I had a typical middle-class upbringing, growing up in Delhi on a bureaucrat father’s limited income. In our kind of families, from the time you’re old enough to dress yourself, you are told that your passport to a good life is education. And that is what dictates your actions every day. I always wanted to do well in class, and figured out early that I had an aptitude for quant. So, I went to IIT. That is where the best in class end up going to the US, and that became the next goal. But, after I gained admission in Stanford, a close relative who was a professor in Berkeley had a tragic death and my worried parents shot down my plans of going to the West.
I was shattered. When you are young, you are always told that hard work will get you what you want. This was the first time I came across a situation where I worked for something but could not enjoy the fruit of my labour. It took some time before my mother’s regular lessons from the Bhagavad Gita dawned on me — it is your duty to do what you must, but you have no control on the outcome. When you look at the past, you have to be a fatalist and accept events for how they turn out but, going forward, you have to be a karmayogi, nevertheless.
IIM Ahmedabad was the next best option, so that’s where I went and then landed at BHEL through campus placement. That was 1975. I was privileged to get to work with V Krishnamurthy, who was a legend. He was the architect of BHEL; he set up Maruti; and he completely revamped the Steel Authority of India. He was one of the most outstanding managers, a great visionary and very good with implementation. He never raised his voice and never pushed us, except in very subtle ways. He would give us a job at 10 pm, and ask about the progress at 6 am. He taught us how to set the bar and how to keep raising it. For instance, he taught us how to build business and personnel in the system. I was 23-years-old and he was my role model. In fact, I was so smitten by Krishnamurthy that I wanted to join the IAS, after he became secretary for Ministry of He