Feeds:
Posts
Comments

To be or not to be a die-hard fan of a particular literary figure is perhaps decided by our Guardian Angels. Mines have been benevolent and ensured that I suffer from acute Wodehousitis.

But when it comes to William Shakespeare, much revered by all and sundry, my GAs have ensured that I never qualify to be even a mild case of Shakespearitis. One of the several challenges I have faced in my life is that of understanding the literary fare dished out by William Shakespeare. Given the high level of what Bertie Wooster might label as my Pumpkin Quotient, repeated attempts on my part to comprehend the ingenious outpourings of The Bard have failed miserably.

But an absence of Shakespearitis does not necessarily guarantee peace of mind. On the contrary, it makes life even more of a challenge. The brow is invariably furrowed. The heart is leaden with woe. This is so because he is to be found everywhere and apt to spring surprises at all times, not a very pleasing prospect for a faint-hearted person like me. Such are the perils of not suffering from Shakespearitis.

The omnipresent Bard

The simple irony is that my GAs have always managed to make The Bard keep popping up through all stages of my life. His persistence to engage me over the past few decades deserves to be commended. His near-omnipresence in my life merely testifies to his feeble hope that one day he may be able to assist me in improving my intellect in some way, much like the aspirations of Florence Craye with respect to Bertie Wooster (as in ‘Joy in the Morning’). I suspect I might have left him severely disappointed, disgruntled, dismayed, disheartened and dispirited. I offer my sincere regrets for the same.

The taming of a student

His omnipresent nature can be readily appreciated. His works were there at school, shoring up the proverbial Tyrannical Quotient of the Classroom. Besides, many of his works kept finding their way to my bookshelves whenever I excelled at a pursuit of some kind, whether academic or otherwise.

His plays were often staged at the University I went to. With renewed enthusiasm which is so very typical of Homo sapiens at a tender age, I attempted to burrow deep in his works. The intention was merely to impress some of the delicately nurtured around. But the language was beyond the capacity of my limited grey cells. The best I could achieve at one of the performances was the unique distinction of drawing the curtains in and out for a stretch of two and a half hours, merely to make a young lass in the troupe happy.

Much ado about nothing

Then came the whirlwind phase of my life in the corporate sector. At times, there were bosses whose state of indecision would remind me of Macbeth, the one alluded to by Bertie Wooster as ‘the cat chap’. In smaller businesses, there were owners who could have mentored even someone of the deviousness of Shylock. Often, I had morose colleagues who might have inspired Shakespeare to fashion Hamlet. And yes, there were indeed subordinates who could have been scoundrels, perhaps described by the poet as being ‘arrant, rascally, beggarly and lousy knave.’

When the entrepreneurial bug caught up with me, there was never a dearth of ‘enterprises of great pith and moment’ to be undertaken.

In the realm of entertainment, I kept running into movies which were either based on, or inspired by, one of his works. Even when trying to relax and enjoy a vacation, The Bard has been apt to pop up without fail and throw a spanner in the works.

The Merchants of Venice

While visiting Venice recently, I ran into a branded showroom where the manager took no pains to hide his Shylockian leanings. The stone-paved streets were not without their normal quota of small shops peddling their inane stuff at prices which might make even Hollywood celebrities cringe. Even those selling seeds to be fed to a swathe of pigeons at the Piazza San Marco were extorting prices which would have cheered up any farmer in the hinterland and pulled him out from his current state of depression.

The famed couple of Verona

When the family decided to visit the house of Juliet in Verona, all we were hoping for was to spend a few moments of togetherness, something we miss these days owing to the temptations offered by the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves.

Alas, that was not to be. The courtyard outside her house was swarming with those eager to claim their fifteen seconds of fame when their photo grabbing a part of the anatomy of the famed heroine got uploaded without any delay, courtesy the smart phone carried by a friend/relative. There was a long queue of wide-eyed tourists wanting to clamour up to the famous balcony where the two lovers are supposed to have had their midnight rendezvous.

