Immediately after joining as EST ( Engineering Supervisor Telegraphs) at Hubli, Karnataka, I had a Boss who wanted a report every morning at 8 a.m. about the interruptions in my Section. I used to collect information and convey it to him daily. It so happened one day that I could talk to him only at 08.05 hours. He answered the phone but disconnected immediately, saying, “You are late.”
I decided then and there that I would pay him back in his own coin. Exactly at 8:00 a.m. the next day, I rang him up, waited for exactly 6 rings (which I was aware was not enough to answer unless he were sitting by the side of the phone) and disconnected! I never bothered to make another attempt.
On reaching office, my Boss summoned me and demanded to know why I had not rung up.
I replied that I did ring up but got no answer. He said that I should have tried after 5 minutes. My reply was if he expected a call at 8 a.m., he should better be there to receive it! No wonder his rules were relaxed then onwards!
On another occasion we were going by my Jeep for inspection work in another town. My driver was an ex-serviceman. He was an excellent driver. He was in fact an instructor in the Indian Army who used to teach soldiers to drive. My boss used to tell him in which gear he should drive! Obviously, my driver didn’t appreciate the intervention. When he asked me privately I told him that this was not a problem at all. My driver could not make out what I was hinting at!
Then I explained to him and my idea worked! On our next trip, my boss as usual told the driver to slow down and use the first gear. The order was promptly obeyed. After sometime even people riding bicycles had started overtaking our Jeep! My boss was annoyed and asked my driver why he was driving so slowly. The reply was, “You have not asked me to change the gear, Sir!”
That was the last time the driver was instructed by my boss as to how he should do his job. The driver had politely announced, “ Hajam apna kaam samajhta hai, Saab!” It means ‘The barber knows his job!’ in Hindi.
On another occasion I really faced a nasty situation. The linemen usually used to go on foot patrol every fortnight, i.e. walk under the trunk line for about 8 kilometres, looking for faults that are likely to develop and avoid any interruption to the trunk lines. This was a sort of preventive maintenance. One day, one of my Linemen who was a Tamilian in Karnataka, rang me up and informed me that there was a breakdown. He asked me whether he should proceed with his foot patrol or attend to the breakdown. Obviously I told him to attend to the breakdown and restore communication.
My Boss who had come to know about this, asked me the next day as to why my line man (LM) did not complete his foot patrol. I explained the situation to him. My Boss insisted that the foot patrol should have been completed. I announced that I should have been crazy to order continuation of foot patrol, ignoring the breakdown!
My boss said, “I am ordering you. Obey my orders.” I countered, “In this case oral orders will not do. If you issue written orders, I will obey.”
Of course no written orders were ever issued…..!