This is not quite a romantic tragedy in the league of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Sohni Mehwal’ or ‘Heer Ranjah’. However, it is a sad and romantic tale of sorts worth sharing.
Rajamani was the Maintenance Department Head of Mukand Steel plant. In the normal course, most of us did not take the slightest notice of him or his department. He would surge into limelight briefly only when a furnace, a rolling mill or a major equipment suffered a breakdown.
Immediately, CMD Viren Shah downwards, everyone would be after Rajamani’s blood, enquiring when he would be able to get the equipment back to working condition. His people worked on Sundays, Diwali, Holi and other holidays when the rest of us relaxed. One always saw him in a grimy boiler suit, covered in oil and soot, looking bedraggled and running round for spares.
It was a pleasant surprise to see him arrive resplendent and bright in a natty suit and tie, for our annual Plant family cocktails and dinner. The mood was festive in the clubhouse. Whiskey and wine were flowing freely. The officer’s children presented a small variety show, which was applauded. After that, the officers settled down to the serious business of drinking, while the ladies sat in a corner exchanging confidences.
Suddenly, the bar mill Superintendent Bhandari, shouted “Silence, Silence, Ladies and Gentlemen, Rajamani will now perform his famous Lalitha act!’
After pretending to be reluctant and coy, Rajamani got into his act. The man was a born actor and gifted mimic. He handled the multiple roles of the little skit he was presenting himself; geography teacher, students Ramaswamy, Govindan and Rajamani and the class nymphet Lalitha. Rajamani changed his personality seamlessly and effortlessly between the different roles. It was a masterclass of mono-acting prowess.
The scene was the ninth grade classroom of the school he had studied in Chennai. A geography lesson was in progress. The teacher was examining the knowledge of the class with questions on National Capitals. He first asked Ramaswamy “What is the capital of Denmark? Ramaswamy did not know the answer and was suitably admonished. Then he asked Govindan who also clueless and was promptly rebuked. Next it was poor Rajamani’s turn to be put on the rack. Rajamani also looked totally blank. By then, the teacher had lost his cool and shouted at him “Stupid idiot, you do not know anything. You are a disgrace to this class. Stand up on the bench!” Rajamani complied and stood up on the bench (a standard punishment those days!)
Next the teacher (who was a bit of a lecher) turned towards Lalitha, the curvy nymphet and class beauty. He asked Lalitha gently “Lalitha, do you know what is the capital of Denmark?’ Lalitha looked innocent and kept quiet. He continued “My dear, I am sure you know, it is Cop, Cop….” Lalitha replied “Cop, cop…” and stopped.
The teacher gently continued, “I know it is in the tip of your tongue- Copen, Copen.” Lalitha answered parrot like “Copen, Copen…” and stopped. The teacher then said “Copenhagen!” and Lalitha responded triumphantly with “It is Copenhagen, Sir!” The teacher beamed and said “See, see, I knew that you always had the answer.”
He then turned towards Rajamani and said it was time that he got his act together and improved his knowledge!
By then he had us in splits. There was hearty applause. Every one starting from Viren Shah congratulated Rajamani his brilliant performance.
Later during the evening, he confided to me that the Steel Melt Shop was Lalitha and his department was the Rajamani of Mukand Steel Plant. The remark really set me thinking. We do have a varnashramam (caste systems) in all our organizations. There are blue eyed boys and outcastes in every set up. In the Air Force, the ‘Herrenvolk’ are the GD Pilots, in the Army they are the Arms especially Infantry and the Navy has the Executive branch! Perhaps, the dockyard civilians and constructors/shipwrights are the Rajamanis of the navy!
In an automobile plant one could say that the R & D and Engineering are Brahmins, Production and Quality departments are the Kshatriyas, the marketing setup the Vaishyas and Maintenance are treated as Shudras! It is time we give a thought to the backroom boys who keep our systems going and give them the respect they deserve.
Rajamani and Lalitha are present in all our organizations!