August 14: It is my birthday today. As with birthdays, fantasies, friends and fond memories rule the day and my routine. Here I am deeply reminded of the 90s, the foundation years with respect to professional calligraphy. I also had some unexpected and amazing birthday celebrations – especially between the years 1992-2000 – that truly felt like living a fairytale!
Invariably my birthdays during those eight years were celebrated 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. It was here that I was introduced to 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 our first meet, he was very 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 despite the twists and turns in our individual lives – Thanks to Facebook and regular calls on birthdays and special occasions.
A brief context here to my calligraphy work for The Oberoi: 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, I was promptly called in to write out their sports day certificates and long term service awards among other staff recognition presented by the Management as part of their celebrations.
These were the years I also had the opportunity to pen the special birthday message for Mr M S Oberoi on a huge card from the staff on which all the employees signed. This was followed by many requests from the staff to have me write their names in different styles. At one point there was not a single staff there who didn’t know me or didn’t have 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 good hospitality at work humble me even today.
Somehow Emmanuel found out that it was my birthday on August 14 and ensured that my birthdays had a quick staff celebration at The Oberoi. On one of my birthdays, I was also asked to bring my family along for the celebration.
Frankly speaking, I couldn’t have afforded a lunch or dinner at The Oberoi then. Those were the days of landlines and rotary phones, my mother used to call on David’s office landline to get in touch with me whenever 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 surely delayed for just anything else! We would get engrossed discussing just anything from HR to networking, relationships to ethics and social issues.
My association with Emmanuel also gave me two new dimensions of handwriting to explore in the HR world and 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 big 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 the 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 those wonderful days and sharing our current and future plans.
“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 a bit commercial where he went on quoting ‘so much for so much’ and I recall how I was a bit amused on why to pay ‘so much’ for handwriting work on placards and certificates…
You see, as a default, we always tend to negotiate. I think then at some point he just wrote my name in different styles as a sample and… I was blown over! Then next I remember is that we were talking till late evening on our very first day – August 14, 1992. He never told me it was his birthday but I somehow found it through records… You already know what happened next.”
Quick Q&A with Emmanuel David
♣ The Bond with Jack: His excellence, humility and dedication endeared me. His expertise in handwriting analysis helped me to decipher quite a bit 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 few days old when he came in on assignment. I didn’t have a hold on 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 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 are heavily dependent on the online modes of communication and demands standardization but the yearning for things that are unique still persists. In this context, I strongly feel that Jack’s talent and expertise in handwriting is still very relevant. Handwriting is more a conduit than a viable career option. It needs to be made a 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. Any letters of appointment or recommendation letters are signed by that. Even my condolence messages were handwritten. People have written thank you emails saying they were touched by the fact that I ‘wrote’ a letter, even observing the turquoise blue ink that I have 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 have 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.