Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Those were the (initial) days
Let me begin by explaining something- my college elective was CAME, abbr. for Computer Applications in Mechanical Engineering. And, the Co I was selected for,was/is a Central Airconditioning Co. Now, in those days, we did not have any mega malls or the like in Baroda. Hence, the only first hand info I had I had on aircon, was @ window airconditioners. So, I couldn't understand what the big need was, to have a mechanical engineer recruited for window airconditioners. I mean, what could be designed in window ACs? A cutout in a window and some electrical wiring?
Anyway, I began going to the workplace from 15th June. Some of the funny people I encountered initially, included a guy who'd come in 1/2 hr early daily, just like me. And, even if I was reading the morning paper, he'd ask me for it, believing that it was his right, since he'd joined the co. earlier. LOL. No hassles.
Turns out, central A/C is/was much more complex than window A/Cs.(If anyone's keen,I'll detail a bit more here) and, I soon began learning the ropes... we had mega projects going on in Ankleshwar, Bharuch,Surat, towns around these places, and, a mega project of HBJ(Hazira-Bijaipur-Jagdishpur) pipeline, with airconditioning requirements at all the control rooms in these places.
I was sent on my first 'assignment', to Ankleshwar. A colleague met me at the railway station, and we boarded Gujarat Express. But, instead of occupying any of the seats in that compartment, he asked me to follow him - and, we reached the pantry car...good lord, it was like a mini office there....nearly a dozen people from the workplace were there...some making reports, some reading....and, all munching away-either at cutlets or sandwiches or just sipping tea....I learnt later- the pantry car people allowed people to sit there, as long as they were having something...so, everyone would stretch his food/drink till the station came-or, they'd have to keep up the consumption by ordering something...like, the Bharuch/Ankleshwar group needed just one round of cutlets and tea. The Surat ones needed two rounds..in the coming months, I knew-I'd also become a part of this 'team', in their home away from home, albeit, I did not have to travel so frequently, since my design work was more office based, while all my friends in the pantry car were 'seasoned' (as in 'experienced' and with a season pass) travellers.
One day, my boss called me. He needed a drawing from a supplier in Ahmedabad, and asked me to get one of the apprentices from the Service Department to go there and get it. I arranged it, feeling quite pleased with myself(Any small work done in those days, gave an immense sense of satisfaction,as you can imagine- those rookie days at work are the days when you want to prove you're worth every rupee they're paying you).
Off went the apprentice to Ahmedabad. In the evening, the boss asks 'is the guy back?'- of course, he wasn't. I went to the workshop section of the office, and it turned out that no-one even knew the guy's name, since he was quite new. And, the senior service people had left for the day. Someone remembered that he was working under Mr K. And, I knew that Mr. K stayed in Dandiya Bazaar. I rushed there in an auto(leaving my cycle at the workplace), since my boss said' I'm going to Delhi tonight at 930, and my trip will be useless if I don't have that drawing'.(Needless to remind you, there was no email in those days)...feeling like a failure, I reached Mr. K's house, and with a tear in my eye, told me what had happened. And, the kind gent told me 'don't worry'- but, he said, even I don't know the guy's name....I just know he has a Swaminarayan Tika on his forehead, and one of the other apprentice guys from the service department stays close by, so let's see if he knows. And, he took me on his Bajaj (the only two-wheeler worth owning, in those days). Turns out, this apprentice just knew that the guy stays somewhere in the Wadi area, which by itself is a huge area...time was ticking by -it was already 7 PM, and the boss' train was at 930...still, Mr. K didn't lose hope- he said, let's go to Wadi...and, we went....
He said'let's begin asking around'- well, he asked, rather- I was too nervous to even stand still.From one lane to another, he asked about the 'young guy with a Swaminarayan Tika'- and, replies were in the negative...finally, after nearly 45 minutes, we struck paydirt....someone said 'there is a guy in a shanty close by, who dons a Tika.'....and he gave directions to the place. We reached there, hoping against hope-knocked at the door, someone opened(I think it was his Dad), who said 'oh yes- he's resting inside, after returning from Ahmedabad'. Mr. K barged into the guy's room, the guy sat up with a start on seeing him. And, he gave him a torrent of abuses(leaving me shocked, but it turns out this abusing was a part of how they trained apprentices for the tough world). Turns out the guy had no idea that he was supposed to return to office and give the drawing, so he came home at 3 PM, and relaxed. Mr. K told him' come to the office tomorrow, I'll show you 'relaxing'. Heaving a sigh of relief, I left the place with Mr. K- it was now nearly 9 PM. took @ 20 mins of fast 'scootering' for Mr. K to reach us the railway station....and to the coach the boss had told me he was in... the train had just rolled in, and the boss was standing outside, thankfully. He gave us a big smile, reiterated that his trip would not have been of any use without the drawing and told me' I hope this will make you remember next time, to go into full detail of everything you do, even assigning a task to an unknown person(something I remember till this day).
Mr. K and me left the station- the good gent dropped me home first. I couldn't thank him enough for his help. And, requested him not to be too harsh with the apprentice in the morning. He just smiled and said 'OK'.
And, therein ends the tale of how we located an apprentice in our city, by just his 'Swaminarayan Tika'.