Deception

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact: Arthur Conan Doyle

Imagine a party hall, a birthday party in progress. Children screeching and screaming, running helter-skelter. Snacks forgotten. Sound levels reach a high point. And suddenly, with one announcement, all children settle down. Total hush descends on the audience; & from the wings comes, dancing, THE MAGICIAN!!!

From his hat comes out a seemingly unending handkerchief. Hat is put back on the head. Lo and behold!! when he takes it off with a flourish, out fly 2 pigeons. And even as the children are agog, many more magic tricks with balls, bells and fire regale the audience. Why only children, we all love to watch David Copperfield carve a woman into two! We know it is all false, but we are totally taken in by the deceptions mounted live or on TV.. This fascination has been the same from Houdini’s days till now! Charming deceptions…. Gullible lies…. Enjoyable subterfuges.

Yet deception is always not welcomed. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first begin to deceive!!” Walter Scott admonished in Marmion ages ago. But, if you look around, we do not seem to have got the message yet!! Deceptions continue unabated. Truth and propriety are out of fashion. Possibly the last bastion of only Philosophers & Theorists. Under the guise of practicality and expediency, you see corners being cut, reality being twisted & turned and deception becoming the norm of our mutual dealings. What prompts deception? why do we travel this self-defeating path?? Really worth thinking about!!

Webster defines Deception as “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid,  the act of deceiving”. Deception refers to the act—big or small, cruel or kind—of encouraging people to believe information, that is not true!! Magic shows are the most charming creation of alternate reality. So are movies… Bollywood or Hollywood. We happily get into the magic world of cinema and make believe & even after the movie is over, we find it difficult to shake our heads out of the make believe world, we were a part of in the darkened cinema halls.

But deception always is not so innocuous. Lying is a common form of deception—stating something you know to be untrue, with the intent to deceive. While most people are generally honest, even those who subscribe to honesty engage in deception sometimes. Studies show that the average person lies several times a day. Some of those lies are big (“I have never cheated on you!” ” I never lie”) but more often, they are little white lies (“That dress looks fine” ” You look slimmer after the diet program”) used to avoid uncomfortable situations or spare someone’s feelings. Every reader can look within and confess: breathes there a man, or woman, who has never lied?

According to one count the English language has 112 words for deception: Trickery, fraud, deceit, hypocrisy, cunning, treachery, guile, duplicity, insincerity, legerdemain, dissimulation, craftiness, fraudulence, lie, cheat, bluff, sham, snare, hoax, decoy, ruse, artifice, subterfuge, canard, feint, wile, hokum, leg-pull, imposture, snow job or even porky. Language reflects social mores and norms: so what does that statistic tell us about how often we practice or come face-to-face with deceit? Good? Bad?? Ugly??? or is it just our social reality?

Admittedly, trust is the bedrock of all social life. Whether it is a 1-on-1 interaction of a Mother & Child, or 2 lovers romancing one another, trust is a sine qua non of social interaction. Even Organizations and Governments are built of trust and mutual belief. In any of these micro or macro relations, deception is frowned upon. Deception undermines Trust. This is fundamental. And since a shared view of reality, is essential to all human enterprise, Truth prevails. Still, at the macro level, look at the statistics WHO publishes about Prevalence of COVID19 across geographies; or the statistics on Education or Employment that different Governments publish. Do you believe the BPL (Below Poverty Line) numbers your country publishes?

Action plans and future directions are predicated on these published data points. What if you cannot trust them? What if vested interests are manipulating the data? At the absolute micro level, think how life would change for a teenaged girl based on how she interprets ” I love you” said by her friend. Is he truthful? Can I trust? What if he is cheating me? Deceit can take Life on very very different paths. Remember the Ministry of Propaganda (Misinformation) that Goebbels ran so effectively for Hitler. Even today’s governments & organizations have a lot to hide. Which is Julian Assange’s claim to fame through WikiLeaks. We are never so easily deceived as when we imagine we are deceiving others Rochefaucauld warns us in his Maxims.

There are sins of commission and sins of omission; omitting information and concealing the truth are considered lies when they are done with an intent to deceive. In addition to statements that are false, deception encompasses statements that misrepresent or distort facts as well as the withholding of information. Recollect the Mahabharata where Dharmaraj himself deceived his Guru: अश्वथामा हतो, नारो वा कुंजारोवा अहम नाही जIनंती People can lie through outright statements or by strategic silence. Krishna’s deceptions changed many a history, but his most charming deception was making every Gopika feel he was dancing only with her, playing the flute purely for her joy!!

Lies are like wishes—often, what is said are things we wish were true. Recollect your answer when someone asks you your weight… the answer is always aspirational!! Or your reply to wife’s query ” how many drinks have you had today?” Is the answer ever true? A large body of research identifies three major reasons why people lie: to get something they want, so-called instrumental reasons; to protect or promote themselves; and to harm others. Avoiding punishment may be the main motivation for both children and adults. This applies uniformly to personal and professional lives. When the boss asks about the progress of an important project, on a scale of 1 to 10 for truthfulness, where does your answer lie? Remember, truth is always easy. It is Deception which is difficult. Ask any politician or an advertising executive!!

So is deception good or bad? Can we avoid it totally and become Raja Harishchandra in real life? Is deception, exaggeration or hiding the truth, the social grease that makes the wheels go around smoothly? I leave it to the reader to decide where he stands on this one. But if someone tells me he has ALWAYS been truthful, and NEVER deceived even a whit, I would say GET A LIFE! The social reality of today is a “fabricated” reality, a manufactured one depending on what you are playing for, and with whom. Truth is a destructive, burning ball of fire and deception is smoothening the sharp edges, sugar coating it where required, reducing the burn or the heat if you will….and ensuring people move towards a shared reality, maybe cut and pared at its edges, different from the Original, but something which helps us all to coexist and work together.

Celeste Epiphany-Waite sings it so beautifully

Hear my voice, Hear my Dreams/ Let us make a world, In which I believe

Hear my words, Hear my cry/ Let me see a change, Through these eyes

Hear my voice, Hear my dreams/ Let us make a world, In which WE believe

Remember Baudelaire: “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”

Do not be deceived: vikibaba punter

a friend in deed…

“Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof”. Richard Bach’s exhortation rang through my heart & mind when I heard about Jayant Tanna’s death.

Jayant & I go back a long, long time. I met him first in 1982 when I joined Siemens HO in Worli; and for the past 40 years we have celebrated each others’ lives & milestones like true brothers of the soul, bound by respect & love for one another & our entire families. The man whose philosophy was to “Live Life Kingsize”, burning the candle from both ends for a larger glow all around, & a “devil may care” attitude and outlook for the future…I truly got jolted when I heard Jayant is no more. This blog is a tribute to my friend and an attempt to recount some of the lessons I learnt from Jayant, which helped enrich my, and my family’s, life.

When I joined Siemens HR, I was a very withdrawn & introverted soul…absolutely the opposite of Jayant’s personality. Jayant was full of energy & laughter, ebullient & loud, challenging & confrontationist, suave & well dressed, a real “ladies man” : point-by-point, everything that I was not!! Other stark areas of difference were: beautiful handwriting & a way with numbers. And why not? He came to HR after spending 20+ years on the commercial side. The whispers in the corridors were that he had had a falling out with his Business Head & the Functional Corporate Commercial Boss & so Jayant was parceled off to HRD, a nascent effort of Siemens Personnel Department; cobbled together with an outdated EDP Manager; an electronic Microscope Sales Head (as that Business was stopped); 2 young turks, fresh MBAs in HR; all under an ex-Internal Audit Manager as our boss. Viva la Human Resource Development. The-then Personnel Director had put together this motley team to change the way Siemens looked at its Talent Management & Development!

