With retirement on the anvil, it is impossible not to look back. I often think of some synchronicities and coincidences.
With not-too-bad an academic career, my self image of being a ‘ very intelligent’ man was shattered in just a few days after joining the corporate world. I have never recovered from it! I saw [and keep seeing] around me men of far greater capabilities than me. A deep sense of inadequacy crept in, it has stayed with me till this day, and it has done something good to me; I remained in the learning mode throughout my life.
There are events in one’s life, the meaning of which you make later. I had a friend in school who was not at all a good student but a vagabond fellow. He was a devotee of Lord Dattatreya. [Link] He would always take me to the Lord’s temple every evening! That was almost a ritual. Later when I joined my post grad studies in Personnel Management, I had another friend who stayed my hostel. He took me, almost every evening to the temple of Lord Dattatreya.
With my sense of inadequacy at work, I realised the need to constantly study and learn. It became essential to seek a mentor for in corporate life there is no ‘syllabus’ to follow. Lord Dattatreya, in Hindu Mythology, had twenty-four gurus. [In the Bhagavata Purana, Dattatreya enumerates a list of his twenty-four Gurus: earth, air, sky or ether, water, fire, sun, moon, python, pigeons, sea, moth, bee, bull elephant, bear, deer, fish, osprey, a child, a maiden, a courtesan, a blacksmith, serpent, spider, and wasp. The 24 Gurus of Dattatreya come from the 24 gurus of Avadhut described in the Purana.]
Was there a message that I must keep learning at all times, like the Lord did? I was never a temple goer, then why were my friends taking me there almost as a ritual?
The decade of seventies, when I started my career, were full of violence and turbulence on labour relations. After joining the organisation [where I spent almost entire career, 33 years] I had to attend a meeting with the union on the very next day. The chief of the union was Dattaji Salvi, as you will see, he was named after the Lord! Dattaji Salvi was a very eminent personality, respected by Balasaheb Thackeray of whose political party he was a leader. I had a long association with him.
One Mr Datta Sawant [yes, he too bears the Lord’s name] was Dattaji Salvi’s lieutenant. Ten years into my career, a bitter feud erupted between the two Dattajis, which culminated in a six month long strike at our factory. It saw two murders and unprecedented violence. As a result, Datta Sawant’s career in labour movement and in politics was finished. I was in charge of the factory’s industrial relations then so I was in the forefront of action. This event left a deep mark on me as I saw the sufferings of hapless workers and a big negative impact on their relationship with the world, confidence and hope, not to mention the obvious: financial position.
Around this time, I also met Dr. Datta [yes, yet again!] Samant, another labour leader, who left the biggest impact on the industrial scenario in Mumbai if not India. His methods were questionable, he was accused of spreading violence and his speeches were provocative. He was the most feared man in Mumbai then. Believe it or not, I do not remember him for all this. I had a long chat with him when I met him at a conference, sitting next to him. He had a lovely smile that would have endeared a thousand persons to him in a moment. Oh, what a surprise! He spoke very softly to me and showed interest in whatever I was speaking about. How do you explain this? I discovered Dr Datta Samant to be a man in complete contrast with his image and deeds! Dr. Samant, a medical practitioner by profession, took up quarry workers’ cause as he was moved by their plight. They were his patients. That is how he entered the labour movement. Do people behave very differently when they are charged with passion? I would like to study this aspect.
The followers of Lord Dattatreya are mostly in the Maharashtra and Karnataka state with some following in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In some other states they [even Hindus] have not even heard of this God. In 2003 I visited Trinidad and went to a temple they had just built. It had a small temple of Lord Dattatreya inside. I had then to visit Trinidad and Tobago six or seven times so far.
The God is omnipresent, and I meet people named after him everywhere. I interpret it as a divine message to be a student and in a learning mode all the time. Like him!