Importance of Brief for Meeting

Importance of Brief for meetings

Busy bosses wearing multiple hats normally spend most of their time in meetings.
Very often, they will either be conducting the meetings or participate in such meetings as members. And, in all such cases they often receive the agenda papers, just a few days before the actual meeting takes place. It is therefore very difficult for them to go through the agenda papers, often bulky, with many items for consideration and approval etc. What do they do? Well, very often, they depend on their personal executives, staff officers or other such senior members, concerned with the subject for a detailed brief.

It is based on such briefs that they are able to convey their views on the various items that come up. This underscores the importance of a brief on the agenda papers for the meetings.

Based on my own experience, I could prepare very useful briefs for my various bosses with whom I had opportunity to work.

The most important occasions when I rejoiced on finding my brief useful for the bosses are given below.

It was the second meeting of the Governing Council of CDAC which was chaired at that time by Hon’ble Minister for Science & Technology, Shri K.R. Narayanan. For this meeting I not only reformatted the agenda originally consisting of 27 items into Five Agenda items only by properly grouping some of the items, but also I prepared a one full page (noting sheet) brief explaining the approach to be taken by the Chairman. Dr. Bhatkar, who met the Chairman gave him the brief which fully satisfied him. And, at the meeting he exactly followed taking/introducing each item the way the brief mentioned. And lo, when Dr. Bhatkar returned to the office, after that, he was delighted how useful the Chairman found the brief and mentioned this to me.

Another instance was during my association with the Science Advisory Council to Prime Minister. Here again, while the agenda items included even some technical matters, I used to prepare briefs for the meetings for use by Chairman and invariably, he found it very useful and almost followed the strategy outlined in the brief, while taking up each item of the agenda.

Yet another instance was during my association with Prof.M.G.K. Menon, who, besides his main position, used to wear many hats. Two such positions he held related to the Chairmanship of the Governing Council of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, and the Chairmanship of the India International Centre. The agenda items for their meetings meant bulky papers which would not allow him to study the papers fully. On such occasions, I, on my own, used to prepare briefs on the agenda items making his task easier. On one occasion, during the meeting of the Finance Committee of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, when the meeting started, he asked me to give him only the one page brief that I had prepared, rather than the agenda papers. I was immensely pleased when he finished the meeting, where he used all the suggestions given in my brief. The other Member in that meeting, apart from representative of IIA, was the Joint Secretary, Finance of the Ministry of Civil Aviation under which IIA operated. While Prof, Menon took up each item and gave his decisions, based on my note, the Joint Secretary looked at me, somewhat amazed. What a joy it was for me!

Some tips I had learnt myself in preparing such briefs were: study the agenda items in detail, analyze the points contained, keep in mind the background of the Institution/Council etc., keep in mind the manner in which the person conducting the meeting will
normally act, and give the best possible approach/solution to the proposal contained in each item of the agenda. And, you can gradually master this art of preparing briefs for meetings, including major ones.

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Self publishing – What do you get?

Self publishing – what do you get?

There are lots of publishers ready to make you publish your work for a small (?) amount and with less time, say two to four weeks. Since the experience of the authors is generally a rejection to whomsoever you send the manuscript, wishing you all the best and sometimes even praising your work, and giving reasons for non-acceptance as this does not fit in their publishing program or the work not corresponding to any of the genres in which they publish, the author, who is certainly proud of his work, is often tempted to publish the work himself – through the so called ‘self-publishing’ platforms.

I am relating my own experience in this regard. I considered my writing about my career and twenty articles on current topics of HR equal to any of the normally published books in terms of content, quality and the message which one wants to convey to the readers.

I selected for self publishing my work and there was excitement at each stage of the exercise, thanks to team. First I was very happy to see the formatted manuscript, then the cover design (about which someone commented very positively)
and then receiving the published BOOK when my excitement ran high.

I at once mailed the Book link to all my known friends, wrote to various departments of the government, posted in Facebook, google, twitter and so on – all of which gave me immense joy, being a proud author. I got a good review from a recognized and well known journal which I thought will boost the sales of my book. I got nice comments from the HR site, YoungHR, from individuals, including a foreigner who had liked my earlier writings.

But, alas, including the six copies that I bought as author – with discounted price, and one copy sold at the exhibition organized by the Pothi group, only six copies have been sold after nearly a year. And, as of today, I don’t expect any more persons jumping to grab a copy of this book.

What I got and what I didn’t get: a well written manuscript in the form of a book,
but for which there is no demand. Well, in the case of self-publishing, there is no one to market your book, including the one who arranges for the publishing. The online channels are also not of much help, though one has to pay for using this channel also. I am not the only one in this category; several others have lamented on ‘no sales’. Well, at the time of publishing, no one has any idea as to how the books are going to be sold. Nothing sells, perhaps without advertising and a proper marketing mechanism. Agree?

