Being Human

In Damascus, a while ago, lay the dead body of an Indian labourer, whose family could not afford to pay to bring his body back home. The costs of bringing his body back home would cost them Rs. 80,000, which is a tall order for any Indian labourer’s family here in India. They asked the government’s help in bringing back the body, but they refused flatly.

Thankfully, for the family, Air-India heard of their plight, and has offered to bring back the dead body for free. (By the way, Air-India does not fly to Damascus.) But the point is that the Indian ambassador or consul have a fund from which they disburse money for such requirements on a discretionary basis, and the embassy refused to oblige.

Edit: According to this article, the Indian embassy is now flying down the dead body, instead of Air India.The basis of the post earlier, was however an article in Times of India, which I cannot find now. Here is an article from Times Now, which explains the story. The offer from Air-India still holds, though.


This reminded me of an interview that I had with the CEO of Titan, Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, and one of their long-time employees, their ex-VP of Corporate Communications , Mr. Manoj Chakravarti. (He has worn many hats in the company. Each page I visited had a different job title, from the director in-charge of CSR to the General Manager(Retailing)) There was a point at which they told us that the company had taken a decision where they would respect each and every employee of Titan as an individual, and the company would go as far as possible to meet their individual needs.

The amazing thing about this was that, it was pretty clear that this declaration was not just on paper, but they would take it to heart. It was not unusual, for one of the middle-management officers to walk into the CEO’s room and ask for help in getting admission into Delhi’s schools. One of the senior management would take it upon themselves to see what could be done, even though it was not part of their job. Or some discretionary leave, over and above the stipulated allowed paid-leave, because somebody’s loved ones had passed away. In any other company, if an employee even took the courage to go the HR department to ask for help in extra-official matters, the HR department would not think twice before throwing the rule book in his face, and saying that it was not their responsibility to take care of such matters.

Mr. Bhat added, “If it was your son or daughter, what would you have done? Would you also have told them that I am only supposed to be doing this much and nothing more? Then why do you do that in the company?”

At this point, Mr. Chakravarti interjected saying that Titan too had its fair share of sceptics and critics who would lambast the senior management for doing such things with the awful statement, “It will set a precedent.” He would then retort, “So what if it sets a precedent?” They would reply saying that, “But then suppose everybody asks for such help?” “Let them! Have you tested the company? If we are able to do it, we will certainly do it; if we cannot no matter how hard we try, we will say no! What is the big deal?”

Yeah, exactly, what is the big deal? The big deal is that Titan is an enviable position of being one of the few companies who don’t need to pay humongous salaries to retain their employees. In fact, employees who have left for “greener” pastures are trying to come back. Once you know the company is ready to back you if you are in trouble, why wouldn’t the employee do the same for the company?


As I was writing this, I just remembered that Air India/Indian Airlines has been pressed into service into many, much more difficult situations, when they obliged without complaint. They were there when the Gulf War happened, they were there when the Kandahar hijacking happened. They are bureaucratic, but they surely know when to go beyond the call of duty and do that basic thing, that separates us from other animals: being human.

So what if they evacuated thousands of Indians from a country? They set a precedent. When the need arises, they will come to our aid then also. (I hope 🙂 ) Have you tested the system? Why did the Ambassador not oblige with the discretionary funds? That’s the whole point of the discretionary funds, right? Discretionary; if you think it is important, you should give it out.

Time all of us stopped the rule-book became so binding.


3 responses to “Being Human

  1. Unfortunately there are duties a National carrier must undertake. It might not always be for a humanitarian cause. Secondly, though commendable, will this ensure that you book an IA flight for your next trip?

  2. Well… I don’t mind really.. though that was not my real intention… 😛

    On the other hand, if this works out, maybe I should write something good about Vijay Mallya as well..

  3. Pingback: Air India: Not out of the woods yet | City Lights

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