The call of our motherland can be emotionally very impactful for non resident Indians (NRIs) and persons of Indian origin (PIOs). Many techies, bankers, engineers and other professionals have chosen to let go of their cushy and well-paid jobs to serve their motherland. Several of them looked for no means of earning here but to purposefully spend all the fortune that they have made while working overseas. These people deserve a salutation from their fellow countrymen for this selfless act of theirs.
However, there are several others whose services are specifically sought by the country when the inbred talent is not available. Arvind Subramanian, Arvind Panagariya, Raghuram Rajan and the new Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian belong to this group. Even the current RBI Governor Urjit Patel, who has decided to quit before expiry of his tenure had his lifetime spent outside the country.
To hire. attract or yearn for such talent is one thing and to nurture, respect and make their best use is altogether another thing! Raghuram Rajan is considered to be one of the best central bankers not only this country has ever produced but all other financial powers also considered. Some of his steps set the long term path for the betterment of the economy and banking in this country. An erudite economist with clear views, age was on his side and the country could have utilised his services for several more years. However, that was not to be for probably the Government felt him to be too intelligent and independent and he decided to return to academia soon after completing his term. Arvind Subramanian also had it enough and returned to teaching in US. Arvind Panagariya was always an academician and after some pathbreaking work here, he too called it quits to return to teaching in US. Not yet clear on future plans of Urijit Patel, but given his recent acrimony with Ministry of Finance bigwigs, his services are unlikely to be available to the nation at least in near future. Let’s see how long the new Subramanian lasts?
Every year thousands of engineering and management graduates leave Indian shores in search of greener pastures abroad. However, several of them after achieving excellence in their respective field and making enough money do look at the prospects of serving the underprivileged in their motherland. But this nation that is endowed with the best of the talent are also gifted with not so talented political and bureaucratic creed that can go to any extent to serve their own selfish interests that are always above the welfare of the country they are elected/appointed to serve. However, this apathy of politicians and bureaucrats towards this special talent, hopefully, will not bother thousands of returning Indians who don’t need anything from official machinery but who are in pursuit of what their conscience tells them to be! We ordinary Indians still treat guests as “Athiti Devo Bhava” though these are not even guests but our own sons and daughters whom our politicians and bureaucrats may not need but this country badly needs!
My father was a very virtuous, righteous man who lived a very principled and frugal life. I do not seem to have inherited much of his virtuosity or righteousness for I am quite materialistic, selfish, ambitious and money minded. However, I do seem to have inherited some of his negative traits. He greyed at a rather young age and also lost his teeth by the time he entered his 50s. I started greying at a rather young age but for years used henna to colour my hair till one day after an objection by somebody close, I decided to give up colouring. In few days, the after effects of henna wore off and I had milky white hair much to my wife’s displeasure, who is young, petite and very pretty. However, I have resisted colouring my hair again, reconciled to rather oldish looks. While I had almost learnt to live with grey in my pate, yesterday’s incident has completely shaken me. About a decade ago, I had a few shaking teeth and but for the medical breakthrough that fixed my teeth using latest technology, I would have bettered my father’s record of having artificial teeth. While the surgery served me well for about a decade, a few weeks ago, I had a shaking molar. My doctor, a humble and rather conservative lady, suggested me to continue with the condition rather than going in for extraction, as the tooth was otherwise not giving me any trouble. I hoped against the hope that the shaking tooth might stop shaking and fixed itself again, though my doctor had ruled out such an eventuality. Yesterday, the tooth finally came out creating not only a vacuum in my mouth but also in my life! I fear the loss of remaining teeth too though my doctor assures me that it will not happen so soon. I have always looked forward to ageing gracefully, retiring from job and pursuing my hobbies and interests in the next innings of my life, but I could hardly foresee the fringe elements of old age – pains, wrinkles, hair and above all teeth ! The only reprieve is that I was never a tiger – that honour had always been with my wife – so nobody would call me a toothless tiger!
When I think of twins, being a cricket aficionado, the first term that comes to my mind is “terrible twins”. This relates to early 80s when two fearsome fast bowlers of West Indies, Colin Croft and Joel Garner were wreaking havoc on the batsmen by bowling immensely fast paced deliveries in tandem!
Fast forward it to 1988, the year I got married. Incidentally, my wife is also a twin, her other sibling being her sister who is located in Singapore! When my then to be wife mentioned about her twin first , in a flash the faces of terrible twins came to my mind, an impression that was to be short lived! The moment I saw my wife and her twin together, my impression of twins changed forever from “terrible twins” to “beautiful twins”. Now even if above 6 feet tall , strongly built fast bowlers make pulp of world batsmen by shooting 150 km/hour plus deliveries at them, my view of them would always be beautiful and not terrible!