Immediately upon entering the hallowed premises, we encountered a shapely statue of Juliet. Right opposite was the bust of The Bard, appraising her comely profile with a stiff upper lip and a steely eye. Romeo, had he been around, might not have been amused by the poet’s presence in quarters where he would have appreciated privacy more than any kind of literary upliftment.

As you do not like it

This uncanny habit of The Bard to keep popping up at regular intervals in my life has left me all of a twitter. Several times have I mustered up enough courage to pick up any work from the Shakespeare canon. With renewed enthusiasm and gusto have I tried to wade through a work of his. But the experience has repeatedly left me with a highly enfeebled state of nerves.

My worst nightmares have been those wherein I have been conferred a literary honour of some sort, only to be gifted with a big parcel containing some tomes of his. The mind boggles. The chin goes down. The jaw slackens. The shoulders droop down further.

The English Proficiency Pyramid

Pray do not get me wrong. I have nothing against Shakespeare. Given his everlasting popularity, there is no doubt that he must have captured all facets of human emotions in an impeccable manner. His usage of quite a few phrases appears to have spawned a veritable stream of English literature, and continues to do so today.

He must have also set high standards for Queen’s English. He must have enriched the language in a manner which might be more vast and deep than those who have either preceded or succeeded him. This surely warms the hearts of our linguistic purists. But lesser mortals like me, surely at the bottom of the English Proficiency Pyramid, are apt to feel very dense.

A tide in the affairs of languages

Modern day communication thrives on simplicity. Complex ideas which get conveyed in a language which the masses understand. It appears that most of our great poets and literary figures perfected the art which is just opposite. Simple ideas couched in high-profile and complex language, which only those at the top of the Language Proficiency Pyramid might fathom.

When it comes to this particular trait, Shakspeare has good company. In Urdu poetry, Mirza Ghalib is not always easy to understand. In Hindi, the poetry of Jai Shankar Prasad comes to my mind. In Sanskrit, Kalidasa often keeps a lay reader guessing.

The cause of sustained Shakespearitis is possibly purely literary. Perhaps there is a commercial logic to this web of poetic complexity. Publishers of his works might still be laughing all the way to their respective banks. Besides, those publishing dictionaries would also not be found complaining.

Presenting soon: A Plummy Shakespeare

Somehow, the bulldog spirit in me refuses to give up.

In order to soothen the frayed nerves, I plan to present to you a Plummy Shakespeare very soon. Since the Wodehouse canon is littered with quotes and references to The Bard, I shall soon take the liberty to sharing with you some references in the weeks to follow. This might help many others like me, already suffering from acute Wodehousitis, to also have a brush with yet another dreaded affliction – Shakespearitis.

After the 2008 economic meltdown, the management world has discovered that CEOs need to follow not only the Business Compass but also a Moral Compass to steer the enterprises they happen to run. Improving one’s Spiritual Quotient is now a sheer business necessity, and shall be more so in the decades to come.

It is here that Indian scriptures and sages provide a ready template for managers of all sizes and shapes.

The bookSurviving in the Corporate Jungle’ covers some lessons from the following:

-Ramayana

-Mahabharata

-Bhagavad-Gita

-Thirukkural

-Chanakya Neeti

-Sri Aurobindo

Managers with a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart

The success of the likes of Satya Nadella (currently the CEO of Microsoft) and Sundar Pichai (currently the CEO of Google Inc) goes on to show the growing importance of managers who are not only exposed to the Western models of management but also steeped in Eastern wisdom in the realm of management.


Recently, while on a trip to Switzerland, yours truly had the opportunity of calling upon Mr. José Manuel Castro Santiago, Minister – Counsellor at the Embassy of Portugal in Bern.

Despite his busy schedule, he was kind enough to grant an audience to yours truly, who wished to present to him a copy of his book ‘Como Sobreviver Na Selva Empresarial’.

It happened to be a day when the soaring day temperature had left denizens of Berne gasping for breath and scurrying for cover. To match the heat outside, the Embassy of Portugal in Switzerland offered a degree of bonhomie and warmth, much like the genial and affable disposition of the people of Portugal.

An informal meeting took place in his tastefully done up office. He was genial, graceful and dignified. The frankness with which he spoke and the warmth he exuded was typical of the people of character, resource and rich culture he represents.

