Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brijesh Taught This

We never tire of telling our classes, both formal and informal, of the lesson Brijesh taught and opened a whole new world before us.

In August 2001, we had joined to head the largest branch of our public sector organisation, fitted with a contingent of say 200 men? It was the toughest assignment we had got so far.

Even before we joined, we were told that we would have to contend with a band of 30 people, who were sportsmen, or stage actors, or dramatists, perpetually away from the branch for a tournament, or a play, or for practice or for rehearsals. In fact there were a number of offices with concentration of such Players, and one was brought to look upon these men with contempt. Does that ring as bell with some Managers? Drain on resources. Why should these men decorate establishments already beset with endless problems, facing customers, statisticians, regulators etc. etc. etc. Let them be in Head Office and let HO shoulder responsibility of being good Corporate Citizens, Ha!

So you can imagine what we did when the first request for special leave arrived at our table. It was from Brijesh, our organisation’s TT champ. He wanted a month off, to practice for a tournament. NO we wrote NOPE! Back and forth went the request, our desk, to Industrial Relations, to Brijesh and back. Our people were relieved. At last a Boss who will live up to the tyranny of the Players! That was when it happened.

A slim, shy man, tall and young, long fingers, we noticed, wanted in at our chamber door. That it was and nothing more. I am Brijesh, Sir. I want to tell you something, said he, his face a curious amalgam of determination and vulnerability. Come in we said, sit down! He preferred to stand, as he would stand at the TT table before a worthy opponent. I won’t go anywhere unless you are convinced, Sir, but then you are mistaken, Sir. (Aha! Theek hai bhai, bolo.)

Sir, in the first place we became players because we wanted to excel. And we are looked upon with suspicion right from childhood. Hope he does not want to make it his livelihood, think parents. No missing classes, say the teachers. Not every matriculate can become an S.T’kar, says everyone. Thatt attitude only haunts us (hounds us?) right into our workplace also, Sir. And do we feel guilty! Our conscience eats us whenever we are away and we keep thinking of the workplace. When we are back we try to make up for our absence, with feeble smiles on our faces, striving to be a part of THEM.

But Sir, we won’t be young forever, and once our playing days are over, our competitive spirit should logically extend to our career and work, we would look out for promotions? Sir, kindly just try to get to know some of us personally, before making up your mind.

We tried doing that and were simply ammazed! We knew all about the theory and practice of management, we had always believed, and we had been so blind! Worse still, had we displayed a closed mind, so anathematic to us?

When at work, they were at least five times as efficient as a member of the flock. Looked smart, were smarter at work. Better awareness levels and communication skills. Good customer orientation and liaison with public.

And the persons? There was Rekha, who had to attend drama rehearsals now and then. If she had to go at 5.00, she would GO. Go mince(*) GO. (* Marathi for ‘means’) If burdened with twice the work, would finish it in half the time (well, something like that, she had an uncanny ability to control her work speed.) And the accuracy-at least 6-sigma! There was Sriram, diminutive and handsome, outrageously and multi-dimensionally talented, who would quietly suggest solutions to the most complex human issue. And lo! WE were gradually drawn back, gently, into the world of arts, which we thought was lost forever with the advent of our nokri. It was sheer magic!

To step out of our office for a while, we call it “wathlelyA zAdAlaa paalvi phutne”!. Something like “Ujade hue chaman me…..sau phool muskuraye” (Warsi brothers). One recalls that brilliant movie called ‘Don Juan de Marco”. Johnny Depp enters the life of a stolid psychiatrist Marlon Brando. While Brando tries to disabuse Depp of his belief of being Don Juan, Brando himself comes under Depp’s spell, becoming romantic and joyous.

Back to the workplace? Our brief, when we entered the portals of this massive red heritage building, was to turn it around and make it into an efficient unit, cutting down on the membership. And, as we always say, the solution was found where least expected-the Players. We learnt to adjust our timings and duties to suit them. For instance Brijesh also started taking care of overdue collection. Criss-crossing the town even on personal errands, or on holidays, he would confront people on the way and then proudly announce the collections periodically. The Players proved themselves to be as good, if not better, bestowing themselves with a new respectability. On the whole, it had a dramatic effect on the entire branch team and its efficiency.
And the lesson? Whenever taking up a challenging new assignment, just look around for the Players.
Incidentally, in the organization, yours truly is known as a something of a patron of sportsmen and stage-persons now. The pay-off:: the best passes for stage and sport events.

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