way to Ahmedabad to bring a file!
Did the absence of such boss for 15 days not call for celebration?
He was not an odd boss out. Consider my earlier boss.
“What is this Hariharan? How could you do this?” My boss at the multinational pharmaceutical company in Bombay (It was called so those days) was looking at me in utter disbelief.
I had joined the company just a month earlier. It was the first week of July. You must be knowing how it rains in June-July in Bombay.
What was my crime?
I was wearing a brown shirt, blue pant, red tie and a chappal! ( I just needed a white rimmed sun glass to be a Govinda in a David Dhawan movie!)
“It has been raining for a week now….all my clothes are wet….only these were dry….wearing leather shoe in a rainy day…..” I was not able to talk coherently.
“You go back home, change and come,” was the curt reply of my boss.
Going back? I lived in Dombivili and my office was in Ballard Estate. For those who do not know Mumbai, it is a distance of 60 kms.
“If I go back, I may not be able to return before evening sir.”
“Then don’t come back.”
We were standing in the Administration hall where 15-20 of my colleagues were staring at us, listening to our conversation.
Till then I had never felt so low in life.
One more of my bosses.
“Sir, I am getting married on Jul 3. Sunday. Please do come.” I extended the invitation to my boss who was the General Manager of Madras Region of a private sector bank.
My boss had a quick glance at the invitation and said,” Fine. Fine. But remember. You are resuming duty on Tuesday. We have a Board Meeting on Wednesday and we have 9 credit proposals.”
That was the response when I extended my marriage invitation.
None of my colleagues attended my marriage. Reason? They were called to office on Sunday to prepare for the Board Meeting.
Of course I have a boss now who is quite considerate. When I was working in Ahmedabad, I was desperately looking for another job. (What else would I do with a boss like him?) I applied to a Tanaznian Company. The MD and HR Director flew down to Bombay to interview the candidates. I was also called for the interview.
The day prior to the interview, my boss told me he would like to discuss the 3 year plan of Bulk Drug business with me the next day.
‘My God! How do I go to Bombay for the interview?’ I did not want to miss the interview. I called the MD of the Tanzanian Company who would be conducting my interview and informed him of my problem. He was cool. He told me to discuss the 3 year plan with my boss and catch the evening flight to Bombay. He would meet me at 8 in the night at Little Italy Restaurant, Juhu Tara Road, Bombay.
I attended the 3 year plan review. As usual the meeting continued well beyond office hours. When I came out of the meeting it was 8.30 in the night. I missed my flight. I called the interviewer and apologized. He said he was leaving India the next morning and would meet me anytime if only I could somehow make it.
My colleague told me that there was an Air India flight which came from Muscat to Ahmedabad at 9.30 in the night and left for Bombay at 10.30. I could go to the Airport and buy the ticket.
I landed at Bombay airport at 11.30 in the night. The HR Director of the Tanzanian Company had come to the Airport to receive me. He drove me to Little Italy Restaurant.
The MD interviewed me at 1 in the night! He was satisfied with me. He and the HR Director took me to their hotel. The HR Director printed my appointment letter in the Business Centre of the Hotel and the MD signed it at 3.30 in the morning!
They took a cab to International Airport and I took one to Domestic Airport.
It is 11 years now since I joined the Company- longest stint in my career. Through that one incident, one gesture my current boss has bought my loyalty forever.
PS: The tougher bosses were of course good paymasters- good pay rise ever year, furnished accommodation, luxury car, etc., though my friends called the same ‘Insult Allowance’.