It transpired that he had also had a stint in India. He spoke warmly of his positive feel about the country. He touched upon its rich ancient culture and the diversity of its citizens. Yet another emerging economy he had been posted to in the past was that of Brazil.

He mentioned that he has himself authored and published a book which captures his experiences in a long and successful career. Yours truly expressed a wish that some kindly publisher might bring it out in English as well, so the wisdom contained therein may get shared more widely.

He was happy to know that yours truly had been associated with the Tata group for close to a decade, that too in the field of leather footwear and components. The courtesy extended to an ordinary soul from an emerging economy like India was impeccable.

Diplomats represent all that their land is and aspires to be. Much like Ms. Clara Nunes dos Santos, the Ambassador of Portugal to Norway (whom yours truly had the opportunity to meet recently), Mr. José Manuel Castro Santiago is also no exception. One has no doubt that both of them handle managerial challenges coming their way with characteristic aplomb.

One wishes them and their country a great innings in the days to come.

(Notes:

This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016, courtesy Liberty Seguros and Vida Economica.

The English version of the book, entitled ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, was released recently.

Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-meeting-with-the-ambassador-of-portugal-in-norway)

 

Those who practice as physicians in our society are increasingly looked upon with some suspicion. Dig a little deeper and one is apt to find that they are more to be pitied than to be censured.

A physician is denied the fundamental right to some solitude. Even at a social gathering, she is likely to be surrounded by wannabe patients who are keen to seek her impromptu advice as to the latest affliction the party of the other part has heard about and imagines oneself to be suffering from the same.

Close relatives are not too considerate either. A distant relative could call late at night, skillfully steering the conversation from children’s career prospects to the current bout of migraine she happens to be suffering from. If anyone in the circle of friends or relatives happens to be admitted to a hospital, the physician ends up spending sleepless nights, adroitly juggling her official commitments and personal relations, often messing up both.

Latest advancements in medicine keep them on their toes. So does the competition from various streams of medicine, such as Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and many other local variants of each of these streams. Superstitions, local beliefs, religion, social norms are but some of the constraints which need to be kept in mind. Legal tangles, such as those apply to road accident cases, keep them on the defensive.

In advanced countries, they face tough customer care regulations. In emerging economies like India, they suffer humiliation – occasionally violent – at the hands of irate relatives and well-wishers if the latter perceive the medical service provided to their kith and kin to be deficient.

Return on Investment considerations

To be a mere graduate in any discipline of medicine does not amount to much these days. Even to become a graduate, the hapless souls have to experience at least five and a half years of the tyranny of the classroom, with the trauma of a stint as an intern thrown in for good measure.

Monetary rewards obviously vary depending upon their choice of a career. They could choose to be in their own private practice, or join a private sector outfit, or become a part of the public health delivery mechanism.

If public spending on health infrastructure is woefully inadequate, private players end up playing an important role in the medical education scenario. Many aspiring physicians opt for a private sector skill provider. As a consequence, hassled parents end up shelling out sackfuls of the green stuff. Return on Investment considerations then determine the choice of their career.

The blue-eyed ones

The resourceful ones set up their own practice. If the going is good, some of them end up laughing all the way to the bank, what with hefty commissions coming in from such allied medical service providers as marketeers of branded medicines and diagnostic clinics.

Those who happen to be associated with five-star private sector health facilities have tough business targets to meet. This is not to say that patient care necessarily gets compromised, but an overdose of medical investigations surely leaves the patient and her family deprived of mental peace and some hard-earned green stuff.

When the costliest of medicines and gadgets get recommended by physicians, stakeholders of pharmaceutical companies and those in the field of medical equipment laugh all the way to the bank. Admittedly, quite a lot of money gets pumped into research and development, but it is open to debate as to how much profit could be considered rational and socially justified.

Much like the marketing honchos in the private sector who bring in business and resultant moolah, such physicians happen to be the blue-eyed boys of any entity which boasts of being a corporate facility.

The grey eyed ones

Physicians who are part of the government healthcare delivery system and happen to be conscientious by nature are often overloaded with work. Monetary rewards are often not commensurate with the efforts being put in. The eyes of a majority of them would be a dull grey, revealing a soul which is tormented and has given up hope.

