Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eklavya
2010


Entrepreneur of the year Awards.
New Delhi.

Ajinkya Girme stepped up to collect the next award, He was a tall man in his early thirties and wearing a slightly overused blazer, dark trousers and well polished shoes.His walk to the stage was slow, as if he was absorbing every moment on the way - maybe like how a debutant would walk to get his first Oscar. For people who knew Ajinkya well- this was his Oscar! He moved to the stage and collected the award from Mr Anil Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Infocomm. Ajinkya looked very overawed by the situation and seemed out of place, but as he spoke to the media and the crowd present at the event,  his inhibitions slowly shook off.

                   " I am really happy to be here in front of all of you today. Before I even start talking any more, I have to thank one person who got me on this stage here. Its Arun Jayaram. He is a software engineer working with an IT company in Pune and he was the guru who made me think differently, made me spread my wings,  gave me the dreams which I worked hard for, and got here.
                      Seven years back, I used to work as a security guard in an IT company. My role was pretty simple. Stand at the Wing B entrance, monitor who goes out and who comes in. I had studied upto the 12th Grade after situations forced me to accept whatever odd job came my way. Working my way up, I finally made it to be a security guard with Walsons Security Systems. It was a decent pay and a secure job with not a lot of hard work. This is where I first saw Arun Jayaram.
                    He was a software engineer with the company and his cubicle was just next to the door. Since I had a lot of free time and did not know how to use it, I used to observe people around me and I used to observe Arun too. Arun was a very meticulous worker, who had a routine when he came in to office. He would reach office at 9:30 am sharp and then connect his laptop and stare into the white board in front of him.
After about 5 minutes, He would write something on the whiteboard and then go wash his face and come back. Since I was literate, I could read his message. Everyday he would write down, how he wanted to grow in his work that day. how we wanted to do something new, something which makes him happy and makes the company benefit from him. Like some days he would write, Finish ordinary work in 4 hours and make my weekly new tool. Or he would write, Focus on product usability for home customers. Or sometimes something which even I could directly understand. -Work 200% for today, no breaks allowed.
                   I slowly started relating to his every day sayings. I used to observe him working also. He used to be completely focussed on his goal every single minute. Whenever he was tired, he used to put his head down and sleep for 2-3 mins and then get back to his work. I would walk past him and see how he sits, he talks to people. His office desk had a lot of awards, many of those were for Innovation and exemplary achievements.
                I used to ask Balu Shevate some of the doubts I had about the sayings. Balu was a diploma in mechanical engineering and used to work in a huge automobile company. He had an understanding of the market and the company. He used to explain what Arun's whiteboard meant. I started thinking in my free time, what do I want to do in life. Am I just going to be a security guard all my life or will I do something more in life. I was moderately educated and I should not be cursing my family background for my situation.
Can I also ' do more, do something new, do something that makes me happy.' I decided that I can definitely do something about my life. I started getting old English textbooks that I procured from the local Raddi store.
I started reading while I was sitting, waiting for the door to open and while I noted down every employee's name passing by. My medium of education was vernacular and I was determined to know the language more.
Somedays I used to wish Arun Good morning, and some days I would ask him, How are you? . He was pleasantly surprised but would always reply with a wide smile.  I used to look at his neatly arranged desk and see the books he used to refer to. I wrote down the names of the books on a piece of paper, and asked Balu.
Balu told me that these books were about motivating oneself and becoming more successful. I started thinking   how can I become more successful.  One of the days, the message on his whiteboard was ' Focus on your strengths, and enhance them further'.  I wrote down the words in my notebook and referred a Marathi- English dictionary and understood completely what he meant. I tried to ask people around me, what I was good at. My mother said, I was a very bright child and I would always come up with simple ideas for complicated problems - like how once I used a huge knife to cut the palm tree branch and make a cricket bat for my brother. - how I made a greeting card from cut outs of wedding cards thrown outside the local marriage hall - my friends told me how I used to be the first person to approach the police mama with a creative lie to get off with a meagre fine for triple ride on a Luna. My brother told me that you have a knack of creating something new, of coming up with simple solutions for complex problems, you can sense the root of the problem and then apply your mind. I smiled. And I started dreaming. Probably those awards at Arun's desk can be mine too. For the next 2 weeks, I did not see Arun. I never talked to him more than the 2-3 lines of English, and did not know his phone number. I so wanted to call him and ask him where he was, and when would he come back.
