As I was entering my office I got a call from my colleague Prasad. Do you know that Narendra Babu has quit – he enquiringly declared with a bit of astonishment. Babu was indeed a hardcore org-person. Had joined the company as a fresher and loved the product that he had seen grow from a single client to 200 clients today. He would be the last person to quit, we all thought. And Prasad added – you know Krishnan started reporting to him just about a fortnight back. Now, that was a piece of high-end analytics.
Suddenly I recalled the conversation that I had with AP Krishnan some 3 years back. I had just been given the charge of a new department carved out and APK was one of the first to join the team. He had been an old timer with some 20+ years of experience but was a difficult guy to handle – at least that was what I had heard about him, though had never got a chance to work with him.
During our first conversation, APK was briefing me about the work done by him over the past 20 years and listed out all the Managers that he had worked with. And then, with an impish smile he asked me – do you know what is common across this list? I thought for a moment and said – I think all of them have left the organization now. And with the same mischief in his eyes he added – some of them not in the best of circumstances. I was taken aback by that menacingly honest introduction of APK. But I was badly in need of a Program Manager in my team so just ignored that as a friendly banter. And APK’s reputation as a strong Program Manager was overpowering enough to allay all other concerns at that point.
Two years later, I was in a situation when one of the programs handled by Krishnan was in trouble. And my new boss was livid. I was given an ultimatum that if the situation was not in control in 2-weeks’ time, I should look for a job. One of those evenings, we were sitting in a shanty bar in Mumbai, with a mug of beer in hand, discussing the strategy with APK for the set of problems in hand. For the first time, I could see APK feeling helpless and frustrated at the unending deluge of problems. I suddenly recollected our first conversation. I felt like a wounded soldier on the hospital bed. Despite a valiant fight, the end appeared so near. A good two months had passed since that late night call I had with my boss, putting money on my head. The situation had improved but not completely in control.
That night I could not sleep. Within an hour into my sleep I got up sweating. It was a bad dream. I was standing all alone in that big conference room of this client Bank, where large framed portraits of all their past MDs used to hang across the four walls. But what I saw in that dream was all the past Managers of APK smiling at me from those large portraits and there was one blank frame staring at me. And I knew the end was close. It was my turn now.
Next day, I entered the Bank and went straight into the room given to us for the project work. My eyes were red as I had not been able to sleep the whole night. To my surprise APK was already there – he normally used to come after I had settled in. He too appeared a bit haggard. And after a short exchange of pleasantries, he said, in all seriousness, that he had decided to go on a sabbatical for one year. The reason of course was not the travails of this project but something personal. I tried to reason it out with him but he had made up his mind on that.
As both of us got busy with our work in the morning, this sudden development kept pounding my mind. Is he really serious? Is there really a personal reason? Will this save him from losing his job? Or both our jobs for that matter? And that famous Bollywood dialogue came to my mind. Gabbar ke taap se tumhe sirf ek hi aadmi bacha sakta hai… Khud Gabbar.
And now, when APK joined back after one-year sabbatical, he started reporting to Narendra Babu. Prasad was perhaps hinting at this when he said that APK had just started reporting to Babu. Or did he genuinely mean that Babu’s team would be dismantled so APK would be available again for us to consider for one of our projects.