By Hema Ravi
An adventurous job in the service of the nation followed by a stint in the industry, still energetic and actively contributing to an NGO – how many can boast of such magnificent feats, yet remain modest? What could be more befitting to a serviceman who has completed fifty years of commission in the Indian Air Force commissioned by the President on April 01, 1968, from where he had to obtain premature retirement in order to lend physical and emotional support to his aged father who had suffered a paralytic stroke?
Veteran Wing Commander N. R. Mahalingam, has several accolades to his credit, yet, is down to earth and downplays his achievements. As an individual serving the nation, one is expected to be trained to inculcate the service code of conduct and etiquette, which he has done remarkably well at every stage of his career. His air-force career commenced as Pilot Officer, with the first posting at Air Force Station, Srinagar, the Northern part of the country; interestingly, his retirement from professional life as CEO, Technopark, was in Trivandrum, the Southern part of the peninsula.
The diverse experience gave him valuable lessons in developing leadership and management skills even while preparing for challenges in real life situations. He had visited Pakistan and Sri Lanka on duty.
Wg.Cdr. Mahalingam’s tenure in the air force provided him with a plethora of opportunities, both challenging and life-threatening. The 1971 Indo-Pak war, when he was at the Action front in Srinagar was among the toughest of encounters where he had to display exemplary courage. Recognizing his valuable contribution in handling the situation with dynamism and fortitude, he was honoured for his meritorious service by the Chief of Air Force.
An officer’s strength of character and strong values makes him unique in any association is what the young Squadron Leader proved and commanded while at Mount Abu, where eight officers were reporting to him. Another noteworthy feature here is this is probably an unbroken record as well. His many ‘firsts’ include facilitating the landing of an IAF Dakota with a senior officer on board at Thanjavur airport, notwithstanding the limited resources and constraints. The joyful moment for him was that the night landing took place after forty years.
The various assignments as an Air Force officer broadened his horizons in other fields as well, enabled him to take the plunge in a prominent position in the corporate world, followed by another in the State Government. His first stint was with Hewlett Packard, where he was first Country Support Manager for the Medical Products Group; his hard work yielded dividends as India was declared the best country in the Asia-Pacific in a customer-satisfaction survey conducted by HP, Asia-Pacific, for three consecutive years. Undoubtedly, it was a feather to his cap as it included popular countries such as Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and others He was sent to Pakistan to establish dealership for Hewlett Packard in that country.
As the CEO of Technopark, Trivandrum, he was instrumental in taking Information Technology to a remarkably high level. He was involved in getting all the three IT majors TCS, Infosys and WIPRO make huge investments along with the US IT major US Technologies. Underplaying his own significant role, Mahalingam dedicates this achievement to the first Woman superior Officer, the then IT Secretary Mrs. Aruna Sundararajan, IAS.
Calling it a day from professional work in 2006, he decided to settle down in a senior- living community and devote his life to empower the lesser fortunate and this brought Unnati, an NGO into his life. The association with Unnati has made life more purposeful, for, he and his life-partner are directly involved in the service of the under-privileged The long innings in the country’s service and the brief stay in the corporate world enabled him to integrate the best to ignite young minds by training them in core skills, employability, integrity, professionalism, teamwork and more. No exaggeration this, the accomplishments of this self-effacing individual from peninsular India is unique and significant as he has had the good fortune to render exemplary service in three diverse sectors, namely the military (Air Force), multi-national corporation (MNC) and the State Government.
All along in his journey, he has had the stoic support of his soul-mate Vyjayanthi, a direct disciple of the legendary Alathur Brothers, who chose to put aside her Carnatic music career in order to play a sheet-anchor’s role in raising the children while he was away on the nation’s calls. Appreciative of his spouse’s aborted music career, he took greater interest in Carnatic music and in recent years has been instrumental in organizing cultural events by inviting senior and upcoming classical music artistes to perform at senior living communities and various auditoriums in Coimbatore.
Not wanting to rest on the laurels and accolades, Mahalingam (Maha as he is known in the civilian world) wishes to continue to work for the upliftment of the needy by empowering them to gain basic education and life-skills. Recalling a quote, ‘most successful people do things because they get personal satisfaction from the work that they do.’ This is his mantra as well. Maha has ‘miles to go…
Author Profile: Hema Ravi is a Communicative English and IELTS Trainer, Co-author of Sing Along Indian Rhymes and Everyday Hindi, she is a prize winner in the 26th ITO EN Green Tea Haiku Competition, Japan (2015). Her verses and haiku have been published in HSA Anthology (2015), Atlas Poetica, Poetic Prism, The Enchanted Verse, Rainbow Hues, Contemporary Literary Review, Metverse Muse, write-ups published in The Hindu and a multitude of print and online anthologies.