I don’t think we had much impact on the organization and its people processes, but from Day 1 Jayant took me under his fold, with the express purpose of changing me & making me more effective & less scared of the big, bad world. One of the first learning from Jayant was : NEVER TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY. Jayant was the proverbial bull in the Siemens HO ever ready to pick issues and people by the horns and toss them around till people got the message. Still remember a placard he made in his beautiful cursive hand to announce to the passers by,” If you have Nothing to do, Please don’t do it here”. This because Siemens HO building always had many visitors from other offices and factories, who were wandering around “like cows looking for grazing grounds & green grass” (Jayant’s words) wanting to chat with someone till their next meeting. So, “please don’t do it here”.

Another major learning from Jayant was to laugh everything off. Jayant could puncture the ego, or argument, of anyone with his earthy, common-sensical questioning. Forever with his feet firmly on the ground, he made it a point to flatten all kite-flyers and theoreticians with his heavy hand, interlaced with humor. He had a style of laughing loudest at his own jokes, and continuing to laugh till such time you gave up your inhibitions & joined his laughter. More senior & serious opponents invariably brought out the “best” from Jayant as he stooped to scalp & conquer anyone who stood in his way. Just to exemplify, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi had just been released and there was lot of talk how Hollywood had omitted Sardar Patel’s character…a strict no no for many Indians. Jayant classic counter was, “So what Richard Attenborough has also omitted my father’s role in the freedom struggle! Sardar may be imp to you, my father was more imp to me!” How can you counter-argue with that? Siemens was full of pompous egoistic souls, so that Jayant had much fodder for his mills to grind.

Jayant joi-de-vivre was legion. He loved parties and was always the soul of any party he attended. He had such a strong animal magnetism that all action always circled around him & his victims. Fun loving to the core, he was a great singer & a fabulous cook. He sang from his heart: the entire song/lyrics/mood was etched on his expressive face. A more solicitous host I have not seen. Going out of the way to make everyone comfortable and engaged were second nature for him. Exotic recipes brought out the best in him. Burmese Khow Suey, Grilled Chicken & Rice casseroles, Mexican & Turkish dishes, Barbeques, Smoked dishes, so many firsts we have had at Jayant’s house. Once I have stood next to him drinking my rum while he cooked Chickoo halwa for full 4 hours to get it perfectly right. His experimentation in the kitchen was always blessed, & we ended up stuffed to the gills every time.

Even till the very end, his love for life and people shone brightest in his eyes and body language. Giving & entertaining was like second nature to him. And all this he did with genuine, heartfelt love. Accepting others as they are, and loving them to the hilt, the greatest extent that he could love, was his strong suit. Never did a word of criticism or censure escape his lips for any of his circle of friends & acquaintances. He embraced people just as they are and loved them to the best of his ability. Even if others had some words of criticism of mutual friends, Jayant always sprung to the defense and explain the other person’s point of view. He managed to carry himself like the lotus in the pond, aloof, unsullied and standing tall. In Jayant’s loving presence, you ended up feeling big and tall yourself, & forgot your own pettiness, in his benign presence.

Always one to challenge rules and processes, he made me more confident in bucking the stream and standing up for my own thoughts. He had a way to go quickly to the root of any issue & then think of innovative, different solutions. Explaining his differing point was second nature to him and he was ready to debate and argue till he convinced you or got convinced himself. An out-of-box thinker he brought me out of my own box, the boundaries I had set for myself, and helped me overcome my resistance to think radically. He showed me how important it was to sometimes throw the baby with the bath water, and begin afresh. For Jayant manner of thinking, nothing was ever anathema and the solution sets were always infinite. This insight helps me even today.

I will indeed miss this great friend who helped me become what I am & throw out many of my shibboleths and pet peeves. Not only me, but my wife and daughter were privileged to be amongst his favorites, & both have gained enormously from his undemanding & unquestioning love. A towering presence in our life, a guiding post who helped us find our paths, an epitome of accepting and all-encompassing love is no more…and the world is poorer for that, we all are at loss.

Jayant, dear friend, Keep the seat next to you warm….keep the beer chilled…I look forward to being with you soon….we shall keep the party rocking in your inimitable style

खुब जमेगा रंग… जब मिल बैठंगे तीन यार…. आप, मै और अपनी old monk: your friend in grief, vikas

… to forgive is divine!

Lockdown weighing heavily on my head. No/minimal work happening. Being a movie addict, I lapse into binge watching of Netflix & Amazon. This, to the utter disgust of my wife. And being at the receiving end of brickbats and burrs from rest of the family. All for my excess “screen time”. Yet, unapologetic, unabashed I continue. And sometimes hit a streak of sheer gold. One such good watch was Amish Grace. Directed by Gregg Champion, based on a book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. This was a hard hitting movie which challenged and clarified the esoteric concepts of Love & Hatred and of Forgiveness & Revenge. Let me tell you why I considered Amish Grace one of the most powerful stories I have seen: one that has the power to change you, if your heart is open!!

The plot is simple. Set in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania it showcases a typical American madness. A shooter enters the one-room Amish school in 2006 and holds hostage 10 small girls. The teacher runs out of the class to summon help; the Police arrive soon. And then Charlie Roberts (the intruder) shoots 10 girls and then turns the gun on himself. For America this is neither new nor unique. Every couple of months one hears of a random shooting spree on an academic campus or on the subway where scores of people fall prey to the mania of the shooter. What makes Charlie Roberts’ story so unique is the aftermath : how the Amish community handled the crisis.

Whenever I read about these senseless shoot-outs I always wonder what prompts such action? How can a person go through with such a dastardly act?? In this case, Charlie was trying to punish God!! He was raving against God’s injustice. Why be mad at God, you ask? Charlie & Amy have lost their daughter Lisa the very day she was born. Charlie is so angry and hurt, that he wants to purposely do evil, to spite God and His world! Armed by this logic, he goes to a local Hardware store, buys guns, goes to the unguarded Amish school with 600 rounds of ammo. He asks the boys in the school to leave, as in his mind God has taken away his daughter, & he has no quarrel with boys! He shoots 10 girls before killing himself! Of those shot, 5 died on the spot or later; while 5 others, had to undergo long hospitalization to recover.

For America, such shootouts and deaths are common. What makes the Nickel Mines story unique is that the Amish community came together to FORGIVE!!! Forgive their children’s killer!! and his family!! A most powerful scene in the movie is immediately after the news broke out, and everyone is in shock. The Amish Levi (priest) and other seniors go to the shooter’s house to meet his widow. The widow, Amy is also in a state of shock and cannot understand how a caring and loving father like Charlie could harm other children. She is distraught with grief. When she sees an Amish delegation, she fears the worst. But she faces them as she realizes “they have a right to be angry”. Imagine her total surprise when the first words she hears are , ” We are sorry for your loss” ” My loss?” Amy asks, confused in facing the community seniors who have lost small children. And the sanguine reply is, ” You lost a husband. Your children lost a father. We grieve for you as well. We harbor no anger for Charlie. We come here to tell you we forgive him” “we will not allow hatred in our hearts…we would like to offer our help. We are your neighbors”.

