AFTAB

ByChintan P Mehta

Sep 1, 2020

Today was my first day of new job. After working in several MNC’s today I was joining a Desi Group. This job was obviously not my choice but only chance to keep myself employed. Had started with a glorious MNC group, they had picked me from campus. And from there to another I had been floating successfully till the great slowdown hit the Indian job market.

Krishna Group was a reputed name which carry great amount of trust in society. People use to respect this brand for its slow yet silent progress. And for job floaters like me, it was not the place to be. As slow and silent both the words were not words we speak or desire in our Management Schools.

Escalator stopped and I came back to senses. Was about to enter and suddenly I was hit by someone rushing out of office. My folder was on the floor and the chap rushed away. “How stupid”, people don’t have manners here. Doesn’t this guy know how to walk in corridors? And how can one go without saying sorry? 

Inside office it was more chaos. It was 10am and any damn financial organization office would be smooth and silent at this time. Here the scene was different. Only few were present and also they were not on their work-stations. Everyone was like rushing somewhere.  People looked tensed.

There was no receptionist at that place whom I could ask for joining formalities. I was standing clueless but no one was there to take notice. Passed few minutes like that and there I saw a known face. He was Mr. Ajay, Branch Manager. I had met him once during my interview process. He was approaching me, was relieved to see him. But to my surprise he was also rushing.

“Hello Ajay!” I was not in mood to wait longer.

He turned back. “I am joining from today. Can you please guide.”

“Come with me” he turned back again and started walking out of office.

“Hey what’s happening?” can you please tell. I was getting impatient. I had no choice but to follow him.

He was silent in escalator, we just walked out of building and there other two colleagues were already waiting in a cab. We got in and it zoomed away.

“Hey where are we heading?  What is happening? Can anyone tell please?”

“Lialavati Hospital” the guy next to driver replied.

“Ajay, what is happening? Why are we going to hospital? Can you PLEASE tell?” now I was getting real impatient.

“Aftab Sir is in hospital” Ajay’s was voice trembling.

Now I understood the reason for all the chaos. Now it was my turn to be mum.

 “AFTAB”, He was the reason for me being employed in this organization. After working for over a decade into multinational banks, I never had thought of working for an out an out Indian organization. Life was fun at MNC’s. Lavish office, Comfortable cubicle, time bound workings, evenings at leisure, five days a week and all these luxuries mixed with fat pay cheque & handsome incentives. What else one could have desired from life!

Was enjoying every bit of my life there but Uncle Sam seemed to be envious! Sub-prime tsunami hit the Indian Ocean and all MNC’s started retrenching. I was able to keep afloat for a while but like all other fellow colleagues even I was asked to look for options.

I had switched so many organizations swiftly so far but this was a different sail. Few days of hunting and I was dead tired. I was drowning, could not find a single helping hand. Whoever I met were either struggling or searching.

Knocked doors of every boss whom I had helped in his professional escalation. All were cold. It wasn’t that they were being selfish or turning their heads knowingly. All were helpless. I could understand their positions, if given space they would have definitely picked me up. The time was different, this tide was different. All I was looking for a ‘Messiah”, to help me.

During one such job hunting expeditions, my elder friend and auditor Mr. Joy Mukherjee suggested.

“Hey, why don’t you go and see Aftab? I will call him. I think he can help you out”

“Who Aftab?” I hardly remember anyone by this name.

“Hey you forgot Aftab? Remember our Diwali Bonanza meet at Lonavala. He was chief guest for that event.”

“Oh! Mr. Aftab, VP & National Head at Krishna Group. Rite?”

“Bingo! Go and see him tomorrow morning, will tell him if he can help you out”

 “But Joy, Krishna Group! Do you think it’s possible?”

“Hey dude! What’s wrong in trying? He is a good friend, shall try something for sure.”

I was skeptical, where all the big organizations and good close buddies had failed. What he will do for me? And he hardly knew me. We had met at bar on that occasion. Had couple of drinks together and that was it. I knew Joy was just trying to give me a hope. Meeting this guy was like shooting in the dark. But in this situation I had no other option but to try.

Next day morning, I was at his office. Krishna group Mumbai office was in a nice posh area of Worli. Interior was quite normal. Any MNC branch office would have been rated far better than this. With zero expectation I entered his office. Within a minute he came out to greet me.

“Hey friend, come on in. I have been waiting for you. Last night only Joy told me about you.”

