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These days, while boarding a flight, one’s nerves are all of a twitter, wondering which model of aeroplane will be ferrying one. If it happens to be a Boeing 737 Max, the soul sickens in horror. One imagines the plane crashing within a short time of having taken off. One starts reviewing one’s insurance covers. One worries about the welfare of the family. One thinks of the kind of closure the near and dear ones may never get if one’s mortal remains are never traced.

This is not to say that one necessarily fears death. Like taxes, it is inevitable. But what one shudders to think of is the kind of trauma one may undergo a few minutes prior to the actual event, after which, nothing else would really matter!

Thus, while boarding a plane these days, a lay passenger perhaps has two prayers on her lips. The first one is that the plane lands at its destination safely. The second one is that the captain will not be flying it while working from home. Whatever the advances in technology, a human being is still valued as a safer bet!

All this is thanks to the Boeing 737 Max issue which has been making headlines since 2018. Just to jiggle our memory cells a wee bit, here are the facts as yours truly understands them.

Some Facts of the 737 Max Case

In October 2018, Indonesia’s Lion Air flight plummeted to the ground shortly after taking off, killing all 189 people on board. Subsequently, in March 2019, a crash happened in an eerily similar manner in Ethiopia, killing all 157 persons aboard.

Boeing claims to work on such ‘enduring values’ as integrity and safety.  The company defines integrity as taking ‘the high road by practicing the highest ethical standards.’ Likewise, safety is captured thus: ‘We value human life and well-being above all else and take action accordingly,’ the company suggests, and that ‘by committing to safety first, we advance our goals for quality, cost, and schedule.’

But to match the launch of A320neo by Airbus, said to be 15% more fuel efficient, Boeing moved fast and launched the 737 MAX nine months after Airbus’s announcement. Regulatory approvals were apparently rushed through, by simply declaring the 737 MAX to be merely a ‘derivative’ model of the company’s cash cow – 737. Technical changes of a material kind were apparently made, but the need for pilot training was never highlighted. The Flight Crew Operating Manual was not modified to reflect the changes. If this had been done, perhaps the pilots might have been in a better position to know what to do should the plane begin to behave unpredictably after take-off due to bad sensor data.

According to a Reuter’s report, a Joint Authorities Technical Review done in 2019 had harshly criticized the US Federal Aviation Administration’s review of a safety system on Boeing‘s 737 Max jet that was later tied to two crashes that killed 346 persons.

An 18-month probe into the sordid affair subsequently led a US congressional committee to put the blame on ‘repeated and serious failures by Boeing and air safety regulators.’ The committee spoke of ‘a culture of concealment’, whereby the company withheld key information from regulators. Undue influence unleashed upon the FFA seniors marred oversight.

The plane remained grounded worldwide from March 2019 to November 2020. In November 2020, the plane was once again certified by the USA authorities as being fit to fly once necessary modifications had been made. Regulators in the EU are expected to do so now.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to shell out a compensation package of $ 2.5 billion to settle a Justice Department investigation and admit that employees misled regulators about the safety of its 737 Max aircraft. The US government and the company said that the settlement includes money for the crash victims’ families, airline customers and a fine.

This obviously does not bring back the dead. Nevertheless, it is a matter of some satisfaction that Boeing finally revealed a streak of consciousness in their dealings with diverse stakeholders.

The New Story of Business

Western experts had originally recommended Command and Control as a means to generate wealth and had gone on to imply that stark materialism is the way to seek peace and happiness. However, the Eastern approach is based on an inward blossoming, an inner growth and development. This approach holds an inner glow of success to be superior to sensual gratification of an external nature.

By proactively adopting a Conscious Capitalism approach, several businesses have already recognized the truth that they have a greater purpose, much beyond delivering value to their own stakeholders.

Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavour to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.

There are many labels for an approach of this kind. Compassionate Capitalism, Humane Capitalism and Inclusive Capitalism are some. Socially Responsible Investing and Impact Investing are others. Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia label this as Shakti Leadership, highlighting the need for balancing masculine and feminine aspects in decision making. R Edward Freeman refers to it as Stakeholder Capitalism. According to him, profit and purpose, humanity and economics, business and ethics can go ‘and-in-hand’!

