PrEm Ji

ZERO-BASE MANAGEMENT (Short story)

 

ZERO-BASE MANAGEMENT

 

The central hall of IIM (Indian Institute of Management), Calcutta was almost full and an unusual silence encompassed the audience. Top achievers of year 2012 were being facilitated in that well organized function. I was sitting along with Mrs. and Mr. Vincent George, my colleague for the past ten years, that too in the prestigious second row.

“And “The Rising Star Award of Academic Merit” goes to...,” Chitra, the beautiful girl who was compering the event, waited for the response from the audience. “Mr. Sam Vincent, from Kerala,” the crowd shouted aloud.

Sam Vincent, the elder son of Vincent George was adjusted the Calcutta IIM topper of 2012 and he was readily offered with the highest pay package that a fresher could get in India, by an Internet giant... a hefty sum of ten million Indian rupees per annum!

The function went on as decided and at last Sam was asked to share his experiences with the public. He thanked almost everyone, from the faculty to the Canteen boy. 

“Sam, who is your role-model as a manager?” asked Chitra, the beautiful young compere, she was also a junior student whom had an eye on him.

“My role-model as a manager?” 

A cute smile appeared on his face and it got transferred to her heart instantaneously!

Eight years back...

It was a fine Sunday and I went in search of Vincent as I had nothing to do in that morning. To be very frank, I needed a change desperately. His house was situated in a local village, nearly twenty kilometer away from the heart of the city. Though we had been working together for the past two years, I didn’t get a chance to visit his home.

“Hi... Premji... Please come in...,” he welcomed me to his family...

I wished to spend a whole day discussing the present literary scenario in Malayalam as he is a voracious reader. 

“Premji... let’s go to my orchard... You can discuss whatever you like and simultaneously I can complete my job too... I have to apply some Eco-friendly pesticides,” suggested Vincent.

“Multi-tasking!” I replied. 

It was one of the finest orchards I had ever seen in my life, which spanned around three hectors. A bio-fence, made of bamboo trees, protected the orchard from animals as well as the naughty wind. And the next layer was made of two hundred Rambutan Plants, traditional varieties, not genetically modified, directly imported from Malaysia, lifted their heads up proudly with huge clusters of red fruits. Coconut as well as Arecanut trees stood, heads high up, like sentinels of nature and pepper plants adorned them. Innumerable varieties of Zapota, Mango, Mangosteene, Clove, plantains, jack fruit, Coco-plants, Custard apple, Fig, Orange, Grape-vine, vegetables, special varieties of rice and many other known plants and known unknown to me, embellished his precious garden. I was so exhilarated by the freshest air! 

“Why do you prefer the traditional varieties, Vincent?” I asked.

“They do not attract pests as they are naturally healthier...”

“Is it?”

“Whenever you are behind over-yield, you have to pay for that... Every disease you get is the bi-product of that... There is every facility in our nation to prevent food adulteration... But, there is no measure to reduce the use of pesticides which is the root-cause of every disease...”

“So... you mean to say “Green revolution” is a farce?”

“Absolutely... It killed the agriculture as well as the boo-diversity of our nation... For some high yielding GM varieties, we were forced to sacrifice our seed diversity...”

“You are a rare breed! Dear Vincent...”

“We must be... otherwise, what’s the point in living! GM food is a great weapon for mass externalization, designed by the financial elite!” 

“Nobody tries to study the ill-effects GM crops on human body...”

“I think, it is the root-cause of increasing mental disorders among people...It is and it will be a real threat to mankind.”

“So, the purity of genes are more important rather than modified?”

“Absolutely... That’s what Lord Krishna told us through Bhagvad-Gita (scriptures)... mixing up of genes could be detrimental...” 

“Vincent, why do you prefer mixed crop agriculture?”

“If there is a fall in the price any one crop, some other can manage it and ultimately agriculture remains profitable,” Vincent replied while cutting open new channels to the many shallow pits made for rain water harvesting...”Not even a single drop should be wasted... They should reach the lower-depths... the water table is getting deteriorated everyday...” 

There was a huge man-made lake in the middle of the farm where he cultivated the tastiest fishes available in the state. In-order to improve the fertility of the land, several small cows were kept inside his backyard.