VP & National Head coming out of his den to welcome a desperate job seeker was strange. In last fortnight I had been to number of such people. All knew me, still it took reasonable time for me getting into their cabins.

“What would you prefer? Tea or coffee!” He was too casual and friendly.

During our half an hour long discussion, we talked about anything and everything except the job. Couple of rounds of Tea were over and still he was not coming to point.

Finally I could not resist.

“Sir, What about job? Is it possible?”

This was new, during my entire career; I had called people by their first names. Be it anybody, we use to call by name only. There was something different about this man I suppose which made me give him that respect.

“Well, I will take you as Asst.V.P. I need someone with banking experience to help me out in banc assurance vertical which I manage.”

“What?” I could not believe my ears. All these days, I was begging for job to all my known people. My seniors who had somehow benefited from my labor. All were helpless; all gave me false promises and empty hopes. And this guy, without even asking a single question, without even looking at my curriculum was offering such a big responsibility.

“Yeah. You will assist me in this vertical. For CTC as your last drawn package was high as per our norms. You need to see HR. I have given my personal recommendation so it should not be a problem.

Within an hour, someone who was drowning in this sub-prime mayhem not only got support but a firm shoulder to lean on. HR negotiated a bit and I was offered almost similar package which I was drawing. I was ready to join instantly so was given Appointment Letter directly with joining date of next Monday.

I overheard him speaking to Joy.

“Yaar, paise to har koi bana leta hai. Kisi ki muskurahaton ki vajeh bane wo kaamyab hai”

I was in tears. Was walking on the street, in midst of crowd still could not control my emotions. All these days I would have gone pillar to post for help. Every known person had turned down their face. All were helpless and here came Aftab.

A man so caring, so understanding, so down to earth! He not only gave me life, gave me a dignified position as well. And that too without even making me realize. I mean it was a perfect time to exhibit one’s big fat ego, a common phenomenon of corporate culture. Any damn person on earth could not have done this without hurting dignity of the job seeker, but “Aftab” oh! He was different.

“God, finally you sent savior for my rescue.” With teary eyes I could see a rainbow on Worli seashore.

The cab suddenly stopped. We had reached Lilavati Hospital. The hospital was located in midst of plush Bandra suburb. Home to many famous cine personalities during their ailing days. It was a hospital with repute in the city. We were at reception lounge in an instance. And oh God! It looked like entire industry was there. I could find so many known faces, from policy makers to executors. Who’s who of the financial sector were all present!

Ajay rushed to the corner, where Mr. Subramanian, in-charge of Krishna Group’s insurance vertical in Mumbai was sobbing.

“Ajay, nothing should happen to Sir” and sobbing turned to a loud cry.

Within few minutes we got to know, he had got a massive cardiac arrest last night and was in Intensive Care Unit. Doctors declared him critical when brought in and had told; “Only prayers can save him now.”

I was observing people gathered there. All were in different groups as per their status.

In a group there were CXOs of various companies. All were in their business suits. Probably no one was expecting this kind of gathering on busy Monday morning. It would have taken hours or days to find their appointment and here all had assembled on instance.

“Aftab helped me during a real rough phase of my career. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to reach this level.” A CEO of a reasonably new company told. “Once when I was stuck in a legal tangle with a state government, it was Aftab who got me out. He has a great network.” It was voice of a senior member of one PSU.

I moved to another group, all belonging to business community. They were DSAs or intermediaries, who sell products of various financial organizations to their set of clients. “He is gem of a person, once when I was deep down in debts. He trusted me and held my hand. It’s because of him I was able to get back in business.” The guy looked really obliged. “Maza to he Dev aahe” (For me he is the God) the rough looking Marathi guy was literally in tears. “Even today I keep his photo on my desk to remember him every day. He was the one who got me out of hell. I was just a goon being used by politicians in my area. Would have wasted my life the same way, if this “Devaa” (God) wouldn’t have enlightened my life. He asked me to take care of financial matters of the transport community of the area which I use to rule. And within few years of doing this, I have turned from a goon to a businessman. Even without my knowledge he transformed my life completely.” And he was in tears again.

“Are, Babu bhau sambhala”. It was Ajay who came to console sobbing Babu.

Far in the corner, there was bunch of young guys. All looked in their mid twenties. are they here for this man? With bit of inquisitiveness I moved to their end. All were silent, hardly speaking. Seemed like it was kind of new for them to be in such place. Was not able to hear their murmurs, but could not control and went near to them.

“Yaar, nothing should happen to Sir.” A young chap was telling to the group.

