'Two of Us' is a new series on our blog which will feature the stories of two colleagues or friends at Assam Bengal Navigation, and their shared journeys, lessons learnt and camaraderie.
The first post in this series is about the wonderful relationship between Romeet, Cruise Manager - ABN Rajmahal, and his mentor, Kunal, General Manager - ABN Cruises.
ROMEET ON KUNAL
Meeting my mentor
When I first joined Assam Bengal Navigation in 2014, I was then a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newly appointed assistant manager on ABN Rajmahal on the Ganges. I had completed various stints at international hotels and restaurants, but they were all on land and not in the middle of the river!
I didn’t know it then but I would soon come to realise that I had made the best decision of my life in accepting my role at Assam Bengal Navigation.
I have been fortunate to have had many excellent teachers and mentors in my life, but there is one person who has played a major role in my personal and professional growth. This is a man who is ever-ready for any situation that the vagaries of life on the river hurl at him; who remains calm and composed even in the most tense of circumstances; who patiently showed me the ropes of managing cruising operations without throwing me in the deep end. He is Kunal, then the Cruise Manager on ABN Rajmahal and today the General Manager of all cruising operations at Assam Bengal Navigation.
Lessons to remember
There are many lessons that I’ve learned from Kunal, but I’ve picked the most important lessons that I’d like to share with everyone:
- Running a cruise ship isn’t rocket science; there are no exacting parameters that must be met as one needs to adapt to changing circumstances all the time on the river. Whatever you do, whatever decision you make, make sure that you’re first comfortable with putting your name to it.
- Stay calm. Always. Your guests and crew look to you for managing a situation, so if you’re overtly showing signs of stress, the rest of the cookie crumbles too.
- Always think a week in advance wherever possible. This will help to keep operations running smoothly on any cruise.
- Try out each and every possibility first before declining a guest’s request.
- As Indians, we believe in ‘atithi devo bhava’ or ‘guest is God’ – as inscribed in the Vedas, our most sacred of scriptures. Imbibe this philosophy in everything you do.
- Remember that running a cruise ship is like being the captain of a sports team. Everyone on the team needs to contribute to a shared goal under your leadership; team games can’t be won individually, so it’s your job to ensure that everyone is doing their part.
- And finally, create a happy and healthy working environment for all your crew on the ship. We are, after all, humans who feel a range of emotions and want to be heard. Listen to them, offer objective advice, and try your best to foster a culture of happiness at work.
Thank you, Kunal, for being a great role model, mentor and friend to me. I am so grateful for the support, encouragement and advice that you’ve showered me with over the last six years that I’ve known you. I hope we can continue our journey together for many, many years and see where life takes us.
KUNAL ON ROMEET
An eager novice under my wing
When I first met Romeet in 2014, I soon realised that he was a young novice in the world of river cruising. That was of no matter to me, as I knew that I would take him under my wing and help him grow so long as he had the right attitude to learn. Fortunately for both of us, Romeet showed a lot of promise and eagerness to perform his duties well. I've always believed that a willingness to learn, be better and improve oneself mean that half the job is already done – everything else can be taught, but the urge and determination to learn has to first be there.
Romeet took the time to keenly observe all cruising operations under my lead, shadowing me as I performed my role as the Cruise Manager of ABN Rajmahal. On cruises with fewer passengers, I often left Romeet in charge of the ship, while supervising him from the sidelines. I believe this helped to boost his confidence... and once I felt that Romeet had graduated into becoming an extremely capable leader, I was thrilled to recommend that Romeet could now take over my duties as the newest Cruise Manager of ABN Rajmahal.
From being my protégé to becoming a leader
Today, as Romeet continues doing an excellent job of the role I had once been in, it makes me proud knowing that my crew and our guests are in safe hands. I never had any doubt in him, but Romeet’s flawless conduct during the heavy rains of last year’s monsoon reconfirmed what I always knew to be true about his leadership. As the Ganges battled torrential rains in 2019, the water levels increased so much that it made crossing bridges difficult for ABN Rajmahal at certain points. Romeet – along with the Masters of the vessel – were very communicative of the ship’s situation and perfectly executed all instructions that were passed on to them by the Inland Water Authorities of India and our HQ. Not only did the ship successfully cross all bridges but Romeet kept guests and crew apprised of the evolving situation, making sure to convey all developments made in a calm and composed manner.
Romeet, I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavours. Continue to be strong in the face of any adversity, and you’ll soon realise that the joy of attaining success is worth every challenge.
Interviews with Romeet and Kunal were paraphrased for clarity.