After my musings on Nothing is Better than Something, I was bombarded with queries on what should be the plan of action if a discerning soul were to indeed realise the futility of their journey already undertaken well past its time, and they want to return to a path that they always wanted to pursue ever since they could recollect.
Or simply put… the journey undertaken for so many years has failed to deliver the destination.. is no more exciting.. has not yielded what it should & seemingly may not yield desired results ahead too.. or just is not making sense anymore…Many of my dear friends wanted to know whether it is possible to ever consider a UTurn midway…
Tough question actually! A vast majority wouldn’t even dare consider such a perceived blunder. It’s too late to turn back. To rewind the clock. You are way too invested into something already, that the fear of nothing coming out of it cannot be entertained… the hope of the possibilities from the known, someday yielding some semblance of comforting output, is far preferable to the fear of the unknown and untrodden gamble, at this stage of life. The adrenalin tanks have dried up. Risk taking abilities are buried deep in the debris of the catalogs of perils that the society has enumerated in its evolutionary wisdom.
Imagine yourself setting out on a road trip to a much awaited, much planned, passionate journey, to your life’s most favourite destination… to some exotic location in some mesmerising hilly terrain. You prepare yourself carefully, get your vehicle serviced and fuelled up and set out. Miles and miles of travel through some dense forest.. after some turn that you took.. on either some expert advise or thanks to the scintillating voice of the gmap… and now you are cruising along the dense forest with tall trees lining the road on both sides .. so dense that visibility is only a few meters in. Network has disappeared. Fuel is running out. Dusk is nearing. Destination seems to be nowhere in sight. All your gut feeling and survival instincts are screaming that you took the wrong turn and are on a path that ain’t goin to the place of your desire.
Wouldn’t you take a u-turn? Wouldn’t it make sense to return back to that crossroad and start over right again? Would you still be adventurous enough to explore the possibilities of perhaps hitting the right destination through the seemingly wrong path. Or maybe look forward to a possible more fantastic destination ahead.. one that you didn’t even conceive.. would you really attach importance to your instincts? Or would you in all your wisdom rectify your mistake, turn back to the point from where you will got your dream destination. What would you do?
And what if some stray native, enroute, did confirm that the path was indeed wrong. Would that influence your decision?
Nerve wracking dilemma … or an easy question with a nobrainer solution?
Well this imaginary situation was just a simple attempt at exploring the possibilities of making a u-turn from an off course vacation path. What if your wrong road is the path of your life? What after an arduous trek up the uphill of life.. after covering a lot of distance… bearing the brickbats and treacherous ups and downs .. having spent a good part of your youth you discover that you are about to reach a wrong peak… or worse.. you are on the wrong path of life with no peak in sight… what should one do at this juncture.
I don’t know what you would do. Or what anybody should do. I would return back and attempt the right journey again. I have always returned back unabashedly and unhesitatingly from any erroneous judgment or choice. It has been difficult undoubtedly. It is nerve-racking and calls for yet another instalment of timeframe from the fast depleting balance of the current account of your timebank… yet I wouldn’t be caught dead on a trail which didn’t lead to my destination.. or worse a journey to nowhere. I will die attempting what I want to do rather than live in pursuit of what I don’t want to do.. That may delay my journey or the time taken to reach my destination.. or maybe I may not reach it at all.. but I will have the comfort of being on a road of my choice … inching towards a goalpost that I have chosen…
And to live the life that you want for yourself is a basic necessity of any existence. It’s not a luxury… and the rules of the game always has shown that necessity is the mother of reinvention. The last six months have disastrously shown us that reinventing sometimes isn’t a choice. All the grandiose plans of humanity went for a toss with some miserable uncouth moron of a bat transmitting it’s curse over to the most spectacular of the planet’s creation, who with such monumental advancement hasn’t been able to remotely reach a solution yet.
All tenets of humanity have been reinvented. All practices and customs and traditions have been forcefully reinvented. All beliefs and dogmas have failed to stop the reinvention of their dogheaded existence. Early February this year if someone had said that people sent to hospitals with flu like symptoms would never be seen again … and disposed off without any semblance of time tested rituals, one would have earned some money by passing on such an imbecile to a mental asylum. But today it’s cloaked as a new norm. All the rituals have reinvented themselves on the diktats of the necessity of times.
Why, even the established organisational processes and methodologies and ways of existence of many businesses that were sworn by as the only one kind of possibility.. bequeathed by decades of unrelenting experiences are now being questioned by their own vociferous fanatic preachers.
When necessity hits you unexpectedly, you got to reinvent choicelessly… and that’s not written in any scriptures.. it’s the basic tenet of existence. Mankind has usually always progressed on that very single motive… necessity. The first guy who created/discovered fire or a wheel or a motor car or a plane or a cure or a theorem or a rocket or a vaccine or a philosophy or a religion or a machine … Or anything that helped the civilisation progress a notch better than what was bequeathed… he/she was never influenced by the factor of doing good for the society as a sole objective… it was his/her raw selfish desire to make their own existence better than what was given to them. That as a collateral might have inched the humankind a level ahead.. but only as a collateral to the primary objective of the necessity of its creator.
Any underdog success story that is any day hair-raisingly inspiring… be it the likes of Oprah, Branson, Rowling, Musk, Mandela, Ambani, Dell, JackMa, Schultz, VijayShekar Sharma, Bansals, NarayanaMurthy, Bachchan, Lincoln, Jobs.. and the plethora of them are nothing but products of dire necessity… the difference being that, for the mundane, the basic necessities of life hold them ransom over their choices and for these rare success icons, the burning desire for extraordinary achievements become the necessity. And a random analysis of their journey will lead to the fact that they failed or missed their paths many a times before stubbornly backtracking towards their chosen purpose.
So there is no shame or fear in any U-Turns. It’s just the question of your own appetite for your goals and your hunger for your ambitions and your raging obsession for your aspirations. That’s the clincher.
Necessity is the mother of reinvention. If it isn’t. .. it ought to be.
Every event of our life is a page in a cosmic chapter.. including the entire journey of a soul on this earth… we are a cumulative book of many such chapters across many lifetimes… across many planets, perhaps… we are travellers and travelling across any terrain is our only dharma .. let’s do it to our best abilities.. in the journey you will get great cotravellers and and great situations… we may also get some extremely bad ones.. laugh & be merry with the good ones.. bear with the bad ones and keep travelling. Let’s amass the best possible experiences in these journeys that may dictate better scripting of future chapters.
And hey… if you are on the wrong track of life.. one that doesn’t excite you.. one that doesn’t lead you to your chosen destination… then don’t hesitate..
Take a U-Turn.
May the force be with your necessities and buddy… keep reinventing.
Yet another Happy Teacher’s Day gets past us. We are done with forwarding our favourite quotes and e-wishing those who purportedly contributed to some format of learning in our lives. A new day beckons us tomorrow, bringing alongwith it a new set of learnings & teachings…
Notwithstanding the quote pictured above, by one of the most respected first citizens of this mighty civilisation, a BharatRatna who championed the cause of teachers by telling us to celebrate his birthday in their honour rather… it remains an irrefutable fact that the end objective of any aspect thought is not just enlightenment in the area of the topic but also attaining freedom from ignorance, as far as at least the scope of the subject matter of such teaching is concerned.
