As I was completing my blog post for the day I got a call from Baskaran who wanted to meet me before I left for Bellary. He bounded into the ORH room with a packet in hand. My ‘Guru’, Amreetha, had sent a boxful of candles through her father to be given to me. It was overwhelming. By this time we were joined by Mohan Menon. He came to wish me luck for the rest of the journey and had also brought breakfast of dosa, ‘Kerala’ chutney and sambar. Last evening’s session resumed with a discussion on Baskaran’s affinity for and proficiency in Golf. He is as passionate a golfer as can be found, but with a difference. He claims that he can coach anyone, with the right intent, to play a decent game of Golf in 15 days. He narrated many examples of his coaching prowess. By the time we parted Mohan was quite inclined to wield the clubs under the guidance of Baskaran.
Last evening, while taking a round of the Officers’ Colony with Baskaran and Mohan, the former showed us a tree with many natural Ganeshas on them. While the very obvious could be seen in the fading light I wanted to closely observe the tree in the morning. Hence, after leaving the ORH and before heading for Bellary I drove through the Colony to the tree. The natural formation of Ganeshas on the tree tunks is most striking and I could make out at least 4 of them. I was engrossed in taking pictures of the tree from various angles when Gagarin happened along. Gagarin is a HoD in the Commercial department of SWR. His first working assignment was in Palghat in 1990 as my understudy when I was Senior Divisional Operations Manager. Over the past two decades Gagarin has beaten a fresh path wherever he has been posted and whatever responsibilities have been entrusted to him. His style may not have been appreciated by many of his bosses but that never cramped him. A highly socially conscious individual with excellent moral fibre, he kept me in splits with his version of Railway ‘news’.
The drive from Hubli to Bellary was largely eventless, except for a small ‘takkar’ after passing Hospet. The city is enveloped in dust and debris. Buildings have been ‘shaved’ of their facades, roads have been dug up and traffic is diverted through a labyrinth of chaotic and dusty by lanes. Just past the city a massive traffic holdup saw me fretting for more than a half hour. Traffic was regulated on the busy two lane highway to facilitate blacktopping. In and around Hospet there is considerable movement of dumpers transporting iron ore. One such dumper, in a bid to squeeze through the convoy, brushed the right side of the car causing damage to the right side mirror, right wheel guard and the front bumper. I tried to chase the dumper but the chaotic traffic let him ’escape’.
I had requested the Director HR of JSW to facilitate my stay in their GH. The ‘Hampi House’ is a tastefully constructed and practically furnished GH. I first visited the premises of JVSL, now JSW, in 2000 as part of a Concor team to study containerization of finished products from the Steel Plant. Thereafter, as part of the SWR management I used to visit the Plant and interact with the management of the Company quite regularly. The 1.6 million ton Plant had now grown to 10 million. It is the largest single Steel Plant in India and moves are afoot to scale up to 18 million. Acquisitions have made JSW the largest steel producer in the country. I also met the ebullient and handsome CEO, Dr Vinod Nowal, and he took me through the happenings in the Plant and in the Group over the past five years and the path that it wishes to tread in the future. Dr Nowal invited me to the ‘Husband’s Night’ on the Club lawns, an enjoyable evening got up by the wives to treat their spouses.
With the visit to Hubli I have ’technically’ completed the tour of all State Capitals and the 17 Railway Zonal HQs. A dream has been realized and I have achieved what I had set out to do. Today I can claim to have friends in all parts of India. Today I know my country a little bit more than I did prior to 1st October 2010. Today, after having travelled the length and breadth of the country, I appreciate the diversity of our land, its rich traditions, its wonderful people and the fabulous foods. Incredible India. Bharat Mera Mahan. Jai Hind.
PS: The blog posts will continue till I return to Cochin