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Kalaiarasan ? the hope for the future

My childhood memories drag me to RS Puram whenever I am in Coimbatore. It was therefore not surprising that I went to RS Puram even to get a hair cut when I was in Coimbatore a week ago! I found a branded saloon just opposite my favorite Annapoorna Hotel. I climbed the stairs to enter a dark room with the illumination coming only from the windows. Obviously there was a power cut and all activity was at a stand still awaiting resumption. But as I walked in a young boy jumped up and invited me to a clean chair and rushed out to switch the generator on. Fortunately he did not play the usual excuse “sorry sir .. no power!”. I took an instant liking for the young man and his attempt not to disappoint a customer.

As the dressing process started, much against the norm of keeping the mouth shut lest hair might slip in, I stated to chat with the boy. His name was Kalaiarasan which translated to English meant “the king of art” ( combo of ‘Kalai’ meaning art and ‘arasan’ meaning ‘king’). For my convenience I will refer to him as Kalai.

The care he took with the sparsely populated skull (inside and outsidell) and his gentleness endeared him to me. He wielded the scissors almost like a magician waving his stick to create an unbelievable spectacle. Nay I should have said it was like the musical genius waving his wand to conduct an orchestral symphony! Any body would have liked the boy.

The conversation revealed few surprises.

Kalai was a diploma holder in mechanical engineering and had actually worked on the shop floor for two years in a reputed company in Coimbatore. He had quit as the company did not follow the practice of absorbing its personnel on permanent payroll. ‘Even if not permanent, would not you have earned much higher take home in that job compared to what you might be making in this?’ I asked him.

“Yes Sir .. you are right.. but I was not happy working for some one else”

“Well are you not working for someone else here?”

“Yes Sir but I intend setting up a saloon of my own in the next few years and consider this as an apprentice period”

He added “I have already completed few certificate programs in hair styling and can claim to be reasonably equipped for the trade”

I still could not accept the logic “But why this trade .. why not set up a shop or a servicing center that is more in tune with your education?”

I could now clearly see his reflection in the mirror and could sense the beaming face of the young man. He was certainly not offended by my line of questioning. He was smiling when he said “Sir this is our family trade. My great grand father, grand father, father and uncles .. all are in this line..”

He continued “actually I have spent every day of my school vacation right from the time I was twelve working in the family saloon observing how the work is carried out and learning. I have cleaned the floor and have washed the instruments. I have also spent time fetching tea and snacks for other workers in the saloon.. Th diploma study was just to satisfy the family who wanted me to do something different”

Kalai had by now grown several inches taller and was clearly a man possessed by a vision. He had to carry the family flag and was the torch bearer. I was enormously impressed by Kalai.

As I travelled back to the hotel it occurred to me that India’s future will be safe if we have more of young men like Kalai, full of enterprising spirit and pride in whatever they were doing. They were not chasing false goals set by the society around them and no notions of what is fashionable. Kalai was indeed setting the fashion!

What India needs is not graduates who are fit to be employed but those who can become entrepreneurs, risk takers and who believe in what they undertake to do.

We need to change the slogan from “employability” to ”building entrepreneurial capability”.
And what could be good for India could be equally good for Singapore, China and for that matter every nation.

18 June 2013

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About The Author


Ganesh - R



A corporate manager for over 40  years with an all round exposure. Have had the good fortune of great bosses who unfailingly took the risk of trying me out with  new functional responsibilities  that I was neither qualified to handle nor had any prior exposure. This served as an excellent opportunity for learning and  the exciting process continues even as I am ready to retire! 

 Have bid adieu to formal learning process long ago but the quest  continues.

"Human beings" interest me the most .. the curiosity at observing and learning from fellow beings appears to be a key  driver at this stage of life. Would like to spend the rest of the days in making a difference to them.

Other interests include gymming, music, etc..  

Blogging seems to be a god sent opportunity to laugh at oneself freely and without any pretensions. It also provides an excellent route to introspection albeit a bit loudly!

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