Arguably, the biggest pain any parent can face is the loss of his/her child. Remember Sholay,” एक बाप के लिए सबसे बड़ा बोझ है उसके बच्चे का जनाज़ा” But here are people who rise above that grief and talk forgiveness!! One of the parents puts it thus,” My daughter died this morning. It is a deep wound. But she is in Heaven with her Father now, and she is at peace”. To the younger sister, the father explains the empty bed, ” She is sleeping in a better place now, little one!”.

The mother cannot understand the Amish Levi & her own husband going to meet Amy Roberts & publicly declaring Forgiveness for Charlie. According to her, Charlie’s senseless act was unforgivable. Her plaint is, “God has shattered my heart & I will not betray my daughter by forgiving the man who murdered my daughter” She challenges her husband for his forgiving stance & screams, ” I dare to hate the man”. The father explains his forgiving stance beautifully to his younger daughter. ” This hate you have inside you, How does it make you feel? Do you feel good? Hate is a very, very harsh thing, with lots of sharp teeth, and it will eat up your whole heart and leave no room for love. What great advice!! So very often we are so angry with another , we hurt ourselves in the process and vitiate our own life. Buddha puts it as carrying live coals in your hand, to throw at another person. But, first you burn your own hands!! We do not understand that, “we do not have to carry all this terrible hate around in us, if we don’t want to; if we are willing to forgive”

That was the logic of the Amish in forgiving Charlie Roberts. Can we imbibe that in our lives? Or would we rather make our hearts the battleground torn between Hate & Love, between Forgiveness & Revenge? Do we not realize that to forgive makes it easier to go back to our lives? Or are some things totally unforgiveable? If my daughter is dead, have I not suffered enough damage already? To keep the Hate in my hearts actually hurts too much. Can we choose love, instead? Easy to say, but difficult to implement.

We tend to put ourselves into the role of meeting out justice for the wrongs committed. But is that our role? Can we choose love instead? In the final analysis, we all deserve forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does not even mean a pardon. But we need to accept that if we hold on to our anger & resentment, then it is only ourselves who are being punished. If someone is purposely doing evil to you, all the more reason we should forgive. But remember,” Forgiveness comes from an open heart & it comes without conditions, or it does not come at all.” That is why, when Amy Roberts herself says I do not know how to forgive Charlie, the Amish ladies who have all lost dear daughters, go up to her and say,” We will pray with you. None of us is alone“. It requires a strong faith to take this position. Do you have it in you? That is the question the movie asks each one of us.

Faith, when everything is going our way, is not faith. It is only when things are falling apart that we have the chance to make our Faith real. Can you? Do you?

This movie challenged my deepest conceptions of justice & fairness, of love & hatred, and finally of Forgiveness & Revenge.

Explore your own thoughts and let Amish Grace take you on this deep journey.

For as ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly father will forgive you also. Mathew 6:14

May you find your own answers in your heart: vikas

Awards:

Humanitas Prize

Winner of the MOVIEGUIDE Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring TV Program of 2010

Grace Award for Television at the 2011 Movieguide Awards

Amish Grace broke network records in multiple demographics, with more than 4 million viewers, becoming the highest-rated and most-watched original movie in Lifetime Movie Network’s history.

Mindfulness

Don’t you worry. This is not going to be a heavy, philosophical blog. It will be light. And fun. Just come with me on this journey…

But before you read further, I want you to do an exercise. Just take a pad and a pencil. Don’t read further. Just do it offline, on paper. Not only mentally. Write down 2 things that are going well in your life just now. Something which is making you happy, something you are grateful for. Next, write 1 challenge you are facing just now. It could be in your personal life or your professional life. Life is not all hunky dory. We all have challenges. Write the big one in your life just now. Finally, write down something you are looking forward to, something you have worked on and are expecting the result in the future. Title the 2 good things you wrote as Roses. The challenge you wrote as Thorn. And the last one is a Bud…waiting to blossom. Done that? Great. Keep aside your Roses & Thorn & Bud. We will return to it later.

So let us return to our topic: Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Most simply put mindfulness is just being in the present. Clued in to your body. Experiencing in full what is going on in and around you. Paying full attention to what you are doing, what is happening in your life just now. Aware of where we are, what we are going through. In this moment.

Unfortunately we are used to living in the past or worrying about our future. Our minds are fully invested in this. What happened yesterday? Why he said what he did? Why did she behave like that? OR what do I need to get done tomorrow? What are my commitments? Where do I need to be? with whom? and doing what? Tomorrow occupies our mind. Or yesterday. Never TODAY. Never NOW. Consciously turning my energy to the Present, the Here & Now…simply put, that is MINDFULNESS.

And this mindfulness is a powerful tool to deal with our life. Especially in the Covid19 times of stress and tension. A new powerful mantra : what Eckhardt Tolle had called The Power of Now. This gives us emotional stability and new found confidence. Mindfulness gives us mental clarity even in these times of uncertainty. By focusing on the present, you are not stymied by the monsters of the Past or the demons of the Future. Rather a la Odysseus you can chart your path between the Scylla & Charybdis to emerge victorious.

Today’s Gurus have complicated the simple concept of Mindfulness i.e. Being in the Present. Search and you will find tomes on Mindfulness Meditation. The Zen, Buddhist, Tibetan & Vipassana approaches to be mindful. And the modern gurus of Self Help selling their packaged versions. But shorn of all its rhetoric, Mindfulness is a basic human ability to be fully present and aware of what we are doing and where we are and not be overtly swayed by things around us or over-whelmed by external things. Centering in your mind and being aware is Mindfulness. And even when we are swayed away, mindfulness is there to snap us back into the present, and get us closer to the here and now. Mindfulness helps build mental agility and develop a mind that is focused, curious and creative. It helps to take steps towards a strong mind that is resilient, less prone to interruption and maintains focus. And thus be far more productive and happy than we all are now!

So let us get back to the Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud exercise you did at the beginning. Tell me , what did you feel as you wrote down the 2 good, happy things in your life which make you feel grateful? Even in the Covid times we all have some good things going in our lives. We all have Roses to be grateful for, if only we look!! And the Thorn? Life is not a bed of Roses anyways. Unto each life some rain must fall. All of us have some challenge or the other. And the challenge or the problem, actually be thankful for it. Problems are a sign that you are alive. You are moving forward. else there would be no problems. We can be thankful for the Rose or blame the bush for the thorns. But there are no roses without the thorns. And yes indeed the Thorns protect our Roses. And finally the Bud. We all have something we look forward to, we have sowed the seeds of efforts, but the flowering is yet to be, But the Bud is a sign that you will soon be rewarded. You will be happy. Something good is on the way.

In my training programs I use the Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud as an icebreaker. And boy, does the ice get broken!!! People confess they felt good recounting their blessings. They acknowledge that the Book of Life is still positively balanced. There are so many good things happening. ” I still have a job” ” My family is healthy” “My father had Covid but he recovered” ” I had a challenge, but help came my way” So many positives. So many good things to be grateful for. And yes Thorns are there, but once I am aware of the Thorn I have an opportunity to mitigate the risks, think of a strategy, plan actions and overcome. If I look at the positives, then the thorns do not deter me. I know Thorns are an integral part of the Rose experience. And then there is always the Bud to look forward to. ” I will be eligible for a promotion this year” “Post Covid, the business is getting back to normal, slowly, but surely” ” My child has got admission to a foreign university, her life is just taking off” ” The Vaccine is here, we have found a way to fight back”

The Rose, Rose Thorn, Bud is a mindfulness exercise. It focusses us on our present. What is happening in my life now. And just this focus, this investing our mental and physical energy on the present, starts a chain of positivity. Carpe Diem! our ancestors told us. Be in Present….the Hindu philosophy exhorted. A famous quote, sometimes ascribed to Eleanor Roosevelt, goes “ Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery. And Today is a Gift. that is why they call it Present”.

