On the second Saturday of 2017 (just four days away as I write this) about 100 ex-employees of a company will meet for a reunion dinner. They were brought together by WhatsApp. And the name they chose for the group was born long before phones turned mobile and smart. When I was invited to join the group, what struck me was the name they had chosen for the group. It was the name of a beloved house magazine, synonymous with the people who worked in and loved that company.
The last time this house magazine figured in a conversation was when a new friend called me from my old company. Once upon a time, they had recruited me to launch and edit their house magazine. Now, after nearly three decades, my friend had been asked to revive the same magazine.
Same? I began writing for the magazine hammering away, two-fingered, at a borrowed typewriter. Now, he was trying to figure out how to use social media and the company’s intranet to bring the magazine digitally alive on laptops and smartphones.
We used to send each copy by first class mail to every employee’s home, I told him. He could hardly suppress a chuckle. “Mail? You mean as in post office?” He tried to explain it to me, speaking slowly, “We are talking of some 20,000 employees.”
I was fortunate that the number was just a little over 1000 then. Made it easier for me to know almost every name and face I communicated with.
I had joined as a proud writer, confident of bowling them all over with my clever writing. And they taught me that communication was not about English but about listening and sharing—sharing experiences, memories and moments.
Fish for cats
Ekvir remembered a day of torrential rain when he had to wade through waist-high water to reach office. Why? The magazine revealed the answer. “There were six cats in the pharmacology department, surviving solely on fish. With the floods, the poor creatures faced starvation. Therefore, Ekvir waded all the way to the market and floated back with the fish. Whatever the cats thought of this, he did win the admiration of a group of boys, who had followed him during the journey.”
The cycle walker
For the sake of getting the job, Rao lied to the manager that he could ride a bicycle. For several days, he suffered the ignominy of walking beside his cycle. At nights, he practised. Soon, he was delivering the company’s products to every nook and corner of the city. Yes, on the bicycle!
The dancer in stores
And who would have thought that the shy, silent Sudeep from stores was an accomplished dancer, until the day he agreed to a graceful lunchtime performance for the magazine’s camera!
The serious scientist in the lab transformed into a garrulent numismatist in his apartment.
The flautist and the violinist staged impromptu concerts at home, with the family joining in.
It was all for the sake of the magazine that belonged to all.
Made quarterly, retained forever
There were also people like Prakash who ensured my ego did not get mixed up with my job. “You may be the editor. But it is our magazine,” he would remind me every time he disagreed with something in the magazine.
Yes, the quarterly did carry plenty of corporate reports. But, the employees made the magazine home to some unforgettable moments of their lives. They truly took the house magazine home.
Some months ago, I ran into Usha, who, at that time, was still working with the same company. “Do you remember me?” I asked her. She looked at me for a few minutes, her face blank. Then she screamed the name. No, not my name, but the magazine’s.
I felt honoured.