Hey Ram !

Ram, Ramu, Ramchandra Rao is no more.

My partner in Basil HR Advisory left for his heavenly abode on 17th Feb night. I was away at Surat in an L&T program, a client we had worked on together since 2015. One of our first clients, after starting BasilHR in 2014 Oct. It is a testimony to Ramu’s contributions and commitment that since 2015 we have been regularly working for L&T Hazira!! In the process there have been multiple line leaders of L&T who co-ordinated & directed our cultural transformation initiatives. Yet the succeeding generation of leaders kept us engaged…the biggest certificate for Ram sir’s strategic orientation on how BasilHR can add value. The ultimate proof of this : L&T team actually observed 2 mins silence, to pay respects to the departed soul on 18th itself. I can’t think of another example where a large corporate does this for a mere external consultant.

But then, Ramu was never a mere consultant. He got involved intricately with whoever he came in touch with & left an indelible mark. Having studied in Darbhanga, Bihar, Ramu’s chaste Hindi diction & his wide ranging vocabulary, would automatically put any Bombaiyya hindi-wallah on the back foot. His repertoire of curse words and off-colour anecdotes would put many a sailor to shame. But that was a put on persona.

Other times he was a true “ladies man” immaculately dressed with total, upmarket branded clothes, properly polished shoes with laces!!! so well groomed that one could easily take him to meet the Queen & he would be totally at home there!!! Or to any client, or prospective client. With his most prim & proper board room behavior he could charm any client. And when he spoke, people listened. His ability to work through objections & suggestions others made, blending their ideas with his agenda, made us a very successful team. All our present clients have been giving us repeat business for years & years. Because of Ramu’s demeanor, BasilHR became the first port of call for many clients who required HR support.

This meant we were on the road, together, for 20 plus days of a month. we travelled and worked together so very much that we were like a married couple, still in love!! And a more classic Odd Couple you would not find after Walter Matthau & Jack Lemmon. Every which way we were perfectly mis-matched. To his broad picture, world view I was the nuts and bolts guy. To his sartorial elegance, were my crumpled shirts and mis-matched trousers. When I met him I was shocked to hear he had 800 Rs haircuts and regularly indulged in grooming makeovers, while my criteria to select a barber was just close distance from home & cap of 80 Rs haircut!! His love for food, against my “”Lunch/Dinner is just a time to get through”. I think the only thing we both agreed upon was our passionate love for our drink: but here also he was a sophisticate Whiskey guy; while I am a committed sadak chaap Old Monk drinker. But still, after all the hurly burly is done, we both loved drinking.

Possibly that is not fair. Another thing we both thought important was family. His eyes would light up everytime he talked of his grand children. His affection for his 2 daughters continued unabated till the end. Family is my priority, too

What always surprised me was his outgoing nature & ability to have a truly mixed caboodle of friends, belonging to all strata & factions of society. Builders, Professors, Contractors, Doctors, Businessmen, Politicos, Academics, Corporate Professionals all considered him as one of their own!! Despite such a wide spectrum of friends, he was always hungry for more contacts. He was a pied piper let loose: he could get along & befriend anybody, from a canteen worker to a CEO. Always ready to help, taking on other people’s battles endeared him to many! I have often see him work his charm on all & sundry and come out of every interaction with more friends, more people wanting to go out of their way to help him.

For an introvert like me, forever wary of speaking to the other sex, Ramu gave me an insight how Krishna must have been with the Gopis. From the first glance, Ramu had made a connect. And could always find things to talk. His light banter always charmed, and I have not seen a single lady who could resist his charm. Well dressed, soft spoken, neatly coiffured, he had the entire audience hanging on his words. And he could get away with any comment, any innuendo because of his charming smile & engagement with all.

He openly admitted being an XLRI graduate by accident. His brother, an IIT-ian, was the brain in his family. Ramu was often at the receiving end from his parents, due to the odious comparison. But he remained true to his core. Living in a small town, (where everyone knew his father), meant when Ram had to use the town’s Christian Cemetery as his smoking lounge! Advantage: no one came there! So he & his merry band from school sat on the grave stones & smoked. Before going home they ate raw mango leaves to mask the smell. Post marriage he used chewing gum to mask the smell of cigarette & liquor on his breath. Yet he was honest to admit: ghar walon ko sab pata hota hai, they just pretend they do not know, to protect your image.

With such a rich & varied people orientation, it was no surprise he was very successful HR professional. In Indal, VIP, Wockhardt, Hinduja Group, and GVK, he led his team to great heights. He was happy with the fact that many of his chelas became HR heads with much larger roles than what he had ever played. He felt beholden that he could recount 20/25 names of people who worked in his team & then rose to be Heads of HR in different companies. In the course of our travel, I had the opportunity to meet many of them & they all treated him with the deference & respect due to a true Guru, who led by example & groomed his team to go to greater heights by his challenges.

For me personally it is a great loss. I can never meet another partner who could challenge & jell with me at the same time. I feel super proud of what we achieved together. The value add we jointly created will live on beyond him. And will keep reminding me & our clients that we had a Giant walking amidst us. A Giant with a heart. A Giant with a gentle step. Suffused with love for all. If I miss him so much, I can well what his family must be going through. He loved his daughters and his grandchildren and often talked of the support his wife gave him through his journey. Ramu would want them to be happy. So I hope they find their solace soon.

To them and to his many many professional fans i will only say झालेत बहू होतील बहू परंतु ह्या समा हाच!! ( There were many before, there will be many later; But no one will be quite like this one!)

Let us be happy that we met & enjoyed with Ramu for the years we did.