Indeed being fully present is the best guarantee for a bright future.

So what are you waiting for? Be Present, Be in the Present. Be Mindful. Mindfulness is not in the head! It is not a special thing that you do!! You do not need to change. Anyone can do it. It is a way of living. Mindfulness is a quality we all already possess. You just have to learn to access it.

Be Mindful, ergo, Be Happy: babavikas

In praise of the lockdown

In April 2020 just when the Lockdown had started, I wrote a blog entitled A Crisis too Precious to Waste (https://vikasshirodkar.blog/2020/04/09/a-crisis-too-precious-to-waste/) wherein I argued that there can be many learnings, many positive outcomes of the Lockdown….if we keep our minds open and learn.

10 months after that, I sit to express my gratitude for situations we all faced! Were it not for the Pandemic and the consequent Lockdown, I would have been a different person: more arrogant, more self-centered, a much poorer version of what I am today! Indeed, it was a crisis too precious to waste!! And I am grateful that I experienced it and became all the more strong, physically as well as psychologically! Lockdown taught me new skills and capabilities, a fresh perspective of looking at life, and so many other positives outcomes that I can truly say that I come here to praise the Lockdown, and thank the circumstances it brought into my life. The rest of the blog I will enumerate and illustrate all that we have to thankful for.

Numero Uno will always be the family and friends: the people who make our world go round. The forced isolation brought the family closer. Whether the family members were co-located in a house, in the same housing society, in the same town, state or country….regardless, family members closed ranks and were available to one another. The sense of imminent loss cemented relationships & brought everyone closer. More frequent interactions and more emotional bonding were the bedrock which defined a new cadence of reaching back and forth, taking relationships to new heights. Due to this, the value of friends and family got recalibrated. Phone conversations became deeper and more fun. And if by chance you got a chance to meet in person, each of those occasions were looked up to and acquired a touch of celebration. I still remember with goose bumps, when our front doorbell rang for the first time in months. Sheer joy! & the thrill repeats even now, as the visitors are so few and far between. Who could say that the sound of a doorbell would be so much valued! Literally on a meeting by meeting basis, day by day basis I saw that Life is Good!

That was on the social front, but the benefits of Lockdown on the personal front were much deeper and wide ranging. Firstly, the sheer ennui and boredom, brought on a spate of reading, learning and in other ways enriching myself. Time hung on hands, so doing something was imperative. Suddenly curling in the bed and relaxing was anathema. You wanted to fill available time with action. I must have attended 100s of webinars & TED talks and also ran my share of webinars & talks for my normal audiences like management schools, but also diversified into clubs & other social groups. Suddenly, one was more busy and engaged than ever before. And when you got a break from the round- robin of facing screens, you turned the focus inward and faced yourself! Boy was that fun!!

The 20 minutes 2ce a day meditations became nearly continuous. Mindfulness was the name of the game. Being connected, remaining in the present, looking at the river of time flowing by made you naturally introspective and one emerged with many, many gems from the riverbed. To recount the most precious jewels I gleaned: suddenly I realized I can do much more than what I had thought possible. Whether it was the humdrum tasks of washing utensils and sweeping & swabbing the house or the more esoteric finishing a book a day : all acquired the sheen of gaming. You were constantly challenging yourself: and emerging a winner. Yes I discovered I was made of sterner stuff than I had imagined. I am not the spoilt, pampered, rich brat but I am a Force. In a unique way, even the opposite was equally true. I realized that one can do with so much less. The irrelevant needs and desires got pared down and basic things gave the same or more joy! I can, I will, & I did!

As you can see, self-love peaked. Earlier, I had held myself in poor esteem. Felt I have never struggled or stretched. Never gave myself much credit. But here I was learning and growing daily, happy and happier as days went by. Besides adding self-sufficiency to my repertoire I became a much more grateful human being. Things I used to always take for granted: a roof over my head, a soft clean bed, no concern of where is the next meal coming from, a loving family to care and cherish me, friends who called and enquired if I needed anything, even clients who were extending their resources and hands for help : I re-evaluated all and I realized I am indeed privileged. Regularly I recounted the hundred odd things I need to be grateful for.

All these ruminations had the spin-off, off-label benefits of bringing in humility alongwith the contentment. So many times I realized I have NOTHING to ask for and EVERYTHING to be thankful for. Just a brief phone call from my daughter was the new definition of happiness. Happiness truly acquired different dimensions: a sister calling to say she misses me; an octogenarian uncle making a videocall to sing a song; my bro-in-law creating a homeopathic concoction which has kept us safe & healthy; being served my favorite dessert of Bhappa Doi on my birthday; my wife, despite all the constraints, trying to make innovative & interesting meals day after day. Days turned to months and months too dragged on, but “what is happiness?” transmuted its core and became simpler, and more longer lasting, as the days rolled by. I am sure this simpler, changed definition of happiness will remain unchanged in the new normal! Indeed I have changed, & the pot of happiness has got entrenched deep in my heart. Now I do not have to chase the rainbow outside! Having always been an introverted loner, I have had the advantage of re-evaluating loneliness and coming to terms with what I am and what I really want. Another gift which I had not asked for, but I got from Lockdown.

But then Man is a social animal. As the lockdown rules ease and we struggle to come to terms with the new normal, I am also learning new ways of working. Collaboration takes on a new meaning in the remote and virtual world. Experiential trainers like me have to master newer technological solutions available today to create the magic of virtual teaming. Mutual dependency and working together in this new world, under the new rules, will call for radically different skills which we had developed in the past….yet another chance to learn afresh & master newer areas. I have no doubt that Camaraderie and Brotherhood of Man will take center stage, and with the new tools and techniques we will continue to march forward. As we prepare to do that, let us look back on the Lockdown as a positive interlude, a subterfuge created for us to revalue all that we have, and all that we do, so that we go forward into the New World with vigor, confidence and an indomitable spirit with our new learnings!

Indeed I have a lot to thank the Lockdown for.

Guruvarya Lockdown Namah !!! vikas

Alone, at last

I remember in the New Empire cinema hall there was a long passage, parallel to the back of the auditorium. When you traversed the entire length, you came to the Canteen counter which served tea and delicious samosas for patrons at interval. Opposite the canteen counter, was a large, full wall painting done in characteristic Mario Miranda style. It showed a scene of a movie being shot. The whole wall was crowded with clap boys, make-up artists, spot boys, people holding reflectors, assistant directors, camera men, dialogue prompters, hangers on and, of course, the Director in his chair. In front of them all, was a hero and a heroine getting ready to enact a romantic scene. And the hero, oblivious to the sea of humanity surrounding them, looking soulfully in the herioine’s eyes says, ” Alone….alone, at last!” The irony of the comment and the picture never left me, though I must have seen the drawing 50 years ago!

I feel exactly like that just now! It is the festival & holiday season. And anybody worth their salt are on vacation. Some in the hills, some at the beach, and yet others in transit. I am alone at home. Wistful. Missing all. Relatives and Friends all far away. And I : Lonely. Miserable. Monarch of all the emptiness I survey around me. Engulfing, throttling, all pervasive silence.

