The SUV & The Thelawala

By Abhijnan Mukherjee, L&T MHPS Boilers

It was a dark humid evening. The sky was booming with thunder, hinting at something heavenly about to happen. Our cook had taken a holiday for the day and neither my wife nor I knew how to make roti (we still do not know!) So, the great Thelawala in Sec-35 HUDA market was our angel in disguise. For those who don’t believe me, let me clarify. We had no fish at home and therefore, the option of having rice was automatically eliminated. So, I went to my angel and softly requested for 7 rotis. A flash of lightning blinded me which was soon followed by a roar of thunder. I took it as a warning for ordering in odd numbers on a Tuesday night and immediately, I made it 8.

What happened next, was only witnessed by us (my angel & I)! We could hear God saying something accompanied by a background score and an ivory white light was approaching fast to engulf us.


No, I was not hurt. MCF has prepared water storage on the road by the market so that stray cows can quench their thirst in the rainy season. The bang was a God who had descended in a rush in his chariot and blessed my trousers with the water meant for cows. By the time I realised that Gods also now-a-days listen to Punjabi rock, ‘the chariot stopped where I stood’. The poor chap, my angel was frightened and perplexed (quite unnecessarily as if it was happening with him for the first time, huh!). He immediately took his ‘pooja ki thali’ kept ready with 5-6 boiled eggs carefully sliced in  quarters and sprinkled with salt and pepper, a bowl of dry chicken roast (taken out from a hidden place), a bowl of salted peanuts and 4 empty plastic glasses (one for the pilot and two for the apsaras seated behind,  I guess).

The God (let me tell you ‘He’ is the hero of this story), with his feet shaking majestically on the dashboard of the white Toyota Fortuner (from here on, will be only referred to as ‘Chariot’ as the automobile company does not sponsor Enlightenment), seemed unmoved by the quick but hasty behaviour of the devotee (oh, my angel has so many names!). I came to my senses hearing a roar from inside the chariot and saw the carefully cut eggs, going to dive into the drinking water meant for cows. May be because the eggs were white and God didn’t like the colour?

The headlights of the chariot were still creating a supernatural aura around the market. Plenty of small cars kept on honking, hoping for a free passage. I felt like slapping those petty drivers and saying, ‘don’t you know who is sitting inside?’. Good, they soon realised, took the footpath and made their way without disturbing our God.

By then, the poor devotee had offered almost everything he had (including the rotis), got some chaantaas (with love) on his back head and started massaging those divine feet. He (the devotee) was crying but his face had a shadow of a smile. I thought about Leonardo da Vinci for a second but immediately came to reality when ‘Thy glance fell on me and thou camest down with a smile’ (Ohho! I am talking about the God now). ‘I felt the luck of life had come at last’.

Suddenly, ‘You’ threw all the remaining chicken and plastic glasses into the water (meant for the cows, remember?), grabbed a packet of cigarettes, got into the chariot and almost flew away. The pilot definitely was ‘Devraj Indra’!

The thelawala (yes, the devotee) appeared unhappy as ‘He’ did not give him a single blue/orange/green/grey/pink piece of paper, as if his pooja today was in vain. I was undoubtedly convinced that this guy must have done something wrong and thus was deprived of the divine blessings.

All this while I was ‘waiting for alms to be given unasked’ (Arre! Those 8 rotis! ), I had to gently remind my angel, ‘Bhaiya! Mere roti de do!’. He looked at my eyes, smiled, took out the atta and poured some water on it.

Realising the inevitable delay in the schedule in view of the force-majeure case, I allowed myself to reflect on the events, which had transpired in the last few minutes, analysing the heavenly episode. I have been taught since childhood that we cannot afford to waste even a single second. I am serious. Cross my heart!

Now, let’s not be prejudiced and think about what happened here.  There must be some purpose behind that extraordinary (may be neo-normal now a days) behaviour of the Hero. Is the ‘Goal’ about getting respect from other people? Then He is probably successful. But is this success not temporary? What are the chances of ‘Growth & Sustainability’ in this path?

