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Vol XXXI No. 22, March 1-15, 2022

My Innings at East West Books

-- Jayanthi Ramesh

February 1976 was the beginning of my career with the company, then called Affiliated East-West Press Pvt.Ltd. After graduation and a six-month secretarial course in Davar’s College of Commerce, I was sent to Mr. K.S. Padmanabhan’s office to take on the replacement for the Secretary who was going on leave. After probation, I was confirmed by the company in September 1976 with a monthly salary of Rs. 375. From then on to February 1984, it was a roller coaster ride. The two-bedroom flat converted into a small office on Montieth Road was ideal. Mr Padmanabhan, Paddu as he was called by everyone, was my mentor and I learnt all about work culture from him.I would bang away on the Godrej typewriter and later shifted to a Facit machine.

He reminded me of my father in many ways with his systematic working and calm composure at all times. He would refer to all his employees only as “colleagues”. After office we would go for coffee to the Atlantic Hotel which was opposite our office. Once a month we would go out for lunch. We attend book fairs, and there generally was a very pleasant atmosphere in the office. Paddu was well-respected in the publishing industry.

I had to resign in 1984 and leave for Delhi following my marriage. He offered me a position in the Delhi office but commuting was an issue, so I declined. I would always meet up with him and his wife Chandra whenever I visited Madras. In fact when my son was born after a year, Paddu sent his car and the devoted driver Das to take me to my in-law’s place. Such was his warmth, kindness and ever-ready attitude to help.

In 1990-91 when my husband was transferred to Pondicherry, he again referred me to Vak Bookshop and I worked there on a part-time basis. In 1995 we shifted back to Madras and I could not think of anyone but him to request for a placement. By then his son Gautam was also a part of the company. He readily agreed and I worked part-time in the beginning and later became a full-time employee, taking care of Madras Book Club activities as well, which were handled by him and S. Muthiah. By then, the company’s name had changed to East-West Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd. In 2005 it was acquired by Trent, the retail arm of the Tata group and became Westland Ltd, along with East-West.

When my husband was transferred to Bangalore on work in 2009, I also made it to the Bangalore office of Westland. After nine months, it was resignation time once again in September 2009 when I joined my husband in Vietnam. But while in Vietnam, I was given the opportunity to work on the company’s website and keep myself abreast of the publishing programme, under Gautam Padmanabhan’s guidance. It was time to come back to Madras in 2012 and once again I sought employment with the company. I could not even dream of working with any other organisation and probably I was the first to seek a third innings in the same company.

Nobody would want to leave, if they had ever worked for this company. Such was the environment, bonhomie, work ethos, and much more that bound all of us. Paddu, Chandra and Gautam were always approachable at any time of the day, never authoritative, always ready to listen to the issues of the employees, be it personal or official. The work culture set by Paddu remained in spite of the name changes and acquisitions.

I have now retired but my heart goes out to my friends and colleagues who are facing the inevitable. Whatever happens, happens for the best is my belief. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I hope and believe that the phoenix will rise and revive the glory of this iconic organisation. And with Paddu’s blessings, anything can happen!

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