How many of us ever imbibe what we learn… what we learnt or whatever we will ever learn. If we do… good for us. For the most of us who don’t… then why hoard the learning in some decrepit dark dungeons of the unreachable crevices of our mind.
I have spent over two decades now in pursuing my obsession of sharing knowledge, influencing intellects and attempting to direct the human intelligence towards whatever can possibly yield incremental results for every unit of effort invested and milking the maximum potential of any possible opportunity. And what I have realised is that, perhaps, I have embarked on a journey that is the toughest of all paths … that of influencing human intelligence…. or the lack of it thereof.. as the case may be.
Simply because the superlative power of habits and the intoxicating magnetism of the known is so enchanting, that it refuses to release its victims from the dopamine inducing comfort zones and the smug overconfidence provided by the lessons of their own experiences from within their constricted laboratories of limited circumstances. The darkness of the known is so powerfully permeating that it swallows any semblance of any form of light that vaguely attempts to dispel the ignorance or share lessons from bigger laboratories of life.
If the above isn’t remotely true, then you will find it almost impossible to refute my assessment that there are millions of doctorate degree holders in the field of LifeLessons from the University of Whatsapp, a dangerous credo who cannot be influenced with any teaching today as they have seen it & shared it all. Any homosapien worth his salt, is today a willing stranger belonging to the comforting crowds of multiple groups which preach him “invaluable lessons” in … well you name the topic… and my guess is that most of them would have been exposed to some expert treatise or the other on the said realm. We are forward junkies and mass consumers of the flood of irrelevant information. From the complexities of nuclear physics to the possibilities of finding life on Mars… from the cure to the elusive corona virus to how the US Govt could provide better doles to its citizens… from how Sushant Singh Rajput unnecessarily lost his battle against perceived hopelessness which the self professed professors of life could have cured within the snap of their fingers.. to how the CBI should conduct their investigations, from how RBI can manage it’s affairs better to how they could provide an alternative to the experimental approach to alleviate global poverty propounded by Banerjee, Duflo & Kremer… there is no topic that a living being with a connected smartphone isn’t an expert of today or has an opinion about.
SmartPhone Slaves love to forward videos on the harmful effects of digital slavery… incompetents do justice to their existence by sharing the virtues of discovering the purpose of one’s greatness as extolled by Simon Sineks of life… wannabe hunks like me with ageing stubborn paunches take intoxicating pleasure in spreading the benefits of fitness regimes and healthy food practices that have never ever been practiced by self… or worse still, hardcore digiaddicts who forward anything that is forwarded to them without as much as bothering to check the veracity of the junk thus forwarded, unsolicited.. such irreversible stage has the terminality of this malady reached. And this is just an insignificant list… The legions of this self anointed digital knowledge evangelists have surpassed the infectious capabilities of the most dreaded viruses ever to have been inflicted upon mankind.
But then what is the problem in all this.. nothing much… just that constant exposure to expertise galore has made us knowledge numb. We have motivated ourselves to such peaks of maximum possibilities that the only way ahead is downwards. We are so immune to any byte of relevant information now that when it comes knocking at the gates of our limitations, we shoo them away in auto reflex mode.. most of the times not even knowing that we did so. Thus continuing to revel in the mediocrity of the known and the comfortable… A vast multitude of the billions continue doing that.. gluttoning away their own limited time and a minuscule percentage who heed it then chase and achieve various levels of successes and amongst them many becoming YouTube channel producers propagating their mantras of success and the rest continuing their commitment to remaining consumers of others learnings…
It is said that we are a product of our thoughts.. and our thoughts are today exposed to the best of motivations, access to success skills and zillions of examples of underdogs emerging victorious in the fields that you can care to imagine… then what stops us from emulating such grandiose examples of exemplary success .. why do we then continue to express our joy at such success .. smoothen the electrified hair of our goosebumps into its known territories of timidity & servitude to dormancy and habitual mediocrity of the mundane and revert back into the dungeons of our own self imposed limitations? Why nothing motivates us anymore. Why are we so immune to the world of possibilities. Why has our intrinsic thirst to move a notch higher been quenched by the liquor of dogmas. Why are we so proud of being a nameless face in the vast multitudes of the digital zombies.. knowing everything and contributing nothing.
We tch tch our inability to implement any motivation by blaming the limitations of our circumstances. We even refuse to practice what we preach, comfortably pinning the blame on the impracticality of the utility of the best of lessons given the limitations of your environment… we refuse to live by our own values.. whatever we have … if we have any left … as they are good to hear in stories that can only be forwarded … we have programmed ourselves to switch off whenever any learning calls for implementation. The addiction of the comforting confines of the known cannot be deaddicted by any teaching of any level.. for we have buried our ability to explore… innovate … and try in the rubble of the tonnes of forwards and limitations of our so called experiences … like the proverbial chained elephant.
We cannot let any knowledge free us from that comforting chain of limitations. We shall be proud to remain such horses that could only be dragged to the water but proudly exercised its right to refuse to drink. For there is no thirst to explore the extraordinary lying dormant genetically in every strand of our DNA.
We shall remain grateful to all the digital sources that have imprisoned us in their servitude by providing us zillions of bytes of unsolicited knowledge that is available at the tap of our index finger… and that itself is comforting enough. Why even tap and mess with what is going fine… change is just a theory.. disruptions like the one imposed by covids of life will come and go… what we know is far more than enough.. who can dare tell us what any norm is… let’s not rock the boat of mediocrity that millions and billions subscribe to…
Let’s wish the best of em all .. Prof Whatsapp … Happy Teacher’s Day Buddy🙏🏻🤓
When I was grappling with science in my intermediate, on the verge of quitting, I was advised to opt for commerce… If I had made up my mind not to “become” an engineer or doctor. “Something is better than nothing!!”
When I turned into a serial entrepreneur pursuing series of interests one after the other, and when they really didn’t take off as expected, today as I know it as the resultant of the want of passionate persistence, I was advised to seek a regular paying job. Something is better than nothing.
In my two plus decades of L&D Life, I have met thousands and thousands of bright minds, who are passionate about singing, dancing, writing, acting, photography, painting… living … who shunned their passion, buried it in truckloads of pecuniary wisdom, flooded with abundance of advice: Something is better than nothing. Most of my sales colleagues, (Peace Be Upon Their Hallowed Souls 🤓) at all levels, have almost always been a product of some accidental rerouting of their life and landed themselves as reluctant sales professionals. And that I daresay holds true to almost 90+% of the corporate role holders in this corporate world. All products of Something is better than nothing….
I dread to imagine the unseen fiduciary loss of these organizations saddled with human capital who were products of something is better than nothing, rather than passionate pursuits of the arena that they were tasked with producing results in. Old Vedic wisdom said that if the cook of the house were to cook with absent mindedness or any other distressful emotion of either anger, sorrow, hatred etc., then the essence of such negativity percolates on the hapless eaters demeanour. If I were to stretch the scope of this ancient wisdom, then the cumulative resultant of the tasks performed by unwilling, apathetic zombies imprisoned in their roles culminating from their monetary need rather than their passion, the massive onslaught of average work that the recipient organization unseeingly suffers is mind-numbing to even fathom. Thus, never reaching its zeniths of possibilities, ever… relegated to average obscurity of ‘also existed’ category.
