Ramu and Shamu

Here is a guest article from  Sanjiv Marathe.  See here for more about Sanjiv

Old Man had been behind the wheel for many years. Everyone in the town knew about his taxi service.  It was reliable. Old Man was a good driver, loved his cars and took good care of them.
His service was in demand, but age was catching up. Old Man wanted to retire.

Thus it came about that he hired two drivers Ramu and Shamu.

Ramu was sincere and hard working.         Shamu was enthusiastic.

When Old Man started their training on safe driving, Ramu listened carefully, Shamu got bored easily.

When Ramu was practicing parallel parking, Shamu was busy racing with other cars.

Soon, both started taking passengers across cities. Ramu was punctual; when someone booked a taxi at 10:00, he used to be at the door at 9:55 itself. He drove carefully, never crossing the speed limit.

Shamu on the other hand was always late. But if the passenger expressed a genuine urgency, like catching a flight, Shamu somehow managed to reach the airport on time, sometimes jumping stop signals and exceeding speed limits. Still, he never had any accident, not yet, at least.

Once a passenger wanted to reach early and pressed Ramu to do whatever he could. For the first time Ramu took a short cut. Unfortunately the road was under repairs. They reached the destination very late. Old Man scolded Ramu for not obeying instructions.

From that day, Ramu curbed all his instincts and only followed planned routes. He stopped giving suggestions because he could not give satisfactory answers to Old Man’s questions though, Ramu felt he had done nothing wrong.

With Shamu, on the other hand, detours were common. He would try different routes without paying much attention to Old Man’s orders. Initially he ran into difficulties, but he learned from his mistakes. Soon he found out what worked and what doesn’t. Like which roads have less traffic, where do policemen keep a watch and where they are don’t .

Ramu would never open the bonnet and would alway rely on service centre even for a small fix. Even for a wiper change, he would get three quotations, compare them and obtain a proper approval from Old Man.

Shamu was the curious sort. He acquired elementary know-how on car internals like engine, hydraulics, and wiring. Shamu never bothered to ask and took liberties with maintaining the car.

He decided on the spare parts, the seat covers, tyres… and just sent the bills to Old Man.   Initially his experiments failed, but he persisted and figured it out.

While Ramu never looked beyond his assigned tasks, Shamu was busy learning about other cars in the market and what the competitors were upto.

Ramu spent his spare time calculating improvements in mileage on account of an improved engine oil.  Shamu spent his free time befriending and helping garage repairmen. He could call them in case of emergency even at 2 o’clock at night.

Once it so happened that Ramu while taking a turn a jeep came from behind and scratched Ramu’s bumper.   Though it was jeep driver’s fault, Ramu lost the case because the rule says “indicator should be shown 150 meters before the turn”; Ramu had shown it at 140 meters.

Had this incident occurred with Shamu, he would have blasted the other guy with a few choice cuss words, and may be grabbed the perfume bottle from the jeep as compensation and move on.

Once Ramu’s car broke down just a kilometre from the destination. The gears were stuck. He panicked and could not to handle the situation.  Ramu kept calling the 1-800 number of the service help desk. But to no avail. One by one all passengers got down; they refused to pay, refused to help, and made their own arrangements.

Shamu had learnt that it’s nothing to do with the gears but an issue with the clutch cable. He could cut the cable and fasten a piece of wire. It was a temporary fix, but it worked for the last kilometre.  There would have been a slight delay in reaching the destination, but he could manage to keep his passengers happy. And they would pay.

Two years later.  Old Man was considering his deputees performance. He could not find any obvious lacunae with Ramu.   He had worked sincerely to train to drive well. For him it was job where he obeyed orders. Performing his duty meant a job well done.

Shamu’s driving  was not as good. But he enjoyed every part his job.  Shamu asserted his authority in deciding everything regarding his car.

Travelling with Ramu was boring while Shamu regaled his audience with his stories.

Though Shamu had at least 20 points on his improvement list, and though his car had higher maintenance costs, Shamu had progressed beyond his job description. He had shown innovativeness on many occasions and has saved the business a lot of trouble.

People are more comfortable dealing with him; passengers loved him.

To Old Man, that’s what mattered the most.

What would matter to you?  Who has done a better job?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandeep Gadkari on December 26, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Hello Sajiv,
    I am colleague of Prashant Dravid who had forwarded me Ramu & Shamu article. I wanted to comment at that time but somehow couldn’t do it. Today, when I saw another article, I decided to comment on first one.
    Yes. Both Ramu & Shamu characters are seen every day around us. Today’s world is of street smart – Shamus. But most of us are brought up “Ramu way”. I mean our up bringing taught us to be Sincere, Hard working, Punctual, not to break rules etc. Unfortunately, the time has come to conclude that all these “qualities” are no more good for one’s success. In fact, the story tells us – Being always late, jumping stop signals.. etc. are in a way building the character of Shamu who would succeed in life.

    The question is – are our ways of upbringing outdated ? Should we preach our children to be “Street Smart” the way Shamu was ??
    I can understand to be little smart & enthusiastic. But today, the corporate world is promoting peolpe who are not sincere, who breaks the rules, or get the result buy hook or crook. Is this a good state of affairs ?

    Reply

    • True.

      But I am also looking at the old man’s judgment. He trusted Shamu in spite of his initial failures and allowed his so called “experiments” to continue. He had faith in him that one day Shamu will learn from his mistakes, and eventually the ROI would be much higer.

      Today, as a manager I have say 10 juniors reporting to me. To what extent do I allow them to break the rules? Hardly any!! Today’s juniors will just take advantage of “relaxed rules” and go party !!

      How do I bring myself up to the maturity and trusting level of the old man?

      Anyway, thank you Sandeep.

      Reply

      • Posted by Sandeep Gadkari on December 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

        It is really a tough task to identify Shamus who have great potential which can be developed. If we aquire that skill, may be we can make leaders for tomorrow ! But identification is the issue. Otherwise, all the Shamus (face value) will keep getting pat on the back & we will develop a culture that the way of life is – Jump the red lights, never be in time.. and so on.
        Safer way could be to train Ramu to take some risks & be agressive in life.

  2. […] time we cover an interesting thread of discussion initiated Sanjay Gadkari on the post Ramu and Shamu by Sanjiv […]

    Reply

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