Besides having to publish research papers in peer-reviewed journals and making presentations at medical seminars, students have to be guided, examinations have to be conducted and internal meetings need to be attended. Administrative chores cannot be ignored.

Above all, routine patient care cannot be made to suffer. Patients, whether of the ‘in’ or the ‘out’ kind, descend in droves, all eager to jump the queue and catch the attention of the physician. The plight of those in most of the emerging economies is most distressing because the per capita availability of physicians leaves much to be desired.

Of Attitude and Inner Resilience

Much depends on the attitude of a patient. One could come across persons with a cheerful disposition headed for their second open heart surgery, relishing a deep-fried item with much glee. One could also run into those who worry endlessly over such transient ailments as a bout of common cold or sinusitis.

Physicians obviously deal with a baffling variety of patients with much finesse and aplomb. Nerves of chilled steel get deployed. A sense of detachment pervades their handling of a patient. Their inner resilience deserves to be applauded.

With such fine qualities of head and heart, one can merely admire the quality of their work which keeps upholding the reputation of their profession. The Hippocratic Oath might appear to be relegated to the background, but is surely alive and kicking.

In many streams of alternative medicine, the patient is taken as a composite whole and treated holistically. The inner resilience of a patient is accorded a higher weightage. Allopathy, the mainstay of masses in the times we live in, does it the other way round, where each organ is looked at and treated separately. In mathematical parlance, alternative streams could be likened to Integral Calculus, whereas allopathy could be likened to Differential Calculus.

Shoring up one’s inner resilience

There are indeed ways for patients to improve one’s inner resilience, so as to be able to handle the harsh slings and arrows of Fate in a more positive manner. A deeper inner connection helps. To achieve the same, regular introspection and meditation helps.

As the Mother has said, the right approach would be to simply disallow negative thoughts to gain a foothold in one’s psychical system. Patients obviously need loads of patience to be able to put this advice in practice!

(Note: Inputs from Dr. Shivani Salil Dr. Shruti Bhatia are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/of-patient-satisfaction-quotient-motivation-and-kinds-of-patients)

Leaders

Management can be learnt; leadership is inborn. The good news is that in most cases, leadership styles trickle down the organization and get copied. This spawns leaders in the same genre and also improves behavioural consistency across the entire set up.

Successful leaders have several outstanding traits. Their intuitive faculties are well developed. They do not say one thing and do another. They handle tough tasks themselves. They take responsibility for their failures, often shielding their team mates. They do not have henchmen to execute their dirty plans so their own hands look clean. They put everyone on the same pedestal. They never encourage yes-men. They always encourage no-men to speak up.

CEOs who rank high not only on their Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Quotient but also on their Spiritual Quotient go on to make super leaders. Their concern for business ethics is as high as their concern for business results.

Lao-Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said ‘To lead the people, walk behind them’.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. The Portuguese version of the excerpt follows.)

LÍDERES

A gestão pode ser aprendida; a liderança é inata. A boa notícia é que, na maioria dos casos, os estilos de liderança encontram-
se espalhados pela organização e são replicados, o que produz líderes do mesmo tipo, melhorando ao mesmo tempo a consistência comportamental ao longo da cadeia hierárquica.

Os líderes de sucesso têm em comum vários traços que se destacam. As suas faculdades intuitivas estão bem desenvolvi as. Não dizem uma coisa e fazem outra. Enfrentam eles próprios as tarefas difíceis. Assumem a responsabilidade pelos seus fracassos, muitas vezes, protegendo os seus colaboradores.

Não recorrem a capangas para executar os seus planos sujos e parecer, assim, que têm as mãos limpas. Põem todos no mesmo pedestal. Nunca incentivam os “lambe-botas”. Incentivam sempre os “discordantes” a falarem.

Lao-Tzu, um filósofo chinês, disse: “Para liderar as pessoas, ande atrás delas”.

(This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016.)