And this “also existed category” of humanoids in its billions of numbers is the root cause of the air of depreciating possibilities that the planet suffers from. While we rejoice the random acts of progress made by mankind over the thousands of years of its recorded history, what we fail to evaluate is that the denominator was absolutely nothing to which we are comparing the progress with. If we were to denominatorize the possibilities of the products of passionate pursuits of human beings, then the limitless scope of the same would really stun us with the similar effect that one may feel when they were to stare at the sun with their naked eyes.
Something is better than nothing empowers us to pursue any channel of alternative to our original passion, since our perceived survival instincts get the better of us. Perhaps that is the conspiratorial flaw of the survival program of the celestial programmers in delaying the realization of the true potential of the denizens of this planet. Perhaps that is the conspiracy of the Gods in ensuring that we don’t become one of them. As all the religions worth their existence scream out that we were created as clones of the almighty in form and we ensured our systemic disintegration over the time zones through our mediocrity mindset and pursuits of something is better than nothing.
Just for a moment imagine… what would happen if we were to pursue education with the intent of knowledge acquisition and not rote rigmaroles of scoring cent percentiles in the rapacious pursuit of becoming a campus recruitment statistic. We acquire ‘education’ with an intent to earn. Better the ‘education’ better the earning potential. Did I hear you ask learning? Well. I bet you must be joking. Who buys education to ever acquire knowledge?
And just for a divine moment imagine, if we were to opt for nothing, instead of settling for something, in our pursuit of passion. That we were unwilling to sacrifice our dreams and happiness for the sake of survival and security. That we were to continue chasing our craving for that which gave us goosebumps in its pursuit and make us moony eyed to even imagine its smidgeon achievement. That which triggered the release of millions of wild butterflies in our stomachs when we imagined treading the path of what made us happy and gleeful. How many of us get up every morning with this feeling of electrifying excitement and look forward to the day of our chores as passionately and eagerly as the elusive sighting of your first love during your sophomore years. If you don’t… You have your answer.
When you settle for “nothing”, snubbing the pursuit of the substitute “something”, then you devote your entire focus and energy on that one thing that you want. You employ all your energies and channel every single iota of strength in the sinews of your brain to make your dream a reality. You look for ways and means, while you have the luxury of time, to chase the objects of your passion and aspirations. You are not bogged down by the mundane chores of mediocrity shoved at you by someone you care two hoots about. You are the owner of your dreams and you are the driver of the vehicle of your passionate pursuit. You create plans, roadmaps, strategies to achieve what you have always wanted and not get imprisoned for decades, proving your worthlessness in the servitude of tasks that never were your passion in the first place. The pursuit itself adds meaning to your life, happy in the thought that you are chasing what you love. The excitement is always in the journey and not really in the termination of the journey at its destination. Destinations keep evolving … heralding many instalments of journeys that continue to give a new lease of life to every atom of your body and soul and keeps you truly alive. And if a collective humanity were to chase its passion, then the collective possibility of this planet would have perhaps surpassed the imaginations of its creators, as they always suspected, while this program was being finalized.
And thus, the bug was planted in the software of life. Something is better than nothing.
If you want to chase true happiness, give life back to your heartbeats, return the glow of existence to your glassy eyes and defog the potential of your intellect, then, my friends, you need to rather settle for nothing …. Nothing but life at your terms… Nothing but your passionate best…. Best of your primal possibilities of magnificence… crack the code… subdue the urge to merely exist and shun the warmth of the shades of the known… the dark alleys of the comforts of mere mediocre survival…
For no man or woman worth their salt who ever made history, no creator who ever advanced the human race, no billionaire who succeeded in his venture of passion, no superhero who thought that he can change the world and did, ever pursue the comfortable alternates of something while they nurtured their ardent ambitions…. For the pursuit of something is the curse that makes you a Midas of Mediocrity. If something is the only option while you hibernate in your pupa, then opt for nothing rather. And in the moments of nothingness, metamorphose your dream into reality. For only those succeeded in any extraordinary venture who single-mindedly chased their paths of passion without consigning themselves into the decades of the obscurity of mediocrity that the journey of something is for sure to relegate you to.
Nothing… Is Better Than Something.
The mythical Eklavya in the Indian Epic, Mahabharat, when refused training by the legendary Royal Guru Dronacharya, epitomises the Guru in a statue and with extraordinary discipline trains himself in the art of archery to become better than the best than, Arjuna. When the learned Guru Drona realises that a non royal outcast has trained himself to be better than his best pupil, connives & conspires and asks for GuruDakshina – his fees … strangely enough for actually not having imparted any art to the poor trainee who had rather magnanimously assumed the learned Guru to be his spiritual teacher. The gullible and awestruck poor lad agrees. What does the Guru ask.. His Thumb. And the poor lad.. without blinking an eye cuts off the thumb and offers it to the Sage.
In the same Mahabharat, the Empress Draupadi is disrobed and abused in the most profane language that would put some of our uncouth lads of today to shame… bang in between a fullhouse royal court that had in attendance & dishonourable witness of the iniquitous act.. the then epitomes of character & wisdom, the mightiest of thé mighty warriors… Mighty Bheeshma.. akin to the Empress’s Grandfather.. Mighty Guru Dronacharya.. her fathers best friend, the blind conniving emperor, Dhritarashtra.. akin to her father in law, and her defeated husbands and the mightiest of them all.. Arjuna, Bheema… all bowing their heads in helplessness imposed by self preached dogmas… of purported dharma..chained in their own twisted philosophies of truth…. nevertheless a lady of the stature of an empress was being violated and shamed in their helpless witness.. the very act notarising their acquiescence of the concupiscence of the depraved brutes who were like her own brothers.
In Ramayana, Sita gets abducted and the entire epic gets written as she accepts the request for alms from a scheming treacherous demon king Ravana who is disguised as a sage and rituals have it that sages begging for alms cannot be turned away.
Alas. Alasss. Ohhh God… Alas…. All that these hapless victims of so called preordained fate had to do was take a stand. Say NO.
By saying No, the unsuspecting pupil perhaps would never have become an embodiment of sacrifice and a devout pupil of historical repute… but might have taken his rightful place as the best archer in the world .. better than Arjuna, as he was.
By saying No to being a mute spectator to the revoltingly perverted act of a woman’s public dishonour much less that of an empress.. that told of the plight of the women of the times, the Mighty Bheeshma, or the Mighty Guru Drona may never have been considered as epitomes of loyalty in servitude towards their motherland… but rather might have saved millions of lives from meaningless savage deaths in the name of the bloodiest of battles ever fought and may also have had history respect them as real men… of substance.. who refused to allow such depravity to be conducted in their witness to happen and were willing to let go of bogus oaths that shames humanity forever in its upkeep.
And by saying No, the Dharmaraj Yudhisthira.. The helpless emperor, whose wife was molested in front of his own eyes by agents of decadence may never have been respected as a man who could sacrifice anything for the pretentious upkeep of dharma.. which was not more or could ever be more than the honour of the woman whom he had vowed to protect… what use was his dharmic pretension or the might of Bheema with his strength of 10,000 elephants or the expertise of Arjuna who could destroy any chakravyuha or bore the eye of a fish hanging in sky with his arrow, when their collective strength & wisdom could not protect their own wife.. their honour.. their empress and least of all their subject of avowed protection.
