Author: Soumya Mukherjee
Have you followed the German team at world cups? They have never had a Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, a Maradona or Messi, a Pele or Eusobio, but they have beaten teams who have these stars, and won the cup a disproportionate number of times.
They have a secret. They know how to pass the ball. No one holds it when challenged, but promptly pass it on. When not challenged, they keep the ball without unnecessary running. There are no theatrics, no dazzling display of individual skills, and no attempt at the beautiful game. They don’t care about speed, only about ball possession. It might be dull, boring and mechanical, but it gets the job done. Ajay Sharma has mastered this art.
Ajay Sharma, by dint of keeping his head down, never getting noticed, never doing anything remotely controversial, risky, or even slightly unorthodox, has risen to the top of the pile in his bank. He is diligent, industrious, meticulous, reticent, inscrutable, and unobtrusively powerful.
We met Ajay as a callow youth, in a shell shock at his first exposure to the murky world of Banking, trying to correlate the realities of sarkari corporations with the ideals preached to him by his father. Since then, by virtue of obedience, obscurity and proficiency at the mind-numbing routine, he has slowly floated to the top. He has firmly followed the lessons of Gandhiji’s monkeys, of seeing, hearing and speaking no evil. He currently is on the board of the Bank, and is considered a strong candidate for the Chairmanship, in due course.
It is a thing of beauty to see him operate if you like the German-style of football. Replace file with the ball. No file stays on his table long enough to be noticed. He smoothly passes it on to another of his colleagues. He is an authority on rules regulations and circulars and can quote them from memory and interpret them in ways most suitable for him.
Let us be a fly on the wall in a top management meeting regarding the implementation of a new government directive, which is quasi-official. Although the directive is from the government, it is not a direct order, more of an advisory. However, it is implied that this is of vital importance politically, and therefore imperative that it is implemented immediately. But there would be regulatory challenges in the implementation as well, and possible adverse fall out will draw unnecessary attention of the government watchdogs.
The chairman is looking for someone to bell the cat. He seeks Ajay’s opinion. The captain on the whistle has passed to the right midfielder, his master game maker, thus avoiding the opponents’ challenge.
Ajay suggests that the company secretary should give his inputs, deftly deflecting the ball to the wings. He, in turn, wants a legal opinion, passing the ball back to defense. The legal team seeks inputs from the technical department, passing the ball forward again to the strikers. So far this is going according to the play book.
Here there’s a disruption in the game plan. An eager beaver newbie, recently promoted to top management from the operations, like the promising rookie playing his first international, is unmarked, and intercepts the ball. He interjects to say how this would be a marketing opportunity, and also in tune with our social objectives and he would like to take the proposal forward. He is close to the goal, has considerable dribbling skills, and could perhaps score a surprise goal. There may be a decision in the match.
But a decision in the meeting is unprecedented, as it would involve many signatures, one of them being Ajay’s, as it pertains to his department. Now that could expose him to future scrutiny in case some problem crops up. So he does what he is a master at; quietly tripping the budding Maradona and ending all possibility of his scoring a spectacular solo goal on debut.
He, therefore, congratulates the young prodigy on his initiative, suggests getting a legal opinion, a view from a regulatory expert, and the setting up of a panel consisting of members of legal, secretarial, technical and marketing departments to examine the matter and put it up to the board, and appoints the maverick as the coordinator.
Another brilliant stalemate. No fowl as both are on the same team.
I have no doubt that Ajay will become the Chairman when the incumbent retires, and perhaps the regulator when his long unobtrusive innings come to an end.