“Good Morning. Lovely Day, Isn’t it?” Mathai said, smiling at the German ahead of him. The rude glare of the square faced man seemingly ready to bash him, made Mathai wonder if he had committed a crime. At twenty seven years of age, Mathai Verghese considered himself lucky to earn a trip to the prestigious industrial exhibition at Hanover and secretly thanked god for his selfish boss’ ill health. The physically exerting work involving no application of mind, under the cloak of scientific officer, a highly celebrated position, at the Heavy Electric Company had been wearing him out and he longed for an intellectual challenge.
A gold medalist from the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, the first student to be placed with the highly regarded Electric Company, only person from his batch to publish international papers, Mathai dreamt of a career filled with creative activity. But to his dismay, the company and especially his reporting manager, was a master of copying and reverse engineering, creativity of no significance to them.
In his neatly cut new blue suit, shining shoes and cleanly shaven brown face, Mathai felt professional and confident. Smiling at the blank faced security officer, he strode into the plethora of stalls displaying innovative products drawn from all over the world. Having two days at his disposal, Mathai planned to make the most of his time, learning about new developments in engineering on his priority list. “Hello”, he beamed at the lady, dressed in a black suit, well groomed silky hair falling over her shoulders, smiling and offering a catalogue to every person passing by. Mathai liked the young woman on first sight and instinctively halted at the stall. “Mathai from India”, he extended his hand as she said, “Blake from Spain”. Reluctantly letting her warm hand slip out of his, Mathai stood there looking at her beautiful eyes, hearing nothing about the solar generator she was promoting, taking turns to look at her glossy lips whenever he could and finally mustered the courage to ask, “Do you have a card? Here is mine. I would like to keep in touch with you.”
“Of course”, Blake said, handing Mathai her card and diverted her attention to the next visitor. Mathai stood there lost in her beauty, for a while and moved on only after a few uncomfortable glances from Blake. He walked around marveling at the innovative products on display at various stalls, collecting catalogues for his copy cat boss, the image of Blake lingering in his head all along.
After three hours of strolling, Mathai was exhausted and needed a break. As he looked around for a seat, he heard someone say, “You look tired. Why don’t you sit over here”. The voice belonged to a German standing at the stall of Painto, a company that made painting machines for automobiles. “I’m Rudolf”, the tall man said as Mathai ambled into his stall and took the empty chair. After gulping the bottle of water offered by Rudolf, Mathai thanked him and was about to leave when Rudolf asked, “What do you do?” “I am a design engineer. My specialty is designing of functionally efficient and aesthetically appealing products”, Mathai replied, stating what he wanted to be rather than what he really was.
“Wow, that’s great. I think you will love our state of the art painting machines designed by the best in Germany,” Rudolf said with pride. Mathai quickly glanced at the catalogue and the sample products before focusing on the drawings show cased at the stall. “I think the designing could have been better”, he blurted keeping his eyes on the drawings. Visibly hurt, “What do you mean? Do you even know how these work?” Rudolf asked in a condescending tone. Compelled to teach the Indian a lesson, Rudolf pulled out a few blank sheets and said, “Why don’t you show me how it can be better? … Mr. Mathai !!!”. Rudolf himself graduated from the Fraunhoferr institute and was not going to let the guy talk nonsense and get away. Mathai took the blank paper from Rudolf and pulled out the pencil he always carried with him. Not even bothering to sit, he bent over and scribbled something on the sheet looking once in a while at the drawings on display.
When he was done, Mathai handed over the sheet to Rudolf. In under a minute’s inspection, Rudolf’s expression changed from disregard to astonishment. “This is unbelievable. You just made the most effective design. Just like that”, Rudolf uttered still staring at the sheet. Respect creeping into his tone, Rudolf requested, “Can I use this?” Mathai was thrilled and more than happy to let Rudolf use his design.”Of course, I am happy that you consider it useful,” he said shaking Rudolf’s hand. It had been five years since any one complimented his work and Mathai enjoyed his moment. His joy had no bounds, when Rudolf said, “For this contribution, it will be my privilege to take care of your stay at Hanover.” “Not at all Mr. Rudolf. My company is paying for my trip. Can you suggest a not so expensive but a nice restaurant?”, Mathai enquired, dreaming about a romantic evening with Blake.
And so went, Mathai’s intellectual property, the product of his genius, to Rudolf and Painto. Does Mathai meet with Blake for dinner? That, for another day.…
One year later, this press release appeared in most leading newspapers in India:
“Heavy Electric Company Ventures into Painting Machines
Heavy Electric Limited, India’s leading public sector enterprise, has collaborated with Painto to make machines for painting, especially automobiles. … Rudolf, the inventor of the award winning painting machine, known for its unique design and efficient functionality, the owner of the most lucrative patents on painting machines, will be visiting the Electric Company to transfer technology and train Indian employees. It will be a challenging exercise for Indian engineers use to reverse engineering …”
Note: Inspired by a real incident. Lots of spice added.
Image from www.freedigitalphotos.net