Mark Twain said, “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” I have been lucky, I met people in 2019 who accomplished big things. Here is a short list of such people who crossed my path this year. They are HR professionals, and Trade union leaders.
The HR Professionals
Sharad Gangal: We know each other for over forty years. Sharad (who heads HR at Thermax Global) is a quiet, low profile manager who works to build good culture in his organisation. (He also actively supports several activities of NGOs, but more about them later). During our discussion he mentioned about the welders at the Baroda plant of Thermax. I made a note; later I asked him to share more information. I went there, spent a day capturing the essence of the story. He has done amazing work there. Kudos, Sharad!
Judhajit Das: I met Judhajit (who heads HR at ICICI Pru) long ago, but I wouldn’t say I knew him well then. We became friends when he took over as President of Mumbai Chapter of NHRD Network. I invited him to deliver a talk at Thane HR Group in this year. He spoke about his long career with ICICI Pru. The format of Thane HR Group requires the speaker to address the audience for 90 minutes. It is not easy to do it; particularly if you are speaking about your own long career inextricably linked to an institution like ICICI. It requires courage because it is autobiographical. I and a spell bound audience of 150 professionals discovered an authentic Judhajit who delivered a speech holding them spell bound with his insights. His alma mater, XLRI, conferred on him ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’ this year. Kudos, Judhajit!
Himanshu Bhatt: I hold him in deep respect. I have never met a person more resourceful than him. I have not met a person so positive, virtuous and willing to support any experiment. He is not a person who is comfortable with the routine, and he actively looks for a better change both in form and content. No wonder that he is heading the South Gujarat Chapter of NHRD Network for more than a decade. They have a long record; I think it is 100 consecutive meetings without any interruptions. NHRD Network seems to have failed to take note of such solid work, but the HR professionals, Trade union leaders, Business leaders (the list can be longer) recognise his contribution to the profession. And Himanshubhai does not ‘fish for compliments’ or hanker for accolades. With his encouragement I did two seminars. The first one was ‘Social Aspects of Industrial Relations.’ The second was ‘Leadership Thinkshop’ (a portmanteau between thinking and workshop). Both were off-beat experiments to reach out to professionals and businessmen, share some thoughts and realities of industrial life, and engage in an exchange of thoughts with them. And there was no better person than Himanshubhai to support it. Kudos, Himanshubhai.
The Trade Union Leaders
Dr Bhalachandra Kango: I met Dr Kango at TISS. One of the Professors introduced me to him, but it was a short interaction and there was no reason for him to remember me. But I made a note to meet him again. I met him in Pune. The employees of Racold met him and I too joined. What strikes you when you meet Dr Kango is the ease with which he can relate to a stranger like me. And his deep insights on labour issues. I asked him if I can record his videos and he readily agreed. I recorded two or three, but here is the one which I like. He speaks about Universal Basic Income which was the subject of discussion during the Lok-Sabha elections early this year.
Dr Vivek Monteiro: I read about the travails of the contract workers of BPCL on Facebook. A photograph showed Dr Monteiro with them. This was quite unusual, because I had never seen him posting anything on FB, and no photograph at all. So, I called up and mentioned that I would like to study and write about their issue. Dr Monteiro and I spent two days together. He introduced me to the BPCL workers and I covered their struggle. It was a pleasure to discuss the labour issues with Dr Monteiro, the clarity of his thought makes it very interesting. He asked me to meet him at the gate of BARC. He was leading a protest there. Not enough has been written about his work, his commitment to the cause of labour movement is infectious. It was a learning experience for me in many ways.
Mr R Kuchelar: When I was invited to deliver a talk at Chennai I decided to use the opportunity to meet Kuchelar. He is in his eighties, but the fire in his heart is still burning. Kuchelar is alert, well read and has a studied opinion on the current labour scenario. He took me through his entire story of personal life and work at trade union leader. You cannot write the history on industrial relations in Tamil Nadu without running a chapter on him. An intelligent, bold and courageous person, he has left his indelible mark. It was an unforgettable meeting. I have covered the story here.
What strikes about these men is that they are totally engrossed in their work. They have found their mojo. All have focused on action, Sharad, Judhajit impacted culture of their organisations. Himanshubhai has contributed to institution building. Dr Kango, a medical professional by training, Dr Monteiro (he holds Doctorate from an Institution in USA) and Kuchelar (a lawyer by training) have devoted their life to the cause of labour movement. They are true leaders.
They have not written any vision and mission statements (not to the best of my knowledge). Yet they are role models to many, and people respect them for the person they are, in that sense they are leading a good life. What is a good life? That’s a difficult question. Charles Handy says, ‘Philosophers have argued about these bigger problems forever without agreeing on answer. That is because any answer ultimately depends on us, on our priorities, our circumstances, our willingness to take risks and to decide our own future.’
Kudos everybody, you made my life richer.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”