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  • Team Kiron

A Father Extraordinaire!

By Kiron Shenoy

 

In my mid 60s now and also having been a father of 2 lovely children and an adorable Grand-daughter- I keep thinking what a wonderful father I too had!


A similar thought echoed for my wife’s father too. He was a wonderful and amazing human being. Why is it always a post facto assessment or admiration? In my case since I was a rebel and a radical of sorts-probably I had no bandwidth in my teens and youth to think of all the niceties that were around me.


Yet - I heard a lot of stories and anecdotes from my father, relatives and his close friends that got etched in my mind over the years.


My paternal Grandfather was a very intelligent and nice personality belonging to a lower middle class but an extremely decent & cultured family. His command on English was so good that I was told even staff from the District Collector’s office would refer to him to write or check some of their important letters, of course sadly, all for gratis!


This craving for learning and command on English flowed down to my father and right through our family. My father was extremely knowledgeable and well read. Quite an authority on all subjects. A very devoted family man and a very honest and straight-forward human being. There was nothing diplomatic about him….


He went on to complete his schooling in good schools and colleges in Mangalore and finally had to stop his education after completing his Engineering Diploma level, due to lack of funds at home. In fact, at school and college too he was giving tuitions to support his parents so that his retired parents could manage the house!


Albeit, even a Diploma in Engineering was a coveted qualification in the late 1940s. Degrees were rare and Diplomas were few. Thus, he landed up with a nice job at Burma- Shell -a well-paying MNC with great perks.


So now a decently qualified, well paid handsome tall eligible man was the cynosure of the town and his community. He was getting trapped and snared into that realm till one day he realized his parents’ trauma. Their only daughter and his elder sister was not getting proper suitors for marriage as she was sort of qualified and close to 30 years of age. In the early 1950s this age was beyond acceptable age limits in their community. Besides his parents could not pay anything for dowry. That dilemma was killing them!


My father realized that and, in a few months, came out with a selfless suggestion that if his parents are able to get a boy for his elder sister and who also has a sister, he is ready to marry such a person. After great efforts finally this family from Mangalore (Karnataka) got their double pair match in Calicut (then Kozhikode & in Kerala)


My mother was a beautiful, simple, uncomplicated care -giver and totally devoted family person. She was a very good Veena player and an absolutely zero ego person. I learnt a lot from her simplicity & niceness!


When my father was in the allied Armed forces services of Military Eng. Services he was awarded with the prestigious award for some findings from the President of India. I think it was a cash award.


After this short stint in Agra at MES, in 1958 end he joined the just started Indian Refineries Limited (now in Indian Oil Corporation Ltd) for its Guwahati Refinery project. From the mid of 1959 to mid of 1960 he was amongst the dozen engineers who had an exclusive 11month training stint in Romania.


My father’s fondest memories and proud moments was the commissioning of India’s 1st Oil refinery in Noonmati-Guwahati/Assam. The icing on the cake was his commendatory certificate handed over by the than Prime Minister of India-the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He cherished this January day of 1962 for life.


My father, Basty Premanand Shenoy receiving an award from Jawaharlal Nehru - Prime Minister of India

My father was the blue-eyed boy of the Chairman and the GM of the Refinery. He became one of the 1st Assistant Engineers in Indian Oil. Many of his friends and colleagues of that era went on to become MDs and Directors of Indian oil and other Oil companies in India.

A straight forward question would be why did my father not reach that level in spite of been an oil tank and pipeline specialist with such impeccable honesty and in-depth knowledge of the Oil Refinery. The answer is simple- he went into a sacrificial mode again.


Mid- 60s when the company grew-my father, now an Executive engineer, noticed that there was a lot of politics, nepotism and corruption seeping. Procedures were flouted and favoritism played a big part in posting & promotion, rather than merit. This led him to get active in the Officers association and fight every now and then for his fellow employees’ rights- be it senior or junior.


In a regular but sure sign of vendetta the management penalized my father by transferring him 7 times in 3 years and giving him only 2 promotions in 22 years. In fact as an EE he had stagnated on the same salary for 7 years as he had touched efficiency bar after 8 years. Ideally during this period he would have got minimum 4 or maximum 7 promotions. All his fellow engineers got at least 5 to 7 promotions in the same period.


It was ironical that a Trainee he recruited or a casual employee he made permanent became his immediate boss during that period. I am aware that there was one Manager in the refinery who never sat in front of my father, even though he was his boss. For any meeting he would come to my father’s cabin out of respect for someone who trained and nurtured him!

Initially it was the funds for the parents’ house and then the sacrifice for the sister’s marriage. Then post my parent’s marriage my father spent the next 10 to 12 years spending on his ageing & ailing parents and taking care of his younger brother’s education.


Thus, I remember for the initial 10/11 years of my life we had very sparse things in our house. No proper furniture (except folding chairs & camp cots), Music system, fridge or cycle. My father could afford it but he had no money left after paying others. We never felt it- as there was love & simplicity in the house.


Growing up-I remember that every few years we would have a struggling teenager or youth staying in our house who came from the extremely poor family. He would be treated at par in the house and after a few years he would follow his heart and move out. One became a photographer in Bengal and another went into construction field in Bihar. While another person is an Engineer in Mumbai the other one is a qualified CA having a flourishing accountancy business near Mangalore. His mantra was -I can only share what I have and not give it!


He had the gift of the gab and for him all people were naked without their clothes! He would expose most of the corrupt bosses openly and with facts. The next day he would be transferred out of that state!


A man gifted with command on English and the gift of the gab, he fought fiercely and bitterly for the rights, benefits and perks of the officers of Indian oil nationwide.

I still remember in the Refineries, even though Fuel and cooking gas had to be paid for, we had free electricity & water. In our house he had banned the use of Electric cookers!

My father and his team of office bearers fought for the retirement & terminal benefits of officers as the 1st batch was retiring along with him mid-1986.


Medical benefits and pension etc were all approved in 1986.


The Indian oil board approved pension benefits for all those who retired post JULY 1986. Guess who was left out?? My father!! Why? He retired on 30th June 1986.


Sadly-there were less than 10 others who lost out on this and my father was one of those. Since they were scattered all over India, they kept filing appeals but probably a handful could not make a difference and after 10 years they all gave up as they had no stamina nor the money to take it to Supreme court.


Probably due to this pension deprivation he never claimed a single rupee on his nor my mother’s medical benefits till the time he was alive.


He used to always tell me that he had no regrets. But I think more than love he was looking for some gratitude from the umpteen people he closely helped to live. However, I think-it was the pension loss that was rankling him as he felt all his 28 years, he was trying to get others something and the only thing that he ought to have got was denied!


A retired B.P. Shenoy with my mother, Lata Shenoy.

My father was honest to the core. He retired without a house but his PF savings and gratuity. A man of ethics, character and integrity. A true patriotic Indian with a slight parochial state of mind. A man of firm opinions and extreme will power. Brutally honest but extremely blunt in his words.


Our discussions would always border around arguments but I firmly believed my entire teenager years he strived to make me independent & worldly. But once I became that he wanted to exercise his control and that failed! He would forgive but never forget.


I always told him even though we may differ- we are like railway lines that are parallel but run together to a common destination without meeting. Here is where I have to credit my beloved wife for thawing our relationship and bring all of us together. In the end the only person my father would listen to was my wife!


There is so much to learn from his extraordinary life. May his soul RIP!

 

Kiron Shenoy is a happy man. He's here to share his stories. Email him at hello@kironshenoy.com to tell him what you think.

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