I wish these twins, Neena and Veena a very happy birthday on 12th November (the year is immaterial as both are ageless wonders) ! May their glamour enchant the beautiful and historic cities of Singapore and Mumbai and they make this world a better place to live with their empathy for all the destitute of this world!
Today’s age is the age of skilled specialists. While we all along had people skilled in their trades- carpenter, plumber, fitter, electrician, nurse, doctor, architect etc are all examples of trades that require specialised skill- the reference is more appropriate for jobs requiring multiple skills such as civil services or banking. Earlier, a graduate civil servant would be a revenue secretary or planning commission deputy chairman or in stray cases even RBI Governor towards the end of his career. Similarly a graduate banker, mostly joining as a teller or clerk would rise in the cadre to Head credit, treasury or risk functions. We used to call him a General Banker- a jack of all ( I would refrain from using second part of this saying as some of them proved to be pioneers having written reference books on their domains) , who would provide flexibility to the top management to be used anywhere from admin to treasury!
However, increasingly the last of the bastions of the generalists are falling to skilled specialists, more noticeably civil services and banking. We recently read about the Government contemplating lateral recruitment of professionals into civil services. Banking in any case is today more about IT rather than pure banking and with robotics and artificial intelligence next big disruptions, I see general bankers becoming redundant over the next decade or so! It’s not only heads of IT and Law, but several other domains such as HR, Marketing, Product development etc that have industry professionals heading them rather than traditional bankers.
Is no specialised skill also a skill? Is there any importance or value assignable to practical knowledge, experience or first hand exposure to a domain or subject? Actually, the idea of writing this blog struck me while reading my favourite cartoon strip “Blondie” in today’s newspaper. Bumstead is appearing specially cheerful while going to office and his wife Blondie asks him the reason. He replies, “whenever anyone in office makes a real dumb move, the boss says they’ve pulled a Bumstead!” Blondie tells him that this isn’t exactly a compliment to which he remarks, ” May not be in the traditional sense, but it’s the first time I’ve ever had a skill named for me.” Sometimes even innocuous cartoon humour can have such underlying meaning that it can hit you hard!
In continuation, as I covered in Part 1, how the excitement of freedom would last only a couple of days before I started missing her presence. Another feeling that has neither got changed nor diluted over the last 30 years is the countdown to her return. It’s the same feeling, when she went to her parents’ place the first time 30 years ago. I longed to have her back and this yearning has not diminished a wee bit 30 years since then! I wait for her to come back by cleaning up all the mess that gets created over her period of absence . I make the house tidy, things prim and proper in their original respective place, clothes laundered and ironed, refrigerator and kitchen fully provisioned leaving virtually nothing for her to worry! It’s been so long but everything looks so fresh and recent. I think it’s all in the mind. As long as heart is young and mind curious and eager, this cycle of my wife my companion leaving me for small sojourns, exciting me initially, depressing me after initial euphoria and then exciting me again agog with expectation of her arrival back in my life will continue unabated and unaffected by age and vintage. It’s a truly amazing feeling.
My wife has been my companion for more than last 30 years. After marriage we have never lived in a joint family so we have been the sole companion of each other. In between our daughter demanded our attention, but soon she grew up to be independent and she has now been married for last couple of years living in Johannesburg. This makes us each other’s sole companion for rest of our lives.
We are complete in ourselves. We do most of the chores ourselves and also like each other’s company. We don’t need anybody whether it is any major work (house shifting) or pure enjoyment ( going places). In fact, we have been together around the globe and intend to cover more as we grow older and more free.
Yeah, like in all relationships, sometimes we also want space. So I look forward to her annual month long sojourn to Singapore, where her sister stays. I start planning all that I would be doing while she is away – catching up on my reading, planning boys’ bash at home or just roam around the streets of Mumbai, especially South Mumbai, gorging on delicacies such as Maska Pao, Berry Pulao, Kheema Pao at Mumbai’s iconic and historic places. I also plan catching up on my sleep especially over the weekends.
However, hardly 2-3 days into her absence, I start missing her presence at home. There’s no one to share morning cup of hot tea over discussion on major headlines in newspaper or for that affectionate see off to the office. Lonely house on return haunts me. Of course, no one to serve the most sumptuous food is a major deprivation for a gastronome like me. Boys’ night out is one off, while reading becomes monotonous after first few days! For going to South Mumbai, inertia has to be overcome, which is becoming increasingly difficult with age. And as regards sleep, I develop insomnia. It’s just about a fortnight into her this year’s annual sojourn, I am awake like an owl at the unearthly hour of 3.30 am penning this blog, having hardly caught a wink or two over the entire night!
I surely miss my wife, my companion!