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The Winning Habit

The winning habit


Everyone wants to win, succeed, and feel proud they could achieve something. Everyone, therefore, approaches a task with the objective of accomplishment and winning, but, many a time things and circumstances are not favorable to us and though one approaches the problem in the right spirit, things just don’t happen – happen the way we expect. Here are some lessons to be learnt from such happenings.

Three important tips

I am borrowing the tips from Paulo Coelho to explain this situation. He says in his book Manuscript found in Accra, the following

Wait patiently for the right moment to act

Don’t let the next opportunity slip by you

Take pride in your scars.


When things don’t favor us, the best thing is to keep cool and adopt a patient attitude. One must get comfort from the fact that It is not his fault, try as one did. When soldiers find that their gun shots are not hitting the target, what do they do? They don’t retreat, they don’t feel dejected, they don’t feel defeated. They only think that this time it was a miss. Trained as they are to fight, they feel: ‘does this prevent us in making more attempts?’ Definitely not. On the contrary, they try to aim better and repeat the act, with more confidence. It may just happen that this time also the shot does not hit the target. Never mind, he must be feeling himself, that the advantage is not is his favor. All he has to do is to wait for the right moment to strike. And if one works with such patience the right moment will just come. And, they score a victory.

Grab the next opportunity

In order to succeed, the next opportunity should not, therefore be allowed to slip by. One has to be more concerned, more conscious to make use of the next opportunity.
And, may be approach the problem in a different way. For, opportunities will arise whether you want or not.

Take pride in your scars

The failures often appear as scars. But rather than getting disappointed and defeated, the experience of the failed attempts make one ponder over a new plan, or a totally different strategy. Thus, rather than feeling bad, one should be able to take pride in the scars. Then, the very scars may turn out to be medals. If you treat the scars left by failures as medals, you get the courage to nullify the effect of such scars. Talking of scars, there is a mention in the ‘Naarayaneeyam’ (treatise on Lord Krishna) that Sage Bhrigu kicked in the chest of Lord Krishna, who said ‘may the scar left by your foot be an alankaram(decoration)for my chest for ever’ , and thus Krishna’s chest shows a scar known as ‘sreevalsam’.


To quote Paulo Coelho again, ‘the day will come when Fate knocks on our door. It might be the gentle tapping of the Angel of Good Fortune or the unmistakable rat-a-tat of the Unwanted Visitor’ which must be welcomed.

The above lessons should almost certainly make you stronger to fight with fresh energy and enthusiasm and WIN. And, you have finally learnt to make a winning habit.

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A Day in My Life

A day in my life

Saturday, 14 September, 2013. He hears the alarm ring from the time piece kept beside his bed, on the right side on a small stool. It is 6. 00 a.m. All he has to do is to press the button on the top of it to stop. ‘Bus, tumne yaad dilaaya. O.k.’,he says within himself. And he is not in a hurry to get up, since he has a grace period of thirty minutes, to cuddle up, pulling the thick chaddar over his body, adjusting it and again ‘trying’ to enjoy the self-given bonus of the extra time.

Oh, he looks up at the time piece, this time, still two minutes left, to be up from the bed, so he tells his wife, ‘it is time now – time ayaachu kittaya,’. And, finally both of them get up ready for whatever challenges that may lie ahead during the next sixteen plus hours.

He folds all the chaddars neatly, she goes into the kitchen, to start preparing the morning coffee. Meantime, he slips into the bathroom, and then comes near the wash basin outside the bathroom, searches for the tooth paste, brushes his teeth, now some missing from the two rows, washes his face with soap, adjusts the hair a little.

Wife leaves the kitchen, after pouring the dicoction of the black coffee, brought from the general shop near the Guruvaurappan temple, every Thursday, the quality of the coffee being ‘Concerns’ which has over the years made a name for itself. He has to take care of the milk kept for boiling, one hand holding the pakad, the other on the on-off button of the gas stove, eyes rivetted on the milk boiling in the.pot, for any time, with a little carelessness, the milk will overflow, losing some milk in the process, while, at the same time, dirtying the gas stove and the black granite platform of the kitchen. Finally, he is able to ‘manage’, and pours two big spoonfuls of the boiled milk into the glass containing the black coffee. And, lo, the colour turns and he is brimming with joy, the hot coffee glass in his hand and starts sipping and enjoying the process.

Meantime, his wife, having completed her brushing, enters the kitchen and makes coffee for herself. Both chat for some time about the weather, about how the day would progress etc.

Both ‘walk’ within the house itself, each within the area marked for them, since walking outside is now a thing of past. While he is able to walk for fifteen to twenty minutes only, followed by a short exercise for the feet which are raised alternately, lying on the bed with back on the Diwan lying in the hall. While this is helpful generally in terms of movement of the legs, and making the cartilage on the knee joints also to loosen a bit,
It is done as per advice of the doctor for reducing the bulkiness of the tummy, since he had to go on widening the waste size of his many pants.

