Archive for July, 2013

Sweden is famous for its fetish with gender equality. So it came as no surprise recently when the male train drivers there started wearing skirts to work. Faced with high temperatures, the guys had actually asked for permission to wear shorts. The same was promptly denied – because the dress code permits only trousers and skirts! By doing so, however, the male train drivers possibly revived a fashion invented long time back by the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans!

Ask a psycho-analyst and he is likely to dismiss the news rather calmly. Most behavioral studies establish that our personalities area1 1 (14b) made up of masculine as well as feminine traits. So, what is new, he might well ask. Ask a spiritual guru from India and he is sure to point out the relevance of the concept of ardha-nareeshwara – a combination of the Purusha and the Prakriti – propounding the unified nature of the universe. However, he may be hard put to explain the Indian male’s attitude of denigrating females – whether in public or in private. Since females in India are in short supply (940 females for 1,000 males as per the 2011 Census), the males should instead be found indulging in acts of chivalry befitting an English count. Alas, that is not to be. Eve teasing is taken as a birth-right, as is the tendency to lay the blame on the way the females either dress or behave.

Cheering Up the Fairer Ones

If politicians in Mumbai – the commercial capital of India – are to be believed, the surge of sex crimes is due to mannequins which display lingerie. Even while dressing up the ladies in plastic, lascivious thoughts are supposed to corrupt the minds of male staff. As most fair-minded souls would agree, this is rather too one-sided. The ban should also cover male mannequins. Even the commercials where Bollywood heroes publically endorse innerwear brands should go. Surely, such ads have the potential of igniting amorous thoughts amongst the fairer of us?

The government in India also tries to chip in by bringing about some changes. Having failed to bring in a law giving bettergender_clip_art_17499 representation to women in legislative bodies, presently it is pushing to set up a women’s bank. However, one is a little clueless as to how a purely economic criterion like credit-worthiness can be assessed based on the gender of an entrepreneur! Irrespective of caste, creed or sex, the commercial viability of a project alone can determine its eligibility for institutional support. Incidentally, between 1975 and 1980, the US had nine women’s banks. But the numbers shrank as their business became unviable.

When it comes to pro-female initiatives, the corporate world is not found wanting. Terms like ‘gender balance’ and ‘gender diversity’ are the buzz words these days. Companies like Diageo, Cadbury, Coca Cola and others are making conscious efforts in that direction. Leading businessmen in India are hiring icons of the stature of Deepak Parekh, G M Rao, Mukeeta Jhaveri and a host of others to mentor women who can shoulder board level responsibilities in the days to come. Policy makers in Europe and Canada are already chewing their nails trying to figure out ways to persuade the private sector to get a higher number of females on their boards.

The Hassled Not-so-fair Ones

A sizeable segment of the males which nevertheless deserves our empathy is that of the hassled youth who have to woo the love ofromeo balcony their life by buying gifts, roses and chocolates and by taking the lady regularly out for candle-lit dinners. Since the party of the other part lives in high-rise apartments these days, the prospects of serenading by standing below her balcony and using one’s vocal chords are passé. Instead, MP3 files transferred through smart phones appear to be more effective. Sure enough, many marketers are not complaining.

Yet another category of males who deserve more to be pitied than to be censured is that of the hen-pecked and harassed husbands who suffer all over the world in absolute silence. Other than earning the daily bread, the poor souls also need to hone such skills as baby-sitting, cooking, cleaning and dish-washing. The kind of patience they show while dealing with their spouses would put any Nobel Peace Laureate to shame. After all, they suffer in a selfless manner only to ensure that neighborhood peace is maintained and their fragile egos do not get crushed in public.

The Bertie Wooster Code

Majority of males today would agree that treating females as mere objects needs to be frowned upon. Lustful glares are best avoided.Bertie image Perhaps the best approach would be to treat the fairer lot according to the good old Bertie Wooster code of conduct – never bandy about their name in public, restrict oneself to furtive side glances while silently appreciating their profiles, and generally maintain a healthy distance while dealing with them. One also needs to be wary of goofy females who befriend males   merely to use their good offices to have horrors perpetrated onto their stingy uncles. Treat the ones with motherly tendencies as confidantes for one’s innermost feelings. And steer clear of females who have intellectual leanings and possess reformist tendencies when it comes to the not-so-fair of the species.

