Oct 22 brings some memories; one of the most memorable moments of my life!
We decide to publish a book
A magazine ‘Tutari’ was published for several years by my employers for workers’ education. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only magazine published by an employer for workers’ education. When it completed 25 years of publication, [and by then I was associated for twenty years with it], I suggested that we should bring out a book – may be an anthology.
The magazine published many short stories, poems written by employees in order to provide a forum for show-casing their talent. It also carried interviews of many trade union leaders including Dr Datta Samant, Dattaji Salvi. And many articles on labour scenario, labour laws too. Remember that this was in the seventies when teaching labour laws to workers was the last thing an employer would do. Tutari regularly published articles on industrial relations and was perhaps the only magazine to publish a series of articles on Fawley productivity experiments. Tutari also published a special number on Diwali, which had many articles on subjects of contemporary interest. NUMMI Plant of Toyota was a story was carried by HBR and it immediately found a way in Tutari. It published articles on a wide variety of subjects. The editorial policy was that an employee well aware of his rights and developments on the social front was a well-informed employee, and that this was the foundation of good industrial relations.
Putting together the editorial team
So an anthology may be a good project to do, I thought. I consulted Sharad Chavan, who used to write a weekly column on labour matters in Maharashtra Times. I had deep respect for Sharad Chavan, he was my mentor and encouraged me to write on various subjects. Chavan immediately liked the idea and suggested that we work with Suneel Karnik. I did not know Karnik, but when I met him, we clicked almost immediately.
The trio met frequently and we unknowingly developed a role for ourselves. Sharad Chavan acted as ‘Project Manager’ his skills of taking the meeting to meaningful conclusion was outstanding. Suneel Karnik was a specialist, an editor of high accomplishment. My role remained as a person who was a ‘Plant’ or somebody who generated a lot of interesting ideas. Much later when I earned Belbin Team Role accreditation I reflected on how we worked together so effectively.
The meetings used to start at 7 pm in my office and usually concluded by 10 pm. We were not disturbed at this hour by office work and workers. Enough ‘food’ on table also generated enough food for thought. We classified the articles, generated good titles for sections, debated heavily on what should be included and what should be left out. We listed over fifty names for the book, and one was chosen. The one chosen was the choice of the Director who was responsible for creating this magazine. Suneel Karnik had suggested a very off-beat name ‘Kaalyavaratee Jaraa PaanDhare’ picking up the line from Mardhekar’s poem. It was my choice too. But finally we chose ‘Kunchale un Kalam’ meaning paintbrush and pen. The former signifying paint industry in which we worked and the significance of the latter should be obvious. It was ‘Kunchale aaNi Kalam’ but Karnik made it more like spoken Marathi by replacing ‘aaNi’ with ‘un’ and that gave it a distinctive touch.
Vijay Tendulkar writes foreword
We debated who should be approached to write the preface. The Director suggested that we approach Vijay Tendulkar. I nodded my head in disbelief; why would the great author write for us? But Karnik took me to meet Vijay Tendulkar. He agreed to write immediately! Karnik’s friendship with Tendulkar obviously had played a big role.
The publication ceremony was arranged at Kalidas Hall on Oct 22, 1999. We had invited Pramod Navalkar to be the Chief Guest. Elections were just concluded then, and it was essential for Navalkar to be present in the Assembly. Navalkar dropped out last minute. Sharad Chavan had foreseen this possibility. He had got Karnik to request Narayan Surve [he is hailed as workers’ poet] to stand by to fill up the gap in case Navalkar failed to make it. Surve had obliged.
Why Narayan Surve spoke so passionately
The publication ceremony itself was a great event to remember. When Surve arrived he was very excited. He told us that he was offered ‘Kabir Puraskar’ by Madhya Pradesh Government and the telegram had just reached him hours before he left for the publication ceremony. There was a striking similarity between Surve’s life and that of Kabir. Kabir was an orphan who was found by a Muslim weaver. He brought up Kabir. Surve was abandoned child and was found by a textile mill worker in Mumbai; he brought him up. Both made great impact by their work, but Surve was quick to recognize that no comparison should be made between him and Kabir, the great poet.
But this happy coincidence led to Surve making a speech that captivated the audience and held them spell-bound for over one hour.
Trophies and Tributes
Receiving the trophy at the hands of Narayan Surve was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. We had printed over 1000 copies and mailed them as complimentary copies to many HR managers, trade union leaders and well-wishers. The press coverage was excellent, which also got us many requests for copies of the book.
On my shelf two copies of the book rest. One of them is signed by Narayan Surve. It is my prized possession. Our Director who was the real architect of this unusual publication was felicitated at this event and the entire theatre gave him standing ovation. He later invited Surve at his home for a dinner, along with Chavan and Karnik and me. That too was an unforgettable event, but more about it later.
The memories will fade, but….
Chavan is no more, so also our Director and Surve. Recently one of the first worker-editors passed away. These memories will fade, so also perhaps the magazine. But the magazine inspired many for its unusual qualities, for being an unusual experiment and that will be remembered by several persons associated with it.