               After two weeks, he returned, and I was overjoyed to see him. I greeted him with a ' Hope everything is fine with you' He smiled and said. 'Oh yes, I got married. And was away on a trip'. I said. 'Very Nice. Congratulations to you and Mrs.' He thanked me. That day he wrote on his whiteboard. - If you have started dreaming, - its good, its the first step to making it come true-.  I felt great that day. He was speaking my mind. He had sowed the seeds of a dream in me, and I was going to make it come true. Now, my English was getting better, I used to speak to Balu and Rajaram in English and also used to talk to Saxena saab, in English. My father used to drive Saxena Saab's car. While all this was happening, I did not lose track of my primary role as a security guard. I used to interact with all employees in English and speak random lines in English. Everyone started knowing me as Girme- The english speaking guard.
                In my off time, I started work as an apprentice at Shah Fabricators near my house. Since my shift in office was 7 am - 3pm. I could work from 4- 11pm. Ajaybhai Shah used to value my father very much and agreed to my request to take me in his firm. Of course, the money he paid me was pittance. Much lesser than what I got as a security guard. But I did not mind. I started understanding the nuances of Steel fabrication and also started involving myself in Glass and Mirror works. I learnt fast and I used to accompany his carpenter to some sites. Seeing the different ideas I had in the field, I started getting a little more money. I also enrolled in a part time diploma course in mechanical engineering. All this while, I used to keep observing Arun and his ways and the whiteboard. One of the days, he had a message - Am down but not out. I read it and asked him- Sir? Feeling low? He was shocked and said. Yes! How did you know?
I pointed to his whiteboard. He smiled and said - Yes that is right. But I am not going to lose it. Its tough, But I am tougher. This was very helpful for me in my struggle to work and study. I used to cycle at full speed and report for my 7 am duty and rush out at 3:05 pm for my work and study. In one year, I had now become a permanent Junior Fabricator at Shah Fabricators.
                  Soon the big day in my life came by. I was at a site where a new bungalow needed to be done. Since the contact was a big name, there were 2-3 architects also at the place. Shahbhai  was famous in his work which is why, he had been asked to come with his boys for assistance.There was a problem with the client's terrace. He wanted a swing, but he did not want to use up a lot of space. The architects suggested a frame and a cane swing and different other ideas, but the client was not so happy. I don't know what happened, but I just started speaking about an idea. I did not think whether I should have spoken or not. I said- why not a walking stick kind of a frame against the pillar and then hang the swing. It won't consume a lot of space and since I had a knowledge of fabrication - I knew it would look good. Everyone turned to look at me. I was scared for some time. The client started looking in the air and drawing lines in free space and closing his eyes. He kept thinking and drawing more lines. He opened his eyes and looked around the terrace.
After 2-3 minutes, he smiled and said. 'That is a very nice idea - I really like it. In all ways it works out good, I want to see sketches of this idea. '  The architect gulped a glassful of air. She looked at me - first as if I just stole her thunder, and then with an encouraging smile.
              The next day Ajaybhai called me aside and told me that he had got a call from the architect in the morning. She wanted me to assist her in her own firm. I did not know how to react. The next evening, she came and talked to me, she told me that she saw a spark in me and wanted me to assist her in her enterprise.
She said, but you'd have to leave your job as a security guard. I told her, I was ready only if she pays me as much as my salary as the security guard. She smiled. That indicated an affirmative.
           The next day, I met Arun sir for the last time in my life. I told him that I was leaving the job to join an architect firm and I thanked him. I told him that I had created an email address with the help of Balu - girmewillwin@gmail.com and I wanted him to email me his whiteboard lines every day. I requested him to please do this for me. He was very surprised and did not know what I had requested. Since he had seen me around for a long time and I had always smiled and talked well with him, he did not refuse. Thank god.
         Every day I used to accompany Sudhir to the nearby cybercafe and pay 15 rupees for half an hour to check my email. I used to reply to Arun email and thank him for the effort he would take. We would share 7.5 rupees and would ask Sudhir to use the internet also. He would watch pictures of Bollywood heroines and be happy. I worked with architect Gina Mendes for 5 years. Because she was famous, I got a lot of visibility. Her firm used to do the big offices, banks, houses and hotels. For almost 3 and a half years, almost regularly, I used to get an email from Arun. It kept me moving. After some time, I did not get any mails from him, but kept thinking about how, he would spend his day, achieve his goal and worked harder than before.
            After 5 years, I now felt I can start slowly on my own. I started my firm in a small unused garage. And slowly moved up. I worked 20 hours a day meeting people, studying their needs, researching on the problems , creating solutions. I had 2 workers with me. 1 year later, I stand here in front of you  - a proud owner of Ajinkya Associates with a workforce of 36 people and a brand name in Pimpri Pune. Every one needs to find their own Dronacharya. I found mine and I would be indebted to him the entire life."

                    "Arun! Arun! where are you??   , oh there you are! reading in the terrace. I kept looking for you all over.Oh! what happened, why are you crying? You have tears in your eyes. What happened?
I  handed over a newspaper to my wife, and pointed to full page article in the Times of India., She read the article, kissed me on the forehead and picked up the empty cup of tea and walked away.





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