“When some bread crumbs are thrown in this lake, a school of fish appears from nowhere. They quickly devour the crumbs and disappear.” I told Lulu, my parrot, as I sat looking at the lake.
“True. They live in moment. Quite unlike you.” Lulu surveyed the area of the lake where fish were eating crumbs. He flew over it closely. His flutter of wings scared the fish.
I watched the lake. Small rings of wavelets were spreading. Lulu returned to me, and landed in front of me.
“Hey, tell me. What’s on your mind?” Lulu looked at the lake and then at me. “You are unusually quiet today.”
“Bread crumbs are like stray incidents – but some memories and insights surface with them, like fish they surge to surface suddenly from the deep.”
“Not a very elegant analogy, but I take your point. Now share your bread crumbs!”
“I interviewed a few contract workers, and recorded their plight on video too.”
“I know. It was a sad story. I also know you interviewed trainees from a few companies.”
“That’s right, Lulu. I also interviewed and visited the house of a worker who was working as a temporary hand for the last twelve years!”
“That story hit the conscience of many HR professionals, but the story which was heart rending was the one of BPCL’s housekeeping contract workers. Hey, I want to ask you: How did you think of working on these stories? What made you take these steps?”
“When I was working for Asian Paints, I was editing their magazine. My boss, the Director, often asked me to interview ‘industrial workers’ and cover their stories. He pointed out, for example, that interviews of a postman and a worker in the RK Studio can make very interesting stories. He actually had a list of such ‘industrial workers’ to be interviewed.”
“So, did you do it?”
“I interviewed some eminent union leaders. I interviewed the Labour Commissioner during the ‘Emergency.’ But I did not interview any worker.”
“I was not able to verbalise it till I met Dr RC Datta at TISS. When I mentioned my desire to interview people working in the industry to him, he said that the workers will not speak to you unless you go through their union or through their management. He has interviewed several persons in the industry – at all levels. He knows it better…”
“I remember Dr Datta’s work on textile workers. Original work. Imaginative. Insightful. We are speaking of the late seventies and early eighties. There were no mobiles then to click photos instantly. Yet he did it.”
“After my retirement, Arvind Shrouti helped me. And recently through another contact I could interview Mr R Kuchelar. I had a long-standing desire to meet him. And I have interviewed many persons at all levels in various industries. Something my boss always wanted me to do.”
“So, how do you feel now?”
“A deep sense of satisfaction. I had taken my inspiration from Dr Anil Awchat. His Marathi book ‘Manas’ [The People] inspired me. Inspiration comes from many sources. My boss, Dr RC Datta, Arvind Shrouti, Dr Anil Awchat – they keep inspiring me. Also ‘Kunal’ alias Sharad Chavan who mentored me, and expected me to write regularly.”
“It is good to be with people who inspire us. They don’t ask us to do anything. Their work provides inspiration.”
“And I feel grateful for having such people in my life.”
“There is a purpose why a person enters your life.”
“I get you, Lulu.”
“They carry a message for you. Often unspoken. You have got to feel it, listen to the unsaid. The good work you do has its beginning there…”
“And the only way to express gratitude is to keep doing it.”
“You said it! That’s the way to express gratitude!!” Lulu fell silent for a while and then spoke, “Some incidents bring out so many memories, so many feelings. A huge school of fish surfaces. Or perhaps a school of huge fish surfaces.” Lulu hopped on my shoulder and rubbed his head on my cheek.
Vivek S Patwardhan
”What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”