If a saunter down the aisle (or, circumambulation around the sacred fire, if you prefer) cannot be avoided, focus only on maintaining peace and harmony. Be aware that her cousins would be much better treated than your real siblings while visiting the place one believes to be one’s home. She should have a free hand in taking all routine decisions – like what food to have, which dresses to buy, the kind of house to live in, which movies to see, etc. Rather than getting involved with such mundane issues, one had better focus on worrying about strategic issues; like, if Obama’s cyber-snooping affects the lives of others around the world, how the steady drop in China’s GDP levels affects other countries, why Abe should be supported for what he is doing to rev up the Japanese economy and what the Indian government must do to prop up the Rupee.

Men who seek and support equity amongst men and women – neither denying the masculinity of men nor the femininity of women – are indeed role models. Perhaps men in India should try to put on skirts once in a while, thereby making India safer for women!

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When it comes to sports-based themes in movies, the batting average of Bollywood seems to be improving of late. The latest release, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the life and times of ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh, exemplifies this trend.

The movie, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, is truly captivating. It is 188 minutes long and belongs to the old BollywoodPOster Bhaag_Milkha_Bhaag_ format. One needs to sit back, relax and let the narrative unfold at its own pace. Sterling performances, great cinematography and a tight script which keeps relapsing into flashbacks make it a memorable movie. The passion, the pain and the hard work involved in training for sports at the global level are etched out in great detail. And so have been the common setbacks – failure in love, distraction owing to a casual fling, inability to bury the ugly past, to name a few.

Songs are genuine breaks in the story and do not rush one along. The viewer is mercifully spared of the trauma of strained optical nerves due to the absence of excessive freeze frames and two-second shots juxtaposed together – a standard recipe in Bollywood these days. The movie captures the pangs of partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 very vividly. And, of course, there is an undercurrent of humor to pep up the proceedings. Overall, a movie not to be missed!

The movie also has a few things that appear out-of-place; for example, the high mast tower on the railway tracks and a clean-shaven chest for the hero, both of which look out of tune with the times. Then there are a couple of steamy sequences – one involving Milkha’s sister in a refugee camp and another between Milkha and an Australian beauty. These take the movie out-of-bounds for conservative families who have children in the impressionable-cum-inquisitive age. A pity indeed, because the message is essentially intended to motivate the younger generation to consider taking up sports as a serious activity, as also to encourage youngsters to strive for perfection in any field of their choice.poster Jo_Jeeta_Wohi_Sikandar_

In the past, Bollywood has come up with movies which are centered on sports. However, these can be counted on finger tips. Here is a quick recap.

  • Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992, Mansur Khan)

A tale of two rival colleges set in the age of innocent romance. The climax of the movie is a bicycle race which the hero must win to reclaim the honor for his family and his college. He does so, and wins over his sweetheart as well.

  • Hip Hip Hurray (1984, Prakash Jha)

The story of a computer engineer turned sports instructor who overcomes several obstacles and leads his football team to victory. Poster Lagaan

  • Lagaan (2001, Ashutosh Gowarikar)

When the impoverished villagers seek a relief from land tax from their British rulers, a wager is offered instead: if they win a game of cricket with them, tax for three years would be waived. The villagers go on to learn an alien game and then win so as to bring prosperity to their village. They do so with sheer grit and determination.

  • Iqbal (2005, Nagesh Kukunoor)

Heart-warming story of a village boy who is deaf and mute. He is obsessed with cricket and dreams of making it to the Indian national cricket team. He is opposed by his father but supported by his mother and sister. He manages to get coached by a local drunkard, Mohit, who was once a great cricketer himself, and realizes his dream.poster Chak_De!_India

  • Chak De! India (2007, Shimit Ameen)

A brilliant movie which explores religious discrimination, ethnic and regional prejudice and sexism prevalent in India. It is set against the backdrop of field hockey and narrates how the coach overcomes prejudices against him, unites players from diverse Indian backgrounds and leads the team to victory at the international level.

  • Patiala House (2011, Nikhil Advani)

A disagreement comes about between a father and a son over the latter trying to make a career out of cricket. The son is a fast bowler, the role being loosely based on Monty Panesar. Based on his passion for the sport, support from his mother, girl friend andposter Paan_Singh_Tomar_ siblings, the son wins his argument in the end.

  • Paan Singh Tomar (2012, Tigmanshu Dhulia)

The movie is based on the real story of a steeplechase athlete who wins international recognition but turns to dacoity due to a land grab dispute in his native village. A riveting performance by Irrfan Khan had the viewers in thrall. Like Milkha, his talent was also spotted and developed in the Indian Army.