These days, we are taught to become result-oriented, that is, not to be too worried about the process involved but concentrate on achieving the goal. Yes, processes are not so important anymore. But can we resort to just ‘any’ process, especially when it involves human resource interface? Or the time has come to re-think and deliberate? Should the choice of processes be within a specified range in such cases?

Experts say, in the process from setting the goal to strategizing to execution, 5 important things are to be kept in mind always – Identity, Capability, Culture, Cost and Realignment through Innovation’.

It is of utmost importance to know who you are and what are your values (‘He’ was obviously not ‘The God’). Knowing this simple (but not so simple) thing will bring clarity about what you want and where you want to reach.

Then figure out what your capabilities are, which can help you reach your destination without changing your identity. Yes, you may not be good at everything (and you cannot be), but you must be good at many things (you are, scientifically) and those capabilities (strengths in the balcony) can be aligned in your everyday schedule to form a workable strategy. You have some negative capabilities too (strengths in the basement, like the Hero was using). You should consciously convince yourself not to operate from the basement.

Develop your positive strengths to create a culture within yourself. It is always tempting to reorganise yourself by external influences, but not always necessary. Trust your culture and strengthen it. Believe me; it is less difficult and less costly.

It is also important to determine up to what ‘cost’ you are ready to bear to follow your identified success path. All the limbs of a human body do not work with same efficiency. But have you ever heard anyone say, ‘I have cut my right leg as it was not effective enough and was decreasing my overall efficiency’? Cut only those parts which can be replaced when necessary, cut your hair, cut your nails. And remember, success should not come at the cost of your dignity.

Stay hungry. If all the above 4 are assimilated well, then re-organise and innovate your capabilities. You sometimes may need to reinvent some of your strengths as well. Don’t be scared of the future, enjoy the day, stay calm and take risks as sky is the limit. But when dreaming of soaring heights, do not forget the soil. Do not strive for power. It is said that ‘Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash’.

In this context, there is a term called ‘Humbition’ which is very popular in IBM. The meaning of it is described in a manifesto meant for up and coming IBMers. It states ‘Humbition is one part humility and one part ambition…. We notice that by far the lion’s share of the world-changing luminaries are humble people. They focus on the work, not themselves. They seek success – they are ambitious – but they are humbled when it arrives. They know that much of that success was luck, timing and a thousand factors out of their personal control. They feel lucky, not all-powerful…. [So] be ambitious. Be a leader. But do not belittle others in your pursuit of your ambition. Raise them up instead. The biggest leader is the one washing the feet of the others’.

If all this is true for an individual, it is true for an organisation , and can be extrapolated for a Nation too.

Bhaiya, le lo!’

I collected my rotis wrapped in a newspaper with reports of poor road quality in the state and he (my angel) charged me Rs. 32 for them (no concession for me). I started thinking about stories how to justify the delay and convince the Home Minister that I was not roaming around in Faridabad at all.

P.S.: Have fun. Do not get swayed by the management gyaan (you know these already). The story is not complete yet. We must talk about the business skills of the thelawala someday (:-P). For today, just remember that, it is NOT cool to park your car in the middle of the road with headlights on (many of us do not know it). You are not supposed to be the reason for delay of a fellow human being. And the narrator may not always believe in almighty.


Article by Shellie Karabell (5 Steps to Closing The Gap Between Strategy And Execution)

Article by William C. Taylor (Are You ‘Humbitious’ Enough To Lead)

Some of the phrases are simply copied from a poem in Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’

Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ashish Kumar

I frequently come across Gods in smaller cars too…(those might be self-driven chariots without horses)
Nice work Abhi, loved the savage sarcastic undertone….:p
hope more people can get the real msg here…


Thank you Ashish. Wanted to make it light and funny. Happy that you liked it.
The real msg is known to all. Hope more people will follow in real life.