Ramu keep loving & blessing us as you always did: in grief, vikas

PS: My wife who is my QC for every blog told me that writing about his smoking & drinking, is it ok? I told her that was the Ramu I loved & so would not like to edit it out. I hope you, my readers, agree

30 Replies to “Hey Ram !”

  1. Hi VS:

    Felt very sad to know about the demise of your partner Ramchandra.
    The way you have conveyed the sad news makes the reader feel your pain , more so on knowing about the qualities of the person who has left this world ! Wonderful person…wonderful narration …you have made him alive even in front of someone who has never met him!

    It is great that you could attract a business partner like him. One does not get such a companion for nothing..it also speaks for the kind of person you are ..to deserve such an affable and competent business partner. Good people end up in good company..effortlessly !!

    And at our age ,we certainly feel ..65 is not the age for this to happen!

    Such events are reminders to the truth: “ कल क्या होगा ,क्या पता ?”

    One starts wondering : ..finally ,finally what counts?

    Perhaps what we do for others ..in a genuine way ..is what is going to count.

    We all have gained a lot from the society

    Isn’t this the time to return ?

    It is not question of just giving money ..to the poor

    Can we give smile…can we appreciate someone’s help….can we say some soothing words …can we spread positivity?

    In the time that we still have with us, can we forgive and seek forgiveness (like you had beautifully put in one of your blogs)

    Can we ‘clear ‘ all accounts?

    Can we give happiness to whomever we interact with?…….Like your loving friend Ramchandra?

    That will be the real tribute to him!

    I pray for the soul. Let the soul rest in peace!


    1. JLS
      thanks for your thoughtful comments, as always.
      Will make a detailed reply in a couple of days
      Just wanted to touch base and thank you for your prayers and for letting me know you are with me in my time of grief.

      will send a more detailed reply soon
      meanwhile take care and many thanks for being there


    2. JLS
      sorry I took a while to pen this

      L&T has been driving me crazy
      I am in Surat for 4 days of the week and travel to and fro by road before and after
      so de facto am in Thane for .5+1+.5 days when I hardly get time to get clothes washed and ironed & am back again
      even this I am writing from Surat

      In between we made a 3 day trip to meet Rashmi
      Vinita flew from Mumbai
      and I flew in and out of Surat if you please

      This madness will continue till March end
      Such is life

      Your Comments reminded me of a belief I have nurtured for long
      the Theory of Vibrations
      whatever actions/thoughts we generate create a vibration
      which could be positive or negative
      and that determines what happens in your life
      (Could be called Karma, but Vibration makes it sound more “modern” and scientific, he he)
      My father had the trust that his hard earned money would never go waste/be stolen
      and as he believed, it was
      Being a lifetime in HR I have always felt and practiced spreading goodness and smile whoever I interacted with
      and I have reaped enormous returns
      Possibly that is why I still get Valsad hapus and Ghari home delivered

      I think like souls attract and hence Ramu and I found one another and jelled so well
      we truly complemented one another and that kept us together

      But as I keep telling his daughters & wife: he would want us to be happy
      and we owe that to his memory and a life well lived

      Vibration or Karma theory means I must repay and pay forward I was fortunate to receive
      He will be missed
      so I fully buy your argument that we must “clear our accounts” here
      Being a non believer, I feel all our bills must be paid here, before we go
      And certainly we owe a smile, support and resources we have been privileged to receive to others around us

      I keep praying and hoping that I remember this truth till my last days

      Once again thanks making me think some more on Ramu, on life, and myself


  2. I was fortunate to have known him from his VIP days..he impressed with his knowledge for sure and went all out to see that we got paid for an engagement before his time..my condolences to his family & friends 🙏


    1. Amal dada
      thanks for taking the time and effort to write in
      VIP was the time when Ram flowered as an head of HR bringing about significant organizational change
      It left an indelible mark on him and he used to remember VIP and all his friends then, with much affection
      will convey your condolences to his wife and daughters


  3. Honoring a friend’s death is truly about honoring their life. Despair over what may have been, but revel and reflect in what was.
    Pranam and salute.


    1. Sebastian
      Yes indeed in my blog I was trying to point the strengths and uniqueness of Ramu. Indeed I am happy for having met him and interacted with him as much as I did
      God bless his soul and many thanks for your prayers


  4. Absolutely loved it, Vikas dada. Can tell it comes from the heart and is written with so much love and deference.
    Your friend sounds interesting, sorry I could not know in his lifetime.
    May God bless this suave and evolved soul.

    Just one comment + being good with people has nothing to do with being successful as HR, IMHO😊


    1. Thanks Nilu
      Yes it came from the heart
      After a very frustrating long day, I decided to destress by going for a long walk
      on returning to my lonely hotel room, I just sat on the computer and typed this in one shot….did not think, did write straight from the heart
      he has influenced me so much that i really did not have to think
      read out the draft to Vinita and she said it brought a tear in her eyes
      so i knew i was on right track

      did not understand your ref to good human n good HR
      but i know the generic impression about HR
      so i will let it go


  5. Dear Vikas, Condolences on the loss of your friend and partner. Your articulation left no doubt about your relationship and the fact that he will be missed and leaves a huge void. You seem to have enhoyed so many journeys together and that would be forever etched in your memory.


    1. VJ
      thanks for your understanding
      he was your alumni and a really towering professional
      Yes I was fortunate to have been very close to him
      and spent a lot of time knowing him and getting close to him
      will always remember and miss him


  6. Sorry to hear that…I didn’t know him but the way you described, makes me feel I knew him well. May his soul rest in peace…🙏🏼


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