The unbreakable German bond

The unbreakable German bond

This photograph was taken in 1964 when I was working with the Technical Department of Motor Industries Company Ltd - MICO (now Bosch). Those were memorable times and I had built some good relations, especially one that I will cherish forever.

This gentleman’s name was Baetzner Herbert. He was a Scwhabish German, born in Egypt during the Second World War. He was deputed to MICO as a technician to train white-collar engineers to work as real engineers for their establishment.

At that time, most of the mechanical engineers, after graduation, were looking for white-collar jobs. They wanted to work as administrators rather than soiling their hands with oil. This attitude needed a dynamic change and Baetzner Herbert, at the cost of relationship and popularity, worked towards this goal.

There were many incidents that spring forth to my memory when I think of him. I was fond of cricket commentary and my group leader, Padmanabhan had brought a pocket transistor from Germany.

Once I was seated in the last row in our department, a place where Baetzner couldn’t see me unless he turned his back. Padmanabhan and I had put the transistor inside the draw and were happily listening to it during our breaks and, sometimes, during work. Somehow, Baetzner must have come to know about it, he suddenly came to my seat.

The commentary was still on and there was no time to put it off. To distract Baetzner, I started discussing about the design loudly hoping that Baetzner will not hear the commentary. All my colleagues were laughing at me, so I presumed that Baetzner was aware of it.

Those days, a lot of drawings would come in for translation from German to English. Once our group leader Satya gave us 30 of those to do. I completed my work in about three hours and started going through my ‘Machinery Hand Book’. MICO culture says that those who do not work will be terminated, however, labour laws were not strict.

At that time my colleagues had over two years experience and I was just three-months-old there. So my colleagues advised me not to do what I was doing but pretend to work. I refused. I asked them, “What is wrong in reading when I have completed my work? And why should I not read? It is to gain knowledge.”

Satya could not take it and brought this to the notice of Baetzner. When Baetzner asked me about this, my prompt reply was, “I was reading it to gain knowledge”. He told me that I could do it at home. I replied that I couldn’t afford the book. He said, “You may take the book home on the weekend and bring it back on Monday.”

In 1964, I had a wish to go to Germany. So I went to Baetzner and told him that I wanted to leave MICO and go to Germany. He asked me if I had got any offer. When I shook my head, he smiled and asked, “Then how will you go?”

I told him that that was why I had come to him for help. He said, “You want to go only to see German girls?” My reply was, “No, but to learn’. He smiled at me and said that it was hard to live there but I told him that I would cope. In the end, he said, “I don’t want to lose you so I will try.”

He asked me details of our family and advised me to keep the matter confidential till it is was fully settled. He made a request to Krimmel, the technical director then. During this time, I was developing banian cloth filter, a wooden model made at the carpentry department. Krimmel was brought near the model that I developed.

The appointment came to me from Robert Bosch in 1965 for the position of a machine design engineer for a salary equal to that of a young German engineer.

Those days telephones were a rare thing. In 1967, there was one telephone which was installed for business external usage and it was on the table of Nagraj, The Head For Machine Ordering.

Emergency calls were attended by him and he later informed the respective engineers. Once, I got a call from my family but was never informed it. When I came to know about it, I made a complaint against Nagraj to Baetzner.

To that he said, “When you are at work, family matters have to be resolved by others in the family.”

I replied, “You are a barbarian and don’t understand our joint family culture,” to which he just smiled. Later, I realised that I had misused the word ‘barbarian’. Baetzner was given a very warm send-off in 1969 at Woodlands Hotel but his visits did not stop. He continues to visit us every alternate year from mid-January to February and stays at The Bangalore Club. He has a son and two daughters and our families are close. His next visit is in January 2016 and I am looking forward to it.
Janardhan Naidu
(The author can be contacted at 26637779)

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