Saturday, June 30, 2012

This was for That, and That was for This!

Very early in my career, I had a boss who was an incredibly nice man. I was working as an industrial relations officer, in a company manufacturing explosives for use in the coal mines in the heart of Bihar – and the union leaders ruled the roost. We had a new union leader who was elected called Ishwar.

On pay day, the cashier would count and hand over pay-packets to everyone in envelopes, a far cry from today's ATM cash fed machines. Pathak, the cashier who worked with the company for over 30 years, handed over a pay packet to the new union leader Ishwar. Even as he started counting the notes, he suddenly claimed that 100 rupees were missing. The average salary in those days was about Rs1300. So, 100 Rs meant a big loss for Ishwar, and he made a big hullaballoo directing profanity at Pathak and asked all employees to stop taking their salary. A big scene ensued. Pathak kept pleading that he was not at fault, as he was a very careful man. Ishwar had started well indeed.

The matter reached the ears of my general manager Om Prakash aka OP. He was a kind man. He knew Pathak to be an honest man but he wanted to defuse the situation. OP told Pathak to compensate the same amount from his account. Pathak was in tears as this had never happened in his long career and it came as a blotch on his impeccable record. Everybody forgot about the incident except Pathak. He was confident about it was the mischief of the union leader. We all knew that Pathak was right, but the damage was done.

The following month, prior to pay day, my boss OP called Pathak and spoke something to him. We all knew that OP would tell Pathak to be careful. The word was abuzz that Ishwar was coming for his pay-packet. This time again, the same 100-rupees was missing and Ishwar created an even bigger ruckus – same ritual.
OP went to the cashier’s area, looked at Ishwar and said, “Why is it only your cover has 100 rupees less, every month? This never happens to anyone else, but you? And Pathak has been here for ages! Will you doubt your fellow being wrong each time?”

OP then looked at the crowd of people and in a measured way left the place. The crowd shouted at Ishwar accusing him of being an unfit union leader who found fault with his own staff. Ishwar had no answer and went away without the 100 rupees.

That evening, I was with OP’s office when Pathak came in and fell at OP’s feet and thanked him profusely. Seeing the bewilderment on my face, OP said he trusted Pathak and knew that Ishwar was out to create trouble when the first time he claimed he got less money. This time around he deliberately instructed Pathak to put 100 rupees less in Ishwar's pay packet, and appealed to the people about his innocence. Given the reputation of the cashier, the people were sure that Pathak was innocent. And it worked … aah what drama! That day, Pathak went home walking tall, his reputation preserved.

Sometimes it pays to pay back in one's own coin. After all ... "This was for that and that was for this!"