By saying No, to the demon king disguised as a sage, Mother Sita would have bore the brunt of the ire of a wicked disguised demon.. who would have been unable to do anything actually… but instead would have saved the whole brouhaha of a massive war that killed so many and led to issues galore. Instead Lord Ram would still have got to know of this vile attempt and would still have befittingly punished Ravana.. minus the bloodshed of the innocent… perhaps…
And we face many such traumatic dilemmas daily in our lives. And our yes costs us dearly… We so want to say No.. Our heart and soul and mind cries out to say No and lo behold our tongue refuses and orders itself to parrot a Yes. And that ruins a lot of things.. potential to achieve greater good as we saw in the many examples above.. possibilities unexplored that could have resulted in far better outcomes… or plainly peace of mind .. in having done what YOU wanted to do and what YOU felt right.. instead of silently suffering .. for the sake of being goody goody.. being known as a pleasing personality.. an amicable fool. All that you are buying .. is not peace of mind.. or even the brownie points of someone else who disrespected you enough to ask you to do what you perhaps don’t want to.. rather you are bargaining for devaluation of your self esteem.. degradation of your self respect and a possibility of you slowly metamorphosing into a replica of the type of personality you so violently detest.
Mark Manson in his celebrated treatise, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck says “We all get dealt cards. Some of us get better cards than others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on our cards, and feel we got screwed over, the real game lies in the choices we make with those cards, the risk we decide to take, and the consequences we choose to live with. People who consistently make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life. And it’s not necessarily the people with the best cards.”
There are only so many yesses that you have.. to so carelessly squander away. I say the real game lies in the choices we make with our yesses and nos… the risk we know is comparative happiness and the consequences… calculated.. yet not self defiling & self destructive. For the want of saying a No at a right time, many a possible great has been defrauded of his/her magnanimous future .. many a human parasite has gotten away with his/her devious plans and many an extraordinary possibility vanished into the dismal cavernous abyss of nothingness…
If you want to be happy… If you want to earn your rightful respect, if you want to pursue your well earned peace of mind.. learn to say NO. You have only awfully limited yesses in your life to keep dishing it out at every given opportunity. A simple no would have changed the course of Indian History many times.. from Ekalavya to Bheeshma.. to Dhritarashtra.. to Yudhisthira.. to Bheema.. to Arjuna… to those who said yes to Robert Clive’s convoluted plans.. to Gandhi… to Nehru… to those who said yes to the partition.. to those millions of hapless coward parents who said yes to selling their daughters… to those millions of children across generations who said yes to their parent’s dream of making them an engineer or something like that.. against their passionate pursuits … to those who said yes to anyone buying their right of franchise for a few pennies or a quarter bottle of cheap alcohol… to those who said yes to every whims and fancies of their bosses against what is right for the organisation that feeds them… to those who said no to their thinking minds and said yes against their conscience.. against their values… against the good and against the primal possibilities of intrinsic greatness inherent to be nurtured.. cultivated and bloomed.
Every ill-timed Yes sets you back irreparably and the nation’s clock with many an unsaid no keeps turning its possibilities back to centuries… as the breed of the No Sayers keep diminishing through the altered inherited DNA.
Just Say No My Friend… When the Heart and Soul says so. Heed the Right. Change the course of history… Just imagine the possibilities with the right No.. said at the right time in the limited examples above… India would have seized her rightful place in the comity of nations… in the front ranks..
At least, if not the country.. we would have been happier.. by saying NO at the RIGHT time.
Second Lieutenant to India’s first Field Marshal… Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw popularly known as Sam Bahadur was the best that they ever make. In 1931, Sam’s father refused to send him to London to pursue medicine as he was passionate about. In 1931 the Indian Military College Committee, recommended the establishment of a military academy in India to train Indians for officer commissions in the army. Through a competitive exam set up by the Public Service Commission fir the first time Indian Youth were allowed to compete and become officers in the Indian Army by joining a course in the IMA. In an act of rebellion against his father’s refusal, Manekshaw applied for a place and sat the entrance exams in Delhi. On 1 October 1932, he was one of the fifteen cadets to be selected through open competition. Manekshaw was placed sixth in the order of merit. And here started a journey which scripted a rare chapter of extraordinary contribution to the Indian History.
What’s my point? And why bring Sam Manekshaw to the fore with this topic. Well if there can ever be an outshining exemplar of the topic in question here, Sam Bahadur would unanimously be at the top rung. Best is a word.. if it ever were to have a life of its own.. would feel infinitely proud for having been attached to such a fine gentleman.. officer.. leader.. human being. Such men take humanity and excellence of being .. a notch higher than it was ever envisaged by the creators of life and the epitomes of quality manuals envisioned in the departments of excellence in the heavenly offices.
Folklore legend has it that when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked the Indian Army Chief Sam Manekshaw if the Indian Army was ready for a war against Pakistan in April 1971, against her own assessment and the advice of the cabinet, he told her about the inevitable defeat if India attacked East Pakistan untimely. The Field Marshal narrated this incident as a personal example of moral courage, at the inaugural Field Marshal KM Cariappa Memorial Lecture in October 1995 at Delhi:
“There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a Field Marshal. In 1971, when Pakistan cracked down in East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India, into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting in her office. The External Affairs Minister Sardar Swaran Singh, the Agriculture Minister, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, the Defence Minister, Babu Jagjivan Ram and the Finance Minister, Yashwant Rao Chavan were present. I was then summoned.”
A very angry, grim-faced Prime Minister read out the telegrams from the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. She then turned around to me and said, “What are you doing about it?”
And I said, “Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me. You didn’t consult me when you allowed the BSF, the CRP and RAW to encourage the Pakistanis to revolt. Now that you are in trouble, you come to me. I have a long nose. I know what’s happening.”
I then asked her what she wanted me to do.
She said, “I want you to enter Pakistan.”
And I responded, “That means war!”
She said, “I do not mind if it is war.”
“Have you read the Bible?”, I said.
The Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh asked, “What has Bible got to do with this?”
I explained, that the first book, the first chapter, the first words, the first sentence God said was, “Let there be light” and there was light. Now you say, “Let there be war” and there will be war, but are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China if China gives us an ultimatum.
The Foreign Minister asked, “Will China give an ultimatum?” And I said, “You are the Foreign Minister, you tell me”. I told them that my armoured division and two of my infantry divisions were away. One in the Jhansi/Babina area, the other in Samba and the third one in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I mentioned that I will require all the road space, all the railway wagons, the entire railway system to move these formations to the operational areas and that harvesting was in progress in the Punjab and UP and they would not be able to move the harvest which would rot; and I pointed out to the Agriculture Minister that it wouldn’t be my responsibility if there was a famine. Then I said, “My armoured division, which is my big striking force is supposed to have 189 tanks operational. I have got only 11 tanks that are fit to fight.”
The Finance Minister, who is a friend of mine asked, “Sam why only 11?”