Is Boeing now taking a Conscious Capitalism route?

One has no information in the public domain as to the internal changes made by Boeing so an incident of this kind does not recur. But based on what one already knows, the following conclusions may be safely drawn:

  1. In order to beat the competition, Boeing 737 Max was declared to be a ‘derivative’ of its predecessor and not a new model.
  2. Regulatory approvals were rushed through.
  3. Software changes were not effectively conveyed to pilots; Flight Crew Operating Manuals were not upgraded.
  4. It took a rap on its knuckles by a Congressional Committee, and then by the Justice Department, for Boeing to admit to misleading regulators and declaring the compensation package.

In this case, we may all draw our own conclusions.

Corporate’s tendency to cosy up to regulators and the governments of the day is understandable. But when it amounts to disregarding their self-proclaimed values of safety and integrity, thereby endangering human lives, they would appear to believe in the model of inhumane and unconscious capitalism.

Those who happen to advocate the cause of Conscious Capitalism and Ethics in Business fondly hope that this case eventually proves to be a ‘Corporate Soul Awakening Moment’ of sorts for the 105 year old outfit.

 

(Notes:

  • Written with no malice towards anyone!
  • A version of this post would appear in a yet-to-be released book which connects Bhagavad Gita to Management) 

 

 

Life is not necessarily fair. Once in a while, when one’s Guardian Angels appear to have gone off on a long furlough, it appears to derive a sadistic pleasure in hurling huge rocks at one, leaving the clueless soul twiddling its thumbs trying to figure out as to what it has done to deserve the honour. ‘Why me’ is invariably the query which reverberates in one’s consciousness.

The encounter with an arm of the law described earlier was surely not the only nasty experience yours truly has had. There have been few other incidents as well which squarely fall in the category of a ‘harsh chiselling’ of mine. Many others would surely have undergone far more traumatic experiences. Yet, it is worthwhile to touch upon some of these here, so we may unravel the precious lessons each such experience brought in.

Some Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Experiences

A Low Point in the Career

While working in a company which was steadily going downhill due to very high overheads and also an unhealthy level of internal bickering and politics, a highly embarrassed moment had to be faced. In a meeting of all senior managers, yours truly was somehow singled out my boss and publicly lynched for much of what was going wrong with the operations. The unfairness of it, and that too delivered in wide public view, left me shaken to my core. Whereas all those who know me personally can vouchsafe for my chin-up attitude towards life, on this particular occasion, I confess that suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. Always appreciated for my work and sincerity, this was indeed the lowest point in my career.

Late evening, though, my boss offered his sincere apologies. Thoughts of a spiritual nature and a dash of equanimity helped me to regain my mental balance, so to say. A few months down the road, I moved on to a much better position in another outfit.

The Kidnapping Fiasco

While working in a very senior position with a company located in a small town in India, on one fateful night, I and my son were kidnapped by a gang of four and kept in captivity overnight. They were under the impression that I was the owner of the business I was employed by at the time. They had a ransom demand which I would never have been able to meet.

While held in captivity, I could imagine the sequence of events if they decided to bump me off and dump the body at a desolate location. Concerns about my son’s safety reigned supreme. But tact and imagination, coupled with a dash of faith in a higher power helped. Despite a language barrier, I could explain my financial constraints to them. We could eventually manage to get released without much physical harm by the time the next day dawned. No money was ever paid.

Swift police action followed. Based on my cell phone records, the miscreants were identified and nabbed. Support from the law enforcement agencies was timely and effective. But it took me a very long time to mentally recover from the trauma suffered. For quite a few weeks, I could not manage to sleep in my own home.

Some Deadly Glass Bottles

Due to financial and administrative reasons, a small factory within the ambit of a large business conglomerate had to be shut down. Some operators who were of a violent nature decided to vent their ire over me and a colleague of mine. An expatriate customer who had visited us on the previous day was treated with soft drinks. Some empty glass bottles in the office cabin came in handy for the agitated workers to beat us up mercilessly.

The company took prompt care but the personal trauma lasted a few months.