A little later, he has a cup of cornflake with milk, to avoid a second coffee immediately. By then, it is nearly 7.15 a.m. It is now time for shaving, which has become a daily affair already. Simultaneously, he puts on the geyser, opens the tap, adjusting the blue bucket right below the tap for it to get filled. In between, while shaving, he has an eye on the level of water in the bucket, and puts the switch off, just when the bucket is about to reach its brim.

Before taking bath, he has to massage his knees with a special medicated oil, called jointil oil, which gives some relief. He then goes to the bathroom for his bath, but before that he has to ensure that the small plastic stool is kept in the bathroom, to be able to sit on it, since he is not supposed to and, in fact, cannot, bend his knees. Soon after bath, in the bathroom itself, he begins to chant gayatri mantra, so that till he prepares for a proper Japam, he would have completed at least fifty times of chanting the sacred mantra.

He then wears clothes and proceeds to the Pooja room for a ten-fifteen minutes Japam and prayer, invoking all gods and goddesses of which the photos are hung in the so-called wooden temple, built specially for this purpose – somewhat large sized, accommodating the photos of nine gods and goddesses.

At the end of the short Japam, he comes to the hall, takes out four books containing slokas etc – the Lalitha sahasranamam, Ayyappa shoothram, Aditya hrudayam. Lakshmi sahasranamam, and Narayaneeyam, all of which act as the real medicine for him. To survive, though he consumes several tablets and syrups which only get added in numbers and, often filling the stomach without being able to fill it by regular quantity of food. The whole thing takes about thirty minutes. By now the time is eight thirty.

He then goes through Economic Times, The Hindustan Times, and Mumbai mirror. All news is selectively scanned and read, though even interesting articles are left unread. The road repair, accidents, potholes, hoardings, rape cases which abound these days and occupies more space than it used to be, are mostly read as headliners, occasionally getting into some details. Even he has lost interest in sports, watching cricket on TV occasionally, though he likes the sports columns.

Now it is time for breakfast. Usually, this consists of one and a half slice of bread, one dosa, one plain rise dosa, or three fourth of an adai. Normally, nothing else is taken for accompaniment. Even butter is used with bread rarely. If you ask is this enough,the answer perhaps is no, but the stomach refuses to accept more, though, perhaps, he feels weak and tired, most of the time. Appetite is an unsteady graph pattern, with the graph going down generally. Seldom is the graph at peak high.

Now he hunts for his medicine box, which is always full. A number of ailments mean an equal number of medicines, and if one adds up the full daily doses, some tablets twice, some thrice daily, some one at night.(particularly the sleeping dose), the count goes to more than twenty. Oh, God, he cries in between, at the same thanking God, for making him survive against all odds. There are medicines for angina, ulcer, leg pain, appetite, and recently added one, vertigo, resulting in imbalance while walking (does it mean that it seems to hint at ‘now ready to go up vertically’, he wonders, laughing within himself). There is also the daily-twice eye drop, since he has got an extra lens in one of the eyes (which the eye surgeon ‘donated’ as a one-plus-one free offer, thanks to his neglect during the eye operation)

Now onwards, it is some use of computer, the iPad, looking at NDTV news, the mails, the Facebook, the dashboard indicating status of sales of his self-published book, which indicates no change in the already effected sale of copies numbering 13
(isn’t it a great achievement, he wonders, at the same time consoling himself that books are not sold on a daily basis like vegetables. He is happy, though, at the number 13, which he finds promising and positive. He reads some books, newly ordered through online book stores, some old books purchased at great discount etc. One such old book which he purchased for Rs. 50/- happens to be Namesake, by Jumpa Lahiri, which he could read only the first time, feeling happy that each page of the book is, in fact, worth Rs.50/-. He is amazed at the writing, the style, the narration, the minute detail of every thing, making 290 pages of wonderful reading. He has another old book, again bought for Rs,50/-, the title being ‘Can Love Happen Twice! Which he has been able to read only partially, finding that too an excellent read.

He indulgence in writing something, thinking always of new subjects, and often turns to his own life for the material and inspiration, since he has had lots of inspirational experiences earlier – what with working for great personalities, eminent scientists and well-known Government Secretaries, like Prof. M.G,K. Menon, N, Vittal etc, the latter always motivating in his writings, even at this age, Mr, Vittal himself a little less older to him.

In between he walks a few steps within the house, brooding, musing, singing in his mind, good devotional songs, some he could compose himself, and thinking how to spend the remaining hours usefully.

Suddenly, there is a call from his wife about vegetables to be cut for the day’s meals.
This is not thrust on him, rather he takes pleasure in being able to cut different vegetables in different sizes suiting the needs for the exact curry preparation. Isn’t this also one way to pass some time, he thinks.

Now, around 1130 hrs, it is the serial time on TV, mainly Tamil which he watches along with hhis wife, and both enjoy too. In between he switches channel to Zee Business or CNBC to generally know the stock market trend, wondering when the few stocks which he still hold, would come to the level at which he bought them, without being tempted to buy any more and landing up in trouble, loosing money – though he could make some profit during the bull market time in 2007. From then on the market has not bee steady and stable.