Be it Blandings Castle or Totleigh Towers, summer is eternal and the sun beams benevolently across the books of Mr Wodehouse. And Mr Ashok Bhatia, who has spent much of his 60-odd years curling up in bed with the works of the great humourist, hails from a land where the sun-shine is as eternal, although not quite so benevolent. It is more prone to broil the citizens till they totter on the brink of the loony-bin.

In Amsterdam, however, even as the calendar assured that it was nearing the end of April, the weather was having a cold hearty cackle at the expense of misguided tourists shivering in their light jackets. Thus, the erstwhile management consultant and his wife turned up at Restaurant Szmulewicz wrapped from head to toe under many, many layers of wool, fleece and polyester.

Ashok is done with navigating the highways of the corporate world. He now spends his time with NGOs in the rather diverse and distinct disciplines of Management and Spirituality. That is provided he can tear himself away from his lifelong perusal of the antics of Jeeves, Ukridge, Lord Emsworth and the rest of them. He has recently authored a book himself, which takes a humorous look at the principles of management and, as a corollary, mismanagement. But perhaps he is happiest when adding thoughts and reflections to his blog, which, needless to say, is dominated by PG Wodehouse.

Mrs Bhatia has not really been an avid Wodehouse reader herself. But matrimony comes with associative afflictions. She is not immune to the moments when her husband is spotted variously chuckling, guffawing and, to use a modern illusion, rolling on the floor with laughter. Investigations carried out at these junctures do keep popping up Wodehousean passages as chief suspects. And she excels at that profound quality found in the better or worse halves of devoted readers, without which the very pursuit of reading would be rendered impossible – indulgence. She indulges Ashok as he reads, and tolerates him even as he sometimes reads aloud to her. It was this sterling indulgence that had brought her to Szmulewicz, withstanding the association of not only her husband but three more Wodehouseans.

Josepha Olsthoorn and Wil Brouwers had turned up before one could even say ‘Bring on the Girls’, charming and hospitable, eager to spread sweetness and light. And Arun too had been allowed in the restaurant … although as he entered there had been a distinct sound of a very old sheep clearing its throat in the southern alps, followed by the words, “Long hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”

Thus glasses were clinked, old Plum was toasted, Empress was remembered, Ukridge was discussed. It grew louder and funnier by the minute, an evening filled with humour and hapjes, Galahad and gezelligheid.

In short, it was a perfect what’s-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d’you-call-it.

(The aforesaid write-up, whipped up by Arunabha Sengupta, appeared in ‘Nothing Serious‘, the magazine unleashed upon its members by the Dutch Wodehouse Society at regular intervals.

Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and freelance sports journalist based in Amsterdam. He also has a past in the software industry that still gives him the jitters. Apart from being a Wodehousean, he is also a Holmesian and is the author of the pastiche ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes.’

Permission to reproduce this piece, if piece is indeed the word one wants, is gratefully acknowledged.)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam)

KISS frequently

Managements are well known for their propensity to give priority to business targets, and to hell with all the systems, controls, and procedures! So, go in for systems which are simple and can be operated by idiots. The acid test to be applied to check most systems would be KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Auditors will keep coming up with new Standard Operating Procedures. Before rolling those out, a manager would do well to first go in for a pilot run, debug the process, and only then formalize it. This would eliminate the chances of a smart aleck junior coming up with innovative shortcuts to brow beat the system!

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. The Portuguese version of the excerpt follows.)

 

BEIJE COM FREQUÊNCIA

Os executivos são conhecidos pela sua propensão para dar prioridade aos objetivos do negócio, e que se lixem os sistemas, os controlos e os procedimentos! Por isso, opte por sistemas que sejam simples e possam ser seguidos por idiotas. O ‘teste do algodão’ a aplicar à maioria dos sistemas é o KISS (beijo, em inglês, de “Keep It Simple, Stupid” – Simplifica, Palerma).

Os auditores irão propor sempre novas normas de procedimentos operacionais. Antes de as implementar, o melhor que um executivo tem a fazer é começar por fazer um teste-piloto, depurar o processo e só então formalizálas, eliminando, assim, as possibilidades de um qualquer subordinado espertinho inventar formas sub-reptícias de dar a volta ao sistema!

(This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016.)