“Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof”. Richard Bach’s exhortation rang through my heart & mind when I heard about Jayant Tanna’s death.
Jayant & I go back a long, long time. I met him first in 1982 when I joined Siemens HO in Worli; and for the past 40 years we have celebrated each others’ lives & milestones like true brothers of the soul, bound by respect & love for one another & our entire families. The man whose philosophy was to “Live Life Kingsize”, burning the candle from both ends for a larger glow all around, & a “devil may care” attitude and outlook for the future…I truly got jolted when I heard Jayant is no more. This blog is a tribute to my friend and an attempt to recount some of the lessons I learnt from Jayant, which helped enrich my, and my family’s, life.
When I joined Siemens HR, I was a very withdrawn & introverted soul…absolutely the opposite of Jayant’s personality. Jayant was full of energy & laughter, ebullient & loud, challenging & confrontationist, suave & well dressed, a real “ladies man” : point-by-point, everything that I was not!! Other stark areas of difference were: beautiful handwriting & a way with numbers. And why not? He came to HR after spending 20+ years on the commercial side. The whispers in the corridors were that he had had a falling out with his Business Head & the Functional Corporate Commercial Boss & so Jayant was parceled off to HRD, a nascent effort of Siemens Personnel Department; cobbled together with an outdated EDP Manager; an electronic Microscope Sales Head (as that Business was stopped); 2 young turks, fresh MBAs in HR; all under an ex-Internal Audit Manager as our boss. Viva la Human Resource Development. The-then Personnel Director had put together this motley team to change the way Siemens looked at its Talent Management & Development!
I don’t think we had much impact on the organization and its people processes, but from Day 1 Jayant took me under his fold, with the express purpose of changing me & making me more effective & less scared of the big, bad world. One of the first learning from Jayant was :
NEVER TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY. Jayant was the proverbial bull in the Siemens HO ever ready to pick issues and people by the horns and toss them around till people got the message. Still remember a placard he made in his beautiful cursive hand to announce to the passers by,” If you have Nothing to do, Please don’t do it here”. This because Siemens HO building always had many visitors from other offices and factories, who were wandering around “like cows looking for grazing grounds & green grass” (Jayant’s words) wanting to chat with someone till their next meeting. So, “please don’t do it here”.
Another major learning from Jayant was to laugh everything off. Jayant could puncture the ego, or argument, of anyone with his earthy, common-sensical questioning. Forever with his feet firmly on the ground, he made it a point to flatten all kite-flyers and theoreticians with his heavy hand, interlaced with humor. He had a style of laughing loudest at his own jokes, and continuing to laugh till such time you gave up your inhibitions & joined his laughter. More senior & serious opponents invariably brought out the “best” from Jayant as he stooped to scalp & conquer anyone who stood in his way. Just to exemplify, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi had just been released and there was lot of talk how Hollywood had omitted Sardar Patel’s character…a strict no no for many Indians. Jayant classic counter was, “So what Richard Attenborough has also omitted my father’s role in the freedom struggle! Sardar may be imp to you, my father was more imp to me!” How can you counter-argue with that? Siemens was full of pompous egoistic souls, so that Jayant had much fodder for his mills to grind.
Jayant joi-de-vivre was legion. He loved parties and was always the soul of any party he attended. He had such a strong animal magnetism that all action always circled around him & his victims. Fun loving to the core, he was a great singer & a fabulous cook. He sang from his heart: the entire song/lyrics/mood was etched on his expressive face. A more solicitous host I have not seen. Going out of the way to make everyone comfortable and engaged were second nature for him. Exotic recipes brought out the best in him. Burmese Khow Suey, Grilled Chicken & Rice casseroles, Mexican & Turkish dishes, Barbeques, Smoked dishes, so many firsts we have had at Jayant’s house. Once I have stood next to him drinking my rum while he cooked Chickoo halwa for full 4 hours to get it perfectly right. His experimentation in the kitchen was always blessed, & we ended up stuffed to the gills every time.
Even till the very end, his love for life and people shone brightest in his eyes and body language. Giving & entertaining was like second nature to him. And all this he did with genuine, heartfelt love. Accepting others as they are, and loving them to the hilt, the greatest extent that he could love, was his strong suit. Never did a word of criticism or censure escape his lips for any of his circle of friends & acquaintances. He embraced people just as they are and loved them to the best of his ability. Even if others had some words of criticism of mutual friends, Jayant always sprung to the defense and explain the other person’s point of view. He managed to carry himself like the lotus in the pond, aloof, unsullied and standing tall. In Jayant’s loving presence, you ended up feeling big and tall yourself, & forgot your own pettiness, in his benign presence.
Always one to challenge rules and processes, he made me more confident in bucking the stream and standing up for my own thoughts. He had a way to go quickly to the root of any issue & then think of innovative, different solutions. Explaining his differing point was second nature to him and he was ready to debate and argue till he convinced you or got convinced himself. An out-of-box thinker he brought me out of my own box, the boundaries I had set for myself, and helped me overcome my resistance to think radically. He showed me how important it was to sometimes throw the baby with the bath water, and begin afresh. For Jayant manner of thinking, nothing was ever anathema and the solution sets were always infinite. This insight helps me even today.
I will indeed miss this great friend who helped me become what I am & throw out many of my shibboleths and pet peeves. Not only me, but my wife and daughter were privileged to be amongst his favorites, & both have gained enormously from his undemanding & unquestioning love. A towering presence in our life, a guiding post who helped us find our paths, an epitome of accepting and all-encompassing love is no more…and the world is poorer for that, we all are at loss.
Jayant, dear friend, Keep the seat next to you warm….keep the beer chilled…I look forward to being with you soon….we shall keep the party rocking in your inimitable style
खुब जमेगा रंग… जब मिल बैठंगे तीन यार…. आप, मै और अपनी old monk: your friend in grief, vikas