Monday, June 16, 2008

Why Pioneers Count on Endosulfan

My business management education did not prepare me for this.

The journey from Jaipur seemed to be in to Hell. Laloo Prasad was still a humble Bhoodan Sevak in a Bihar backwater in those days, so there were no Garib Raths on Indian tracks. I tossed and turned all night on the berth like a cockroach on a stove. Dawn in the Thar was worse than mid-day in what even the Shiv Sena then called Bombay.

The sand was everywhere. Even now after decades, I still do not look as old as I did in the railway mirror, with white hair and eyebrows. Bottled water was unknown, and I had metabolized every drop I carried even before we had passed the Jaipur outer signal.

Lord Hanuman came to my rescue. The settlement named after his effulgence was a green feast for my eyes. I wondered if by some miracle, the train had reached Israel! The rest of the journey to Ganganagar filled me with wonder, for I had never seen such crop intensity and diversity. It was also my first encounter with kinoos, and I have never stopped adoring this hybrid fruit.

The lodge was remarkably clean, but the neighboring Ganaganagar jail was a stern reminder that I was here on duty. I had been sent to check on a potential distributor. The latter turned out to be as shocking as my train and road experiences of the previous night.

Shri Nathuram Khursija is no more, but neither the command area of the Gang Canal nor I can forget him. He was extraordinarily agile for a person of his age and rotund form. However, it was his commercial acumen and pioneering spirit that made him a living legend.

Nathuramji was a pesticide professional par excellence. However, it is difficult to know what to make of his qualifications and background. His favorite script was Urdu, and he was an octroi inspector. How could such a person know so much about agronomy, aerial spraying, and the safe and judicious use of pesticides?

One day I found out.

Nathuramji had come to what we are now forced to call Mumbai. I had been promoted a couple of times, and lived in a posh company apartment. I decided to return his bottomless hospitality, and requested him to have dinner cooked by my wife. Though she comes from a community of very capable alcohol consumers, Usha was simply amazed at Patiala pegs in action. I was soon in another world , but Nathuramji 's hand was rock steady , round after round.

Perhaps this is why the answer to how Nathuramji became such a top pesticide professional has become so indelible in my mind.

"It is boring being an octroi inspector in Ganganagar. Very few trucks come compared to neighboring Punjab. I began to study the Lorry Receipts (LRs) to pass time. I found that most consignments were destined for 10Z. I knew that 10Z had the best cultivators, and that they were making big bucks from the newly irrigated land. Now, the 10Z landlords were ordering full cases from Bombay. So I thought that why not ask the Bombay party for a dealership? I found that the manufacturers were very capable industrialists, so I thought of looking for substitutes, and that is how I stumbled on your company".

Usha did not much about pesticides in those days. That is why she was prompted to ask:

"Which pesticide?"

The reply was clear though the bottle was nearly empty:

"Endocel. Can you introduce me to the owners?"

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