So I told him, “Because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking you for money for over a year and you say you haven’t got it!”
And finally I turned around to the Prime Minister and said that the rains were about to start in East Pakistan and when it rains there, it pours and when it pours, the whole countryside is flooded. The snows are melting, the rivers would become like oceans. If you stand on one bank, you can’t see the other. All my movement would be confined to roads. The Air Force, because of climatic conditions would not be able to support me. Now Prime Minister, give me your orders. The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, “The Cabinet will meet again at four o’clock”.
The members of the Cabinet started walking out. I being the junior most was the last to go and as I was leaving, she said,”Chief, will you stay back?”
I turned around and said, “Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?”
She said, “Every thing you told me is true”.
“Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth” I responded, “and it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.”
She smiled at me and said, “All right Sam, you know what I want?”
I said, “Yes, I know what you want!”
Now this is what the anti yes men cult are made of. Even when facing imminent dishonourable discharge, even when facing the pinnacle of power, the officer in charge of taking a decision did but budge from the stand of what was factual, the best option for the responsibility he represented in his line of duty. A simple yes to all that the cabinet said could have won him incomparable brownie points and benefits. His moral compass was however inclined towards the facts in hand and the best option that his experience and training accorded him.
In fact in yet another place Sam Bahadur so wonderfully lays this treatise simply thus:
The problem with us is the lack of leadership.
There is lack of leadership in every walk of life, whether it is political, administrative, in our educational institutions, or whether it is our sports organizations. Wherever you look, there is lack of leadership.
So, if leaders are not born, can leaders be made? My answer is yes. Give me a man or a woman with a common sense and decency, and I can make a leader out of him or her.
What are the attributes of leadership? The first, the primary, indeed the cardinal attribute of leadership is professional knowledge and professional competence. Now you will agree with me that you cannot be born with professional knowledge and professional competence even if you are a child of Prime Minister, or the son of an industrialist, or the progeny of a Field Marshal. Professional knowledge and professional competence have to be acquired by hard work and by constant study. In this fast- moving technologically developing world, you can never acquire sufficient professional knowledge. Professional knowledge and professional competence are a sine qua non of leadership
What is the next thing you need for leadership? It is the ability to make up your mind to make a decision and accept full responsibility for that decision. Have you ever wondered why people do not make a decision? The answer is quite simple. It is because they lack professional competence, or they are worried that their decision may be wrong and they will have to carry the can. According to the law of averages, if you take ten decisions, five ought to be right. If you have professional knowledge and professional competence, nine will be right, and the one that might not be correct will probably be put right by a subordinate officer or a colleague. But if you do not take a decision, you are doing something wrong. An act of omission is much worse than an act of commission. An act of commission can be put right. An act of omission cannot …
AND THATS THE CRUX. Acts of professional turpitude orchestrated by the yes men who throng the aura of a decision maker like a halo of a evil do untold harm to the one who falls for their ill meant advices as also those who bear the brunt of the impacts of such decisions influenced by vile sycophants.
Corporate and political history is abound with the travesties caused by such evil minions which eventually led to the downfall of dynasties, corporations and the even sovereignty of nations. Not to mention the calculated systematic meticulous destruction of superlative talent that could have reversed the fortunes of such nations, corporations or even dynasties. That’s the evil axis of influence of these lackeys in the garb of polite pleasing yes men … who can corrode the very pillars of what any entity stands for or ever stood for. These talent termites eat away every single possibility of excellence, every iota of potential and every ounce of opportunity ever presented by factual realistic representation of those who were competent and capable.
Yet, the silver lining is the path tread by such outstanding resplendent precedents like the Field Marshal Sam Bahadur who with their scant regard for systemic destruction, yet never gave up on the ideals and values on which humanity thrives. Becoming legend perhaps was never their aim. Being & doing the right always was. Irrespective of the fate that the sycophants scripted for them. They lived far taller than the mightiest peaks in their steely resolve and their unbridled pursuit of extraordinary excellence.
And it’s these instruments of change that Steve Jobs spoke of when he said: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.
“Remember, It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17
The real-estate value by size (not sure by its inhabitants) of its occupancy or even its known contribution to the vast expanse of our galaxy would be ridiculously negligible. I wouldn’t even want to attempt comprehension of its market value in the comity of galaxies or worse, universe… if any such concept were to exist.
In this ridiculously negligible span of time that we, the invisible denizens of such a ridiculously otiose pixel in the unimaginably vast screen of the universe, while away that precious, unreplenishable resource, cosmically gifted to us, with the caveat that, not a single unit can ever be saved, bought or retracted…
Divinity is abound with innumerous tales & instances where even the all-powerful deities or prophets or messiahs… staunchly refused to tamper with what they called as predestined preordained action of a particular point of time. They, with their divine cosmic superlative powers could have commanded the all pervasive “time” to change its course of any of those undesirable actions that led to events in time of en masse destruction of mankind, erosion of the morality, vanquishing of the virtuous, debasement of the innocent, genocides perpetrated by repulsive cruelties of few, putting the very existence of this mote of dust, meaninglessly suspended in the universe into peril of its own survival… why, even their own death, sometimes inhumanly, when they chose to incarnate as a human being… for the purported good of the same species which condemned them to their cruel end here. Thus the divine themselves ordained their most unique of all creations … time… as indestructibly unreplenishibly supreme.
Merriam Webster calls “time” as a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future. By that standards, the continuum can thus, also be inversely measured in terms of non-events – non-actions – non-respect to its existence, non-valuation of its being unreplenishible… in short by its criminal wastage. Mankind in its majoritarian perspective must be notorious in the annals of universe’s history – if there is such a thing, as I presume there is… for its cruel expenditure of this scarce resource in the pursuit of nothing. All the while, merely choosing to exist in the megalomaniac imaginations of self-delusional importance, of their own infallibilities, of their own indispensability, of their own gloated bloated egoistic self-worship, in such pursuit’s absence, dooming this speck of dust from rotating in its own axis and revolving in the glory of the self-declared importance of the self-professed messiahs of humanity.
And if we aren’t really doing that, then we are indulging in more important existential tasks. Of vehemently chasing mediocrity… of conditioning ourselves to be subservient to the trodden paths in the pride of clockwork precision, of wallowing in self pity induced by the cruelties of the fate that had declared enmity with our existence even before our souls were activated to life by some cosmic sms code. We choose to exist. We choose to survive. We choose to become great. We choose to be important or unimportant. We choose to be useful or useless. We choose to be successful or unsuccessful. We choose to be optimistically pessimist or pessimistically optimist, or positively optimistic or negatively pessimistic, or whatever that we choose to make out of circumstances and experiences in or not in our controls. We are a continual product of our choices.
What we certainly don’t choose… at least many of us… is to accord the divinity and importance to this most celestial of all that the divine ever bestowed to mankind – “time”. The facets of the time accorded to mankind’s existential roadmap, hasn’t really changed metamorphically over the thousands of years of its evolution. The way we are born. The way we grow, infancy, toddlerhood, teenage, sophomore years, adulthood, middle-age, geriatric phase… all the biological milestones have been quite the same since the advent of the BC/AD bifurcation of Time. What perhaps is unique to each of these phases is what we make of it… to some stage what circumstances make of us and after some stage what we make of those circumstances. The millions of marked and umarked graves over the tens of thousands of years of the existence of humanity are a gruesome testimony to the fact that “Time” could really move on without an iota of any visibly recorded glitch in its own ordained journey. Or any remorse towards its disrespect by its prisoner. It doesn’t matter to “Time” what you make of it. It matters to “You” what you make of the ridiculously short amount of “Time” granted to “You”.