Confronting Jealousy

I was one of the better students throughout my academic forays. Teachers and lecturers invariably liked me. The result was perhaps a general feeling of jealousy amongst other students, something I realized very late in my life. I would often be the butt of jokes – theoretical as well as practical – in the class. On one occasion, I was even bashed up by a class fellow, for reasons unknown to me till date!

Some Precious Lessons

I confess that after each of these incidents, the brow was indeed furrowed. The heart was leaden. Chirpiness, if any, was missing. Shoulders were drooping a wee bit more. The usual spark in the eyes was sorely absent. At the time, one may easily have been appointed the Honorary President of a Global Morons’ Club.

But with the benefit of a 20/20 hindsight, one could subsequently analyze and identify the crucial lessons learnt from each of these experiences.

If the low point in career could be handled with the help of humility, equanimity and one’s own job knowledge, skills and attitude, the kidnapping incident could be overcome with faith, tact and resource. The importance of networking with law enforcement agencies was effectively brought home. As to the glass bottles episode, it brought home the point that consequences of all kinds need to be weighed in and pre-emptive steps taken before a crucial decision gets implemented. Not being humane in decision making could lead to adverse consequences.

If the first mentioned experience here went against the basic rule that one must praise in public and reprimand only in private, the glass bottles one highlighted the need to always put our people first in our managerial decision making processes. The last mentioned one could not be helped, but perhaps indicated the need to be humble, especially when being successful at something.

A Cat with Too Many Whiskers?!

Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again,’ says Nelson Mandela.

Let me hasten to assure you that it is not that I have faced only negative situations in my life or career! Although some dark clouds may hover above us and some rain may fall in our lives, bright sunshine is sure to follow. But before we take the narrative in that direction and the author run the risk of being perceived to be blowing his own trumpet, let us consider a basic thread running through whatever he has shared so far.

The 2020 Corona Trauma

If Homo sapiens were astounded, shocked and awed during the first half of the year 2020 by the sudden arrival of this pandemic, hope was the key sentiment expressed by all and sundry by the time they hit 2021. Many jobs were lost. Many careers went for a toss. Many businesses went bust. But then there was a resurgence of positivity. Wheels of commerce started moving, howsoever grudgingly. Large businesses with deep pockets still laughed all the way to their banks. Pharmaceutical companies reactivated their corporate grey cells and saw an upsurge in their fortunes. Governments with a streak of dictatorship in their character pushed through unsavoury laws, clipping the wings of dissenters and ‘undesirable’ elements in the society.

The basic nature of human beings has this unique plasticity or resilience in it. Add to this the spirit of innovation and flexibility to adapt, and we get a winning situation at hand. We may be down for some time, but never out.

So, if I survived the harsh slings and arrows of life, there was nothing spectacular about it. It was true to form. Perhaps, in the process, I acquired some hard-earned wisdom!

 

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/of-lockdowns-p-g-wodehouse-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness)

 

 

ashokbhatia

What is it that makes a professional fondly look back and remember the time spent with a particular organization?

The initial package sounds jaded over a period of time and the Law of Diminishing Utility eventually kicks in. The seniority for which one so adroitly negotiates at the entry stage fails to charm after some time,  unless backed by further achievements, recognition and rewards, added responsibilities and advancements. Time also takes the glow and shine off the social prestige which goes with being associated with one of the better known brands in the industry.

So, what is a professional left with after having left an organization?

The Lingering Sweetness

Much after the association with an organization has come to an end, the everlasting impression one carries in one’s mind depends on two simple factors. One, professional achievements which were individually attained but facilitated and enabled by the support systems ingrained…

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What could be a more cheerful kick-start to the New Year than finding that one of the most endearing bloggers on Plummy matters, Honoria Glossop, is back to regale us with her insightful posts!

Happy days are here again!

Plumtopia

‘There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself,

“Do trousers matter?”‘

‘The mood will pass, sir.’

The Code of the Woosters

I’m going to skip the preliminary disparaging of 2020. It’s been a stinker of a year, but you know this already. Merriam-Webster summed things up nicely; when announcing pandemic as their word of the year, they revealed that top words searched for in 2020 included unprecedented, coronavirus, quarantine, schadenfreude, malarkey and Kraken.

