How does one describe a personality like Mr Sen? For records, Mr Sen was my boss when I worked in Atlas Automotive components, way back from 1977 to 1981. He was the works manager and in-charge of an Aluminum Die Casting plant. I had first met him in a conference of foundrymen the previous year. Yes, I was a foundryman in that avatar. In the first meeting itself, I liked him. I was 27 years of age, and he was 43 years old. Though he was senior to me, I never felt intimidated by him. I looked at him as a fatherly figure though he was not old enough to qualify for that. His son was probably in pre-engineering class at that time. I do not know why I felt that but he had an aura about him, but still, he was always people’s man.
When I met him for the second time, he told me, “Arey Panvalkar, why don’t you change your job and join us?” The first thought that came to my mind was what Aluminum casting does Atlas manufacture? So I asked him. He said, “We make Low pressure die casting, gravity die casting and sand casting”. I requested him to give me some time. At that time I worked in a company making Copper and Copper alloy products by a process called extrusion. After going through my college books, I concluded that I did not know anything about Aluminum casting except the very basics. He wanted me to join as a quality control manager. I called him and said, “Sen Ji, I do not know anything about the products made by Atlas so I will not join.” He knew that I had a Master’s degree in Metallurgy.
He called me to his office for a cup of coffee. I told him about my apprehensions. He smiled and said, “Look, I know that your experience is different, but I want someone with no casting experience because I want to change the way my team thinks. You have the educational credentials, so I am sure you will handle things easily.” I was still not sure when he said, “I want a go-getter like you!” I said, “How did you judge that I am a getter?” He said, “Panvalkar, my judgement about people has never gone wrong before, so believe in me and join. You will do well in Atlas.”
That was my “interview” for a post in Atlas, but this was how he judged people. In months after I joined Atlas, there was a significant upheaval in the organisation in post foundry production department. The whole team was removed. Mr Sen called me and said, “ From today you will also look after that department too.” I felt that these two responsibilities were conflicting in nature, but he said that professional in me would know how to handle conflicts. Never in my four years with Atlas, did I face the conflict between production and quality. To me, the quality was to be produced!
Atlas was a smallish organisation but was making good castings. We were all proud of what we did. Mr Sen would back us to the hilt while dealing with customers, provided we were right. Once an over smart purchase officer from a large company said a few nasty things to me as well as about Atlas. The argument happened during a meeting. I reported the same to Mr Sen. He said, “I will deal with them for a few days.” After three days, Mr Sen called me to his office. To my surprise, the officer was sitting with him. When I entered, the officer got up and profusely apologised to me. I was surprised. Later in the day, Mr Sen told me that he had discussed the incident with the biggest boss of that organisation and ensured an apology. Such support gave me more confidence in dealing with large companies.
It used to be a treat to see Mr Sen in man management mode. He probably had in his mind, made categorisation of all our colleagues. He would tell someone in details about how to do something. He would shout at someone to pull up the socks and get things done. I had seen many impossible things achieved by his unique methods. After all these years he understood Marathi but would speak with people in English or Hindi. We had a few Bengali colleagues; he would converse them in Bengali. Were they scared of him? Interactions with him were always interesting, sometimes coaxing, at other times pushing hard. But work had to be completed. I never saw him telling someone not to go home until specific work was done. People would do it on their own; it was his fatherly figure that made a big difference.
My friend late Dilip and I were questioned all the time during our meetings. Mr Sen would get things reconfirmed from us sometimes. Once in exasperation, I asked him why two of us are treated differently. He called us back to the office after our morning meeting was over. There were the usual coffee and Bourbon biscuits, an indication that he was in a great mood. He explained that he considered two of us to be the best, so he did not want us to make mistakes. He said, “You guys are smart, but sometimes you want to achieve too many things. I want to make sure that you don’t end up making silly mistakes. That is the reason I reconfirm the tech side of the discussion. Other guys need spoon feeding most of the times so that they won’t make mistakes!” Young that we were, Dilip was even younger than me; we were happy that Mr Sen had so much confidence in us.
So many memories flowed in when I came to know that he passed at the age of 85, on 8th March 2019. After Atlas, he helped his sons to set up a very successful Vacuum impregnation processing and machinery manufacturing set-up. He was an excellent engineer but one of the best Managers I came across in my professional life. He always ensured that his colleagues did not have any personal issues; he would go out of the way to resolve such matters. I am sure he has passed on all his qualities to his sons. I will share one example. We attended his grandson’s marriage in February. There was a big crowd, as usually happens in Indian weddings. Later, his son called me to check whether I had met Mr Sen at the wedding. These are small personal touches that turn people from good to super!
God has generally been kind to Sen family. Both he and Mrs Sen looked in good health when we met them during the marriage. His grandson has also started taking part in the family business when he comes to India in the summer holidays. Mr Sen has seen it all, children doing well, grandson getting involved. The third generation doing well is the ultimate dream for a family man like Mr Sen. All through his career though he used to be very busy, the family was always first for Sen babu!
সেন বাবু আমরা আপনাকে মিস করব!