It is around 12.00 noon and he keeps his riveted on the minutes hand of the red wall clock (gifted to his son by the coaching class for IIT for which he had enrolled and his having come within the eligible rank for the gift). Because, hereafter, any time is meals time. However, if the meals consists of chappathis, here again, he volunteers to roll out the chappathis, in which also he has acquired reasonable experience and expertise, the latter quality referring to being able to make round sized chappathis which even some housewives find it difficult. With meals, he relishes vettal kuzhambu and molakushiam,
both being his favorites.

And now is the time for the meals, a proper lunch, which is taken while watching the T.V. and exchanging tit bits and commenting, often appreciating the culinary skills of his wife.

After some gap of about thirty minutes, he takes some fruit – kela, anaar, etc. after which the lunch part is fully complete and it is time for the much needed siesta lasting nearly one hour or a little more, often getting irritated with door bells rung by courier boys, or some telemarketing girls wanting to sell insurance, mutual funds, pest control contracts and so on, who all has no idea of his age.

By. 3.00 p.m. he takes the inji-ilaichi added Girnar Royal tea, sipping it gleefully, and with a ‘royal’ feeling.

Again up to. 5″00 p.m., it is a combination of reading, writing, surfing the net, talking with his wife, etc.

With a freshening up and changing of clothes, he readies for the ‘outing’ with his wife, a daily routine of walking nearly two miles (?) and returning back purchasing vegetables, fruits and some other things needed for the next day. Mostly vegetables are purchased for a day only, based on the menu planned, rather than having too many vegetables at hand and getting confused as to what to use, what to make etc.

From. 6.:30 p.m. onwards, when he is back in the home, TV is the main source for time passing and some little entertainment, again watching only Tamil serials which is comfortable for both him and his wife.

Dinner time – 7.30 p.m. (too early for others). Generally dinner consists of snacks only
Ike dosa, idli, adai. sevai etc. and at nine it is followed by some fruits.

TV serial watching goes on to 10.00 p.m. Now that his son is back in India and staying with him, with his wife and son (his grandson, Akshu), his son makes a call to his wife at Ghatkopar, mainly to talk to Akshu and the speaker button on the phone is pressed for all of them to hear the prattles of Akshu who explains how he spent the day, while narrating that he had ice-cream also, which ‘Akshu nakkinai’. (!!) and when he, thatha, asks for ice cream, Akshu replies that he would give when he comes to Mulund (Mulundukku vanthappo tharen!!!) With this the day ends, but before going to bed, he swallows another pill, to ensure proper sleep.

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Oh, I am now retired!

Oh, I am now Retired!

In everyone’s life comes the day of retirement – an end to working officially. The organizations do have specific age limits, usually around 60 years, when it will no longer want you. The reasons could be: you have exhausted all your learning and capabilities, you have become too old to work, to act, to think, to contribute to the organization any more. It could also be due to the Peter Principle which says, ‘everybody rises (with each promotion) to his level of incompetence.’ So, whatever way you may boast of your
competence being still in tact, the organization may feel, ‘this man has finally reached his ultimate level of incompetence and needs to be ‘thrown away’, like a rotten apple.

While, there could be some truth in all the above, you need not feel disheartened. Why? Because, it is the organization which has found you useless to them. But, within you, do you feel so incompetent, at the end of a long career? May be, or may not be.

There are more chances for you not to agree with the organization’s viewpoint. . Even if your family members conclude like the organization, you could still prove them to be wrong.

For all that may have happened in the organization, you could more possibly have emerged stronger with experience and expertise in your field. You could therefore
even claim that you have become wiser.

2. There are more organization’s today looking for retired and talented people
who could share their experience and expertise with such organizations, be it
on the job you may be assigned, or may be, to train and motivate the younger
echelons of the workforce.

3. They say, ‘old is gold’ but I would say, ‘old is silver’, shining with your grey hairs,
an indication that you are still useful and precious, with your wisdom, arising from
your ‘life experience’, having faced various challenging situations – which the
younger generation totally lacks. For, it is from practical situations in life that one
learns more than from what all one must have read, though that also provides fresh
insights into many things you already know.

4, While, perhaps, there is no demand for you in the outside world, you can still create
work for you, with you being your boss and having all the flexibility of time –
engaging in useful pursuits of reading and writing, like reminiscences, memoirs,
anecdotes etc. which, while others could enjoy, would equally make you also enjoy. I
have myself ‘discovered’ this, though much later – at the age of 74!

5. You can also think of making money in the stock market etc. by making a
beginning and by careful, step-by-step planning, keeping, of course, the
risk factor in mind. Here again, you are the boss shaping your destiny.

6. There are many voluntary organizations, NGOs, Building Societies and so on
where old, retired people are in demand. And, finally, one can still opt to be a
‘working husband’ at home, to be available for umpteen domestic chores – don’t
be shy, eg. looking after grand children, playing with them, cleaning and cutting
vegetables, drying the clothes, and may be a lot more.

