The year was 1989. Campus interviews were going on in full swing. Those days, if you were in my college and specialized in the stream I did, you almost automatically came to the USA for higher studies. Except that, I did not care for higher studies in my stream. It was a tough peer pressure to fight those days. I was fresh off a discussion with my dad and uncle on a long distance trunk call who were urging me to go to the USA. When I demanded to know what was in it for them – since I did not see myself as the guy who would flourish in that stream doing research – my uncle explained to me that it was not supposed to be all about me. That I needed to realize if I could go to the USA and establish myself, at least one generation of our extended family would acquire a safety net of financial stability.
I was not ready for any responsibility. I just wanted to be who I was. Against that backdrop, the next day, this gentleman- the HR head in a company called COSL, at the end of the interview had a simple question – “Convince me that if you get a job with us, you will join us instead of going to the USA”. As irritated as I was (not because of the question itself – but because of the backdrop of previous day’s discussions), I kept my calm – as much as a 22 year old can probably keep his calm and explained my priorities – get a MBA degree in India, get a job, go to USA to get a Masters degree. So, he was not on the top of my list but he was certainly above me going to the USA.
He did offer me a job. I did get a chance to get a MBA degree in India. So, I never joined his company then. But I never forgot him. Or his company. A year later, in my MBA school campus, that company came seeking summer interns. I showed up. Sure enough, he was there. Although he did not recognize me. Right at the beginning, I explained our previous encounter. He just got up, told me there was no need for an interview, gave me the internship and stepped out to have a smoke.
I went back to that company a year later for my full time job. COSL eventually transferred me to its mothership – Citibank USA. Much later, I was able to get to myself to a reasonable position where I was able to somewhat give some financial security to my extended family. Unfortunately, my uncle never lived long enough to see that I did fulfill his dream. Except it was done on my terms.
Separated by tens of thousands of miles with no such thing as Facebook, cellphone or Whatsapp, I never got a chance to hook up with that gentleman who made such a big difference to me during that interview when I was so impressionable.
Till this Sunday!! Found out – thanks to Facebook, cellphone and WhatsApp that he was in town to drop his daughter at Emory. Had a great time meeting him and his family.
Mr. Pradeep Mukherjee, as I mentioned this Sunday, thank you so much for the difference you have made to my life – without probably every realizing so!! I hope to emulate your example and do the same to others some day!