Posted by: miilee | November 19, 2010

Management lesson in a Rickshaw

Some of the most important lessons in life are those which you learn where you least expect them. They don’t happen in class rooms and lecture halls. Rather, they bump into you in the Bazaars of life, like a stranger in the crowd, negotiating their way out. They ‘accidentally’ knock your shoulder or tread on your toes and throw a hurried ‘sorry’ at you. But before you lose sight of them, they give you a tiny wink; a hint of a smile and it strikes you like a lightning; a lesson learnt.

And these are the lessons that actually count; the ones with no monetary tuition fee (Life has her own way of making you pay for those)

I learnt just such a lesson today. I took a rickshaw to get to 4 bungalows, my thoughts with one of my characters, on a train to Guwahati. Once in, I gave the guy the address and settled down to enjoying my character’s journey. As luck would have it, the rickshaw driver turned out to be the chatty types. He kept breaking into my thoughts with random bits of info about the fire at the HDIL Building the earlier evening. I’m a nice person so I let my Guwahati going character have some time of his own and started chatting with the guy. (Conversation was in Hindi, have translated as well as I could in red)

While negotiating a certain turn, one of the rear tires gave a little trouble. He groaned and the following conversation ensued:

“Yeh tire ka position badli karna padega…” (The position of that tire will have to change…)

Puzzled, I asked, “Position? Ulta lagvaake farak padega kya?” (If you reverse the tire, would it make a difference?”)

He laughed, “Arey waisa position nahi madam! Woh tire thoda ghis gaya hai. Usko samne laana padega. Samnewaaleko piche lagvaana padega.” (Not that way! That tire has lost its treading. It will have to be brought to the front. The one in front will have to be put behind.)

“Par saamnewala tire acha hona chahiyea na?” (But isn’t the one in front, the best one?)

“Arey nahi Madam. Saamnewala tire toh sirf rickshaw ko direction deta hai. Toh ghisahua tire chalta hai. Pichewaale jo tire hote hai, woh pura vazan lete hai toh woh ache hone padhte hai.” (No madam. The one in front just gives direction to the rickshaw. So its fine if it’s treading is a little worn. The ones behind bear all the weight so they have to be good.)

Interesting, I thought to myself. For someone who’s into motors and stuff or even into physics, this must have been obvious. It was new to me.

“Woh kaisa hai na madam,” Began the guy. “Jo saamne hote hai na, woh isliyea saamne hote hai kyuki woh vazan nahi le paate aur grip bhi nahi rakh sakte. Par direction deneke liyea, woh kafi hote hai. Piche waale jo hote hai na, woh mazboot hote hai. Naye hote hai toh kaisebhi turn pe grip pakad lete hai aur vazan bhi lete hai.” (Thing is madam, the one in front are there because they can’t bear weight and don’t have a good grip. But they are enough to give direction. The ones behind are stronger and have a good grip since they are new and can negotiate around turns.)

I expressed my comprehension. “Fir saamnewala tire toh kam kaamka hota hai.. piche waale zyaada important hote hai.” (So the ones in front are less important. The ones behind are of greater importance.)

“Arey madam, aaisa thodi na hota hai! Saare tire utnehi important hote hai! Koi zyaada nahi, koi kam nahi. Saare barabarke hote hai. Bas thode alag hote hai. Saamnewala load nahi le sakta par woh ghisahua hai, matlab picheke tire ka kaam kar chuka hai. Experienced hai. Pichewaale naye hai toh unme jaan hai.” (That’s not how it is madam. All the tires are equally important. Just a little different from each other. The one in front can’t take load but it is worn; has done the work of a rear wheel. The ones behind are newer so they’ve got strength.)

“Agar saamnewala tire ekdum achi direction deta hai par pichewaale tire kharaab ho toh kya faida? Saamnewala tire ka direction tabhi kaam aata hai, jabhi picheke tire uska saath de sake. Aur agar picheke tire ekdum sahi salamat ho par saamnewaliki alignment bighdi ho tohbhi  faida nahi.” (If the ones in front direct well but the ones behind aren’t good enough, then what’s the use? The direction skills of the one in the lead is useful only when the ones behind cooperate. And even if the ones behind are in perfect condition but the alignment of the one in the lead isn’t correct, even then there’s a problem.)

“Har tire ki apni ek jagah hoti hai. Apni jagah par kaam karo aur dusre tire se santulan banaaye rakho toh rickshaw sahi chalegi” (Each tire has its own place. Work well in your own place and stay in harmony with the other tires, then the rickshaw runs perfectly.)

We’d reached by this time. I checked the meter and paid him the fare. As he prepared to go, he delivered his punch line, “Madam rickshaw ho, family ho ka aapka bada company ho. Sab jagahpe funda wohi hota hai; Sabhi utnehi important hote hai, bas alag hote hai. apna kaam karo aur baakiyonse santulan banaaye rakno. Gaadi chalti rahegi…” (Madam, whether it’s a rickshaw or a family or your big companies, the funda is the same. Everyone is of equal importanc, just different from each other. Keep doing your work and coordinate with others harmoniously. The vehicle will go on…)

And he drove off. Do I need to say more?




  1. Balance of Life… 🙂
    True enough in many of life’s situations (though there might / can be some exceptions). The Auto driver sure was a Mgmt. Guru…! 😉

    • Agreed. There could be exceptions… but he outlined an ideal team for me… amazing guy!!

  2. if u wanna learn n if u keep ur eyes n ur mind open…u’ll always find sum1 arnd who can teach u sumthin new 🙂

    • true… 🙂

  3. excellent take… HR people should read this…

    • thanks.. 🙂 share it with anyone who u think may find this relevant…

  4. This is what is called entrepreneurship!

    • I think the sharpest of our minds are the ones we haven’t yet seen…

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by apoorva dixit and Harmanjit Singh, Tejaswi. Tejaswi said: Awesome read! #in RT @Miilee: Management lesson in a #Rickshaw: […]

  6. BBBB..BRILLIANT..!! I have subscribed to your blog Millee..but i barely read I did..and thank goodness I did…

    you are very right..the rickshaw wala just outlined an ideal team..!!!! 😀

    • lol!! even i’m glad you read it! Do share if you find it relevant….

  7. This is one of the better parables that I’ve read. I’ve been reading a management book called From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor by Andria Corso and while it’s helpful in terms of Western management philosophy, sometimes it’s good to have something that’s a little more esoteric. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for dropping by Ryan. I guess even if the basics of management are similar everywhere, the applications may vary from culture to culture. But then again, isn’t management less about studying out of books and understanding human nature and psyche?

  8. been to ur blog after a long tym ! . . . & reading the post makes me feel i should come here often ! 😀
    well-narrated, as usual !
    actually, we’ve street-smart fellows almost everywhere selling pirated dvds, chaiwalas, office-boys . . . real hardworking & smart fellows w/ potential . . .but many-a-times they are not that open-minded either. and @ times…hesistant to change for better (speaking out of experience) . . . .so, maybe u turned out to be lucky ! (though most of these chatty-types are real interesting fellow,…be it panipuri walas, or truckers .) 🙂
    but, the question remains, how can we make use of this potential in a better way !?

    • FINALLY a TJY person!! Yeah, they do have fantastic potential… he reminded me of Manish Tiwari (Dabbawala Association)…. Brilliant minds….

  9. awesome !! specially the experienced bit abt the front tire (leader) how often we make fun of our seniors assuming them to know nothing,, we forget they too crossed same path and positions to reach where they are !

  10. What a lovely post and incident… i love the chalte rahegi concept !

    • I must say, the man made a lot of sense!!!

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