Nida Fazli sang corrrectly: ग़म हो कि ख़ुशी दोनों कुछ देर के साथी हैं 
फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है…

दुनिया जिसे कहते हैं जादू का खिलौना है 
मिल जाये तो मिट्टी है खो जाये तो सोना है

{Translation: Whether pain or joy, both are companions for a while
Later it is just the long road; no laughter, no tears What we call as the world is a magical toy
If found it is earthen, if lost it is golden}

All who were going away asked me to accompany them. It was my decision to stay back. Be alone. In love with my solitude. I must understand the depth & beauty of my loneliness as: अच्छा-सा कोई मौसम तन्हा-सा कोई आलम 
हर वक़्त का रोना तो बेकार का रोना है.
{You need a good season and some quiet moments
Complaining every moment is a futile complaint}

When I am so confused, I take heart in Simone de Beauvoir’s words: ,” I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger” This reassures me that the भीड़ के बीच अकेला feeling which so many film songs allude to, is indeed a reality. Even in this space, I am not alone!!! I have every right to be “mad with anger” a la Simone, and continue to feel ambivalent about the cards that Life is dealing me. Being in the game, I need to carry on, feel engaged and play my cards to the best of my ability till the Grim, Solitary Reaper arrives and I move to another table, another game. फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है!!

The basic problem is ambivalence. The fact that I do not know what I want: Be alone OR be in company? Society OR Solitude? But as I experience my present time, being alone… I must confess, I feel happy & good. No adjusting your needs and demands to fit in with someone. Freedom from pressures. Do what you please. Float above the sea of expectations. Go Under OR Stay Afloat. Suddenly it dawns on me….I am happy!! Misanthrope & Masochist that I am, I actually like my own company I can stay away from forced festivities and feel morally superior that I am diffrent. Do rituals and prayers, midnight masses and congregations actually alleviate your loneliness? Or do they just deaden your real feelings? You get so caught up in the rituals and cacophony of others around you that your inner rebellious child is silenced. Rather, let it cry out aloud! I am happy with that misery. and loneliness!! But then I get reminded of the words of Honoré de Balzac, “Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”

Possibly there is no clear answer to even this human dilemma! In another context Arthur C Clarke puts it succintly, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”. My introspection just now is prompted by being alone in festive times, but then each and every one of us must face this question openly and squarely. Are you comfortable with your solitude? Do you like to be alone? Not surrounded by books. Not using books, and others thinking, as the first line of defence. But genuinely with your own thoughts, views and opinions. Not drowning your feelings with loud songs and music. Or a drink or two. Taking time off to just be. Savouring your own company. Happy under your own skin. Holding your own self dear. Jean-Paul Satre warns, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Accept, Acknowledge, Admire : that is the Grand Path to overcome all adversities.
― 

If you think about it closely, all great things, all precious things are lonely. Remember Steinbeck in Of Mice & Men,” “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” But then so what? The road less travelled is worth exploring. Maybe after a short torturous walk we will open into the Valley of Flowers. Pursue it.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love puts it beautifully,” When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

I am reminded of another great ghazal of Ghulam Ali:

किया है प्यार जिसे हम ने ज़िन्दगी के तरह
वो आशना भी मिला हम से अजनबी के तरह … बढ़ा के प्यास मेरी उस ने हाथ छोड़ दिया
वो कर रहा था मुरव्वत भी दिल्लगी के तरह
{translation: I loved him like life itself But that lover met me like a stranger He increased my thirst but then abandoned me He was showing affection too like a joke)

To end, remembering Joseph Conrad: We Live as we Dream…..alone: vikibaba

PS My biggest critic, my wife, on reading the draft said too many quotes…..maybe I am trying to reassure myself that I am not alone on the dark side of the moon? many other greater human beings think alike. And so the quotes.

The Joy of Receiving

Imagine a highly distraught, insecure, runny-nosed dark-skinned child. Highly introverted. Maladjusted within his own family. Very few friends because he changed schools every 2/3 years, due to his father’s transferable job. The butt of ridicule & elbow-digs through out his growing up years. Hating himself so much, that many times considered suicide as a honourable end to it all. All this continuing till he was in college! That child was Me and the story is MINE!

Licking my wounds, in perpetual self doubt, barely coping with external reality’s demands, suddenly the Ugly Duckling became a recipient of grace & support. Through The Joy of Receiving my life changed! किसी ने अपना बना के मुझको मुस्कुराना सिखा दिया, अँधेरे घर में किसी ने हस्के चिराग जैसे जला दिया. It is 49 years since I proposed to my childhood sweetheart. Her saying yes, her confidence in me, her acceptance turned the tide. Suddenly I was an achiever, liked by friends and family, having enough & more….all because someone considered me worthy of receiving & others were ready to heap bountifuls. I revelled in the Joy of Receiving. I understood that we see farther & longer because we stand on shoulders of giants who preceed us, have given us that higher perch through their munificence.

Albert Schweitzer puts it beautifully: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Giving & Receiving are two sides of the coin; and, Gratitude is the third dimension which makes up the coin of life!! Whom does one recall when you sit to balance the book? There are so many people and actions that made you what you are. It is the simple sharing of a sharpened pencil in a Geometry exam when your pencil fell & the point broke. It is a friend who gives you his tiffin box to share as you forgot yours & have no money for the Canteen. Your parents & family heaping books on you to read and learn. Your siblings and collegues asking for a favour, thereby building your competence & confidence. Whether in college or in industry, people coming forth to help complete your task despite seemingly unreachable timelines. Your bosses’ unflinching support of your proposals. हमने किस किस को पुकारा, वो कहानी फिर कभी as Ghulam Ali sings so eloquently.

If you see it in the correct perspective, everyone in your life has contributed to your growth, your learning, your success. Yes some may have done more & some less. But every experience has shaped you, whether success or failure, all were learning experiences which left their indelible mark. Have often seen myself as the proverbial putty… the mud on the Potters Wheel….being shaped by loving hands & deft fingers….whether I understood the grand design or no. The care & affection on the potters wheel….or even in the Potter’s tight slap…to shape & make me have been always around….developing & creating me. So whom do I thank for making me what I am? नाम आएगा तुम्हारा, वो कहानी फिर सही is what I can say to all my influencers. Where was I in this game of life? always the supplicant. Ever the receiver. The Beneficiary. देणाऱ्याचे हात हजारो दुबळी माझी झोळी !

The Giver, in his very stance, has an upper hand. The Receiver, in contrast, has his hands outstretched, The hands that bless and the hands that take are diffrent in their approach. The real giver however has overcome the arrogance of “I am the Giver”. This was best expressed in a doha I read from Tulsidas & Rahim. Tulsidas asks Rahim why as his hands rise up to give, corrrespondingly his eyes go down in humility. Rahim replies that the True Giver is some one else, & he is only a conduit. So where is the question of any ego in giving? The Recipient on the other hand must be full of humilty….in a way he realises that he is the CHOSEN ONE. There are so many contenders to very limited resources. And still if his bowl is being filled, he must realise the magic of being The Chosen One, the Joy of Receiving should suffuse his very being. But, sadly, do we celebrate while receiving? or is our attitude one of “entitlement” & “right”? Do we feel happy and privileged to receive? or do we rationalise that was due to me anyway & actually it is delayed coming to me?