“They are Kasargodan Dwarf, a rare variety of cows... it doesn’t need any special food or attention! I use their dung to prepare a special bio-fertilizer that can improve the nitrogen content in soil... Desertification of the soil is the largest threat of our times...”

Soon, Sam Vincent, a sixteen year boy, joined us with his new-born puppies...

“Lovely,” I told while patting one of them.

“I bought two dogs to protect the orchard from thieves... And Sam started his business from there! He has already raised funds for higher studies...” Vincent laughed.

“Congratulations Sam…” I told.

“Thank you Uncle... You know, I have a huge collection of pets and rare-birds...,” said the little entrepreneur in him! 

Mrs Vincent was running a small plant for converting their aggro-yield to value-added products, starting from many varieties of wines to many types of food preserves. 

“Don’t you have any sales outlet, other than here?” I asked.

“Those who want our products will come to us!” Sneha, Vincent’s elder daughter, laughed.

“Vincent, why do you want to join Sam in our polytechnic?” I asked.

“He can join directly to the third semester of Bachelor of Engineering if he completes a diploma. Sure, he can apply for jobs based on both the qualifications...”

“Great idea!”

Time went on and the valuation camp started. We were allowed to value only thirty scripts a day. Since many of the valuators were absent as vacations were going on, the camp officer was getting crazy. And on the closing day, Vincent collected thrice the amount as that of mine. 

“I took some of the answer scripts to my home... Little boys should also learn the art of evaluation!” Vincent laughed... “If you teach them the art of evaluation, they will write their exams better!” 

“Something is stinking like hell!” girl students started crying out in the morning.

Dead-body of a stray dog was lying near the main gate, with maggots all over, for the past two days. And the situation grew worse.

“None is ready to bury it... What to do? I am ready to pay how much ever it costs!” said the Principal.

“I will manage it... But, it will cost you around Rs.500... Is that O.K?” Vincent intervened.

“Done!”

And within the next ten minutes, the matter was settled.

“How did you manage it?” I asked him in the evening.

“Someone was cleaning the nearby drainage... I paid him just a hundred and fifty rupees! And he did the rest... Premji... You should never miss the right opportunity to make some money!” Vincent laughed loudly.

“Then why did you pay for my lunch?”

“Because, you are my dearest friend!” he laughed again. “Man should make money... but his mind should outgrow it...” 

“Premji... are you coming with me? I am going to Munnar tomorrow...,” asked Vincent.

“By bus?”

“No... We shall go by my car...”

“Are you serious?” I had a solid doubt as he used to take out his car only during Sundays, to too to the church!

It was a memorable journey in all ways. He picked me up straight from my home and we headed towards the hill station. The rear seats were mysteriously missing from the car.

“Speed up... man...” I was fed up of his 45kmph speed... 

“No... no... You will maximum mileage only at this speed...” he laughed.

We went to many places and from almost every place he purchased something and dumped into the car... from seeds... seedlings... organic pesticides and so on... And finally the car transformed into a station wagon.

“We have to cover one more important place,” Vincent told while stopping the car and the last destination was a tea-estate named Kannandevan, owned by TATA group. “We have to buy some 50 kg special quality tea...”

“50 Kgs! What do you mean, dear Vincent?” I couldn’t hide the element of surprise. 

“Ha... ha... ha... It’s for my neighbor, a tea-stall owner in the city... You know he pays for ten litres of petrol!”

“O.K... You are a genius...”

“Premji... You teach industrial management, unaware of its practical applications... Whenever I plan for a journey, I plan each and every minute thing that I have to fulfill weeks before... distance... timing... fuel... food... climate... what all things to be purchased... how to use the space effectively... I plan everything, friend... and the most important thing is: “I stick on to my plan at any cost...”” 

“Really great!”

“Did we even a cup of water from outside? No... That’s Vincent...” he laughed loudly.

“You are the grandfather of FW Taylor, the father of modern industrial management! And your theory is...”

“Maximum utilization theory!”

“Are you coming with me?” Vincent asked me. “A sale is going on at the City Center...”

“How come you know all these?”

“Every floor manager in every textile shop and other branded shop is my personal friend... my clients too!” 

“Interesting!”

“Premji... One should never spend your hard-earned money unnecessarily for unwanted vanities...” 

“My Dad is the best manager I had ever seen...,” declared Sam.

“Great! Then, please share us something... how do you plan to manage your high profile job? Have you developed any special strategy, dear Sam?” said Chitra.