And we still, all knowing… all knowledgeable… all important… all indispensable… all powerful… somehow only preach about the value of “Time”. Like the author himself here is realizing as he writes this. Perhaps that must have been the intent of the guardian deities set over the author and helping him type out this homily… to perhaps realize the gist of the peroration and set on the path to maximize the efficiency of the limited resources of time allocated to each of us. We have somehow compartmentalized our robotic existence into chunks of 365 days. In the long range zone of the life.. for a large part we are chasing a mirage… many blocks of 365 days went away attempting to get good scores… many blocks of 365 days went away in recognition of the purpose of this existence … many blocks of 365 days went away in chasing dream jobs/means of livelihood… many blocks of 365 days went away dreaming about that elusive love and related paraphernalia… yet again blocks of 365 days went away in making a mark in the compromised means of existence… compromising with personal values and kowtowing to circumstances (as many choose to land in professions of monetary gratification rather than passionate pursuits).. now blocks of many 365 days … as you head to the last quarter of the average mortality…are in a chain going away in remaining relevant.. pleasing the unpleasable and hovering between the stinging peak of self-actualization where the likes of Monsieur Maslow have uncomfortably seated us and surfing the waves of the sophomore passions that never really deserted us. So if we had to eventually land in this risky zone.. what did we chase in the last three four decades of our survival.. what did we achieve.. where are we going.. what is the purpose.. before we get answers to this.. we will be either counting our savings and looking for ancestral property values or desperately creating the means of possible comforts that would make the ‘ultimate inevitable truth’ an easy exit and not as gory as the biologists these day are scripting for humanity or the insurers with their devastating factual statistics would have us believe. Testimony to this meaningless mortality in recent pandemic times are the lakhs of cadavers who were unceremoniously & disrespectfully expended into anonymity.. without a trace or without even according them the dignity of perfunctory rituals rightfully bestowed upon them by their creed.
So what did we chase. What happened to the ideals for which the epitomes of divine lived and died for. What happened to the reality of what they stood for. Where are even those who wanted to leave indelible imprints on the sand of time with their thesis of life and values. Where are those who lived in the exalted realm of the belief that the world would not do without them. Where are those who declared that the paths they propagated were the only paths of existence and the rest were the doomsday trails. Where are those who philosophized, prophesied, sermonized the indisputable facets of existence. Where are the giants of history or for that matter where are the dwarfs of mediocrity. All the rulers and the ruled, the tyrants and their victims, all the heroes and villains of time, all the poets and authors of repute, all the experts and the amateurs of anything worth a piece of thought, all the immortal lovers, prophets, thespians, philosophers, writers, dictators, freedom fighters, teachers, students, creators, parasites….all those significant and insignificant lives that treaded the paleolithic or neolithic paths of humanity and have become fossils in the vast depths of the sands of time.
What ever lived is the purpose… if they ever had any… in their own lifetimes… in its pursuit and achievement… within the limited confines of the apportioned nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of the moments fully lived in serving the useful purposes of its meaningful existence, of the pursuit of passions that made your circumference of influence on this planet a notch better that you found it… in the allocation of a respectable meaning to your existence within the limited rim of allocated “Time” …and the joys of its achievement… in chasing and achieving the primal extraordinary that is genetically bestowed to the species of sapiens.. in its staunch refusal of thriving in the muck of the mediocrity that is the default setting of the societies currently evolving under the tutelage of its self-ordained masters who have muscled their way into owning & programming the mindframes of the androids of the sapien society… living their abominable lives poncing on the mindnumbed masses…
Let us choose our purposes carefully. For they will define the quality of our otherwise limited existence here. And to conclude my final thoughts on the original topic… Yes I believe that Time… Also is one of the Gods… for sure. For if the other Gods that ever recorded their existence on this small insignificant pixel of the Universe’s screen also refused to tamper/modify/influence/contort/customize/control this instrument of their (as we presume) creation – “TIME” then for sure it either must have been an ally from their own ilk or at least they divined it so much that we have but no choice to accept the inevitable truth.
Lets learn to respect this living God amongst us. And accord it the respect of meaningful purpose, value it with the preciousness it deserves and if not deify it.. at least respectfully value its abysmal shortage and span in our limited distance journey and maximize its efficiency in making our existence meaningfully utilitarian and excitingly influential.
Between the chasm of life and death… the way you lived out the allocated time.. will define the answer to the happiness quotient of its sum total and its relevance to you… your loved ones and your society.
As said Durden in the Fight Club… On a long enough timeline… the survival rate for everyone drops to zero..
Before 14th June, I only liked Sushant Singh Rajput as a great actor, given my penchant for cinema and the avid movie buff that I am.
And then 14th happened.
I was taking my weekend power nap, when I was jolted awake by my daughter who just uttered that SSR had committed suicide. I jumped out of the bed and rushed to the television, in utter disbelief, only to hear the corroborative narration that an entire shocked nation was hearing.
It catapulted me to my sophomore years when I was gallivanting away from my college in my mofussil town and my close confidante … my friend in all deeds & misdeeds came chasing in search of me, the chain of his dilapidated cycle having failed as usual and he jumped down as blurred out… Divya Bharti is dead. Those were the days when news wasn’t a 24/7 gory business and I had to await the next days newspaper to get the details of the unbelievable painful tale of the death of someone whom I simply adored … along with millions of other admirers.
It was the first time that I had realised that these screen deities were also human beings… flesh and blood… and it hit really hard… this couldn’t be happening … it was just not possible… should I still chase my dreams of becoming an actor.. or is my dad right and engineering is the real thing… crazy random thoughts… it took an investment of some stolen money on a leading film glossy that carried the painful details… conspiracy theories … the picture of the place where the deity had fallen… intact… shattered… window without a grill… drunken parties till late nights… mother and father… separate accusations … the entire month was a nightmare..
And now this. As I .. glued to myriad channels.. where the merchants of pain spread their investigative paraphernalia and sold their sordid tales of grisly details… it is here that I discovered the extraordinary human soul behind the actor’s mask. And hitherto unknown facts came to my notice. The melancholic pain has consistently been increasing by the passing day. Inspite of the fact that other than the bond of humanity I had nothing binding me to this great soul. I tried searching for reasons on why I was suffering from so much distress on SSR giving up on life. Why did my eyes water at watching Dhoni the movie.. that I had already consumed a dozen times before… Why did the lines… Bin pooche mera naam aur pataa…. Rasmon ko rakh ke pare… Chaar kadam bas chaar kadam…. Chaldona saath mere… suddenly acquire a new lugubrious context…
Was it because of him being a fellow Bihari? Was it because that we tend to relate more to the success of the underdog stories? Was it because he left without according the basic etiquette of explaining his reasons to the masses who worshipped him and thus became enigmatic and the conundrum was killing us…
All the research that I set upon only disclosed a far superior quality of intellect behind that disarmingly enchanting endearing smile… a thinking brain… an intellectually advanced lifeform with an enviably fine balance of emotion between the heart and the mind… a positive persona with indefatigable zest for life and a passion par excellence to chase and achieve the extraordinary in the mediocre maze of this existence… It is here that I connected. It is here that the spark of pain became unbearable. A relationship between a thinking intellectual soul and another is one of the finest bonds that unites the known with the unknown … converting stranger souls into bonds of familiarity… based on mutual respect and admiration. This explained the lump in throat and the wetness of the eyes of my mind at every mention of the excellence that rid itself of a lifeform.
