Doyen Accountant, Trusted Auditor: Ajay’s Tryst with DATA

. May 9, 2023

Doyen Accountant, Trusted Auditor: Ajay’s Tryst with DATA

Enter the Data

Pitaji always used to tell me “Mehnat karo, ache se padhai karo, aage jaa ke Engineer banna hai”. My childhood at Ganj Kishangarh Bas in Alwar district of Rajasthan was full of dreams and dedicated efforts to realise those dreams of becoming an Engineer. I hardly missed a class in my school at Khairthal, a few kilometres away from my native village. My father worked in a private firm in New Delhi. He was the only bread-earner for the family. His income was just sufficient to meet the basic requirements of the entire family, consisting of three siblings and our mother. During holidays, we would stitch leaf-plates to earn some pocket money. Also, when I was in class X, I learnt typing and started earning some money by doing some typing assignments at the same training centre from where I learnt it. We were meeting both the ends somehow. But, when I was in class XI and was studying science, that my father lost his job and came back to Kishangarh Bas. His income stopped, my studies stopped. I started searching for opportunities to earn money.

An Accountant ‘by chance’

As a matter of sheer serendipity, I got to know about an organisation called PRADAN and its projects in Kishangarh Bas where Nivedita Narain and Subodh Gupta were working. Without much clue about what PRADAN did, I came to meet them, and they assigned me with some data entry jobs. In fact, Subodh was one of my first tutors who assigned my tasks and taught me how data entry is done on computer. This was 1988, and I started getting paid, Rs. 250-260 for each assignment. I thought this will bring some mental relief for ‘Pitaji’ and he will recover slowly. But his health kept on deteriorating, and we lost him the following year. With his death, my dream to become an Engineer also fizzled away. My mother depended on my job, and encouraged me to continue in PRADAN. Education stopped, but I had to prove my mettle in my job. The PRADAN Kishanganj Bas team was a constant source of support during those initial days of extreme struggle. Struggle to survive, struggle to learn, struggle with my own self to suppress my dream of becoming an Engineer. I was trying to make Accounts my new passion. And let me tell you, it was not easy. But with constant mentoring from people like Subodh and Gajanand Mittal, the then Accountant, I think I started developing a keen interest in Accountancy. Subodh insisted that I pursue a Diploma in Computer Application (DCA) and PRADAN was ready to bear half of the cost too! I joined an evening class in Alwar. On the other hand, my mother wanted me to get married. It was 1990, and I was still a computer trainee and a data entry guy, but because my mother kept on insisting, Anita and I tied the knot. More or less the same time, Gajanand left the job and I was given the full responsibility of Alwar’s accounts. Entering piles of data in EXE, putting them into floppies and sharing them with our central office in Delhi became a part of the regular work schedule.

Sharpening my Skills

I remember, it was around 1995 that Mr. V. Nagarajan, our Statutory Auditor back then, visited Kishangarh Bas and saw my work. It’s still so fresh in my mind because of what Nagarajan Sahab told me after seeing my work. “Ajay, I see several mistakes in the way you are entering and maintaining data. Will you want to take the pain of deleting it all and re-enter this huge volume of data once again? Don’t worry, I will guide you how to go about it” he said.

There was no question of saying a “no” to this opportunity that knocked my door, that too from a Chartered Accountant himself! Time flew, I couldn’t realise when it was morning and when it was night! I kept on working and streamlining the data, getting Nagarajan Sahab’s tips from time to time. And this aspect of working day and night steadily became a practice, which continues even today. I used to see Nivedita and Subodh doing the same, tirelessly and I told myself, “despite being so much learned with an urban upbringing, if they can dedicate their lives towards this cause, then why can’t I?”

I started visiting the Delhi office for regular updates and meetings, where I received Thomas Mathews’s (or Tom) guidance. I was gaining experience and confidence in my work and I could see that my performance and understanding were improving. Achintya visited Alwar in 1997 and was greatly impressed to see my flawless work. He asked me to come over to Delhi and join the central team out there. Pitaj left Delhi in 1988, losing his job, and decade later, I came back to Delhi as a worker who didn’t complete his school education, but is trusted and relied upon in his organisation. Before leaving Alwar, I helped Anil Gupta, my first Shagrid, to understand and run the full accounting work for the team. A decade later, he also joined me in the Delhi office.

From an Accountant to an Internal Auditor

Coming to Delhi was a golden opportunity for me to learn more. Along with Tom and Madan Mohan Karmakar, I started preparing the Balance Sheets and looking after Accounts of Delhi office. Simultaneously, I got involved in testing and suggesting modifications in Voluntary Accounting System or VOLAC, a new accounting software that was being created to enable computer application based online accounting system in PRADAN. And I was also providing training to other NGOs to adopt this software (free of cost) for seamless and more efficient accounting system. Inside PRADAN, it wasn’t only Delhi office that my domain of work remained constricted to, I was in touch with almost all field offices for integration and collation of accounting data. Work teaches you a lot, but, my interest in computer propelled me to learn newer aspects of operating the system. Tom gave me exposure to a whole range of LOTUS based formulae and I started learning various functions and possibilities in Excel, soon. Also, I used to tag along with Tom, C. Sudhakar, and Madan to all our location offices for internal audits and learn how it is done. Work knew no bounds, and without Anita’s support I would have never been able to engage in this work the way I did. I was a father of three young children, and was barely able to give time to any of them. Anita would take care of all the family needs. And for me, PRADAN was not work but my second family. Afterall, when I started working in Delhi office, it was Deep who told me “Don’t put the suffix ‘Sir’ after our names, we are a part of one family here. Do you call your brother ‘Sir’?” Madhu, Anish, Achintya, everyone was a living inspiration for me and converted me into a ‘workaholic’. And it was my extended home. I remember, in 1999, when I used to stay in the office at night due to work, Achintya got a TV installed for me so that I could watch cricket World Cup, being played in England.

Aspirations of a ‘Family Man’

With time, Accounting systems underwent a sea change. From EXE to VOLAC, from VOLAC to the present day PAFS, I have been an active part of all these milestones in terms of software-based and online accounting. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed my role in capturing data from 2009 to 2017-18 to facilitate the shifting of our provident fund from PRADAN Provident Fund Trust to Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, India. At the back of all the meticulous job, there was a sense of immense fulfilment in securing the future of so many families associated with PRADAN.

That reminds me – all these years, albeit I could hardly focus on my family, PRADAN helped me to prepare my children for their future, without any compromise. All of them completed their education and got well settled in life. While my eldest son is also an Accountant in a private firm in Gurgaon, my daughter is also doing a job and is married. The youngest son, who was born when I started doing internal audits back in 1999 is pursuing his MCA. Anita still believes that my work for PRADAN should continue with similar zest as it used to be in the 90s. Today, while looking at the setting sun-rays from the roof of my Niti Bagh office, I think of my journey so far, my mother’s and Anita’s faces appear in front of my eyes. Without their unconditional support I couldn’t have done my work.

A message for you

My life taught me only one lesson. No matter what, if you have dedication towards the job you do, and perform the role with utmost seriousness, there’s no force that can stop you. And I think my life is a glaring example – “Engineer nahi, Accountant hi sahi – value add karna chahiye”. And if you ask me what I want from life at this stage? My only answer is, “I wish to breathe my last while working, for PRADAN”.

Yours only,

Ajay Sharma

(Documented by Souparno Chatterjee, New Delhi)

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