Oct 22 brings some memories; one
of the most memorable moments of my life!
We decide to publish a book
A magazine ‘Tutari’ was published
for several years by my employers for workers’ education. To the best of my
knowledge, it is the only magazine published by an employer for workers’
education. When it completed 25 years of publication, [and by then I was
associated for twenty years with it], I suggested that we should bring out a
book – may be an anthology.
The magazine published many short
stories, poems written by employees in order to provide a forum for show-casing
their talent. It also carried interviews of many trade union leaders including
Dr Datta Samant, Dattaji Salvi. And many articles on labour scenario, labour
laws too. Remember that this was in the seventies when teaching labour laws to
workers was the last thing an employer would do. Tutari regularly published
articles on industrial relations and was perhaps the only magazine to publish a
series of articles on Fawley productivity experiments. Tutari also published a
special number on Diwali, which had many articles on subjects of contemporary
interest. NUMMI Plant of Toyota was a story was carried by HBR and it
immediately found a way in Tutari. It published articles on a wide variety of
subjects. The editorial policy was that an employee well aware of his rights
and developments on the social front was a well-informed employee, and that this
was the foundation of good industrial relations.
Putting together the editorial
So an anthology may be a good
project to do, I thought. I consulted Sharad Chavan, who used to write a weekly
column on labour matters in Maharashtra Times. I had deep respect for Sharad
Chavan, he was my mentor and encouraged me to write on various subjects. Chavan
immediately liked the idea and suggested that we work with Suneel Karnik. I did
not know Karnik, but when I met him, we clicked almost immediately.
The trio met frequently and we
unknowingly developed a role for ourselves. Sharad Chavan acted as ‘Project Manager’
his skills of taking the meeting to meaningful conclusion was outstanding.
Suneel Karnik was a specialist, an editor of high accomplishment. My role
remained as a person who was a ‘Plant’ or somebody who generated a lot of interesting
ideas. Much later when I earned Belbin Team Role accreditation I reflected on
how we worked together so effectively.
The meetings used to start at 7
pm in my office and usually concluded by 10 pm. We were not disturbed at this
hour by office work and workers. Enough ‘food’ on table also generated enough
food for thought. We classified the articles, generated good titles for
sections, debated heavily on what should be included and what should be left
out. We listed over fifty names for the book, and one was chosen. The one
chosen was the choice of the Director who was responsible for creating this
magazine. Suneel Karnik had suggested a very off-beat name ‘Kaalyavaratee Jaraa
PaanDhare’ picking up the line from Mardhekar’s poem. It was my choice too. But
finally we chose ‘Kunchale un Kalam’ meaning paintbrush and pen. The former
signifying paint industry in which we worked and the significance of the latter
should be obvious. It was ‘Kunchale aaNi Kalam’ but Karnik made it more like
spoken Marathi by replacing ‘aaNi’ with ‘un’ and that gave it a distinctive
Vijay Tendulkar writes foreword
We debated who should be
approached to write the preface. The Director suggested that we approach Vijay
Tendulkar. I nodded my head in disbelief; why would the great author write for
us? But Karnik took me to meet Vijay Tendulkar. He agreed to write immediately!
Karnik’s friendship with Tendulkar obviously had played a big role.
The publication ceremony was
arranged at Kalidas Hall on Oct 22, 1999. We had invited Pramod Navalkar to be the
Chief Guest. Elections were just concluded then, and it was essential for Navalkar to
be present in the Assembly. Navalkar dropped out last minute. Sharad Chavan had foreseen this possibility. He had
got Karnik to request Narayan Surve [he is hailed as workers’ poet] to stand by to fill up the gap in case Navalkar failed to make it.
Surve had obliged.
Why Narayan Surve spoke so passionately
The publication ceremony itself
was a great event to remember. When Surve arrived he was very excited. He told
us that he was offered ‘Kabir Puraskar’ by Madhya Pradesh Government and the
telegram had just reached him hours before he left for the publication
ceremony. There was a striking similarity between Surve’s life and that of Kabir.
Kabir was an orphan who was found by a Muslim weaver. He brought up Kabir.
Surve was abandoned child and was found by a textile mill worker in Mumbai; he
brought him up. Both made great impact by their work, but Surve was quick to recognize
that no comparison should be made between him and Kabir, the great poet.
But this happy coincidence led to
Surve making a speech that captivated the audience and held them spell-bound
for over one hour.
Receiving the trophy at the hands
of Narayan Surve was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. We
had printed over 1000 copies and mailed them as complimentary copies to many HR
managers, trade union leaders and well-wishers. The press coverage was
excellent, which also got us many requests for copies of the book.
On my shelf two copies of the
book rest. One of them is signed by Narayan Surve. It is my prized possession.
Our Director who was the real architect of this unusual publication was
felicitated at this event and the entire theatre gave him standing ovation. He
later invited Surve at his home for a dinner, along with Chavan and Karnik and
me. That too was an unforgettable event, but more about it later.
The memories will fade, but….
Chavan is no more, so also our
Director and Surve. Recently one of the first worker-editors passed away. These
memories will fade, so also perhaps the magazine. But the magazine inspired
many for its unusual qualities, for being an unusual experiment and that will
be remembered by several persons associated with it.
Labels: Asian Paints, Industrial relations, Narayan Surve, Sharad Chavan, Suneel Karnik, Tutari, Vijay Tendulkar, Workers Education