“He’s a Maharashtrian,” said the Maharashtrian.
“No, he’s Saraswat,” said the Saraswat.
“Boss, forget all that! He’s a Mumbaikar,” said the Tamil-speaking Mumbaikar.
“Don’t forget his wife is Gujju,” said the Gujarati.
To add fuel to the fire, I added, “What about the fact that his mother-in-law is British?”
A few of us were discussing Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th International Hundred. All were in ‘Apnaa aadmi’ mode, each person trying to claim Sachin as his own man! All in good humour, of course.
This set me thinking. How many people would have claimed, in good humour or otherwise, the same Sachin Tendulkar as their own man 25 years back when he was just another cricket-playing youngster? Everybody loves to be associated with rich, successful, well-connected persons, but how many people reach out to a struggler or a nobody?
I remember my own experience when I moved alone to a new city on a transfer. I had never visited that city earlier. I did not have any relatives or friends there. Since I worked in a capital equipment sales and service company, I met a large number of people in the course of my work, developed good personal rapport with many of them, but unwritten company policy was professional relationships remained professional unless there was a prior personal connection. I did meet a few persons with whom there was some earlier connection (same community, same ‘home city’, friend’s friend, etc.), but nobody seemed enthusiastic about reaching out to a 20-something newcomer to their city, and I didn’t want to impose. My neighbours were helpful, but not exactly friendly.
One day, a few months after I had shifted to this city, I met my customer, the General Manager – Projects of a leading automotive ancillary at the airport. I was on my way to Mumbai, while he was flying to Delhi. There was another gentleman with him, whom he introduced as his Executive Director. When I handed my Business Card to the ED (let’s call him Mr. K), he immediately broke into a huge smile and said, “Hey, your family name is the same as mine!” He asked about my family tree and looked disappointed when he realised that we were not related. By then, their flight was ready for boarding. He gave me his Business Card and told me to drop in at his residence whenever convenient. He also told me to meet him whenever I visited their Company so that we could “chat over a cup of coffee”.
I had to meet the GM-P the next week. After completing our discussion, I went to Mr. K’s office, handed my Business Card to Mr. K’s secretary and asked to meet Mr. K. The secretary asked if I had an appointment. When I replied in the negative, he asked me what I wanted to discuss with Mr. K. I replied, “I just want to say Hello to him. It’s just a courtesy call.” Now, Mr. K was the Big Boss in that Company. Can you imagine anybody walking into Congress Party Headquarters and asking to meet Sonia Gandhi “just to say Hello”? The secretary was perplexed! I could almost hear him thinking, “Is this guy mad?” But, he had seen my family name was the same as Mr. K’s. He picked up the intercom, dialled a number, and spoke, “Sir, one Mr. K from XYZ Ltd. wants to meet you. He said it’s a courtesy call.” Within a few seconds, Mr. K walked out from his room, shook my hand, and said, “I’m sorry I’m in a meeting. Is this only a courtesy call, or is there anything specific you had to discuss?” When I said it was only a courtesy call, he replied, “My meeting will go on for some time. So there’s no point in your waiting. I’m sorry I can’t spend time with you now. But please do meet me the next time you come here.”
Two weeks later, I visited that Company again to meet the GM-P. Again, after completing our discussion, I went to Mr. K’s office and asked Mr. K’s secretary if I could meet Mr. K, just a courtesy call. The secretary spoke to Mr. K on the intercom, then asked me to enter Mr. K’s room. Mr. K was in a meeting with 3 other persons. He requested them to wait outside for a few minutes and chatted with me for about 10 minutes over a cup of coffee.
I was touched by Mr. K’s gesture! I was a young person in the early stages of my career, while he was a very highly-placed person who had absolutely nothing to gain by being nice to me.
That cup of coffee was the beginning of a long friendship between Mr. K’s family and mine.
Today is Mr. K’s 80th birthday.
Happy Birthday, Mr. K! May you have many more!!
Thank you for that cup of coffee.
It really meant a lot to me.