See this story which brings out these nuances so well. A lovely little girl was holding two apples with both hands. Her mother came in and softly asked her little daughter with a smile: my sweetie, could you give your mom one of your two apples? The girl looked up at her mother for some seconds, then she suddenly took a quick bite on one apple, and then quickly on the other. The mom felt the smile on her face freeze. She tried hard not to reveal her disappointment. Then the little girl handed one of her bitten apples to her mother, and said: mommy, here you are. This is the sweeter one. This girl could well be the Shabari of Ramayan who offered half eaten berries to her Lord Rama. Do we have the grace like Rama to see the love behind the offering? or are we upset like the mother initially was at being offered half eaten fruit?

Often we misunderstand the Giver and question their intentionality. Actually we should be analysing our manner and attitude of receiving. To me, the Joy of Receiving always begins within ourselves. Ackowledging our being the Chosen One to receive. Celebrating this good turn the universe is doing us. Accepting unquestioningly whatever we receive. Being Content. Being Grateful. Being Humble. Keeping our hands outstretched to receive. And finally, being primed to give back in equal measure what we have been fortunate to receive. This to me is the essence of the Joy of Receiving!

लइ नाही लइ नाही मागणे देवI, I sing with Tukaram

Lord, Bless me, May my hands & my heart be always open to Recieve and acknowledge the contributions of all in my life: vikas the beggar

PS: To end, I quote Einstein: “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

PS2: this blog is dedicated to my neice who after reading my last piece on the Gift of Giving, asked me: But what about the other side of the story? How to recieve? Thanks dear for the basic question.

Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving is a privilege which only we humans have. Sharing is possibly something which animals and birds also do. But consciously GIVING is a capacity only humans have. That is why I have called the blog as “Gift of Giving”.

Take the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. What prompts Gates to do so much for society at large? Warren Buffet is well known for his uncanny investments, but he has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes. With The Giving Pledge he co-founded with Bill Gates they have got 200+ billionaires from 23 different countries to pledge giving to 50% or more of their wealth in charity. The signatories include David Rockefeller, Sara Blakely, Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Bezos, etc. 2013, our Azim Premji became India’s first signatory to The Giving Pledge. Premji has raised his total lifetime giving to $21 billion; he became the world’s largest contributor (to charity), being named as Asia’s most generous philanthropist in the year 2019 by Forbes. Wealth wise, Ambanis have more!! One hears of their taking, but little of their giving. Obviously Mukesh has not heard Anne Frank’s ” No one has ever become poor by giving”.

Giving is considered noble, elevating; rather than the complementary act of receiving. In Giving, the needs and desires of the receiver are given precedence. A conscious effort is made to fulfill these needs, sometimes even to the exclusion & suppression of desires of the giver. The most classic example would be of a Mother making sacrifices and adjustments to see that her child does not want at all. Even the unspoken needs and desires are sought to be fulfilled, whatever personal or monetary cost it entails. A mother’ motives are tough to analyse and understand as they go beyond the realm of reason.

There is an old anecdote about a child stuck on top of a mountain and crying. Everyone in the village gathered, but the mountain was so treacherous, no one dared to climb up, to bring the child down. Even as all were standing around debating, the mother had reached the top and was walking down with the child wrapped on her back. Trained mountaineers asked how she could go up when even they hesitated, her one line reply was ” It was not your child”. All of us who have received a mother’s love will know, no one can give more than a mother!!!

Gifting and Giving go hand in hand in many traditions. Consider the simplest example of birthday party. You would never go empty handed. And if there is a child with you, s/he would expect to come back with a “return” gift, even if it is a mere chocolate bar.

Sudama, forced by his wife to visit his friend Krishna, went with a bag of puffed rice, as a gift for his childhood friend. The Raksha Bandhan festival is sealed with a gift to the sister, however old or wealthy she is. The Padva in Diwali sees the wife receiving a gift from the husband, the Bhaiyya Duj again rewards the sister. Pune even has a gift for the son-in-law as a part of the Diwali giving. During childhood, Eid celebrations meant receiving Sheer Kurma from Muslim friends and of course rich, almond laded lamb curry for Bakri Eid. Within Muslim households grown ups are expected to keep “Iddi” envelopes/gifts ready for distribution at Eid ul Fitr and would even be entitled to receive their own share of gifting for the occasion. . We will soon get into the Christmas season which began with the 3 Wise Kings who came to call upon the Baby Christ bearing gifts. This giving tradition continues till today. Immediately after Thanksgiving in end November, the “festival shopping” season begins for the X’mas giving. So Giving is a part of our experience & culture.

I am reminded of a story I had heard which is set in the Church context. As we know a collection plate is circulated after the Mass to raise resources for the Church’s activities. An over aggressive, enthusiastic young girl was asked to take the collection plate around. She pushed the plate under the nose of an old goat like me and said, Please give…. a big contribution….Give till it hurts” And the world-weary old-fogey replied with a twinkle,” The very thought of giving hurts!”

But jokes apart, when we give, we get a glow, a feeling of satisfaction, an inner peace. the power equation is also well defined, the giver’s hand is on top and full; while the supplicant’s hand is below and empty. This has been true from times immemorial. Remember the Michelangelo’ painting of Creation!

Often the giver falls into the trap of the God Game, thinking himself superior. Whenever I have felt such false pride, I recount for myself my favorite Zen story. During a time of famine, a Zen master went around the countryside begging for money, foodgrains and clothes from all to help the afflicted. He carried a jute sack on his back, & whatever he gathered through the donations of all, he would put in the sack; then go forward, to seek another donor. Once he reached the court of a King in interior China. He put down the sack he carried on his back & made his pitch. The king asked his minister to give a donation of 20 gold coins. When the minister gave him 20 gold coins, he put them in his sack, swung the sack back onto his back, and started leaving the court. The King stopped him and said,”Master, though I am a king, 20 gold coins is a big donation” “So?” asked the Master. “So should you not thank me for this handsome donation?” asked the King. “Why should I?” said the Zen Master,” It is the Giver who should be grateful!”. He swung his sack back, and left without a backward glance.

I love this story because truly I have understood, it is the giver who should be grateful. Grateful that he has enough that he can give. Grateful that he has a full stomach and can spare some surplus. Grateful that I have met someone with whom I can share my wealth! This truth is indeed sublime. Throughout my life I have tried to teach my wife and daughter that we have enough and more. Someone did not question my capability and competence and rewarded me disproportionately. So now why should I grudge giving to others? What right I have to judge their status & deserving, when someone gave me more than enough, with no questions asked. Take heart in Don Williams’ number, ” I have quite enough to live/And my mind is free..” So my living principle, always give more that what others expect, and give it cheerfully. Sometimes, the first half is relatively easy, but giving cheerfully, with a smile, ensuring the receiver does not feel small or burdened; not playing the God Game; accepting that the Giver must be Grateful: That’s real giving!

The Maharaja of Giving in Mahabharata was Karna. Daan-shur Karna. When asked for, Karna even gave away his divine breast-plate and earrings (Kavach Kundala) though he knew this was a trick to make him mortal & vulnerable in war.

A lesser known side-story is Arjuna became angry for Krishna praising Karna for his supreme generosity. Krishna told Arjuna he would prove that Karna’s generosity was indeed superior. Sometime later, Krishna gave a mountain load of gold to Arjuna. Arjuna said he has no use for so much gold, called the populace and started donating the gold, using a spade. Arjuna felt great he was giving away such riches literally spade-fulls. Later Krishna gave the same gift of mountain full of gold to Karna. Karna’s way was to call people, ask then to take however much they wanted. And he just walked away from the mountain of gold!! Proving thereby that he was a true Giver, supreme in generosity, far above Arjuna in this regard.