These are but a few possibilities of your never feeling retried. Thus, it could be seen that one is never ‘retied’, but only ‘differently engaged, and being active.

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Down Memory Lane (My College Days)

Down Memory Lane (My College Days)

Results of SSLC, eleventh standard of Madras University, declared and there is jubilation in my family and the whole village of Puthan Kovilakam (where we stayed) comprising 18 separate houses in two rows facing each other. Ambi, (that is my pet name by which every one knows me) has passed with flying colours, scoring over 80 per cent marks, they all say and the news gradually spreads to the neighboring villages too. What next’ is the big question lingering in my mind and that of my family members. Fortunately, the school where I studied, has its own college also, of course up to only Intermediate, which meant that one could continue studies for two more years in the same college, the Zamorin’s College, named, after, and run by the Zamorin Raja (king) who has a Kovilakam which is equivalent of a palace. It was one of the Raja’s (kings) belonging to this well known and prestigious dynasty, whom Vasco Da Gama met, when he landed in Calicult (now Kozhikode).

Since I could continue in the same college for two more years, with my excellent performance in high school, throughout, starting from sixth standard, bagging almost all the proficiency prizes – both in individual subjects and in overall performance, year after year, which I got in the form of good books – the natural choice turned out to be Ambi will continue education in that college. Entering the college portals those days, the fourth decade of the nineteenth century, was something to talk about and envied.

My eldest brother, who was the only earning member in the family had to bear the costs of fees, costly books, dresses etc.. He had to succumb to the pressures from our village people for getting me admitted to the college, the question of how he would find the money for my education, still looming large in his mind.. I was full of joy for I thought that I would soon become a collegian. Luckily, there was no ragging or any such kind of harassment of freshers those days.

I started the first day cleanly dressed in a white mundu, the common equivalent or alternative to pant, (which only a few selected, rich boys could indulge in) and a full sleeves shirt. Those days, chappals, (foot wear) were also worn only by the rich and practically everyone else would come barefooted.

The idea of lessons being taught in English was an added delight. The first few days gave an entirely new experience, with college teachers asking for the students to introduce themselves and some general ‘DO’s and ‘DONT’s administered by each of the lecturers and professors who donned themselves in neat suits and ties. All in all, it was a fresh and invigorating experience. The book lists were given, the time table was given and we were advised to get these from the college cooperative stores, where one had to become a member, by paying a small fee. If one didn’t have his own membership, a fellow student’s membership could be used – the membership entitled to discounts on text books and note books because of which there was always a crowd – none believed in forming an orderly queue. Everyone would shout ‘first year English prose, Shakespeare (the prescribed play), physics text book, chemistry text book and so on, each one stretching their hands to the book store attendant, who randomly accepted the students’s requirements, as per his own choice.

While my initial fees etc. (admission, tuition, library deposit, laboratory deposit and so on) had all been paid, the good news came about an exam to be held for scholarships for the poor and meritorious students. While I satisfied the first condition, the exam would test my merit for which I did some preparations. After writing the exam, I could feel almost certain about my selection and lo, I turned out to be the topper in the written exam, and naturally myself and family heaved a big sigh of relief. For, I was totally exempted from payment of regular monthly fees and I also got refund of the money already paid.

Regular classes started soon. What a change subjects being taught in English, in some style, now; gone are the days of Makayalam in which, of course, I had attained some proficiency already since there was a Malayalam extra topic for SSLC, comprising lessons in literary style in which also I could score high marks. Therefore, as the language during the Intermediate examination course, I had opted Hindi, in which also I wanted to excel.

There were the physics and chemistry practicals in specific labs meant for these. What a pleasure it was to handle various instruments and various chemicals. For the practicals, as per usual prevailing practice, the work was to be carried out by teams of two. I was paired with one of my good friends and a brilliant student, Nambissan; however, for Nambissan, the teaching medium, English, turned out to be a nightmare. He was excellent in Malayalam language and always used to score high marks in that subject while in High School. While Nambissan found it too difficult to understand lectures in English, he never expressed this openly; gradually, he was overcome by fear and anxiety and found it extremely difficult to cope with the pressure. It must be admitted that this fear syndrome arising out of the sudden transmission to English medium was manifest in many other students, but in the case of Nambissan, it led to depression and frustration and he frequently remained absent from classes. Many, including his family members could not easily diagnose his ‘disease’. After several trials and errors the doctors treating him found him to be mentally affected, gradually losing his memory, talking irrelevant things and so on, which made him miss the classes for almost three months. Fellow students were all very much concerned with this development. His disease escalated to greater heights making him almost ‘mad’. A few months later, because he started to behave in violent manner, he had to be carefully handled and was kept most of the time alone in a closed room, legs chained! Oh my God, what a pity, we all thought.

