I don't remember whether I have told you about Prasanna Fakir Das. If I haven't the fault is entirely mine. Posterity would never forgive me for not enlightening it about the life and times of one of the most colourful characters who ever said 'Hum honge kamyab'.
Let me make amends by presenting before you a resume of P.F.D.
If you have read Mills & Boon, you must definitely know of men who are TDH - Tall, Dark and Handsome. Well, Fakir was SDS - Short, Dark and Stupid. Fakir too agreed he was SDS. Surprised? You shouldn't be - SDS to him was Smart, Distinguished and Suave.
Two decades ago he had joined a State Government undertaking and slept his way up to the position of a manager. You must have heard of MBWA - Management by Walking Around. Well, Fakir was a proponent of MBRA - Management By Running Away. Throughout his career he had judiciously practised the art and science of running in one direction - away from work. You must have come across Theory Y and Theory Z. Well, Fakir was a great believer in the philosophy of Theory ZZZ ......
In fact, he had once told me (plagiarising Jerome K. Jerome's words) "I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me. The idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart."
Finally when the management could take no more, Fakir was given the Golden Handshake. In the farewell function the M.D. himself lauded Fakir's immense contribution to the organisation (what he meant of course, was his contribution in pulling the profit curve further down) and presented him a fat cheque. You would have thought that Fakir would have taken this "hardly" earned money and lived lazily ever after. Well, Fakir was made of better stuff. The fire of ambition was still burning within him and he decided to go into business.
As a first step he did his M.B.A., through correspondence, from 'The Statue of Liberty University', Bondamunda. He then opened a constancy firm calling it very modestly "Fortunate 500 Consultants".
I had heard of Fortune 500 but this was new to me. Next time I met him. I made the mistake of asking him why.
His reply was, as usual, classic. "Ramen, people who come to me are fortunate because they have had the inspiration to come to me. And if they are not fortunate at the beginning they would definitely be fortunate by the time I have finished with them."
"You may very well ask why management consultancy," he continued. "Let me explain. What the Indian economy needs today is not technologists or engineers but technocrats, management experts who can turn it around. If I don't share my vast experience and expertise as a manager, with the ignorant masses, it would be unpatriotic and an act of gross selfishness. And, Ramen, have you noticed my initials are the same as Peter F. Drucker's? I call this a divine coincidence."
The next time I met him was with Ramesh, an acquaintance of mine, who had recently come into a lot of money and wanted advice on investing it judiciously. Much against my wishes he decided to consult the desi Drucker and dragged a very unwilling me along. Seated in front of a life-size portrait of Drucker was P.Fakir D., looking shorter, fatter and stupider than ever before.
When the problem was put before him, his reaction was typical. He immediately went into a trance and emerged half an hour later with the following sermon : "The issue is a very interesting one. It requires all my ingenuity, creativity and experience. I'll give the Problem the full attention of my not inconsiderable intellect. You meet me next week, the same time and I'm sure I'll present you with the greatest and the simplest solution."
Next week, yours truly and Ramesh were once again present in the great Fakir's durbar. By commenting on his response I would not like to pre-empt issues. You can yourself judge and come to a suitable conclusion:
"Ramesh, the best option for you would be to start an industry for manufacturing buttons," he declared and, after pausing for effect, addressed our raised eyebrows.
"I have even thought of a name and a suitable marketing strategy. You can call the product Bikini Buttons. That way you can always depict a bikini-clad model of ample proportions in your advertisement. The slug line would be 'Bikini Buttons - no strings attached."
"But ..... but what is the connection between bikinis and buttons?" I ventured to ask.
"Absolutely none. That is the brilliance of my idea," chortled Fakir. "Is there any connection between the devil and the idiot box? But Onida TV sells like nobody's business. Remember, Ramen, if you want to create an impact, be absurd, be outrageous. In fact, that is Fakir's First Principle of Absurdity. Like Peter's Principles, I'm also going to contribute my theories on management and you will be the first ones to benefit."
As we stared at him dumbfounded, he continued his discourse, mistaking amazement for adoration. " Keep another thing in mind, the female anatomy is the ultimate persuader. For the launch of Bikini Buttons I have thought of TV ad campaign that is sure to cause a sensation and make the product a household name. A girl, clad in a G-string, is sitting on the edge of a dance floor waiting for her dream lover. The hero enters clad in a T-shirt and approaches her for a dance. She declines. He appears again in a full shirt with ordinary buttons. She refuses again. The third time he reappears sporting Bikini Buttons. And before you can say 'butt..', she is in his arms singing gaily 'Yeh dil maange Bee Bee.' In the background a deep voice says 'Bikini Buttons - the beautiful ones'."
Noting from our expressions that we hadn't quite swallowed the buttons, he said, "Never mind if this idea doesn't appeal to you. I have other aces up my sleeve. How about manufacturing tongue cleaners? We can call them 'Tingling Tongue Cleaners'. The ad can proclaim - 'Taste the Tingle of Togetherness with Tingling Tongue Cleaners' declared Prasanna Fakir Das.
I looked at Ramesh. His face had turned a deep purple. "Fakir, Ramen had told me you were soft in the head. But I wasn't aware that what you had between your ears was marmalade. I didn't know you were stark raving mad. I'll prefer giving the money to the World Wild Life Fund or Alcoholics Anonymous or even to invest it in Units. With the interest, I promise to buy a straitjacket and present it to you. You are not a technocrat but a technocrack. Or, better, a technoquack."
And with these immortal words of Ramesh, we made a dignified exit. We could hear Fakir muttering : "In search of excellence and what they don't teach you at 'Statue of Liberty School ...."