Dr T A Pai is the reason for the heights I have reached in my professional life. The memory of my first meeting this great person, whom I revere as a true friend and mentor, is still fresh.
It was March 1959. T A Pai, along with two officials of the Canara Industrial and Syndicate Bank Ltd (CBS Ltd), had arrived in Madurai for a meeting with the then chief of Bank of Madurai. At the time, I had been working as an assistant to the head of the Bank of Madurai since 1952. As the bank chief was not available when T A Pai arrived, I was entrusted with the responsibility to arrange the stay and meals for him.
I took T A Pai to places around Madurai and answered many questions he asked. I also answered his questions about the Meenakshi temple in detail. He inquired about several issues, including the textile industry and the government electricity board. He was deeply interested in various subjects and asked many curious questions. He was also concerned about finding solutions to problems.
After returning to Udupi, T A Pai wrote back a letter expressing his appreciation for the good arrangements made during the tour. He also wrote about a job opening in his bank. When I did not respond, he sent me a reminder asking when I would join.
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In September 1959, I joined CBS Ltd as an executive assistant and head of the PR department. Despite the language barrier, we both busied ourselves with what had to be done and met people from all walks of life, differing beliefs, and backgrounds. Pai made it a point to talk to everyone who came to meet him. He also diligently reviewed relevant files and instructed the bank officials to take action.
TA Pai also discussed the interesting topics suggested by many of his acquaintances, including me. These included several issues related to the formation of an investor division ( w.r.t mutual funds), mergers, consolidation, and creation of small and marginal banks, to name a few.
We went on several trips across the state with one or two officers in T A Pai’s car. He would drive every time. We brainstormed many issues. His fellow passengers learned new subjects and ideas outside the banking sector. These enriching conversations made the experience of the trip feel much more special.
It was because of T A Pai, I was introduced to the famous works of many authors, including W. Somerset Maugham, Ayn Rand, Albert Camus, and George Bernard Shaw. We also discussed them and increased our knowledge.
I had to stay in Bombay for 17 years to manage the affairs of the international department of the bank. Compared to other banks, at the time, we were the late entrants to the international banking business. Despite his busy work schedule, I regularly met T A Pai at Dr. Baliga’s residence on Marine Drive. Though he was the president of LIC and a minister, he regularly visited Bombay. Every meeting with him helped me to grow personally and professionally and to know and understand new things.
I am proud to say that I was recognized as one of T A Pai’s closest circle of friends. He would be silent whenever he felt angry (almost never) or sorrowful. He smiled and mingled with everyone. He was an open-minded person and not someone who reminded the bitter events.
As far as the coastal region is concerned, each person has benefited, albeit directly or indirectly, from the Pai family of Manipal. Even if we emulate the path they have shown us, we may never be able to rise to the heights they have climbed.
(Retired Executive Director of Syndicate Bank)