A ghazal and a newspaper ad were the trigger for me to return to India. It was not easy to bid goodbye to such a cushy job but Mamta and I had been thinking about returning home. Hearing Pankaj Udhas’s Chitthi Aayi Hai would reduce me to tears. And when I saw Eicher’s full-page ad for a vacancy, urging NRIs to return home, Mamta and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Yes!”. I decided to apply to a number of automobile companies and look for options on my next trip to India. Telco would have been my first choice.
Had it not been for the following factors — my mother, Air India, the 1992 Babri Masjid incident and the charisma of Anand Mahindra — I may not have joined Mahindra & Mahindra. My mother never wanted me to be out of Calcutta for more than a day. Air India was on strike and running few routes and the only place I could visit in a day was Bombay. I decided to go for the interview at Mahindra. But on the day of my interview, the Masjid demolition had led to riots and there was a bandh across Bombay. Only Anand Mahindra had come to the office, so he was the only one to interview me. His vision for R&D clinched the deal because I could not think of a better opportunity for an automotive engineer. He wanted to produce a world-class automotive centre and I was raring to go. Mahindra also worked better because the posting was in Nashik, closer to a metro like Mumbai.
I went back and tendered my resignation to my boss at GM, Nick Gallopoulos. He broke my heart with his initial reaction: “Okay, see you.” That’s it? I prided myself on being his best teammate and this unexpected reaction was heart-wrenching. An hour later, I received a note that put me at ease — he wrote that he was too stunned to react and did not know what to say and that he would speak to me next day.
GM not just gave me the greatest time of my life, but also the comfort of experimenting with my career. The kind of confidence you feel when you know someone will back you is immeasurable. GM gave me that