Path of Leaves

I was a student at IIT Kharagpur when I received an interview call from Siemens, my first interview call. The interview was scheduled for 30th March, 1971 in the company’s office in Baroda (Vadodara). Needless to say I was naturally thrilled. I booked my travel by the Howrah- Bombay Mail passing through Kharagpur. Once I reached Bombay, I further had to catch another train to reach Baroda.

I was running high temperature on the day of my departure from Kharagpur. My friends suggested I should give up on this travel, but I could not consider it as I did not want to miss my first job interview.

The train journey took over 2 days and nights, which aggravated my condition and I was very weak b the time I reached Baroda in the early hours on the day of the interview. Once In Baroda, I checked into a lodge near the railway station. That day, I did attend the interview, but my performance did not satisfy even myself. I couldn’t really concentrate on the questions or comprehend what the interviewer, Senior Engineer (R&D), Dr. K.G. Desai, was trying to ask.

It was a relief to return to the comfort of the room after the interview finished. As I was to catch a late- night train, I decided to catch on a little sleep. When I woke up it was 3 a.m., and suddenly I realised with a start that I had missed the train already. I had in fact missed more than that— my wallet, all cash and the train tickets for my return journey. Somebody had entered the room when I was asleep— maybe I had not secured the door— and decamped with everything. It was a frightening experience to get stranded in an unfamiliar city with no money.

The hotel receptionist was not much of help to me, nor was the police inspector with whom I lodged a complaint about the theft. In the meantime, I was increasingly feeling weak, unwell, and sick. I told myself I had to find a solution.

The help had to come from outside, but contact with the outside was not easy those days — there was no long- distance dialling facility available in those days.

The solution
Finally, I arrived at a possible way out. I decided to approach the only person I knew in Baroda— Dr Desai. He had interviewed me the previous day I thought of seeking monetary help from him to buy my tickets for my return journey.

Fortunately for me, there was a 1 rupee coin lodged in my trouser pocket. I used it to buy a bus ticket to reach the Siemens office. Luckily, Dr Desai was also there.

He listened to my explanation. Immediately he rang up his wife and asked her to bring the family car and took me to their house. Within no time I was in the house of the Desais. Immediately enough a doctor arrived to find out what my health problem was. All the tests showed I had paratyphoid. Doctor asked me to stay in bed for the next 10 days. Medication was prescribed to be taken every 6 hours.

Dr and Mrs Desai took excellent care of me from that point. Sensing my discomfort as a recipient of such magnanimity, they’d often remark that I was like a son to them, and that they were doing nothing extraordinary. Unfortunately, the couple did not have children.

I became quite fit within 10 days and was ready to get back. Dr Desai bought me my return train ticket and also gave me a sum of Rs.250, equal to my monthly scholarship amount, along with the strict instruction that the amount need be returned only after I got a job.
We became good friends and were in touch until years later, Dr Desai and Mrs Desai passed away.

Lessons Learnt
Even though my first interview did not get me a job, but it was memorable for two reasons. One, I learnt the valuable lesson that there was always a solution for any problem; just that one has to look for it. And second, there is never a bad experience in life— all experiences are good as long as we learn lessons from them.
It is the Desais and their ilk who provide substance to life. To tell the truth, we do have quite a number of them in our midst, but only the lucky few come across them in their lifetime.

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