Ramesh Kumar from New Delhi
The June 2019 issue of DRIVERS DUNIYA will be carrying an interview with Mr Visvanathan Iyer, believe me, Southern India Bureau Chief Sarada Vishnubhatla wrote in August 2016.
Why such a long pause - almost three years before it sees the light of the day?
Hence this preamble. Or is it an apology? Check it out...
I had met Mr Iyer in Chennai on a rainy day, at the behest of Harry Lagad, an invaluable resource for me in the world of logistics and supply chain.
A phone call set the ball rolling. Iyer suggested meeting at 0800 hours sharp at the Woodlands, Mylapore, Chennai.
I intimated him that my colleague Selvan Dasaraj of TransportMitra would also join at the venue.
He had no objection. But he said, 0800 hours.
Selvan was residing with his sister in Perambur, on the outskirts of city. (Outskirts for a born-Mylaporean like me!).
On the scheduled day, it was raining cats and dogs since the previous night. I reached the Woodlands on time. Selvan did not. Met Iyer inside the restaurant where he was already perched and offered the opposite seat to me.
“Where’s your partner?” He asked.
On his way, I murmured apologetically and added: “Can we wait a little while…?
“No need. Let’s order food and discuss,” commanded Iyer. Punctuality is his other name!
He looked at the uniformed bearer, who nodded and left. No verbal order.
In a jiffy, plates of piping hot idli, vada, sambar, chutney came. Just for the two of us.
“Eat”, again he ordered.
We began. Between bites, we kept chatting. From how do I know Harry to my interest in trucking, travels etc.
Phone buzzed at 0820.
It was Selvan. He was in the parking lot. I guided him to our seats.
He sat next to me and apologized for the delay.
Iyer took no notice of the apology.
He called the bearer and ordered: “The same.”
Selvan, looking into the menu looked up, said nothing.
Once the breakfast got over, he asked us to join for a visit to the Tata Steel yard at Thiruvallur, 40 km away, managed by him.
The entire journey lasting more than two hours via the rain-hit Chennai thoroughfare was a super and dramatic educational trip.
He was on the call constantly: Chiding some officials at times. Sweet talking some higher ups in some companies regarding load delivery. Proper directions to the office staff on financial transactions.
Yes, of course, in between we – rather, he found time to walk down his memory lane.
At the Thiruvallur yard, we saw two 40 TEU containers converted into toilet-cum-rest room for waiting drivers. Air-conditioned as well. Only cooking was not permitted. He meant every word he said about his concern for drivers welfare. Indeed, a remarkable person.
A few months later, we had an occasion to visit him at his tree-lined bungalow apartment in cool Bengaluru where we had at least two rounds of conventional south Indian “kapi”.
Everytime, I look at him or his photo, he reminds me of my transport guru late Chittranjan Dass ji. Carbon copy. Both remarkable personalities. There are many like them. It is just question of time, before I get to hobnob with them.
During my subsequent visit to Tata Steel, Jamshedpur, the logistics team knew of our meeting with Iyer. “He is an asset,” is what they simply echoed.
One last question: why Sarada’s piece submitted in August 2016 has to gather dust for three years. Valid, undoubtedly. I lost it in the deluge of input. Until one fine morning, I woke up when another old time school mate bearing the same name – Visvanathan - buzzed. There the connect got reignited. Rest … you know it. Here it is… Sorry, Sarada!
It is not dated, except the drivers waiting for 3-4 hours at interstate borders. Now that is history, thanks to the GST roll out.
Don't forget to read the full interview in DRIVERS DUNIYA.
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