The name had appeared on the patents which led us to Calmu technology. It remained just another name until I first met him in the autumn of 1991. Bob was leading a retired life in Reigate. Our first conversation, started as planned with metering, but ended up with an exploration of the electricity supply industry in the UK. In it were nuggets of wisdom. I came away from this satsang convinced that Bob needed to be more involved with Calmu. He came out of retirement to lead an active life once again with PRI and Calmu. Lest this paragraph gives you the impression that Bob was a technology wizard, let me disabuse you right away. He wasn’t technologically inventive, yet he understood what technology could do or indeed should do. And he knew how to relentlessly pursue those goals.
Five years later he chaired the PRI Board which concluded the investment transaction with Secure. It was a difficult transaction. Secure did not have the confidence in the then Sales Director of PRI who was leading the PRI effort, and that lack of trust nearly killed the deal. Bob realised the problem and quickly worked to take this person out of the negotiation loop. I still remember the last meeting at the lawyer’s offices. It was a tense affair. The PRI team, with its advisers sat in one conference room while our team of advisers used another. Due diligence and contractual issues, and they were serious ones, were tossed between two rooms well into the wintry night. Bob, in completely unfamiliar territory (in all his working life he had never been exposed to buying or selling companies), well outside his comfort zone, well beyond the working hours someone his age should be required to work, soldiered on. As we worked, nourishment came from soggy pizzas, greasy fish and chips and gallons of coffee. The normally smiling exterior was gone, replaced by a furrowed brow declaring the tension in the room. Sheer tenacity and common sense kept him going. And then all terms agreed, the deal was done, we shook hands! The problems had gone, replaced by the activities of getting the documentation ready for signature. The look on his face changed, the sparkle returned. The fatigue remained but Bob, as I had always known him, was back!
Some years later on a freezing wintry afternoon I was with Bob in his office when I received a call from Nandita on my mobile. Her car had skidded off an icy road as she was driving Suket and Ananya to a school interview. It was a bad accident, they were on the side of the road and Nandita was using the mobile phone of a passing motorist who had stopped at the scene. As I prepared to rush off to the scene, I noticed that Bob too was putting on his coat. No words were said. He had decided to drop everything he was doing and was coming with me. The scene with an ambulance and two police cars already there was enough to cause panic in my mind. It eased only after I had seen the three of them shaken. but not hurt from the experience. We left the scene with the recovery vehicles on their way to fetch the car from the 20 foot ravine at the side of the road. Bob’s presence made it a million times easier for me. Two days later he invited all of us to his house. When we got there he showed us photographs that he had taken of the car. Apparently after he had seen us home, Bob had collected his camera and returned to the scene to shoot these photos. As he joked about the incident and the scene, I could see the two youngsters did not seem shaken any more. They too were making light of their traumatic experience. Somehow, Bob’s actions on the day made it much easier for all of us.
Some years later Bob walked into my office and said that he was going into hospital in two weeks time for an operation. He had always been quite fit for his 80+ years but they had diagnosed something which needed to be removed. We all wished Bob well and on the day he went in to hospital, Nandita and I went to see him, only to find him in the car park, headed for home. Apparently, after the usual tests, all he had to do was sit around waiting for the op, so he had decided to go home for the night! They operated on him, as scheduled the next morning and we were told it had gone well. The following morning, we were shocked to hear that he had passed away in the night. As I entered his office with Paula, his secretary, I saw a clean desk. Bob’s desk was always littered with papers, many layers deep and you could barely see the wood it was made of. And here it was, clean as a whistle. Paula told me that he had been clearing up over the weekend. In his in-tray was one single plastic file. It contained a printout of his computer diary over the past year and the next few months. It also contained a printout of his address book. Even though he was gone, he had left me a brief of what he had been doing. He also seemed to be telling me, when I am gone, please inform these people. To his last day, Bob made my job easier for me.