Now that Nambissan was not to return for a long period, I had to do the experiments in both the chemistry and.physics labs alone and I had no difficulty. Rather I was enjoying this and because of my abilities to carry on in this fashion, both the lecturers allowed this to continue throughout. I found myself privileged and lucky to have been ‘bestowed
this special honor’ of singly handling the job. In any case, one had to do the experiment in the Final exam, alone, without anyone’s help.

I used to take extra care in writing my Records. I was very particular in using branded ink, ‘Irish’, branded nib for my pen, ‘signature’, branded pencil, ‘steadtler’. And I always took pride in making the record neat, and fine-looking and both the lecturers admired my efforts, also rewarding me with ‘very good’ with scores of 8 or nine out of ten, each time. I can say with pride, that I never allowed any red marking or adverse comments in my record books; the same thing applied to botany record and the zoology record where pictures of frog and it’s various body parts and flowers, leaves, seeds of herbs etc always stood out; particular mention must be made of my zoology record where the picture of frog I had drawn almost looked like a live frog, ready to jump on you.

While all my relatives and friends in the village flocked to me some times eager to se my record books, my college mates also used to envy me for the meticulous are I took in writing up. Very often, it was during evening hours from 5.00 to 6.00 p.m. that I used to devote specifically for writing up the records, while many among my friends and college mates would be playing or watching, during the football season, the Santosh Trophy tournament matches. Occasionally, I too would be tempted to go out, and sometimes would walk up to Mananchira maidan (playground) where these matches used to be played, to see teams entering the playground attired in their special uniforms, or peep through the boundary walls covered with dried coconut leaves, the small gaps offering me passing glimpses of great teams playing, vying for the coveted trophy. Affording a ticket, even to the galleries made of bamboos, was something beyond the means for me.

In between, there came an announcement that the college would be shifted to a new campus which was being readied on the hills, the Pokkunnu, with it’s location three miles away from the existing location.

Talking about record books, the only blot, if at all, was the hole punched with a nail(?) on them, done by the outside examiner for the Intermediate Final examination, for proof of having submitted them, and thereby not allowing any remote chance of resubmitting them for any subsequent examination, by someone wanting to manipulate.

With pride I can say, that I preserved them until 2003, (final of Intermediate examination was held in the year 1954), and reluctantly ‘sold’ them with other useless papers, when we shifted residence in Mumbai, when we ran out of space for such ‘old’ stuff which had accumulated over the years.

Talking of Hindi, here again I took deep interest in furthering my knowledge of the language and loved reading Premchand, one of the prescribed books for the course.
I also participated in monthly elocution programs though I had stage fear at that time.
I appreciated my other class mates excelling in oratory power in Hindi. I can with some pride say that I got distinction in Hindi in the final examination, but whatever proficiency I had acquired in the language gradually dwindled, for lack of opportunities to use it, while at the same getting affected by the ‘Bombaiya’ Hindi, which everyone knows in Bombay (now Mumbai) how it is spoken.

The first year was soon over. It was now waiting for the results. And, no wonder that I was the top scorer with over 85 per cent marks. Knowing about my performance, it was the practice among my friends to first ‘worry about’ my scores, knowing which made them also proud, rather than think about their own marks. I was to get prizes in all the subjects, including prize for the general proficiency – which was happening every year, right from standard six.

It was during the beginning of the next year, that the college part of Zamorin’s college
moved to the hills at Pokkunnu. The college was situated atop a hill, with beautiful sceneries around, the building itself was constructed new for this purpose; the labs were spacious, class rooms were big, there were long corridors and everything looked gorgeous. A big canteen was also part of the premises; of course, unless someone carries food with him/her, which was rare, everyone had to resort to the canteen food only. Luckily, it was run by a good management and the food, meals, snacks everything tasted good, one could get tea/coffee/cold drink, along with idli’s, bonda, vada, bajji etc. for snacks, laddu, Mysore Pak, semiya (vermicelli) payasam etc, for sweets, and the meals consisted only of rice – with sambar, rasam, moru, achaar (pickles), and papads, which used to be ‘stolen’ from the baskets, as the person moved to serve it.

Those days, the financial position of my family was very much the same, with my eldest brother only being the earning member, making both ends meet being always difficult, and sometimes the rent for the house remaining in arrears most of the time. Many a time, I would carry only very little cash for the afternoon meals, though most of the time friends with more cash with them would give me ‘treats’ which I naturally enjoyed. There was one friend, Gopal, whose father being a partner in a Jewelry shop was always lavish, being the only son to their parents, and who could therefore afford to spend lavishly. Gopal, being average in studies, with poor English, used to depend on me for help for clarifications on many points in almost all subjects, carrying my notes for copying etc,

Second year was in full swing, excellent lectures, lecturers themselves busy always and eager to finish the portions as per syllabus. We had King Richard II, Skakespear’s play, we had a compilation of poems by eminent poets Shelly, Keats, Thomas Gray, Milton, Byron, and so on, I sometime used to wonder at the quality of the poems, how the poets could write such poems, and felt that one should learn only poetry, so that one day, I myself could come at least some distance away from those learned poets. Some names of my lecturers, still imprinted deeply in my mind, are Kunkan Nair for Physics, Unni Thampan for Chemistry (who used to explain in a magical way reaction of chemicals – what happens when?), Balakrishnan Nair, always dressed immaculately, whose personality was such that any college girl would fall for him, and in fact it so happened that he finally got married to an equally beautiful student of his).

