“Give instructions you can yourself execute. In case your junior says he can’t, you should be able to tell him to step aside and do it yourself” – V Kurien
Dr. Milton Obote was scheduled to visit NDDB at around 3.00 pm that day. As per the protocol that all of us in NDDB were so accustomed to, the Police had already been deployed since morning and were gradually sniffing around every nook and corner of the complex!
The Police officers I used to liaise with often used to light- heartedly tell me that your “Boss” keeps them on their feet with “bundobast” duties with VVIPs making regular visits to Anand at Dr. Kurien’s invitation!
Mr. Upendra Dave who was the Stores-in-Charge called me up that morning and said there were some nice bronze mohenjodaro bull sculptures lying in the Stores, and suggested we could show one to the Chairman and check in case the would like to present one to the visiting dignitary. I asked him to have one sent over to the Chaurman’s office building. We were located on the first floor of the building. Dr. Kurien’s office was on the ground floor.
Fortunately I obtained all the details of the sculptures from Upendra.
I spoke to Mr. Arvind Gupta, the then Executive Assistant to the Chairman about Upendra’ssuggestion and we both went down to the ground floor because the sculpture was already on its way from Stores.
While we were getting it unpacked (it was heavy!) Dr. Kurien walked into the office corridor. He asked what was happening and Arvind quickly briefed him about it.
He said, “Bring it into my office”. It was promptly brought into his chamber. He then casually put his hand on the shoulder of one of the workers who had carried it from Stores while admiring the piece.
I cannot forget the look on the worker’s face! Then, sure enough he sought details which I shared. He punched the intercom and asked Dr. Aneja and Mr. Michael Halse to come in. He told them that the piece was lying in our Stores and whether it could be presented to Dr. Obote. They agreed.
Then he asked what should be inscribed on the base. Arvind suggested it and Dr. Kurien said, “Type it and show it to me.” He looked at the typed matter and said it was good.
The time by them was around 11.00 am. He told me, ”Young man, get a plate made with the inscription and get it fixed on the base”.
Dr. Aneja suggested I should pick up a vehicle, proceed to Vadodara, get the plate made, bring it over and get it fixed. A very tall order, indeed, given the fact the Police would tighten security all around well before 3.00 pm.
I was apprehensive and in fact, very nervous. I couldn’t have travelled to Vadodara on the old single-lane highway, found someone to get a plate made, etched and returned in time to get it fixed!
And who came to my rescue? Dr. Kurien!
He said, “Hold it! I don’t think this fellow can go to Vadodara, get the plate ready and get back here in time? Impossible!” Then he turned to me and asked, “Can you get a silver plate made here in Anand?” I replied in the affirmative.
Dr. Kurien then said, “Go to a few ‘bartanwalas’ (shops selling utensils) and ask them to write the inscription matter on paper, select the man whose handwriting is best among the lot and ask him to etch the matter on the plate using the hand held machine they use to etch names on the utensils! Can you get this done, young man?” I said, “Yes, sir”. He said, “Your job now, Get it done!”
The silver plate was fabricated, etched and fixed to the base of the sculpture with Araldite, well in time, thanks also to the enthusiastic assistance of Upendra and Kantibhai Jadav who was also posted in Stores!
What a classic example of practical leadership and effective delegation! In fact I remember what Dr. Kurien had once said while delivering a lecture – “Gentlemen, give instructions you can yourself execute. In case your junior says he can’t, you should be able to tell him to step aside and do it yourself”. His eye for detail and lightning-fast thinking was awesome. I am sure many who had the privilege of working very closely with him would certainly agree.
Contributed by Captain Janmejaya Vaishnav NDDB, Anand / Sugam Dairy Vadodara