Another word seems to have been undergoing a much-needed rehabilitation this year—escapism. With the therapeutic benefits of reading now well understood, perhaps 2020 (a year with little else to recommend it) may signal a turning point in recognising the merits of escapist fiction and its contribution to our health and happiness.

Wodehouse has often been classified as escapism, as grounds for derision by his critics or apology by admirers. But in 2020, readers are giving…

View original post 719 more words

 

A deluge of homage thru editorials, articles, opinions, blog posts poured in after Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee left his mortal coil. The electronic media was abuzz with discussions on the tallest leader that India has ever produced. After those exhaustive and emotional encomia showered by everyone, the opposition included, what else is there to write? After every paean has been sung what is left for me to say?

But it is believed that a tribute is truly paid only when you emulate the leader and walk his path. For doing that one has to understand Atalji’s exemplary leadership style.

Despite many thousands of empirical studies, leadership remains a tantalizing enigma for many – me included. Is it possible to annotate Atalji’s actions? Is it at all possible to codify the colossus called Atal Bihari Vajpayee?

To fit his great persona into a frame, to capture his myriad methods and to titrate his thoughts would greatly tax even a scholarly brain – but the practical value of that exercise will be invaluable for the country. Therefore I will make an attempt.

His Leadership Style – Elusive yet Effective

All the leadership theories espoused by the west are inadequate to describe Atalji’s style. His style straddles the oldest to the latest western theories effortlessly – but the core of his unique leadership style is completely elusive. Not much has been understood about the guiding ‘force’ behind his style.

When Atalji addressed the ISKON meeting on Ram Navami 5th April 1998, he said “I am all in favor of globalization of the message of the Gita and messages of all the sacred books of the world with which the message of Gita bears close conformity” – This openness expressed by him would have been categorized at best as a collaborative or an inclusive style by the Western theories but ‘NITI Shastra‘ of Kautilya would elevate the same to a higher level of ideological depth – ‘Which country, which faith is foreign to a man of True Learning?’ it says.

After the 1999 Pakistan coup, Prime Minister Atalji had to deal with the crafty general Musharraf. Atalji persisted with his offer of friendship but when that was resisted by Musharraf, he made another attempt at Agra which also failed. But three years later, it was Musharraf who made the long walk at the SAARC Summit in Islamabad to greet him. He made a commitment then not to allow any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorist activities against India!

No western style, however contemporary, explains this persistence and patience of Atalji.

However, the eastern tradition of TAOism highlights this kind of engagement. “The leader who is centered and grounded can work with erratic people and critical groups without experiencing harm. The wise leader is like the water that can YIELD yet LEAD!”

A RAJARISHI Leads the Coalition

Atalji was the great harmonizer. He aligned different coalition partners and managed to drive major reforms during his tenure as the Prime Minister. He was the great unifier who built bridges between different ideologies, political parties and countries.

What made the Coalition partners align with Atalji? Why was he was fondly referred to as the  ‘Gentle Giant’and ‘Ajatahshatru’ (someone who has no enemies)?

According to Kautilya, a leader will turn into a ‘Rajarishi-a King Sage’ through purity of speech, of the mind, of heart and of the senses – all these can be acquired only through ‘Indriyajayah’ – control over the senses- lust, anger, pride, arrogance and fool hardiness.

The traditional philosophies Taoism and Buddhism also explain how leaders deal with the complex dilemmas of the real world. Taoism explains this craft beautifully – “Because the leader does not push, the group does not resent or resist: A moderate ego demonstrates wisdom: remain open and receptive, no matter what issues arise: Learn to lead without coercion. Both praise and criticism should not excite – Interestingly Indian scriptures too praise ‘Sthitaprajna (to remain stable through intellect) as a great leadership trait !

Atalji was known for long spells of silence and contemplation. The Tao principle, ‘Wu-wei’ generally translated as non-action or non-doing is the most powerful of all. Paradoxically it’s not about inaction but is about ‘Action without Effort’. All the tenets of Tao resonate with our very own ancient prayer to the universe “Samastha Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu” (May everyone in all the worlds be happy).

No wonder Atalji the Rajarishi could lead the largest coalition effortlessly.

