Industrialist Rajinder Kumar Garg, 76, is a stickler for time and plain speak.“I’m particular about time. If you’re late by five minutes, it’s enough to irritate me. Delay due to traffic is an excuse I don’t buy,” says the director of the Chandigarh-based Steel Strips Group.Visitors to his squeaky clean office in Sector 26 on Madhya Marg would also do well to mind their mobiles for it’s difficult to miss the polite yet firm reminder pasted in the stair hall.Garg’s rise from humble roots to heading a company speaks of his self-discipline, focus and reinvention. “My father was a farmer at Moonak near Sangrur but right from childhood I was clear I wanted to become an engineer.” After graduating in civil engineering from Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, Ludhiana, he joined the Punjab irrigation department in 1965 but resigned a decade later to set up Steel Strips Ltd.BOOKS ARE GUIDESChanges in the state government’s promotion policy in 1972 triggered the desire for a career change. “I didn’t know anything about setting up a business. I was motivated to take up the challenge of entering the corporate world after reading The Carpetbaggers (1961) by Harold Robbins. I’m passionate about reading,” he says.“I’ve read Dale Carnegie’s books, How To Win Friends and Influence People and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, several times. Books open our minds and broaden our horizon.”An atheist, he believes in having faith in oneself. “Every morning, I list out the concerns of the day. I segregate what I can tackle and what I can’t. I act on things in my control and let go of the rest. Putting down problems melts them away.”Though Garg does not need a secretary to be reminded about appointments and tasks thanks to a sharp memory, he does not hesitate to seek help for accessing photos and videos on his smartphone.ROOTS AND WINGSHowever high you fly, never forget your roots. “My aim is to make Moonak a smart town in five years. Cleanliness, health and education are focus areas. I have a team of 20 employees who operate 14 rehri rickshaws and two garbage collection vans besides a sucking machine to keep the town with a 24,000 population clean. My team maintains toilets we built in schools across town,” he says.“This year, we started Project Princess by adopting the first batch of 15 meritorious girls, who are about 10 years old, from Scheduled Caste and downtrodden families of Moonak. We educate the girls, provide them meals, clothing and books so that they can study till they are financially independent. We hope some of them will make it to the civil services though when you ask them today, they say they want to join the police or become doctors. It’s heartening to see they have dreams,” he says.Asked what prompted him to undertake the initiative, Garg has a cryptic reply, “The privileged have ruled the downtrodden for more than 5,000 years. It’s time to reparate.”He has also set up Hansraj Park, including an ampitheatre, in memory of his father over two acres in the heart of the town.GRIDLOCKED IN CHANDIGARHGarg believes Chandigarh’s gridlocked town plan is to blame for its traffic mess. “The city’s architect, Le Corbusier, had a socialist mindset. He designed a grid and rotary system for a small population. Perhaps, he never thought the city’s population will grow and prosper to such an extent. He should have designed the city on a radial system such as New Delhi that can take a lot more traffic. He wasted so much land!”Garg suggests removing roadside encroachments, strict implementation of traffic rules and segregating slow from fast traffic as immediate remedies. “There should be a freeze on new buildings. Vacant spaces can be converted into surface parking. No more floor area ratio bailouts.”He says government offices and educational institutions should take the iniative to harvest rainwater. “Not a drop should flow onto roads. Rather than running after individual houseowners, institutions should lead by example. Chandigarh can become a smart city only with a proactive administration and the cooperation of residents.”LIFE LESSONSGreat minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. Listing out concerns helps prevent them from becoming worries.Time is our most valuable asset, don’t waste it.