Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My First Employer

I have had the good fortune of being showered with kindness and affection by a large number of people. Among them was my first employer. I would refer to him as Vishnu both by way of showing my respect to him by referring to him by the name of the God I worship and by way of exercising some discretion while writing about my past. While I intend to be candid and truthful about the events that happened in my life, I feel that in the interest of confidentiality of and consideration for other people, I will have to change some names. After all, the identity and confidentiality of other people may have to be protected in some cases at least.

After completing my Engineering degree, I was searching for a job. Getting a job was not easy for most of the people who graduated along with me at that time. My father passed away just after the results of my final year examination came out. So there was a pressing need for me to take up a job. One of my relatives used his contact to get me a job in a small firm in Chennai. Though the job was not what I would have liked to have got, I accepted it hoping to move to a better job after sometime.

Sri Vishnu was one of the directors of the company (though it was a small company, for some reason, it was registered as a public limited company. Perhaps the promoters had bigger plans for the company's development).The company was managed by Sri Vishnu's cousin. The company was a part of a group of firms belonging to a joint family with the prominent members of the family managing different firms.

The person who helped me to get a job was a lower level employee in a firm managed by Sri Vishnu. (I always remember this person with gratefulness.) Using his good rapport with Sri Vishnu, he mentioned my candidature to him. Sri Vishnu talked to his cousin and found out that there was a requirement of a person of my qualifications in one of the group concerns. Sri Vishnu recommended me to his cousin without even seeing me or knowing me personally.

I was asked to appear for an interview. In my interview with Sri Vishnu's cousin, who was the Managing Director, I was offered the job and I accepted it Though Sri Vishnu was not directly involved in the affairs of my company, I had the opportunity to meet him quite often whenever I went to the head office to submit some report or on other official work. He would always smile at me, acknowledge my greetings and talk to me at least a few words enquiring about my work.

After about six months, the company I worked for had its plans changed. Its expansion plans fell through due to some problems. I was told that my services won't be required any more. At that time, Sri Vishnu called me to his office and offered me a job in one of his other firms. I was reluctant to accept the offer since the activity of the firm did not have much scope for applying my field of education. However, I accepted the offer for financial reasons.

When I was offered the original job, the Managing Director had told me what the pay scale would be but he didn't give me anything in writing. As per the terms spelt out by him, my salary would jump after 6 months, My uncle who was a government official felt that compared to the government pay scales, the scale offered to me appeared attractive. (He didn't consider the frequent increases in dearness allowance the government employees would get!)

When I asked Sri Vishnu whether I wold get the same pay scale that I was offered in the previous company, he said that he couldn't offer me a higher pay at that time since the other employees might feel aggrieved that I was getting a better deal than them but he promised to give me a hike after six months. However, to compensate me for the "loss," he offered to pay me the difference from his private funds. And he kept paying me as per his promise. Some months he would forget to pay me in time and after a few days he would apologize to me and  pay. He managed to pay me in the office without anyone noticing it!

Once I asked him for a loan to perform my father's annual ceremony. He said he couldn't sanction a loan from the firm since it was not the practice to give loans to employees. But he asked me to come to his house and get the loan from him. When I went to his house, he treated me like a guest  and offered me a cup of coffee. After that, I would go to his house every month, to repay the loan in instalments (since I was given a hike by that time, his personal contribution to my salary had come to an end) and every time he treated me the same way. On my every visit to his house, he would offer me coffee which I politely declined most of the time. Once, he even asked me to join him for lunch.

My respect and sense of obligation to him was so much that when I was called for an interview from a public sector organization in Bihar, I chose to not attend the interview lest Sri Vishnu should get offended by my plans to leave his firm for better prospects. Only a few weeks back, a colleague of mine had attended an interview in the Tata group after seeking the permission of Sri Vishnu and Sri Vishnu was very much upset about my colleague's plan. (It is another matter that my colleague didn't get the job and was continuing in the firm!) In retrospect, I feel that if I had asked Sri Vishnu, he would have permitted me to attend the interview and wished me success in my efforts. But I have the satisfaction of showing my consideration for the feelings of a person who had been so good to me, by foregoing a promising opportunity.

However, since my long term prospects in that firm were not good, I had, after some time, begun to look for a job in my field of study. After sometime, I received a job offer that I found satisfactory. I went to Sri Vishnu's house and reluctantly told him about my intention to resign from the firm and take up the job offer I had received. He was visibly shocked. Perhaps, he expected that I would stick with his firm for my entire career! However, he wished me well and told me that he would relieve me whenever I wanted to be relieved. I felt bad about leaving his firm. It almost seemed like a betrayal. But I knew that I had to do what was good for my future.

Eleven years after leaving his firm, I went to Sri Vishnu's house to invite him for my marriage. He remembered me and greeted me with the same geniality and warmth he had always shown. He said he won't be able to attend my marriage since he would be out of station on the day of my marriage. He said he would ask his son to attend. He called his son, introduced me to him and asked him to attend my marriage. I took leave of him. That was the last time I saw him.

I had lost touch with some of my colleagues in that firm so I didn't hear any news about Sri Swami. But I have always been remembering him. A few months back I happened to pass through his house. I wondered whether he would be there in the house. But I din't venture to enter the house and ask for him. Nearly 30 years had passed since I had last met him. I was reluctant to present myself, introduce myself to whoever was in the house and ask for Sri Vishnu.

It has turned out that I missed a chance to have met him. Today's paper carried his obituary.

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