The pain now is more severe. For now, all the claims of depressive state of affairs or the compulsions imposed by the heinous conspiracies of the invisible omertà or the struggle cum failure stories, or the myriad relationships souring… nothing really justified the exit of a reasonably intelligent soul. As one who related to the same and may have borne the brunt of similar or far more devastating colourful blows of fate, I couldn’t for the respect of existence, in any order condone or corroborate any cause as worthy of depriving the already intellectually bankrupt existence of the times that we suffer.
I tried to look for the reasons in the immediate postings of SSR on his various social platforms and found these relevant random thoughts that perhaps joined the dots…..
April: What if consciousness is not something special that the brain does but is instead a quality inherent to all matter in the universe?
May: The Avatamsaka Sutra describes enlightenment as an awareness of the “interpenetration of space and time.” One can’t help but wonder if Einstein’s theory of relativity that unifies space and time was just a stroke of genius or also a glimpse of the divine. June: Blurred past evaporating from teardrops. Unending dreams carving an arc of smile. And a fleeting life, negotiating between the two…
All the above point to an extraordinarily advanced computation of the unseen aspects of existence or its meaning. The negotiation between thé blurred past evaporating from the teardrops and the unending dreams attempting to carve an arc of smile seem to have failed. The fleeting moment when the negotiations failed, SSR decided perhaps to merge the consciousness with the matter. Perhaps in such a random moment of some advanced realisation of the meaning of life… he merged with the divine. As SSR prophesied in one of his several musings…somewhere between the neurons of his passion and the narratives of his circumstances… he was born… lived… dreamt… and died…
And he converted his dream of being eternal into an immediate reality. May not be a right way to do so.. but who are we to judge the brightness of an exalted soul that might have sought and achieved enlightenment. History is abound with hundreds of stories of enlightened souls who never lived thereafter with the masses post enlightenment of the kind where the mysteries of life seem to have disclosed itself to them. Life is simply complicated. It’s the most misunderstood concept and the reality of death has only compounded the conundrum. We keep chasing death in the garb of living life. We surrender the genetically intelligent neurons to the narratives of mediocrity.
A dear friend if mine passionately attempted to mull about as to who we were to say that this lifetime is our entire book. That perhaps this may be a chapter… biding by its allocated time within the limited confines of the words and pages allocated to it. There may have been many chapters before or many ahead… Perhaps..
I fell for this concept.. And it is here … that with so much pain at the departing of such an inspiring soul as SSR.. it is but with respect we must accord his right to have refused to grant right to the limitations of the pages and words and spaces et al by ending the chapter consciously… perhaps he intuitively knew about the excitement and comparative superiority of the quality of the upcoming chapter… or perhaps the powerful omertà of the universe had authored the chapter to end thus.
Whatever be the case… the heart rules over the mind here and no explanation lessens the pain of reaching the last period of this chapter. The reader, who falls in love with the tale .. shall always have to bear the pangs of pain at the ending of such a tale. Many more tales may come… yet the nostalgia of the tale so loved shall continue to stab the memory… especially, when the author chose to end it at a sharp heartthrobbingly & mysteriously incomplete abrupt juncture… with no climax in sight… well the pain of suffering such a story that never ended and yet ended is only known to such unfortunate readers like us.
Hoping that SSR moved on to a happier chapter as he wanted. This ununderstood ending.. for sure will join the list of many such burning .. soul stirring … intellect confusing unanswered list of enigmatic queries that I have been collecting since my chapter began… to be asked and answer sought only from the supreme author.
In the lines of Kaifi Azmi Saab:
रहने को सदा दहर में आता नहीं कोई.
तुम जैसे गए ऐसे भी जाता नहीं कोई…
डरता हूँ कहीं ख़ुश्क न हो जाए समुंदर
राख अपनी कभी आप बहाता नहीं कोई
इक बार तो ख़ुद मौत भी घबरा गई होगी
यूँ मौत को सीने से लगाता नहीं कोई
माना कि उजालों ने तुम्हें दाग़ दिए थे
बे-रात ढले शम्अ बुझाता नहीं कोई
साक़ी से गिला था तुम्हें मय-ख़ाने से शिकवा
अब ज़हर से भी प्यास बुझाता नहीं कोई
हर सुब्ह हिला देता था ज़ंजीर ज़माना
क्यूँ आज दिवाने को जगाता नहीं कोई
अर्थी तो उठा लेते हैं सब अश्क बहा के
नाज़-ए-दिल-ए-बेताब उठाता नहीं कोई
At the risk of uttering a generalisation, which has been said to be the true enemy of mankind, I daresay that if it were to be ever attempted to understand what prohibits intrinsic potential of human capital from converting to delivered reality, it’s the spirit of incompetence, FOMO and mediocrity mindset of the men/women set over them.
Incompetence begets Incompetence. Incompetence promotes Incompetence. Incompetence recognises Incompetence. Incompetence favours Incompetence. For its the most viciously lethal & a treacherously silent killer of excellence that organisations acquire in the form of extraordinary talent but nurture and acclimatising it towards averaged mediocrity. Incompetence is the harbinger of the corporate food chain which cannibalises competence in favour of its own ilk, albeit proportional to its owner’s absolute vested powers.
Incompetence in itself isn’t treacherous. It’s advocacy and subscription as well as its tacit promotion is treason. It’s the here and now crisis that comes forcefully between actualisation of an organisation’s intrinsic inherent potential and the actual abysmally accepted achievement of incompetent targets. No Organisation worth it’s salt ever hires an underperformer, knowingly. Only the good and the excellent make the cut in lateral hirings. What then goes wrong when over time these resources who were hired for their ability to deliver and perhaps a proven track record of achievements, go on to become average and underperforming castoffs. Who went wrong. What went wrong. Who is to be held accountable. Why does the perpetrator go scot free and the unassuming victim penalised in various forms.
