By IVNS Raju
I was then working with the East Coast Road Project of AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd., based out of Marakkanam a village near Pondicherry.
I had applied for a job at NDDB and got an invite to appear for written test at NDDB,Ceebros Complex, Chennai in the month of January, 1992. I wrote the test well and was confident of getting a call for interview. In the last week of March, 1992 I got the letter to appear for the final interview at NDDB, Anand in the first week of May 1992.
I appeared for the interview and was short listed. I was then asked to wait to meet with Dr. Amrita Patel, Managing Director, NDDB.
It was on that day that I saw Dr. Kurien for the first time.
He was coming out of his office and I was coming out from the waiting room next to MD’s Office.
I wished Dr. Kurien “Good Afternoon Sir” He replied with a smile and waved his hand and went ahead.
For a person like me from a rustic village with unique experiences of seeing first hand cases of near starvation, malnutrition and other aspects that are gifted by poverty, the lush green campus with unique landscaping was a paradise on earth.
Here was a man who with his team was committed to empower the poor and downtrodden get out of the cycle of poverty and exploitation through cooperative dairying and other interventions. I started adoring Dr. Kurien from that day onwards.
I got the formal letter of appointment in the last week of May and I joined on 2nd July, 1992. I felt that my dream came true as I entered the premises of the NDDB.
I hired a truck to transport my belongings from my residence in Marakkannam near Pondicherry to Anand (Gujarat) with an agreed cost of Rs.7500/-. I paid 50% of it in advance and paid the balance, to the driver of the truck as agreed, on receiving the stuff in order at my rented premises in Anand. I also obtained a receipt from the driver.
I made a phone call to the Transport Company in Pondicherry and made the truck driver confirm the receipt of the balance. The Truck Owner, after a gap of a month, wrote a letter directly to Dr. V Kurien asking him to direct me to pay the balance!!
Dr. RS Daniel, the then Deputy Manager HRD who was my Reporting Officer was given the task to inquire into this. He probed with me about this issue for a week.
Dr. Daniel showed me the remark written by Dr. Kurien on the letter from the Truck Owner which roughly read “NDDB Officers must have flawless private life as well”.
I was asked to give my explanation, based on which Dr. Daniel replied to the Truck Owner and there ended the matter. Rs.3750/- was a huge sum for me in 1992 and I was saved paying it again!!
I was coordinating the Orientation Program for NDDB’s Kiriya Dairy Project in Sri Lanka. I briefed Dr. Kurien of what all was done in the orientation program.
He asked me with a very low tone “Were there any questions that remain unanswered”
I begged him to repeat. He did repeat but at the same pitch of voice as before!!
In reply I was able to quote a couple of questions that were going to be answered in the next sessions.
I realized that Dr. Kurien spoke at a very low pitch and also likes people to answer in the same pitch.
I was coordinating a meeting of visiting IIM-A students with Dr. Kurien sometime in February, 1999. One of the students asked mea question in a bit high pitch. To this, Dr. Kurien commented something on the lines “All our voices are originally soothing, but many of us choose a tone and tenor that cause discomfort to others”.
Once when I was in Dr. Daniel’s cabin along with Mr. Promod Joshi, a joke was told and in response to that Dr. Daniel laughed very loudly
The laughter continued. We were not aware that Dr. Kurien started climbing up the staircase to reach the first floor corner room where we were. He came up and stood at the door and said “You can smile without making a noise” and climbed down the staircase. He said this with no expression of anger, unease or any emotions on his face. We were stunned and learnt a lesson for life ……
NDDB offered the best training and exposure to many young and budding professionals like me who were in their early 20s.
Dr. Kurien was and continues to be a unique icon of professionalism for all of us. When a group of Nigeriens were visiting NDDB and I was asked to coordinate their meeting with Dr. Kurien.
There were 6 Nigerians in the Board room on the ground floor of the Chairman’s Building. We were all waiting for the arrival of Dr. Kurien. He came after at the appointed time and started conversations with the team members by asking questions “What was the most striking thing you observed during you visit here”?
One of the lady members from Nigerian Team said, “The bull that I saw in your place is very beautiful, very shining and well built, I am sure it must be very tasty too..”
Dr. Kurien looked at her for a few moments and smiled and proceeded to inquire with the other members.
Contributed by IVNS Raju NDDB 1992-2005 Corporate HR