His style was HARMONY in WAR

Atalji’s biggest success in foreign affairs was in bringing relations with the US back from the brink after the US imposed sanctions on India– This cannot be explained effectively by any theory, only AIKIDO can.

AIKIDO, a Japanese martial art, is where practitioners defend themselves while protecting their attacker from injury. The tactic of blending with an attacker’s movements for the purpose of controlling their actions resembles a dance rather than a fight. How Atalji restrained the US to protect India, yet rallied support for the US later by controlling China’s nuclear aggression, is but the skill of an AIKIDO Master!

His style is BEYOND THEORY

No theory spoke about how ‘silence’ can silence the enemy or how ‘contemplation’ can control the situation. No leadership theory spoke about poetry paving pathways into people’s hearts. No theory praised a dignified ‘retreat from public life’ as a laudable leadership trait.

ALT is the key for India

His leadership style, call it the ‘Mother Leadership’ that is intuitive and all giving or the ‘Mother of Leadership’ styles that straddles all existing theories is the key for India’s progress.

The exercise to codify his leadership style will have far reaching implications for the country’s progress. For patriots it should be a blueprint to follow. For people in power it should be taught as a refresher course and for the newly elected politicians, it should be introduced at the orientation training.

ALT – Atal Leadership Theory – is as much about ALT key of change as it is about Altruism– it is a theory about Impact, Influence and Inspiration. A Master Class on leadership paradoxes- for ALT, WHEN I GIVE MYSELF I BECOME MORE is but the MOMENT OF TRUTH !

Karuna Gopal

President, Futuristic Cities

Global Thought Leader, Advisor on Smart Cities, Governance & Policy

Published on 22-Aug-2018

The Hans India

 

(Note: Sh Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the 10th Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004)

(Permission from the author to blog this piece here is gratefully acknowledged. Details about her work can be seen at http://www.karunagopal.com)

“So, Mr Bhatia, what do you think?” asked the tough looking beak-in-chief. I had just been ushered into this mandarin’s plush office. A cup of tea had been duly arranged, with few snacks in tow.

Across the road, the sea was going about performing its normal task, its mighty waves relentlessly pounding the rocks, roaring and frothing. The night sky was clear and a mild breeze was blowing. The moon was enjoying its usual saunter, its soothing light creating dancing ripples on the surface of the sea. It was a scene which was designed to soothe any soul in aguish.

But my soul was in torment. The heart was aflutter. The brow was furrowed. The pride of the Bhatias was wounded. You see, life had so far never prepared me for being treated as a criminal of sorts. Having been a law-abiding citizen all along, I was not used to being interrogated and that too so very late in the day. Having been held in captivity throughout the day, and asked to pen down my responses to a long list of obnoxious and repetitive questions, the nerves were all of a twitter. All this had happened under the stern watch of some of the junior beaks who looked much like a bunch of dreadful villains straight out of a Bollywood movie.

I eyed him narrowly. Obviously, the beak-in-chief’s looks were not much to be written home about. He reminded me of Sir Watkyn Bassett, the magistrate from the canon of P G Wodehouse. Nature, when planning this unique specimen, had endowed him with bushy eyebrows, a pencil moustache and a prominent jaw which would have prompted even someone like Adolf Hitler sit up and take notice. His eyes were a bit too keen and piercing for one who was not an Empire builder but a mere revenue official of a senior cadre tasked with milking businesses which, in his opinion, had many skeletons made of unalloyed gold stored in their cupboards. Revenue officials all over the world happen to be a class apart; particularly, those in India are well known for their deep distrust of businesses. Guilty till proven innocent is their credo. Shakespeare, I suspect, would have etched out Shylock’s character based on an earnest and conscientious taxman hounding him for concealing his royalty earnings.

I summoned all the Bhatia courage, resilience and tact and gave him an artificially sheepish look.

“To be frank, I feel like crossing over the road and drowning myself in the sea,” I bleated weakly.

All gibberish, of course, designed to deflect, deceive, distract and bring in a temporary rapport between me and the party of the other part. His relief on hearing these words, containing as they did no reference to the facts of the case, was great. He smirked. A sarcastic smile adorned his visage.