“Strategy? Yes... yes... I am very happy to announce that I am not going to join for my promised job...” Sam told the audience with a naughty simile. 

Everyone assemble there were shocked to the core, except Vincent! The young woman who was compering the event couldn’t speak out for the next two minutes... 

“Dear friends, please imagine this situation...” Sam started speaking... “If every talented student from this nation prefers to work only for private firms, then who will work for this nation? If every talented student, who attains their coveted degrees with our own tax money, prefers to work for US and UK, what will happen to our nation?” 

The crowd started listening to his words eagerly. 

“He is up-to something,” I told Vincent.

“May be,” replied Vincent.

“Hundreds of thousands of important posts remain vacant in the armed forces where we need great brains urgently.... We need millions of people with high academic excellence for the posts of efficient teachers... We are in need of great social as well as educational activists... We are in urgent need of millions of agricultural geeks to ensure food security of our nation... We are in need of extremely talented people... and fortunately, I am also one among them...”

“Are you really serious, dear Sam?” asked Chitra, the compere. 

“Absolutely...”

“O.K... then, please share with us your plans for the nation?”

“Dear friends, do you know which the longest line on earth is?” Sam asked the crowd.

“Equator,” someone from the crowd replied.

“Certainly... but, unfortunately, it’s called the poverty-line... If a man has an earring of half a dollar every day, he is above the poverty-line in our nation! How ridiculous is the concept of defining poverty! Can such a man buy a cloth for his wife and children?” the crowd started listening to him eagerly. “Majority of our people live under the poverty-line… Can it be possible to cloth them all in a short span of a year?” He asked the crowd.

“I don’t think so!” replied Chitra.

“It’s possible if we start a nationwide network for the distribution of used cloths lying unused in your homes… What do we do with them except shamelessly selling in retail chains like Big Bazaar? It’s high time to stop that practice. Twenty percent of our population is rich enough to cloth the rest… All we need is to share... Share the least valued thing in your home to the neediest folk... You know, every celebrity in this nation is capable of doing the same! But, unfortunately, they are not taking up that responsibility. I would love to start “Community Cloth Movement...to cloth our nation… And I will realize it with zero expense from my pocket… Will yo be with me?”

The crowd cheered him with heavy heart.

“And your next project?” Chitra became more curious.

“Our education sector is getting more and more privatized every day! Parents and students are being forced away from the public schools due to the stupid reforms of status-quo education. Education has become a high-rewarding business now. And naturally, the people who run the private academic institutions make an unholy nexus with the government policy makers! Every moment, they try to reduce the syllabus… They insist on liberal valuations in-order to manipulate the results and in certain states, a student capable of copying down the question papers can easily get through secondary school leaving certificate examinations! Where do we head towards? When our governments take loans from World Bank, Asian development Bank etc, they are forced to implement more unreasonable educational reforms insisted by them. We reap the worst fruits right now! Education, without basic human values, is mere waste of time! How can we save our nation from this kind of educational disaster? Any idea my friends?” Sam stopped for some time.

“Do you have a solution for that, dear Sam?”

“Yes... We should start “Community Educational Movement (CEM)” Every person from the community to transform himself/herself into an educational activist. Most of the elders, whether working or non-working are capable of imparting knowledge to children with much ease than their teachers since they belong to the old school of education. Ie, education with human values... CEM clusters should be set up in every wards of every village of our nation and they should be networked so that we can convert education as a mode of celebration. Peace blooms only in a dynamic society...”

“And how will the students contribute in this project?” asked someone from the crowd.

“They can do re-generative teaching... you know, a student can teach his/her junior students... I dream for a nation in which everyone is a teacher as well as a student...”

“And?”

“And there are many more projects, you can realize without much investment... There is no point in joining for a job... What makes education really important when one is capable of creating job? Job seeker or job creator, who is the better one?”

“Certainly, the second...,” replied Chitra. “If the government of India needs your expertise, what would you prefer to do for them?”

“If given an opportunity, I would love to convert the poorly managed waste disposal in or nation into a five billion dollar profit making industry so that it can save another five billion spent for prevention of epidemics created by the same...” 

“Will you be with him Premji?” asked Vincent.

“I am him, for one can realize everything without even spending a penny from his or her pocket!”

                                                                                                                                     

PREMJI



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