When communication was not social but they cared

Flowing crowd at a busy railway station

Let’s call him KKP.

I found him sitting on a bench while the crowd swirled around him at a busy suburban railway station.

“Hello, remember me?” I asked him, with a hand on his shoulder, in case he was sleeping.

He looked up, moved a little and patted the place next to him. I hesitated. I had a train to catch.

“You have a train to catch?” He used to unsettle me with his uncanny ability to read my mind. That was when we used to work together. He still had the same effect. I sat next to him. He smiled.

“I have stopped catching trains,” he said. “I come here to catch the crowd, the commotion and the minds. My body has grown weak. My mind has no body. I come here to exercise my mind. I never speak to anybody but I could tell you stories about some of these people. You still write, don’t you?”

He chuckled. He was not expecting an answer.

“I read your blog.” I was surprised. “I read what you wrote last about the house magazine. You have a lot of time to waste, don’t you?”

I wanted to compliment him for being computer-friendly (which he was not then) and to thank him for reading my blog (did he really or was he just pulling my leg?). All I managed to say was, “What do you mean?”

Editor, green, roasted

“Remember the day I fought with you? About my photograph? You were so green. I left you sweating,” he laughed.

He had delivered a speech at a company function. It so happened he did not figure in any of the photos of the event published in the house magazine. He felt it was deliberate. Just because he came across as a leader of the workers, the management had a grouse against him and I was following orders to cut him out. He was convinced and refused to budge.

He could be forceful in a quiet way. I tried to make a case for editorial integrity. In the end, he did leave me sweating.

Was he still holding that against me? He had more.

“Remember Mrs Kamble?” he smiled, looking at the train that had just pulled in.

I did. Till the day I published her poem in the house magazine, she was just a docile figure at the end of the packing line, who barely looked up when I happened to visit the factory. Someone discovered that she wrote poems and persuaded her to write one for the magazine. I changed a couple of words before I published it and all hell broke loose.

The timid woman, who never ventured into the office floors, came marching in the day after the magazine reached her. Her green eyes were blazing. How dare I make changes in her work? Why didn’t I check with her first? Never again would she write anything for the magazine.

We belonged

“We cared, you know.” He was expecting me to have tuned into his chain of thoughts. I was lost.

“What do you mean?”

“You may have been the editor. For us, it was our magazine. It was an honour to feature in that. It connected us. We belonged. That is why we fought with you,” he paused.

“No more. It will never happen again,” he sighed.

“You are wrong,” I told him. “There are so many ways to connect now. Online, offline. I am sure the bonding will be stronger now.”

I hoped KKP would never meet my new friend, who was handling internal communications now. Apparently, KKP could still unsettle new editors.Magnifying glass with pencil handle and eraser

He half rose, and I helped him get up. It was time for him to go home.

“Nobody cares. They say they don’t have time, actually they don’t care.” He had his hand on my shoulder, as if he was consoling me. With our slow pace, we were like an unmoving boulder that parted the flowing crowd.

As we slowly climbed the stairs to the bridge, he was panting. He stopped to catch his breath. “There is enough and more online and offline. Do they read anything at all? They may, if there is something in it for them,” he sounded defeated.

“If you want them, give them what they want. They want money; you want work. Punch in, punch out. Nobody cares,” he was rambling. Did he think I was still the editor?

After I managed to push my way into a train and found a square inch to park my body, I thought about my encounter with KKP. Sentimental old fool! What did he know about communications?

I should have told him about employee engagement, about empowerment, about lateral communication powered by social media. That would have silenced him.

Maybe his ancient mind was beginning to fall apart. Yet, he spoke from the heart. Was that why he made so much sense?

Photo:Vivek Prakash/Reuters.

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8 thoughts on “When communication was not social but they cared”

  1. Brilliant. I really enjoyed the writing but as someone who manages internal communications, including the newsletter, I think I may have enjoyed the point of the story even more.

  2. Brilliant, as always Vijay, the moods gently shading from one to the other. I love it!
    I grew up in a Tata township and my father worked for a Tata company. The company newsletter was a great big deal… to be featured therein, nothing short of becoming a star!
    KKP and others of that generation find the shift disconcerting, perhaps. I can understand. But for myself, I love the medium of the blog that gives us friends all over the world – friends who are ever supportive and at the same time, don’t hesitate to speak their minds. The online community can move mountains today, don;t you think? Sadly, the company newsletter has faded into a dewy oblivion forever.

      1. I understand the sentiment – only too well. But do you see our children getting excited about their awards featuring in there?
        The old order changeth….

  3. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem
    to be running off the screen in Safari. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d
    post to let you know. The style and design look great though!
    Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Thanks

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