Remember, Giving is a virtuous cycle which will bring back for you, more than what you have given. That is the Law of Nature. As you Sow, so Shall you Reap. This is the Law of Feed Forward. What ever you have given to others, will come back to you multifold. Have Trust. Have Faith. Believe. Just Give.

At the end let me tell you a Hungarian children’s story, The Safe. There was a wealthy merchant who kept all his money in a safe. He commissioned the village mathematician and intelligent person to design a new safe, such that money kept in it would double!! Obviously the mathematician tried many designs, but money would not double in the safe.

Later, the Merchant was to go on a long travel. He summoned the Mathematician & threatened : by the time he comes back the Safe that doubles the money is made ready, else he will complain to the King!! He left on his travels giving the keys of his existing Safe to the Mathematician. The Mathematician opened the Safe and gave away ALL the money to the people in the village.

When the Merchant returned he found the Safe empty. He rushed out to confront the Mathematician. But en route every neighbour, who had been a beneficiary, called the Merchant to their house, treated him with lots of love & affection, heaped praises & food on him!!! The Merchant realised that though his paper money was gone, he had become much, much richer. He understood that “Everything we give to others will, sooner or later, returns to us, whether or not it be in a form we expected”

Remember, Always Give more than what People Expect & Do it Cheerfully : your friendly neighbourhood vikibaba

Good Boss Bad Boss

Unto each life some rain must fall is age old wisdom. Similarly, all who have tasted corporate life will agree that they have had their share of good bosses and bad bosses. In my 34 years working for Family Owned, Professionally owned, MNCs – all large and small- I claim that I have had the fortune to meet good bosses & bad bosses in abundant measure. I soon learnt the truth of Mary Angelou’s words,“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it”.

boss baby

I was fortunate to have bad bosses in my life, as they too taught me a lot. Throughout growing up years, we evaluate our parents &….if you are truthful….find them gossly, or marginally, lacking at different times. And then we resolve…when I become a parent….I will be different….I will avoid the faux pas I see my parents committing, and I will be a much better father/mother.

Same with bosses! Being on the receiving end of bad bosses, with a bloody nose and a bruised ego, one resolves….When I am the Boss, I will… Hence I say both types of Bosses teach us! This blog is an attempt to look back at my bosses and put down the “secret sauce”…what behaviours worked & what I try to repeat and what I disliked & resolved to avoid. Hopefully this will sound familiar,  become your litmus test to see if you are on the right side of the continuum & your team rates you amongst the good bosses they worked for. 

So let us define the secret sauce ingredients…..

best boss

Napoleon Hill put it so well: ” Your real boss is the one who walks around under your hat”. I was fortunate to work for bosses who had got under my skin & occupied my thinking. I was never far from their influence. As I thought though issues and probable solutions, something kept telling me Arun Bhende or George Koreth would do thus, in these circumstances. The green lighting of alternatives, made it simple to follow the right path & do the correct thing. The Holy Church gives similar advice to come out of a moral quandary: WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do) Answer that & the path is clear.

Today’s complex world requires innovative thinking and new solutions. Often in my career I experienced complete support & a priori backing of my bosses. In Atul when I became a Head of HR for the first time, reporting to the MD, there were no clear defined paths. Both of us were new to our roles. But Sunil Lalbhai allowed me to experiment & try new things. In J&J similar freedom & reassurance enabled us to win recognition. We won Regional ASPac Leadership Awards for 5 years in a row, leading to other 14 countries asking J&J India be asked not to nominate their HR initiatives, so that other countries could win the Award!! The management team led by Narendra Ambwani was solidly reinforcing HR initiatives. That also resulted in National recognition for Innovative HR Practices that Drive Business Results. This was the result of Boss Support.

My best bosses were always Humble. Never afraid to show their Human Face, taking utmost and genuine interest in my family on the personal front, & my team in office. Literally, issues that affected me were their issues & they always stood by me in times of need & difficulty. This was all the more when I had made a mistake or a wrong call. The Good Boss was with me in the trenches, in the dirt, facing the flak with me…. never allowing me to feel alone or isolated.

In the positive characteristics, finally I would add a strong Team Orientation. With the Good Bosses it is always about WE and rarely about ME. The best bosses are not bosses, they are leaders. They do not say” Go” rather their terminology is , ” Let us go!”. Leading from the front, shoulder to shoulder every step of the way, the Good Boss is forever Rethinking, Reimagining & Realigning. There will be times when the team is stuck & searching for the true North. The good Boss has Superior Vision to look beyond immediate obstacles & chart a new course, maintaining the directional alignment to the goal. The good boss is a Talent Magnet with his reputation spreading way beyond his immediate team. Good people are trying to get on his team as they know the ride will add value to them, while reaching the stars.

Let us cast a look at the other side of continuum now…what are Bad Bosses like?

William Pollard puts it well,” The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow”. But today is time of discontinuity and change. As the famous title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book puts it,” What got you here, won’t get you there”. The Bad Bosses have been successful individuals in the past. And therein lies the rub!! Having achieved a modicum of success in a particular way, the person does not grow out of those habits, does not question the efficacy of the past methods & means. The Bad Boss does not realise that success can be limiting…it binds you to a particular approach/path which brought you success. In reality, nothing remains the same. Situations have changed, circumstances have changed, even the people have changed. The same approach of the past may not be appropriate now. If you get stuck in the way you were successful in the past, the world can pull many surprises. In the corporate world the classic examples are Kodak and Nokia, whose past success became a millstone around their neck.

Just like organizations do, People also change. Changed business scenarios require different competencies and capabilities. A poor leader does not understand this dynamicity.  He is driving his car while looking into his rear view mirror, rather than looking at the road & obstacles ahead, clearly visible through the front windshield. How long can this be tolerated or allowed? Such a boss is bad for his team, and also for the organization, in the long run. The team gets wrangled & mangled for little fault of theirs, as they continue to follow the instructions of the Bad Boss. A sure recipe for disaster for all involved!!

rear-view-mirror

Sometimes the Bad Boss is stuck in his judgement of people or assessment of the situation & ignores data to the contrary. This can be dangerous. I have seen careers of good professionals get ruined by bosses who refuse to admit new evidence/data. Punitive actions are taken, where corrective actions could have sufficed. But the Bad Boss stuck in the past is hell bent on throwing the baby with the bath water, to everyone’s dismay.

We all make mistakes. But the Bad Boss has no expiry date on the examples of wrongdoing & mistakes. Things done at beginning of career, continue to be dragged out & referred to run down individuals. This happens with so much regularity that the targeted individuals have no choice but to leave the company. I saw live examples of this in General Motors as well as in VVF, and good people had to cut their losses & leave rather than be at the receiving end of vituperative bosses who refused to change. While this is  extreme, unfortunately the incidence is not uncommon. 

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Somerset Maugham talked of the Mr Know All in one of his short stories. Unfortunately we have all seen many such Know Alls in our organizations. The sheer intellectual arrogance of one HR Head I worked with in Siemens, isolated HR function so badly that none of our proposals & initiatives got the nod of the Management Committee, as the HR Head had burned too many bridges. One of our Works Managers in Siemens typified this approach even in his spoken language. Mischievously once someone counted that in a two hour meeting, he said, “I know that” nearly 53 times…averaging “I know that” once every 2 minutes!!! Such bosses  love  the sound of their own voice & have never heard of shared air time!!! Difficult folks to work with, as they consider themselves as God’s Gift to Mankind!!!!!