  • Kai Po Che! (2013, Abhishek Kapoor)

The movie, based on the novel ‘The Three Mistakes of My Life’ by Chetan Bhagat, captures the love for cricket against a backdrop of poverty, lack of resources, an earthquake and the Gujarat communal riots of 2002. The challenge of nurturing talent in the field of sports forms an important part of the plot.poster Iqbal

The success of Iqbal, a small budget movie, eventually led to a renewed interest in sports-based themes in Bollywood. While the focus so far has been on cricket and hockey, one hopes that badminton, lawn tennis, chess and other games would also get added to Bollywood’s repertoire soon enough. And, yes, the success of a biopic like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag could possibly spawn a string of flicks recreating the inspiring stories of many of our real world heroes and heroines on the silver screen!

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Just like ‘Ramayana’, the epic of ‘Mahabharata’ also has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the epic.

  • Merit over Birth

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he namesMahabharat King Bharat Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Three of the top ten in the 2013 edition of ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ are professionals. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top ten.

In a reversal of an openly declared of Infosys, Chairman N R Narayana Murthy recently stirred a hornet’s nest by insisting on bringing his own son as a team member. Only time will tell if the decision pays off; as of now, seniors in the company are a bit shaken up with the move.

  • Commitment

For his father Shantanu’s happiness, Bhishma swears never to marry. Throughout his life, he remains committed to the kingdom of Hastinapur. Despite his difference of opinion with Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana, and despite his obvious fondness for the Pandavas, he leads a vast army against the latter. However, his conduct is very transparent; he openly tells Duryodhana that though he is fighting for Kauravas, he shall not harm any of the Pandavas.

On the flip side, Bhishma also sets the example of a senior professional who overstays his welcome!

Many organizations have deeply committed silent performers who stick by it irrespective of the business ups and downs being faced. Business houses which follow a healthy set of values do end up attracting more such professionals whose value systems match with their own. In times of crisis, such people tend to be pillars of strength for the company. However, there could be situations when they need to be taken on board merely as advisors and not as executors, so younger blood in the organization also gets a chance to prove its mettle.

  • Failures are Stepping Stones

Bhishma abducts three sisters – Amba, Ambika and Ambalika – to get them married to Vichitravirya. However, Amba claims she is already in love with Salva and cannot accept anyone else as her life partner. Eventually, she is rejected by both Bhishma and her own ex-lover Salva. She takes this failure as a challenge and ends up being born as a person of mixed gender –Shikhandi – in King Drupad’s family. Eventually, he/she becomes the cause of Bhishma’s death in the battlefield.

Those who take their failures as a challenge have the capacity to introspect. They identify their weaknesses and take steps to excel in areas in which their arch rival is strong. Ultimately, victory is theirs.

  • Promises are like Babies!

Just like babies, promises are easy to make but difficult to keep. When they are studying together, Drupad, a prince, and Mahabhata KurukshetraDronacharya, a commoner, become good friends. Drupad light-heartedly tells Dronachrya that once he grows up to become a king, he would be happy to share half of his kingdom with Dronacharya. However, once they grow up, Drupad reneges on his statement and even mocks Dronacharya in his court. The result is life-long bitter rivalry between the two which spills onto the battle field, with Dronachrya on the Kaurava’s side and Drupad on the Pandava’s side.

CEOs who promise a promotion merely to achieve short-term results often find that the promotee eventually reaches his level of incompetence at lightning speed, embarrassing all concerned. Smart HR honchos never make promises which they know cannot be kept. Same goes for marketing wizards who fear a severe backlash from customers should the product not live up to the latter’s expectations.

  • Destructive Attachment

Contrast the behavior of King Bharata to that of Dhritarashtra. He has an obsessive attachment to his evil son. He permits the Pandavas to proceed to Varnavat where, by his son’s evil designs, they are persuaded to stay at a house constructed of inflammable materials. He allows a deceptive game of dice, making the Pandavas lose their part of the kingdom. In his presence, Draupadi, his daughter-in-law, is insulted in his royal court. Bhishma, Vidur, Krishna and several others attempt to persuade him to rein in the unbridled ambition of his son Duryodhana, but to no avail. The result is a terrible war leading to devastation of the kingdom.

CEOs who promote their sycophants without assessing the overall welfare of an organization get doomed likewise.

