Birthdays and Beginnings
August 14: It is my birthday today and I make a new beginning with my blog, Saptha Beej. As with birthdays and beginnings, fantasies, friends and fond memories rule the day and my routine.
Here I am deeply reminded of the 90s, my beginning years in professional calligraphy. I also had some amazing birthday celebrations – especially between the years 1992-2000 – that truly felt like living a fairytale!
The Birthdays & Beginnings:
Invariably I celebrated my birthdays during those eight years at The Oberoi hotel in Bangalore with the staff, enjoying their great hospitality.
I first stepped in there on work after one Ms Anita Kuruvilla (then PR head at The Oberoi), called to help them out with handwriting the invites, sit-down dinner cards and the table seating plans for the grand opening of The Oberoi. Here I met Emmanuel David, the first HR person I worked with.
He was the HR head at The Oberoi with an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur. I soon found him to be a fit model for the HR role with a fine balance of professional purpose and personal touch. He also set an example of how to treat an artist.
Right from the beginning, Emmanuel was caring. He put me into one of their finest guest rooms for the three-day work, and thus I became their first unofficial guest even before they launched. We haven’t seen each other face-to-face for eight years now, but we have remained well connected, at least on birthdays and special occasions, despite the twists and turns in our individual lives. Special Thanks also to Facebook.
A brief context here to my calligraphy work for The Oberoi which also marked my beginning into the HR world:
August 15 was their annual day function, a regular event at The Oberoi that celebrated the birthday of their founder M S Oberoi in grandeur. At every annual day event of theirs from 1992 until 2000, they promptly called me in to write out their sports day certificates and for long-term service awards among other staff recognition presented by the Management as part of their celebrations.
These were the years I also penned the special birthday message for Mr M S Oberoi on a huge card from the staff on which all the employees signed. Many requests from the staff followed this to have me write their names in different styles.
Soon, the entire staff knew me and almost all had their name handwritten by me. That joy on their faces when they had their name handwritten by me still gives me a lot of happiness.
The Oberoi had kind of become my second home. Those memories of birthdays and a new beginning at work humble me even today. On one of my birthdays, I was also asked to bring my family along for the celebration.
Frankly, I couldn’t have afforded a lunch or dinner at The Oberoi then. In those days of landlines and rotary phones, my mother called me on David’s office landline while I was at the hotel on work. That’s how Emmanuel and I also got closer as a family.
When we met outside work, that day was closed for just about anything else! We engaged deep discussing HR to networking, relationships to ethics and social issues.
This gave me a new beginning in handwriting to explore in the HR world. I also got a new name as his friend – Jack. As the HR head, he would receive many anonymous letters from staff, mostly staging character assassination cases of some women co-workers. These letters gave me an interesting opportunity to get deeper into the forensic world of handwriting analysis.
Emmanuel also gave me the next enormous opportunity later at the Volvo when they were recruiting. He had just recently joined them. My job was to provide the management with inputs on the personality traits of the candidates based on their handwritten description of themselves and check if the traits matched the job description or role in the company. Thus, I was also part of the HR screening and interview process when Volvo launched operations in the city.
In due course of time I got very close to his father with whom I shared an interesting Telugu connection. He used to call me `son’. There was no professional relationship with his father of course. On July 4, 2001 – I lost my father within 15 days of my return from the cultural ambassador program to the UK under the Rotary International Scholarship. Emmanuel was right there by my side during the funeral, offering shoulder and emotional comfort like a brother, when not many friends or even family members could make it to the funeral.
From 2002, I got into other areas like global cross-cultural training yet we continued to keep in touch. Distance has never come in our way of friendship. Emmanuel left the city in 2003 but his father stayed back and we remained in regular touch. He was an amazing counsel. Even after he moved out of Bangalore to stay with Emmanuel in his old age, we kept in touch until he passed away. Going forward, Emmanuel and I didn’t have to see each other much professionally but we have remained in touch – through the age of the good old landlines to the present Facebook and LinkedIn.
Emmanuel is presently based in Pune working with the TATA Management Training Centre. Apart from the regular work, he is also now busy coordinating and teaching for an online HR course with the University of Michigan.
Even five years back, he wrote me a detailed testimonial on LinkedIn as The Director HR, TMTC as under:
“I have known Janardhan for over two decades and our relationship has only matured over time. He is gifted with a flair for exquisite handwriting which he deeply enjoys. A man who sticks to his commitments. I remember even in our first meeting he completed his assignment though it was past midnight. It was his birthday. He reaches out to several people and is keen on creating value through work or relationships. His outgoing nature and desire to make a positive impact have enabled him to explore uncharted territory, so I can confidently say the best is yet to come.”
– Emmanuel David, Director (HR), Tata Management Training Centre, Pune – 2015
Writing this opening blog for Saptha Beej got us in touch with each other once again, reminiscing about those wonderful birthdays and beginnings while also sharing our plans.
Says Emmanuel: I am so glad I wrote those testimonials promptly. Reading them again has rekindled some fond memories with Jack 19 years ago! Our first discussion at The Oberoi was commercial where he went on quoting ‘so much for so much’. I recall how I thought over why to pay ‘so much’ for handwriting work on placards and certificates…
As a default, we always negotiate. I think then at some point he just wrote my name in different styles as a sample and… It blew me over! The next I remember is that we were talking till late evening on our very first day – August 14, 1992, also his birthday. He never told me about it, but I somehow found out through records… You already know what happened next.
Emmanuel David on the Birthdays & Beginnings:
♣ The Bond with ‘Jack’: His excellence, humility and dedication endeared me. His expertise in handwriting analysis helped me to decipher in my HR work – both with the anonymous letter episode and while hiring for the Volvo.
He is congenial, knows his job well and also delivers promptly on time, absorbing a lot of hard work going through all the details. I recollect this from so many memories – from our Oberoi times to the Volvo times. At the Volvo, I was new in the company, barely a few days old when he came in on assignment. I didn’t have a hold on the budget. We started modestly. Suddenly he had to do a lot of work and he took it quietly. At least at The Oberoi, we had the luxury in hospitality like room and beverage. Late-night he would return home on a two-wheeler from Hoskote and had an early morning deliverable, which he promptly kept up with. He is very congenial.
♣ Is Jack and his handwriting medium still relevant in this online age triggered by the COVID 19:
The present times heavily depend on the online modes of communication and demands standardization, but the yearning for things that are unique persists. In this context, I strongly feel that Jack’s talent and expertise in handwriting are still very relevant. Handwriting is more a conduit than a viable career option. It should be part of any personality profile.
I have experienced many unique moments when I hand-wrote letters to express myself. Even before I met Jack, I was into writing letters, I still use only fountain pens and somehow have been using only the turquoise blue ink to sign any letters of appointment or recommendation. I handwrote even my condolence messages. People wrote back thank you emails saying the fact that I ‘wrote touched them’ also observing the turquoise blue ink that I had written in!
♣ As an HR person, where do you see Jack fit in professionally, apart from the roles that he is currently into?
I think he fits in as a good business development person, doing more of a marketing role than sales where you understand the wants and needs of all parties involved in developing a particular product or company. Troubleshooting aspect and making an influence are his high points
On a deeper note, our present-day conversation touched chords on some troubling recent studies on removing handwriting from schools and how a generation of students has lost out on the cognitive skills and memory and vocabulary. More on the study and other interesting facts on Handwriting in our upcoming seeds on Saptha Beej.
J’s Quill Productions also wishes fellow Indians a very happy Independence Day. Let the lion-hearted spirit of independence remain undeterred. Salute to the Nation and to each and every one of her soldiers guarding the borders.