Everyone, including the girl students, used to borrow my practical records with the intention of copying and making their task easy. Some times the girl students, without my knowledge, would take away the record books from the already submitted lot, making my record disappear at the time of evaluation by the lecturers. Being shy, I found myself totally embarrassed asking the girls (nine of them in my class) who among them it was who ‘stole’ my record book!

During lectures, I generally used to sit in the front row of benches and stood up always to answer any question by the lecturer, without bothering to see all the other students, including the girls, particularly, turning their heads and staring at me.

It so happened that one of the girl students of my class was staying very close to my residence, though there was practically no interaction between us, sometimes, when I used to return to my house in the morning bringing home buttermilk from the shop, or after collecting my ironed bush shirt or some other shirt, this girl used to cross my path on her way to the college (she was traveling to college by a specially arranged van for girl students) and it was embarrassing for me to be seen, not fully ready yet for going to the college, which, any way I was to do a little later in my ‘Frrari’, the second-hand bicycle. In fact, I had only three sets of mundu and shirts, which could be described ‘college worthy.’

In one of the chemistry practicals, I used my own judgement regarding use of beaker and pipet which, for that particular experiment was the most desirable way to do the experiment. . Usually, opposite my table, a gang of four girl students was doing the same experiment. Since they were some what weak in class, or rather they did not have any idea about how to perform that particular experiment, after waiting for several minutes to see what I was doing, the girls simply copied whatever I was doing. A little later, the lecturer came to them and enquired as to why they were doing the experiment that way. The girls replied that Subramaniam was doing that way and they also did the same way. The lecturer then told them that if Subramaniam was doing it in that manner, he had thought about it and could justify his action, but added whether they could explain why they opted for that method; the girls had no answer. Then the lecturer explained to them in detail, justifying my action.

Towards the last few months before the Final Intermediate examination at the end of the second year), lecturers found that they were lagging behind in terms of completion of subjects as per syllabus. So we had special classes for chemistry, physics and so on, which were arranged on Saturdays and Sundays. These classes used to be attended only by half the strength of the class, who were keen on catching up with every thing that really mattered. Once, on a Sunday, in the chemistry special class, there were hardly ten students and seeing this, Mr. Unni Thampan, the chemistry lecturer remarked, ‘ok, I am arranging these classes only for Subramaniam. I know he will attend. Others can decide whether to attend or not.’

It was now the Final examination. I was given a centre at Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode, some two miles away from my residence. Of course, one could take the bus to get there. As usual, I used to stand up frequently, for more and more extra paper. While I was fast in writing, a perennial problem with my hands was the frequent and continuous sweating, which often resulted in forming a ‘little pool’ of water (the sweat) on the blotting paper I used to keep in the lower portion of my hand, over the answer sheets. No amount of wiping out with cotton kerchief would be of any use. Well, this did not affect much in terms of my actual writing of the examination.

After two months, the results were out – published in Mathrubhoomi Malayaam newspaper. And, as expected, I got a First Class. That afternoon, the mark list was to be published on the notice board of the college. Knowing the result is something, while knowing individual marks in each subject is a different thing. I traveled to the Pokkunnu Hills on my second-hand bike, and could see the marks. While I was fully satisfied, with distinction (over ninety percent) in chemistry and physics, and distinction (over seventy percent ), again, in Hindi, with sixty-plus in Botany, Zoology, and 151/300 in English, the performance was enviable and I and family members were all proud too; a little disappointment was my close friend, Bhaskaran, just overtaking me in all subjects by one/two marks. Well, all this could just happen.

On my way back from the college, on my bike, midway to the college and my house, I saw all the nine girl students of my class approaching, and while I was a bit shy, as usual, seeing them all together, I could guess from their face, that they wanted me to alight from my bike and naturally share with them my marks. While in their expectation I would be the top scorer, I had to tell the of Bhaskaran scoring over me. I could see some slight surprise in them, of course.

I reached home, talked to my people, friends, uncle etc. all by walking, since those days telephone at houses was a rare thing – only some rich people in the village and few shop owners owned telephones. Every one in our family circle was really happy and proud, with my mother’s ‘bathing colleagues’ next morning talking only about me, which my mother narrated to me.