The dialogue with this officer of the law continued far into the night but I would spare my audience all the boring details which, if mentioned here, might promptly put them to sleep.

As P G Wodehouse would have put it, one of the several difficulties which authors face when telling a story is as to where to begin it. If they take too much time building the atmosphere and etching out the characters, the audience may simply decide to junk the narrative and start checking their social media updates instead.

On the other hand, if the author were to permit his narrative to take off like a rocket to the Mars, the public simply starts twiddling its thumbs trying to figure out what is happening. They simply walk out on the hapless soul, leaving it a wee bit clueless, much like an Olympic athlete who dazzles with his performance in a stadium which happens to be empty and utterly devoid of humanity, thanks to a raging pandemic.

Allow me therefore to go back a little bit in time. Assigned a senior management position in a small company operating out of a small town located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, I had somehow been sucked into the eye of a storm since past several months. Thanks to a two-timing junior employee and an array of operational goofies, the revenue authorities had been persuaded to suspect something fishy going on in the operations. A detailed investigation was underway for some time. The authorities, as is their wont, were keen to quickly size up their pound of flesh and make my employers cough up a sizable sum without delay. My feudal sense prevailed. A close friend from my college days who had risen to a senior position in the same department of the government elsewhere kept advising me informally throughout the sordid process.

As the episode unfolded, however, it transpired that I was suffering from a misplaced sense of loyalty to the company. My brand equity was at its lowest ebb. The credibility of the technical department which was the real defaulter in the matter was somehow much higher. In me, the company found a ready villain who could take the rap for the unfortunate incident.

Once the case had assumed a shape, I was given the marching orders and left to fend for myself. If I myself had been in the position of the owners then, I would have reacted similarly but perhaps in a gentler and more humane manner. In fact, had the company followed the principles of natural justice and an equidistant approach to all functions, the probability of a corporate embarrassment of this kind could have easily been nipped in the bud.

Subsequently, I had learnt that the matter had dragged on for quite some time and had got finally resolved on mutually agreed terms.

The stress suffered over a period of 18 months of the investigation eventually led to a cardiac issue popping up, duly followed by a long period of rest and recuperation. The family moved in to provide unstinted support and I was soon up and about, living as normal a life as one could wish for.

A great thing about the harsh slings and arrows of life is that even when we feel that there are dark clouds on the horizon and not even a single ray of hope visible anywhere, our Guardian Angels wake up and decide to offer us an olive branch. For the past several years, I had not ventured to seek greener pastures in the town my wife and I made our home. The impression was that for a person like me having a senior position in a company, backed by a package which was otherwise fine though not something to write home about, it was well nigh impossible for me to secure another assignment with a matching, if not higher, paycheck, especially in a town which did not boast of many industries.

A Good Samaritan amongst the broad circle of friends I had came up with an olive branch in the form of a suitable position in the large organization of which he was a key decision maker. An offer got made and was duly accepted. Some nine months after I had lost a great degree of my self confidence, personally as well professionally, I now had an opportunity to turn a new leaf and rebuild it.

This change was just a way for life to show me the importance of observing values and ethics in whatever I did. I realized that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

I would urge my audience to take my suicidal intentions – conveyed to the stern beak-in-chief – with a bowl full of salt. Close friends who have noticed the Bertie Wooster streak of resilience within me have held that amongst their circle of pals, I shall be the last one to ever consider a deliberate attempt to kick the bucket.

My idea of mentioning this nasty episode in my life is not to play the victim card and seek sympathy from my audience. I just thought I could share with others what I learnt in the process. My mistake was to not to keep a tab on the ground realities myself. Instead, I practiced partial abdication, mistaking it to be delegation. Trusting some colleagues who had an axe to grind with the company was another. Like the incident mentioned above, there are many others which can also be captured here.

Life, as you all know, is not a bed of roses. It is not a social media platform where narcissism alone rules. It also makes all of us undergo major setbacks. This is indeed its unique way of chiseling us out of hard rock and giving us a better shape.