In 1999 two Cornell psychologists – David Dunning and Justin Kruger, in their eponymous Dunning-Kruger Effect propagated a cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. And not only do they fail to recognize their incompetence, they’re also likely to feel confident that they actually are competent. Mark Murphy speaks about this in a Forbes article where he analysed that it’s this very cognitive bias why some people think they’re great… even when their performance is terrible to say the least …
Once I stumbled upon this theory, a lot became crystal clear to me and many a vainglorious cavalier behavioural pattern of some people in positions of influence crystallised into a symptomatic trend of what is eating away the very pillars of values that any organisational entity propagates to stand on. However, We in the fraternity are yet to find a L,T & D or OD cure or worse .. even a behavioural vaccination that can insulate organisations from this treacherous epidemic. This… due to continual lethargy and inability and lack of intentions.. so to say.. of the decision empowered honchos over the decades… which has now acquired terminal stage of ailment in the corridors of corporate leadership…
Over a period of time… number crunchers with scant regard to ethics or processes or abilities, sycophants who crooned hosannas in glory of their masters, epitomes of mediocrity who with unenviable ‘abilities’ to please their masters, masters who themselves climbed the ladder on similar exalted grounds of incompetence and saw mirror images of their “competence” in these puppy eyed glorified fawners, have given rise to a decadent breed of swathes of averagers. In the swamp of this rot.. the superlative sparks of excellence have been savagely extinguished … sacrificed on the altars of mutual respect/empathetic comatose conscience of the leadership of the averagers ilk.
How long will the Ekalavyas have to chop off their thumbs to favour the rise of the Master’s Favourites. How long will the Karnas continue to be beheaded deceitfully in the garb of righteousness that is decided by the few. How long will the Ashok Khemkas of life keep getting booted out every six months to a new city to accommodate the vile… How long will the meritorious sacrifice his/her rightful due since he/she did not lower his/her standards of competence to kowtow with the incompetence of the majority… How long will the average merit the exceeded personal expectations ranking of the mighty against those who actually exceeded the expectations which were not aligned to the actual considered factors of the masters mediocre expectations.
Leadership which keeps consistently turning a blind eye is equally complicit in the crime. This is organisational treason. This is corporate treason. Any wilful covert acts of treachery … which can be detrimental and devastating to the state.. country or an organisation is treason. Retribution for treason across ages and across geographies have been uniform, owing to the heinous and loathsome nature of the crime. History also has been testimony that those who turned a blind eye to injustice weren’t really spared the larger net of harm over time. Across the ruthlessness of timelines, infallible giants like PanAm, Kodak, Nokia, HMT, Enron, Kingfisher, Yes Bank, Polaroid, Yahoo, Motorola… and so many of them bit the dust as they were victims of consistent incompetence of some leader or the other there.. somebody who tolerated mediocrity of intellect… someone up in the hierarchy who was willing to accept low standards of delivery … and who slowly, gradually and consistently compromised on performance, excellence and foresight…. these are treasonous actions that merit the highest form of punitive accountability … for with their action millions of shareholders, employees and gigantic valuations had to succumb to obscurity and bear the savage barbarous brunt as a resultant of the actions of few incompetents.
However no amount of punitive action can ever suitably account for the murder of competent dreams, strangling of well deserved aspirations, culling away of slabs of time spent in the hope of justice someday… worse … the bestial destruction of innocence that all management theories or education ever propagated… that excellence is rewarded and competence will empower you to succeed in your chosen career…
Who will be held accountable for the defiling of the aspirations built on the foundations of delivered excellence or the promise of extraordinary latent talent waiting to be guided to deliver by the incompetent mentors who are entrusted with such competent team members. Surely not the conspirators who across ranks are in cahoots to acclimatise the eager ones who want to challenge the status quo.. live the organisational values and pursue the vision and mission with religious fervour…. for these innocent imbeciles are yet to learn to read between the incoherent lines of mediocrity that are chanted and disseminated by the entire heinous hierarchy.
As long as incompetence will continue to be deceptively rewarded in the cloaks of transparency that doesn’t exist except for in the devious opaqueness of the perpetrator’s minds… this treason against the organisation will continue to haunt the potential of the organisation… and the threat of gradual obliteration will continue to hang. Values of any organisation are to be treated as verbs by the top nouns of the management. Else … all indications in any case are predicting doomsday…
The only leverage that any brand has its ability to visibly translate its claims of integrity into action. And it’s the only legacy that any leader worth his salt can ever leave for posterity. And an organisation that doesn’t endeavour to keep its handful of employees happy in lines with its visibly practiced values … can never expect to gain the trust and respect of the proportional numbers of customers and stakeholders it wishes these employees to delight ..
I was having a chat with a very dear friend who was narrating an incident where a toxic senior at workplace was becoming overwhelmingly unbearable. In line with the conversation, I tried explaining the management of both toxic as well as adorable people that we meet in the journey of our lives referring to a train journey in India.
If you have traveled on a long distance train journey here, you will know what I am about to tell. Seated at a window berth ensconced in a small cubicle you are exposed to the vastness of this piece of continent of this planet. Large swathes of land pass by for hours at a stretch while you recollect how people quarrel back home for inches of land. In such interesting journeys, I have had the endearing opportunity of meeting some very interesting people. Be it the First class where I have met retired commanders of the navy now brokering arms deals, giving me invaluable insights on myriad topics ranging from the mindsets of the MOD babus at south block to how Kurian the father of milk revolution was eventually shortchanged at his own territories. In the second AC I have met plant heads talking about the intricacies of managing plants along with a ringside view of their insecurities which don’t differ much from the air conditioned corridors of multinationals or service industries, Pensioners with their woes of age and offspring management, astrologers who have raked it big cashing in on the human psyche, govt servants with diverse opinions on varied governments they served etc etc..
I have also sometimes had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with rude co passengers fighting ferociously over luggage space beneath the berth or switching the fan on or off as the case may be and ensuring that the remaining journey passes by enduring the emitted bone-chilling coldness of Siberian deserts.
But why am I narrating all about a train journey in such detail.
Well, Life is almost like a train journey, is what I told my dear friend. The journey is not the destination. Neither is the destination the only purpose of our lives. In varied circumstances and needs we undertake various journeys and reach various destinations for various purposes. We get to meet adorably wonderful people and abhorrently toxic people. When we meet the wonderful ones, you get a feeling that you have forged lifetime relationships and that may be true too. But that doesn’t mean you let go of the journey or your destination and become their guests for lifetime since you liked them a lot. And when you get to meet the toxic people, you eventually learn to ignore them almost like how your nose is not obstructing your eye from reading this article. It has learnt to ignore any impediment to its vision at a young age itself. The co-passengers of your journey do not define your journey or its destination or its purpose… they may add value or be an irritant as the case may be, yet they are nothing to your plan of things.
One needs to learn to learn from the experiences and keep moving. The toxicity of any individual can only impact you if it is allowed an entry into your scheme of things. And this decision is yours to make. People will come and go in your life. What you choose to do with them, the learnings they give, the experiences that they impart is absolutely your decision. How much importance you may want to accord to their endearabilty or despicability is totally your choice. And your choice will have its bearing on the quality of the journeys you have to make. At the end of the day, we cannot ignore the fact that the destination will come and you have to alight from the train and carry on chasing the purpose of your journey. Nothing is really more important than you, your journey or your purpose.
Enjoy your journeys, chase your purposes with passion and learn to exhilarate while having great experiences and ignore any meaningless temporary toxicity of any other passenger. You are the owner of your feelings. You are the owner of your mind. Let the mind not dictate to you what you ought to feel or not… As you saw through the window, it’s a very large expanse of universe that we are living in and there are so many places we do not know of or so many people and dialects and nature that we aren’t yet exposed to. What is for sure is that if this journey wasn’t up to the mark, the next one will be. Hope and opportunity are actually infinitely provided by the infinite source. Choose to own your experiences, journeys and destinations.