Holding an exulting sense of self-esteem and self-respect, and a glowing feeling of gratification for the Indian Railways, my father (late Srinivasan) chose to opt for the ‘line’ position even when his chief superior elaborated and offered the equivalent ( more comfortable and better paying) ‘staff’ position. It was his entry in to the job phase of his life in the beginning of 1940s. The ratiocination for his choice : (a) he’ll have the opportunity to “connect” with a collection of ‘common people’ moving with alacrity daily. Just as the railway lines across the nation resemble a structure in the form of a ‘net’ , the groups of people he’ll meet with will form a fairly widespread ‘cultural network’ for him. (b) his own quick movements required for the job will constitute an excellent substitute for the exercise regimen he will be forced to miss due to the nature of his job. He was a fitness enthusiast and an athlete par excellence in the District.
That was his first job, the job he carried out till his retirement ( rising to higher grades with benefits and furthering his progress) with stints in places criss crossing the state of Tamilnadu.
1. Mobility and Networking – the traditional way :
Every day, to all passengers/commuters -he’ll say just enough and greet them; he’ll clarify the locations in the town/city to the inquiring without expecting any response in gratitude. Within a short time he would have ‘connected’ strongly with most people, some regulars; some tourists/occasional travellers; some traders; and some commuting for work. He would have ‘marketed’ his position through his pleasant interactions and service. In terms of “Capacity Utilization” at work, he always recorded a whopping 125% unheard of in the Public Sector, the quality that endeared him to all his superiors in all places he served. Even a declared holiday was a busman’s holiday for him. He will be in station for six hours at least. His mere presence established a “brand identity” for the Railway Station. He was loved and indulged by every one. This was what he achieved aside from his core task of managing the schedules and operations of the in coming and out going trains, managing and guiding his staff in their tasks and duties, and the usual reports he had to send on duty.
Today’s tech enables me to establish personal connections; helps me to keep up with the daily tidings; seek and receive opinions and views; communicate with people in different continents instantaneously when needed; network with people professionally and socially; and not the least, to globally even market what is produced individually (ideas in my case), institutionally, and organizationally – all with the least time, energy, and effort.
My father missed the tech, though non-existent in those times, but the core endured.
He was not a technologist; just an Arts degree holder. But he was practising what we call in our popular lexicon “Mobile(ity) and Networking” in his own way in the long established belief and custom possible at his work. Isn’t that an intensely delighting and enlightening disclosure of the New Age marvels of mobile and networking practices in nanoseconds we experience each day now! Yes, I would affirm realizing what I do today (thanks to wordpress.com; FB, Twitter, Instagram, Motorola Google and the like where I hold my faceprints, voice prints and word prints). Tasks requiring hours compressed to just minutes ( or seconds !) now ! Will-nilly, not so much to be in tune with my times or to meet the competition but to just stay afloat in the crowd, recording my symbolic presence and wisdom without any attempt to further my progress at this juncture.
My father’s choice held and is proved right too.
2. Educating Children – his priority :
I was in the 4th Grade and he asked me what I would like to be (in life) – an Engineer, a Doctor, a Manager. I was just changing my position from one Grade to another never holding my attention or thoughts of becoming someone in life then. Honestly, I also did not know much about those positions at that time, and so I simply replied : “I just want to be like you, dad !” A very cautious and secure answer, I felt. He just uttered this by way of moulding my life and revealing me the right path to tread. His words : ” I will give you one hour of each week day and two hours of my holiday, to be yours, and to be used as you want them without interference of any kind whatsoever.” He remained true to his words till I left home for my Higher Education and later for my job. That I became a combination of all choices he gave, gaining Masters in all without a Bachelor’s in any, was pure ‘chance’. Wren and Martin was his favorite and he’ll keep harping on that over and over . He spent more money on Education than on Amusement of his children. I see the converse being the reality of the times now when children finance themselves ( loans !) with little restraint to spend on amusement, gizmos and anything novel or new – by need, compulsion or otherwise.
3. Pride of Rajamannargudi, Tanjore District :
Late 1930s and early 1940s of the Tanjore District were simply nostalgic to him after retirement. My father was an excellent athlete representing his college and later the District in short/long distance running; high jump; and long jump. He always marked his stamp among the first three in all competitions. In effect, he created a “brand identity” for himself and the community he lived in. He achieved these at a time and in a place where verbal applause and acclamation among the community was the highest reward. Awards were not in vogue then. It was also the period when extra-curricular activities received a short shrift in College/Education.
Following in father’s footsteps, such prodigious and virtuous mix of Extra-curricular and Curricular activities were the natural hallmark(s) of all his Children – eldest in Running (short & long format), high jump, long jump, and shuttle and Lawn Tennis; the second in Cricket, Running (long format); the third in Indoor games (Chess, Carrom, and Table Tennis); and the fourth in Running (long & short format), long jump, Cricket and select indoor games. Medals in events followed. Gene(s) responded and the chain of “brand identity” continued !
To end this little account which is prefatory to describe best, let me say that it was his simplicity and humility that endeared him to every one. He identified himself with common people of his times. He was also one regarded with marked acceptance at work. A Super Common Man of all the Common Men in his place.
” Dieu avec nous “
Tuesday, May 20/21, 2014 – 9.59 p.m. (IST)
Tidbit : May 21 is the Anti-Terrorism Day chosen to commemorate the death anniversary of one of the eminent Prime Ministers of India, Shri Rajiv Gandhi. Take this Anti-Violence Pledge pl : “We, the people of India, having abiding faith in our country’s tradition of non-violence and tolerance, hereby solemnly affirm to oppose with our strength, all forms of terrorism and violence. We pledge to uphold and promote peace, social harmony, and understanding among all fellow human beings and fight the forces of disruption threatening human lives and values.”