But with each harsh chiseling, one had somehow managed to wriggle out of the throes of a deep V-shaped depression. One had risen from the remains of one’s dead self. Mighty forces of positivity had prevailed. The chin had yet again become high. The stiff upper lip had come back and the sky had once again turned a cheerful blue. A leap in the professional affairs had eventually come about.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/about-me

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/planning-a-career-with-an-owner-driven-outfit-consider-some-of-the-values-followed-by-such-businesses

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/of-a-mom-bassett-and-the-allure-of-policemens-helmets

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/divine-grace-works-all-the-time)

 

 

 

Fans of P G Wodehouse (Plum) often wonder why their favourite author of sublime humour is often found missing on the high table of English literature.

Comparisons are odious, but let us take the case of The Bard, considered one of the literary geniuses of our times. If he has dished out narratives rooted in such human emotions as greed, revenge, jealousy and love, so has Plum. Many of their characters are as quirky as they come. Both have contributed in so small measure to the enrichment of English. To the current generation, both sound a trifle outdated and, by and large, incomprehensible.  Nothing against the sterling fellow, though.

The Incomprehensibility Quotient

Perhaps, the reason I find The Bard’s works relatively unfit for human consumption can be traced back to their high level of Incomprehensibility Quotient.

Is there really any fun in picking up a book where, after each sentence, one has to consult a dictionary? The whole experience becomes very stiff-upper-lip-ish, if you know what I mean. Serious tomes which need super-intelligent persons to pop up in public spaces like libraries where they may enjoy their solitude, dig deeper into the contents and try and fathom the depths of the language are best avoided, I would say. Leaves the nerves a bit overburdened, don’t you think?

On the other hand, gliding through the works of Plum is sheer delight. The contrast is that reading Plum’s books in buses, trains and parks is fraught with risks. These are best devoured in private spaces, so those around, seeing one guffawing and shaking with uncontrollable mirth , do not start searching for the contact details of a loony doctor in the same class as Sir Roderick Glossop.

But what all this comes to is a deeper reality. The tendency of Homo sapiens to value seriousness and tragedy over humour and laughter. Anything humorous is treated by us as being frivolous and fit to be scoffed at. At management seminars and conclaves, serious talks get appreciated, but a speaker conveying the same message quoted in humour is blamed for playing to the gallery. In companies, at board meetings, detailed power point presentations of a serious kind get appreciated, whereas anything said in a lighter vein is greeted by scorn.

A premium on intellect and seriousness

Martin Amis, in his new novel Inside Story, blames our tendency to put serious tomes and tragedies on “the intellectual glamour of gloom… the idea that sullen pessimism is a mark of high seriousness”.

Brainy coves are invariably in awe of intellectual gravitas, even if the narratives are pale, dark and authoritative. What appeals to them better is a stiff upper lip approach. This segment of the population is apt to cast a supercilious glance at lesser mortals who thrive on reading fluffy stuff which makes them keep falling off beds and sofas, making their insurers uneasy.

Award winning works are an output of as much as intelligence as is essential to dishing out juicier works which mask equally serious messages about handling life’s harsh slings and arrows.

If the spectrum of human emotions were to be examined in some detail, seriousness may form one of its ends and humour the other one. This might give an impression that the two are opposites of each other. Not necessarily. My own knowledge of literature is very shallow, but I am sure there are authors out there who strike a balance between the two. Perhaps, therein lies the origin of satire.

In one of her scintillating posts, Honoria Glossop of Plumtopia fame speaks of the book ‘Bestsellers’ by Clive Bloom. To quote her:

‘Bloom tracks the development of ‘the bestseller’ alongside increasing literacy levels in Britain, showing how new literature classifications emerged (high-brow and low-brow) to keep class distinctions alive in literature, once the lower classes were no longer illiterate. He exposes ‘literary fiction’ as little more than snobbery, suggesting that serious literature is made purposefully unfathomable and dire to ensure it remains the province of an expensively-educated elite.’

Plum’s messages couched in delectable humour

When it comes to Plum, a master wordsmith in his own right, we often miss the underlying messages of a spiritual, economic and managerial kind. Simply because these are hidden beneath layers of what sound like inane and repetitive narratives.