The question remained, ‘what next’. My college had degree classes only in arts, economics and history. With my liking and excellent marks in chemistry and physics, I was only interested in science course, including medicine. In Kozhikode, even other colleges had no science courses. Efforts were made by my brother to see if there could be any possibility of my being admitted in Medical College, the nearest availability being only in Madras (now Chennai). If I get admitted, my brother had to foot heavy bill in terms of fees, uniforms, dresses, instruments, hostel accommodation, food, books and so on. All this posed a Herculean task in terms of finding the required huge sums of money, which was far beyond his means; while every one amongst our relatives also wanted me to pursue higher studies, and was putting pressure on my brother, none offered to help even in a small way. There was no education loan system those days.
And even if were to get tuition fee scholarship, still the task of financially supporting me for other requirements was not at all easy. The plan was totally dropped, after looking into the pros and cons.

And, a little later, when my elder sister from Bombay came to Madras to attend his wedding, my brother suddenly thought of. ‘packing me off’ to Bombay, without even consulting my brother in law, who was himself undergoing a lean patch in terms of running his small ‘pettikkadai’, box-like, small shop, selling miscellaneous items like Tamil magazines, paan, kela etc.

While I made attempts to pursue my studies, I was still mad over science, and if one wanted to go for that, only full time classes were there. It didn’t occur to me then that by taking up a part time arts or commerce degree course, I could have added two capitals letters at the end of my name and thus becoming a degree holder, a graduate.

Years later, when I was 49, due to pressure from my boss, Prof. M.G.K. Menon, (who once remarked: ‘I wanted to do something for you, but yo didn’t have even a degree, why don’t you attempt even now!’) that I decided to go for a three year part-time degree of the University of Delhi (when I was still under full pressure, working with Prof. Menon, as his Staff Officer, when he was Member, Planning Commission, and myself then a father of two children) which I could pass with a Second Division! Would acquiring a B.Com Degree at that age make me eligible for being in the Guinness Record Book, I wondered.

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Working With Busy Bosses – Accept the Challenge and Reap Benefits


The Tension

For many of us, getting a good, sound sleep at night is perhaps a rare thing to happen, particularly, if you are past fifty, and particularly if you are in a job full of tension, tension meaning each minute of your day in office, you being on your toes. I for one like such a situation for the reasons that the work keeps you fully engaged throughout, you have nothing else to worry other than your work, and with your full attention focused on accomplishing each of your talk in the best possible manner not only to the satisfaction of your boss, but also for the satisfaction of yourself, bringing to you a feeling of fulfillment. At least, this is how I have found in my case.

Loss of sleep – make use of them

As for the broken chunks of sleep which I regularly used to get, I could use them to ‘think out of the box’ – other than thoughts concerning my work. Several of my articles have resulted out of such fresh thoughts which came to me during such sleep breaks, which normally occurred around 3 a,m. (may be the mind is more fresh at such an hour) And, on getting up in the morning I used to take special care to retain those thoughts in my mind, so that, on getting to the office, I could straightaway dictate to my PA.

Think of the benefits

I had the opportunity to work as a Secretary to one of the busiest Secretaries in Government. Besides holding a top position in Government, he also happened to be a top scientist and was also associated with various scientific bodies in various capacities. Normally such busy bosses wear multiple hats and expect their secretaries also to possess qualities of effectiveness and excellence. While just thinking of having to work with such a busy boss could produce some fear in you, one really forgets the vast knowledge and experience one would get through such opportunities. While being selected for such a posting, many of my friends warned me of the consequences of possible break-downs and ruining my family life. Added to this was the caution expressed by the boss, for those aspiring to work with him, through his words at a gathering of all employees, ‘it is customary for me to work on Sundays and holidays whenever I am in town’. None of this, however deterred me in my opting to accept that position; rather, I was thinking within myself, ‘oh how great, I too will be busy and be able to learn many things and will soon be rich with experience – all of which could contribute to my own improvement and advancement in my career.

Vast opportunities

Thus, I was really able to see the opportunity ‘through my mind’ (which is the title of a recent book I have published) and my strategy paid off very well. From a Private Secretary to Secretary to the Government of India, I could hold positions like Under Secretary to the Government of India, Officer on Special Duty in the Secretariat of the Science Advisory Council to Prime Minister, Chief Personnel Officer, CDAC, Joint Director in the Government, Director in the Government, Senior Associate in a Public Limited Company. What wonderful opportunities I would have missed, if I had shown hesitation to join the busy boss.

Excellence at work – other advantages

Not only that, many of these appointments actually came to me, since I could virtually ‘create a demand for my service’ and other officers ‘wanted me’ very much. And, the vast experience covering a wide variety of work bestowed me with a rich reservoir of thoughts which I could convert into articles on a variety of subjects which got published in several leading newspapers/magazines etc. – the number growing to75!

I could also earn appreciations from all my bosses – many of them eminent scientists and top bureaucrats in Government. I could cherish all these and, by ruminating on these achievements, I am now able to motivate myself, at the ripe age of 76, by finding topics to write on and sharing with others which act as a tonic to my frail physique.


If you have to work with a busy boss, don’t back out, think of the benefits, think of your own advancement in career and all the splendid opportunities which will unfold before you which will enhance your career advancement.

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