Monday, July 23, 2007

The Little Hero Army

By Gaurav Parab

<Also the Center View Feature in The Maharashtra Herald Editorial on 3rd Aug!>

We all are suckers for the obvious when we go searching for heroes. The brilliant man who made a rocket fly against gravity, the beautiful actor who made us cry with his smile, the talented writer who gave hope with just a few lines, and the sportsman who made our spirits soar so high.
Somewhere in the brightness of the fireworks unleashed by these few remarkable individuals lie unnoticed the shadows of a million other little men and little women who are all heroes in their own right – never seen, or never noticed. The little gears in society’s machine, the little spokes that make the whole darn thing go around.

Since the last few years, I have made a conscious effort to keep an eye out for these heroes and I am absolutely overwhelmed by what I found. They may not make it to that mass circulated broadsheet that I read every morning, or that loud news report that tells me about the fantastic things going around in my fancy world – but I have realized that these heroes make a difference in whatever they do, and in the strangest of places. The company canteen, on a dusty highway in the desert, in my very home, and that little shed where tea tastes like a little bit of life itself.

Let me introduce you to some of the Generals of the Little Hero Army.

Chintu the carpenter

Chintu the carpenter is in his mid thirties. He has a family to support in a barren land which he tries to visit once every year.

Chintu works for the IIT educated Interior Designer who is refurnishing our house into a home. The designer is in awe of the Project Plan on my laptop - all his designs scanned, costs hammered to every little paisa and timelines displayed as little bar graphs that have to grow like I want them to. He knows that I am a demanding customer who will never cease to tell him to do exactly as he is told.

Chintu does not really give a damn about MS Project.

He does not need to be told to stick to deadlines. He will always delivers on time. He cares little for scanned designs. He can easily visualize the description given to him. All that he needs is the Interior designer to come up to him and tell him that this is what we are trying to make. He listens attentively, asks a probing question or two and nods to himself. He can already see the whole thing in his mind. He tells the designer that my design is flawed. The structure may look pretty but it won’t stand.

The designer shakes his head. He reaches for his calculator for confirmation. The vertical forces are unbalanced. He comes back to me, and tells me that we have a problem. Chintu, the carpenter suggests that we make 4 drawers instead of eight and broaden the two vertical columns. I raise my eyebrow. I smile and look into Chintu’s dust covered eyes. Intelligence and brilliance shine through them quiet clearly. I decide to go with Chintu.

Chintu does not have a computer engineering degree like I do, but I know if someone was to explain to him how it is done, he would probably outperform me within a few weeks.

Virendar the driver

Virendar drives his tourist taxi in Rajasthan. He is 34. He has been driving since the last 14 years. He is a focused individual and he dreams of owning his own taxi in a couple of years.

We start our Rajasthan tour from Jaipur. We intend to cover all the major places by road within 3 days. We check with Virendar the driver if he can manage our itinery or does he find the schedule a little too punishing. Virendar smiles. He says doing it in three days is in his interest. He can get another ride on the fourth day, and probably do around 20 trips in the month, instead of the usual 17. The more trips he does, the closer he comes to his own car.

We are a little skeptical. We ask him doesn’t he get tired? What about safety?

He smiles back in reply. He says, don’t worry about safety. Even if you order me to speed, I won’t go beyond the limit. A couple of hours into the ride, we just urge him on as a test. He never even takes his eye of the road. He smiles and stays within the limit.

When we stop for lunch, he refuses a single bite. We ask him why, and Virendar replies that when he is driving he only eats in the morning. Eating lunch makes him sleepy. Sleep is a waste of time.

Every time we stop, Virendar inspects the tyres and cleans the car thoroughly. He might as well be flying a fighter jet. Within the speed limit off course.

Through out our three day ride, Virendar does not speak unless he is spoken too. He goes where his clients ask him to go. He never ever takes his eyes off the road. When it is time to sleep in the night, he requests us to not disturb him.

He is the most hard- working individual I have ever come across. If there ever was a scale to measure pure hard work in terms of effort and not in terms of the dollars billed or the hours spent in front of a computer – I can safely say that Virendar does more in one day than I do in a month. It is a different thing that I easily make more money in one day than what Virendar earns in a month. Talk about imbalances and working weekends.

Sona the Bai

I clearly remember the first day Sona came to work. In theory, I was the employer and she was the employee. But this confident hard working girl laid down all the rules. She said, she won’t clean the toilet, and she should not be called a Bai. She was proud of her name and she should be called so. She also said that I could cut her pay if she did not come for work.

I shook my head. Who said there were no proud Indians living below the poverty line?

There were times when she did not come for work. It was evident that she used to face trouble at home, yet she never spoke about it. When she did not turn up for a day, I would find all the windows cleaned or the cupboards dusted the next day. Even though she was not expected to do so. Talk about customer delight.

One day Sona said that she is getting married and she would not be coming from the next month. Just like that. Before I could say anything, she said that she has already found her replacement and I should not be worried. She had planned the whole thing to the last detail. Sona told me that her replacement will be coming from tomorrow, for the next five days the replacement will only observe her. Then for five days she would work with Sona. And the last ten days, the replacement will work and Sona will only observe her.

Regarding the money, Sona did not want to be paid for the last 10 days.

It was the most brilliant Knowledge transition plan I had ever come across. And Sona followed it diligently. She was quiet simply the most professional working person I have ever known. I am certain, if she were to lead a team instead of washing utensils – she would do it with the same flair, and commitment – with her head held high always.

There are so many Chintus, Virendars and Sona s around. By an accident of birth and nothing more – they have lived their lives at a great disadvantage than most of us.

I am no fool to suggest that the world will be all right one day and we should work to make the wrongs right and correct the imbalances. All I am suggesting is when you come across a hero – treat him like an equal, and treat him with respect. Irrespective of what they wear, what they do or how much they earn.

A hero remains a hero, whether their achievements are captured in flashbulb moments or not.


Anonymous said...

Good one, buddy !!!

- Anoop

Anonymous said...


- Mohamedmoosa

Anonymous said...

pity that "heroes" being CMMI level 1 are unfashionable in large organizations :-(

- Auster

Anonymous said...

Worth Reading

- Rejith

Anonymous said...

nice post

- Krishnad

Anonymous said...

well said Gaurav :)

- deepak

Anonymous said...

luved it...

- Manasisatvaji

Anonymous said...

Hi Gaurav,

I have been reading your posts on the BB for quite some time and have enjoyed each one of them. However, this piece is truly amazing and very inspiring.

Thanks for this great story. You have made my day!



Anonymous said...

Its not just nice. its AWESOME !!


Anonymous said...

Beautifully penned…….i am more a fan of ur writing now than of ur badminton abilities.heheheJ


Anonymous said...

Good one, buddy !!! Inspiring. Worth Reading. nice post. well said Gaurav. luved it...this piece is truly amazing and very inspiring. Its not just nice. its AWESOME !! Beautifully penned.


And i'm already a fan of your badminton abilities. Rocket or no rocket ;)

-A (No it's not Aryan as in Dhoom 2)

Anonymous said...

greta job as always

Anonymous said...

Hey your article was published Maharashtra Herald newspaper! that's great! you soo deserved it...I'm sure it brought a tiny smile on the faces of the ppl who read the article today :D your write-ups are getting bigger and better...keep getting em published!!!


Anonymous said...

Good to have you around friend; really impressive

Anonymous said...

And good to know there are few out there who really acknowledge such true "Heroes" in our life.

shree said...

Very true indeed!!

Farina said...

That was highly inspiring..keep on writing gems like that!

Shekhar Suman said...

You write so good.. Such a nice piece of writing about the unsung heros.