Whosoever deals with goofy kids like Thos, Seabury, Edwin the Scout and others experiences a spiritual enlightenment of sorts. When Bertie Wooster tries to solve a problem single handedly, he messes things up and starts practicing detachment. He lets go of his favourite piece of apparel. He abandons his ego and decides to give up his initial resistance to a proposal made by Jeeves to go off on a cruise, thereby escaping the wrath of Aunt Agatha. Many other characters elsewhere tackle their defeats with a healthy attitude of surrender, much like Roderick Spode when confronted with the Eulalie affair.

Take the example of ‘Something Fresh.’  It covers a wide span of issues – health and fitness, perils of ageing, gender parity, economic disparities, class distinctions, the spirit of enterprise, the subtle art of delegation, importance of comforter friends in one’s life, to name just a few.

Consider the character of Reginald Jeeves. Notice the way he manages to keep his career prospects intact by using tact and resource. He maintains that bosses are like horses. They need to be managed. His methods may be rough at times, but the neat results obtained do provide satisfaction to all concerned. He believes that one needs to break a few eggs to make an omelette. He registers dissent in a diplomatic manner. He is a respectful and dignified listener, speaking only when necessary. He leads others while appearing to be a devout follower.

Dishing out comical stuff

Above all, one is left awestruck with the kind of complicated plots Plum comes up with. He handles tiffs between many couples at the same time, while bringing in obdurate aunts, sulking uncles, temperamental chefs, American millionaires and their sisters and daughters, moody creatures of a canine and feline kind, and even horses and pigs. Painting a narrative on such a wide canvas obviously needs hard work – a fertile imagination, lateral thinking, a thorough knowledge of such diverse subjects as scarabs, scriptures, literature, psychology, French resorts, movie making, et al, besides and what not. Characters often get swept in a swirl of madness and mayhem, forcing a lay reader to at least chuckle and suppress a smile. When it comes to either pulling off a gag or unleashing a comical situation, the author is always a step ahead of the reader.

In other words, humour, even though appearing to be farcical and classified as escapist, is serious business indeed!

We would do well to consciously cultivate our capacity to take a lighter view of things and learn to laugh at ourselves. Many more awards along the lines of Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize deserve to be instituted.

 

(Related post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/wodehouse-misremembered

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/the-perils-of-not-suffering-from-shakespearitis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dear Heart…..

ashokbhatia

heart care

Seven years back, when you protested, the plumbing had to be set right;
I became aware that you existed, now you continue working with all your might.

I feel your throb throughout my body, in my feet, in my arms, in my ears;
I hear the pulse even in my head, realize you have been there all these years.

Never have you asked for a vacation, relentlessly you go on thumping;
Supplying blood to all corners of the body, you always keep pumping.

A skip on your part and I go crazy, a flutter and things around me go hazy;
You may label me a couch potato, I always try not to be too lazy.

The soothing music of your pulse, sometime slow, sometime fast;
Like the strains of a vibrant drum filling up my being´s theater vast.

I walk and I exercise, keeping both of us fit with positive…

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Music: Food for the Soul

ashokbhatia

Music has great power. It touches the innermost recesses of our being. It invigorates. When we attend a concert and soak in music which is uplifting and rich, there are moments when we can hardly bear the sheer bliss. Mellifluous notes surround us. We float in an ocean of musical waves, enjoying its depth and grandeur. We just wish for the time to stop its relentless onward march. We wish to forever live in that frozen moment of inward happiness. We crave to be left alone in space and time.

We live in exciting times. We have geniuses who enthrall us with music of diverse genres. Scintillating dance performances, mesmerizing concerts and rapturous vocals keep us spellbound. Right from the snow-clad Swiss Alps to the lush green plains of India, one is fortunate to have heard and seen maestros who have perfected the art of touching our souls and made…

View original post 536 more words

Among the fans of P G Wodehouse, many kids happen to be rather popular. Digging deeper, one is apt to find that they are popular because of the kind of imagination, inventiveness, goofiness and roguishness they bring in to whatever they set out to accomplish. Their cunningness and resource entertains, enthuses and educates adults of all hues, sizes and shapes.

Wooster Sauce, the quarterly journal of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK), has captured a shorter and crisper version of one of the earlier blog posts on the subject by yours truly.

Rogue Kids WS Dec 2020 issue

 

(The original blog post can be accessed here.)