Leadership is action , not position.“, said Donald McGannon. A bad boss considers this a call to take all actions himself! His team receives no encouragement  or support. And his indecisive approach means the same thing gets debated and discussed again & again. One of my MDs in General Motors was a Media/magazine editor in his previous avatar. Saddled with GM India MD role, he withdrew into indecisiveness & prevarication. Subjects debated and concluded, were opened up again next day due to his insecurity. The Management Team played Here we go round the Mulberry Bush, over and over. Such Bad bosses sap your energy & enthusiasm, and are detrimental to the team and to the organization. 

Do write in and let me know if you agree with my taxonomy of Good Bosses & Bad Bosses.

To end, a Good Boss has no need to be a boss – he is content to just point the way: vikas

Look Ma, no hands!!

 

After the last blog I wrote, “Letting Go” I got 2 buckets of feedback….

  1. said wow, what a career, you went from strength to strength, your story will be an inspiration for people searching for “the way”
  2. asked was it all hunky-dory ? how about the challenges & what they taught you?

That is where this follow-through blog took shape.  I felt I must share with you where I royally screwed up & what I learnt from those experiences….inspiration for the title of this blog.

Some of you may know the story of a small boy who was learning to cycle. His mother was cooking, & watching him through the kitchen window. The boy made his first round very tentatively, cycle shaking vigorously, trying his best to maintain balance. In the second pass, the boy was confident, rode the cycle well, maintained perfect balance. As he passed the window once more, he shouted to his mother….” Look Ma!” and whizzed past. Third round he had acquired the confidence & skill and shouted out,” Look Ma, no hands!” … he could ride the cycle without holding the handle!! The Mother clapped. Emboldened, the boy increased speed & was more experimentative. In the fourth round, he shouted, ” Look Ma, no teeth!” ….obviously he had had a fall, & broken his front teeth!

In  34 years of my Corporate life I too have fallen often. Why only teeth, I have lost many more things….my confidence, courage, arrogance, faith and my trust. This blog recounts some of these stories. So hear ye, hear ye, hear ye….how this fool lost his teeth, bruised his ego, and much more!! Some journeys need no roads, only a willing heart!

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The nadir of my professional failure was when I left my AsiaPacific Director’s job in Johnson & Johnson and joined VVF as Global Head of HR. I was doing well in J&J but the travel was burning me out. A consultant friend (whom I later realised was no friend of mine), sold me on a stable job in Mumbai as Global Head HR for VVF. It seemed a logical progression from AsPac to Global role:  company had solid growth , 8 plants in India, 6 plants abroad, all good! Too good to be true I realised when I joined, as it was a company with zero professionalism, family owned and managed heuristically, no systems and processes and worst : no appetite for change! Directly from being on top of my professional career, I was dumped into a black hole in Sion. Except protecting my monetary package, the company gave me nothing….no freedom to operate, no chance to learn, no opportunity to contribute. Decisions today, were overturned tomorrow. People were treated as fodder for egos of owners and entrenched “mulajim” who knew how to do “han-ji han-ji” to survive & thrive. In true noir humour, my friends said your title should not be Global Head HR but Global Head HR (Sion)!! That was the job I had!!!

I was desperate to quit …first time in my life I dreaded going to office, as i did not know what surprise awaited me. Vinita saw how badly I hurt every day I had to go to office. She advised me to just quit. Tough call,  but I was clear : having done no wrong, I would not quit without a job in hand.

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Fortunately I could leave in 9 months, but the role I landed in, I had to adjust to a 20% lower compensation. There was no choice (the proverbial Devil and the Deep Sea); at least I was protecting my soul & sanity.  Again I left in 4 months. After this short-lived adventure I joined General Motors, who placed me at Pune where I wanted to be & even restored my comp to pre-existing levels. While I was leaving Onida, the gracious Chairman asked me why I was leaving so soon after  joining. My answer  was “Never reduce someone’s compensation as that becomes a festering tumor which hurts the person daily” Big learning for me was: never think you can win by vanquishing the other person. Leave him his life, leave him his space so that he retains his dignity & honour. A principle which has stood me in good stead in life. A time tested formula followed by the Greek Kings as well as our own Chatrapati Shivaji. Long Live Win-Win!!!

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Early in my career, I realised I must learn to face my fears. The head in the sand model may work for the Ostrich, but for us humans the sand storm sweeps us away, if we do not proactively plan our way forward. I remember many examples where I fell grossly short. At HCL I took responsibility for a Marketing launch meeting, relied on others who promised they would do their part, & ended up with egg on the face in front of Directors as no preparation was complete; as others had not done their bit & I had not checked. At Siemens Corporate Office I called for a walk-in interview in morning at office opening time. Since my staff bus came in late, there was a 150 people’ melee around the Corporate Office reception which could barely seat 10. I reached 75 minutes late. I did not know there was a Board of Directors meeting scheduled same day & they could not enter the office because of the crowd. The Personnel Director had to arrange Security to escort them to the back of the building and bring them in from the Garbage entrance! The US Army has coined a great word to describe such things: SNAFU: ie Situation Normal, All Fu..ed Up!

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Another classic memory is of a training event arranged in Atul, Valsad where the program was wrongly scheduled on a festival holiday, got rescheduled and all people informed….only we forgot to inform the external visiting faculty who travelled from out-station all the way to face an empty training room. In Siemens,  once I rescheduled the weekly off for the Maintenance group of a 4500 employee strong factory. Maintenance people protested and did not follow the revised schedule, resulting in 2 mandays lost for the entire group.

दिल ही तो है इसने शयाद भुल भी की है
ज़िन्दगी है भुल कर ही रIह मिलाती है
माफ़ करना बंदा भी इक इन्सान है…अपनी तो हर आह एक तुफान है

My lack of numerical ability  often created errors in increment/promotion letters, where we had to withdraw letters and issue fresh ones. This happened with so much regularity that one kind hearted colleague offered to always become an “audit step”, before the letters were issued to employees. I rejoined Siemens after a gap of 6+ years as GM HRD. But the company & culture has changed so much in that period that I felt like a fish out of water, and was scrapping daily with friends & colleagues who had welcomed me back!!! Quickly I left again, as I was miserable in Siemens. My list of faux-pas are legion and so I must cut short their litany. But all of them had to be faced, accepted, apologized for, changed & corrected. My bosses trust was often shaken;  but intentionality & help from friends ensured I never got fired, though I was lectured often.

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So where does all this lead us? I tell you: Life is what it is. And Shit happens. Especially when you are least expecting it. And that is ok. The glorious uncertainty of life makes it all worth living. If it was all predictable we would have long been bored. Chess is the best game only because of the possibilities and probabilities are enormous. And indeterminate.  So my learning in this game of Life, and of HR, is that you need to play the game best as you can. Do not try to control , as like sand it will slip out of your hand. Face every challenge and every day with a smile, keep a true heart, focus on the max good for the max people and you will come out right. Be Open. Do not attempt to be a Master of the Game. Rather be a Player. Just pick up the learning each mistake brings to you. Trust the Process. Go with the Flow. You will be a Winner.

I end with advice from one of the best influencers in my life, Ayn Rand who says,Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark. In the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all, do not let the hero in your soul perish ... The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.” 

खुबिया इतनी तो नही की सभी का दिल जीत सके,
लेकिन….
कुछ पल ऐसे जरूर छोड़ जाएंगे कि भूलना भी आसान ना होगा: आपका अज़ीज़ विकिबाबा learner

 

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                                From People Matters: applies to every day, don’t you agree?                                    सारे जहाँ से अच्छा हिंदुस्तान हमारा