“If we lose such a person, who will be there to take care of people like us!” I could hardly hear this voice.

“You know all our Team Leaders’, BM’s and other seniors are just looking to complete their targets by squeezing us. For them we are just ‘bloody executives’ and we don’t have life. This man is an exception. He not only has concern about our professional growth but has an eye on our life as well.” A smart looking chap was telling others. “Remember, Krishna? Who else would have allowed him to follow his passion? He use to leave an hour early every day. Without sir’s consent, dreams of that poor chap would have died somewhere. Today he is a successful photographer just because of this great man.”

Suddenly I heard loud cry of someone outside the lobby. Oh! There was a group standing outside lobby as well. Why they were standing in parking? I moved out.

“If something happens to Sir, what will happen to us?”

“Yes man, than there won’t be any point working in this company. There is no one who thinks us human except him”.

“Remember when Manjit’s mother was on death bed, our manager was not granting leave?”

“Yes, because we are office-boys we don’t have a life of our own. We are nothing but slaves to these blue collared devils.”

“Sir, not only granted him leave to be with his ailing mother, he paid for hospital bills as well.”

“God had sent him to save my mother, without his help today I would have lost her long ago” and he cried loudly.

I started walking towards bandstand which was just stone throw away from the hospital.

I was awestruck. This was completely new to me. In my entire career spanning more than a decade, had worked in numerous organizations. Had seen quite a few seniors but one thing common across them was, hate, anger and anguish of juniors. Every junior felt he is sucking his blood till the last drop. BUT this was completely different.

This guy was unique. I had seen various people who were loved in the industry. Some were famous within colleagues, some had great inter-company rapport BUT this guy, I mean he was loved across all levels. Be it competitors, Colleagues, subordinates or sub-staff.

Had read in a very well-known author’s novel about GOD being a banker. Do such people exist in real? I had doubts. Today I was convinced, yes God’s do exist.

My eyes were starring the early morning “Aftab” (The Sun) above the wide spread sea of Band stand and his words echoing in my head…

“Yaar, paise to har koi bana leta hai. Kisi ki muskurahaton ki vajeh bane wo kaamyab hai”               

Next few days were standstill, office wore ghostly silence, people worked mechanically, most importantly the life was missing. One can feel sense of concern on every face. Office gossips and coffee-break chit chats were obsolete. Omni point of any discussion, if took place was Aftab’s health condition. Every colleague was praying as per their belief system. To my surprise daily morning meeting started with Ajay’s briefing on health update.

Today I was excited to go to office, got up very early or rather I should say had not slept due to inquisitiveness. As today Mr. Aftab was to resume. He had to recover as he was part of endless prayers of numerous people.

When I reached office, environment was ecstatic. It felt like ‘diwali’, entire office was decorated with flowers and lights. I was welcomed by the support staff with sweets. Every face was so elated , every soul was happy, entire atmosphere was overwhelming.

Deep down in my heart, I had decided. Now onwards, If I ever want to be like anyone in my life. It has to be this man. All the professional years till now, I had yearned for costly suits, classic watches or trendy footwear of my seniors. Today it felt worthless in comparison to the love and respect earned by this man. Few weeks into this office and my entire outlook towards professional life was rechristened.

Aftab came in his trademark blazer, paused a bit at entrance and looked around the office. I can notice a tear rolling out of his moist eye. Our eyes met and his words echoed in my conscience,

“Yaar, paise to har koi bana leta hai. Kisi ki muskurahaton ki vajeh bane wo kaamyab hai”

Author is one of the well-known names in Indian Insurance Sector. He has been awarded as One of 9 “Top most Influential Insurance Leaders of Asia, 2020” by Insurance ‘alertss, One of 10 “Most Inspirational Business Leaders India, 2020” by Insight Success Review Magazine. Founding CEO of one of the fastest growing Insurance Brokerage Startup, AHI Insurance Brokers. He is also associated with world’s biggest online Insurance magazine and business directory, The Digital Insurer as Honorary Ambassador for India.  A Leader, Mentor, Coach    & Facilitator. He has flair for writing fiction, non-fiction and an avid reader.

CHINTAN P. MEHTA
CHINTAN P. MEHTA

CEO & Principal Officer, AHI INSURANCE BROKERS Pvt. Ltd. Author is one of the well-known names in Indian Insurance Sector. A Leader, Mentor, Coach    & Facilitator. He has flair for writing fiction, non-fiction and an avid reader.