The Groundbreaker


By : Shreesha S Bhat ( L&T- Heavy Engineering , Vizag )

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A deafening clap of thunder reverberated across the valley, making the neighbourhood dogs howl and yelp in terror. It was their first monsoon since they had been bred , and hence it was a new, yet terrifying experience for the poor canines. Their owners were trying to calm them down but their racket was loud enough to drown the sound of thunder.

It had been a long tiring day at work and I was drained of  last vestige of energy. Unlike my co-workers,  lying down and getting a nap was not my idea of relaxation,instead I preferred to indulge in painting , my favourite pastime

My walls are adorned with my paintings to such an extent that walls could hardly be seen. Several friends of mine found the paintings fascinating, and were inspired by my work. They had also tried doing the same on their walls, but somehow their artwork looked shoddy in comparison to mine. Hence they returned to me with a request to replicate my artwork on their walls. Lately, I had acquired quite a reputation of being really good at it.

While I was immersed in my painting, a lowerlevel helper from my workplace, turned up. “The team leader has asked all the workers to assemble at the assembly spot,” he said. “So hurry up and be there immediately.”

“Now?” I was annoyed. “It’s already long past dusk. Who turns up for work again, at this late an hour? Tell him I’ll be there tomorrow morning.”

“He wants everybody there right now. It’s a matter of great urgency.”

“Are we getting paid overtime for this matter of great urgency?” I demanded. He shrugged.

“I’m sure it is urgent ” I didn’t bother hiding the heavy sarcasm in my voice. “I’ll be there.”

Off late, our team leader was getting more and more aggressive, pushing all of us harder and harder. What kept everybody going was the promise of heavy incentives, once the current project was completed. He could be described as an efficient team leader, albeit a ruthless one. I put my painting apparatus aside and walked over to the assembly spot.

A crowd of workers had already gathered there. The leader was sitting facing the crowd, waiting for everybody to assemble. A short while later, he stood up. A hush fell on the crowd.

“My dear friends!” he began. “Hmpf!” I snorted. “Shhh!” the people around me warned me to be quiet. The team leader went on.

“As you may already know, we have a large backlog of goods to be transported and our deadlines are closing fast . Failing to transport them will cause us heavy losses, because our competitor is getting ahead of us. I agree that this violent weather is making it difficult, but that’s not an excuse we can give to our customers. They want all the goods dispatched to them by the deadline.

“Clearly, the way in which we are handling our operations at present, is inefficient. We need to do something innovative. So what I want you all to do is get thinking. Find better ways to carry out logistics to improve our efficiency. We need to revamp our system. Take tomorrow’s day off from work, but come up with something so good that tomorrow won’t be a day wasted. Because if you don’t have any idea to improve ourselves , then tomorrow’s holiday will set us back further by another day, which means you’ll all work double shifts from the day after tomorrow. So GET THINKING!”

The crowd dispersed amidst a lot of grumbling. Thinking and innovating was something the workers were not accustomed to. That was the work of the leaders and intellectuals.

As I was getting ready to go to sleep that night, surrounded by my paintings, I suddenly had a brainwave. Yes, there it was! In my paintings! how had I never noticed it before!

My paintings were mostly abstract work, but hidden within one of them was the solution to our logistics problems. My excitement rose to a feverish pitch, and I sat up all night working on a new technology which nobody had ever heard of earlier. By the time the first sunrays were painting the horizon crimson, my technology was ready. I rushed to my team leader’s residence , which was at a short distance from mine and woke him up. My excitement was infectious; soon he assembled all the workers to witness demonstration of my new technology.

The sleepy eyes all around me didn’t dampen my joy one bit, as I carried out the demo, and explained to everybody how it worked. At the end of it, I looked at the leader expectantly.

“I think it’s gross,” was his comment.

“What?” I was stunned.

“It is not going to work. You cannot make it work that way. You have spoilt everybody’s morning sleep. Your incentives are hereby withdrawn, as a penalty . Get back and be glad that I’m not firing you.”

“What the he..” I began. “Stop right there! One more word and you’ll be fired. Get out of here.” And he stormed back into his residence. The crowd began to disperse . I had not expected the general crowd to understand my technology as they were not intellectuals. But how could the team leader dismiss it so bluntly? Wasn’t he the most intelligent of all of us ? Or maybe he was right, it probably could not work the way I claimed it would.

As I walked back dejectedly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the team leader from our competitor in the business of transporting goods.

“I just happened to be in the vicinity, and I could not resist taking a peek at your technology,” he said. “I think it is great. Your team leader is a dumb fool not to implement it.”

“Well, but sadly he IS the leader, and it’s his decision which counts.”

“There is a simple solution to this problem ; change your leader.”

“How?”

“Join my team.

I’ll implement your technology right away, and pay you handsomely for it.”

“I can’t betray

“Oh! Who said this is a betrayal? It’s the smartest thing to do, as once I implement your technology in our work, your team will be put out of business. Technology is the need of the hour, and those who don’t embrace it will perish. Get out before your team totally perishes. Join me.

” I thought over it. It seemed like the right thing to do. I nodded.

“Great!” he exclaimed. “So, why don’t you tell me about this in full detail? Can you give me a complete demo? And more importantly, what do you call your invention?”

“I have decided to call it a ‘wheel’. If you don’t mind walking up to my cave , I’ll give you a complete demo on how it can be used most effectively to transport the grain from our plains to our friends in the mountains. I got the idea from one of my paintings on my cave walls some abstract shapes which looked like the wheel. I realized looking at the painting, that the ground will offer lesser opposition to such a shape.”

“Fantastic. I can’t wait. I’m sure that even tens of thousands of years in the future, human civilizations will be thanking you for inventing the wheel. By the way, let’s also talk of your incentives. I’m sure one full deer every full moon will be sufficient?”

“One full deer?” This was incredible. “Oh mother nature! I cannot believe it!”

“And also for every sack of grain transported using your invention, you’ll be given as many handfuls of grain as the colours in the rainbow. This is my way of respecting your intellect. It is your intellectual property . Right ? Hey, I just coined a new phrase!”

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