In a few days, I would be celebrating 21 years of an incredible voyage , voyage that began on the morning of 15th October 1994, my first day at work , aged 19. My work life, while spectacularly short on achievement has been extraordinarily high on adventure. Whatever I am today, I owe it to this journey and to my extended family, my uncles/ aunts, who welcomed me to stay with them as their own son , whether in Mumbai, Ahmedabad or Bangalore. Without that support this 19 year old would have never survived those extremely challenging years of his nascent career. And my sister/ brother in law, whose home would later become my refuge through some very tumultuous times in Bangalore.
As has been my custom for the past few years, the work anniversary is a time of intense nostalgia. And an opportunity to write, share and reflect.
My first job was as a Quality supervisor at Vijayjyot Seats Limited in Halol, Panchamahal district from 15th Oct 1994 to 15th Feb 1995 , then for a week at L&T Cement plant in Amreli, Saurashtra as Maintenance engineer and finally joined my first alma mater – Voltas Limited in March 1995. After completing my initial training at Voltas refrigerator manufacturing plant near Warora in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, and some more training at the corporate HQ in Chichpokli, Mumbai , I was given a few days’ vacation to visit home and asked to report to work at Voltas regional office in Khanpur, Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad was not entirely unknown to me, thanks to Saroj maushi (maternal aunt) and Sharad kaka (uncle), I must have visited Ahmedabad a few times before. I still have faint recollection of my very first trip to Ahmedabad as a 2nd grader for maushi/ kaka’s house warming (Vastu) ceremony ,when they were moving to their own new house in Ghodasar , Maninagar. Maushi / Kaka showered all their affection on their numerous nieces / nephews (me being one of them), and their new house would soon become a favourite haunt for all of us either during Diwali or Summer holidays
So when Voltas confirmed my posting at Ahmedabad, that I would stay with my aunt / uncle was a ‘no brainer’.It must be on the evening in the last week of May 1995, when I travelled to Ahmedabad to report to work at my regional HQ next day. The memories of that evening are still so vivid, I can recollect them almost hour by hour even after 21 years.
Ahmedabad- Baroda Intercity express train is probably the most widely used train service between this cities and I was travelling on Sunday evening, so there was very light crowd and I got a comfortable seat by the window. Promptly at 6 pm , the train unleashed its shrill whistle and chugged along . People today travel continents without batting an eyelid, but those days, traveling to Ahmedabad, which was just a mere 100 kms. away ,still felt like going far from home. Prior to this , all my previous train journeys were for a specific time, but this time it felt different. Before this when I worked in Halol, I still was living in Baroda with my parents, then at L&T Cement, I was away just for a week, and the 2 month training at Voltas, did have a specific end date. But this time it was different, I had embarked on a journey with no return date on the ticket. I do not know why but I felt an unusual sense of equanimity. I felt neither anxiety, nor excitement, for a 19 year old to feel like that was extraordinary. It felt like destiny.
When the train finally arrived at Maninagar ( a suburban station of Ahmedabad city, where my aunt lived) at 8 pm , I did not flag an auto , instead walked to my aunt’s house 1.5 km away, carrying a green VIP suitcase and a an office bag dangling on my shoulder. Maushi / Kaka were expecting me and had prepared khichadi for dinner. Next day, I dressed up to report to work, walked to the Maninagar train station, and from the station bus-stop took the bus to Lal darwaja bus depot in the centre of the city, from where my office was a small walk .
I have so many memories associated with my time at that house and in Ahmedabad that I could keep writing for a week. And that house is witness to the first break through of my career . It was a Saturday 2nd November 1996, and I had just returned from work and about to leave to catch a train to Baroda for the weekend. My uncle handed me an envelope that had arrived in post earlier that day. Envelope had the unmissable Philips insignia on it, with my heart racing, I opened the envelope. Without any prior sales experience or even a degree ( I only had a diploma in mechanical engineering) I had secured after a gruelling day of written test, group discussions and multiple rounds of interviews , a role of Sales Officer in Philips Worldwide. At 21 years of age, I was going to be one of the youngest sales officer ever to join Philips Worldwide. I took that job gleefully , but it also meant leaving Ahmedabad, which I did on 1st December 1996.
Since then my aunt retired from her job , sold that house and relocated to Baroda. But for me, that house will always hold a very special place and it will be forever itched in my memory. And even now every time I look at that appointment letter, I get goose bumps not different from how I felt on 2nd November 1996 and miss that home when I read the address on the letterhead – 103 / A Kamala park , Ghodasar, Maninagar !