  • Concentration

Multi-tasking is a buzzword in professional circles. But Arjuna displays a kind of concentration which involves a complete focus on Mahabharat Swayamvara_Draupadi_Arjuna_Archerythe task at hand. In the process, he evolves into an excellent archer of his times. Whether it is the bird whose eyes alone he is able to see before shooting his arrow, or the rotating fish whose eye he has to pierce based on the image cast in the water urn placed below in the court of King Drupada, he excels in accomplishing the task at hand.

Managers who look satisfied with their day’s work would invariably share the same secret with you – of having done something satisfactorily that day! Aiming for perfection, they are at least able to excel in the tasks at hand. And focusing on one thing at a time surely helps!

  • Perseverance

Notice the kind of setbacks Pandavas get to suffer in their lives. They survive the insidious designs of their Kaurava cousins at Varanavat. After losing their kingdom and wealth to Kauaravas in an unfair game of dice, they undergo an exile for twelve years in forests. This is followed by a year of remaining incognito, which they do so in King Virata’s palace. When a peace proposal gets discussed with Kauravas, Yudhishthira offers to settle the dispute between the brothers by being content with ownership of five villages only. Even this gets turned down by Duryodhana.

The tenacity of bouncing back in the face of adversity that Pandavas display is worth emulating. Many MNCs are put off by the way the Indian market is skewed – with a miniscule share of the well-heeled who have global exposure and a vast majority of common people who aspire for reliable products and services at highly discounted prices. GE and Nestle have learnt their lessons. McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Café Coffee Day in the fast food business have also sharpened their teeth by offering mouth-watering menus in the range of INR 44-119!

  • United We Stand

The mother of Pandavas, Kunti, delivers a master stroke by getting Draupadi to accept all the five brothers as her husbands. The result is a whole unified family which goes through its trials and tribulations as a single unit. Each of the brothers has a USP – if Yudhishthira is the epitome of virtue upholding ‘dhrama’ (righteousness) at all costs, Bhima and Arjuna are great warriors who have to be kept on a tight leash, impatient as they are in extracting revenge from Kauravas. Nakula and Sahdeva have their own unique qualities. Together, the five brothers form a multi-skilled and invincible team.

Large conglomerates like Tatas often sound similar in their overall configuration. Each company within the group’s fold has a unique place in the market. Each is headed by a stalwart who is a subject specialist in the field. The companies operate in fields as disparate as salt and software. Yet, all of them are connected by a common value system and a similar business philosophy.

  • Draupadi Syndrome

Juggling between five husbands is no mean task and Draupadi appears to handle it rather well.

In what are euphemistically known as “matrix” organizations these days, reporting to several bosses at the same time could be a Mahabharat Draupadi_and_Pandavaschallenging experience. One has to learn to balance each boss’ expectations against those of others. Much depends on their relative seniority or clout in the company, based on which one could handle the situation. Of course, it does not pay to pitch one of the bosses against the other, whether directly or indirectly!

  • Excellence in Governance

When Indrapastha is built, Pandavas rule in a fair and just manner. They do not stray from the path of righteousness, thereby winning the love and affection of their subjects. They rule for thirty-six years before falling prey to an unfair game of dice.

Excellence in governance is a vital condition for a business leader to command respect amongst his team members. Taking good care of people is an important part of governance. The HR initiatives taken by the Tata group after The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was targeted in a terrorist attack on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai, go on to show how well the company cares for its employees.  

  • Being Impartial

In the Yaksha episode, Yudhishthira is asked as to which of his four brothers he would wish to be brought back to life. He chooses Nakula. When queried, he justifies his choice by explaining that of the five of them, three (himself, Bhima and Arjuna) were born to Kunti and two (Nakula and Sahdeva) to his father’s second wife, Madri. Since he is alive, Kunti is only partially bereaved. Likewise, let Madri also be partially bereaved – hence his choice of Nakula. Pleased at this, Yaksha revives all the four remaining brothers.

Being impartial does not come easy to a leader. However, this is indeed the mark of a true statesman.

  • Loyalty to Boss

Karna faces humiliation at the hands of Pandavas for not being born in a royal family. Duryodhana realizes his potential as an ally and immediately comes forward to confer kingship upon him. They become life-long friends. Karna’s loyalty towards Duryodhana is so strong that even after realizing that he is the eldest of the five Pandavas, he chooses to fight against them, for Duryodhana.

Here is an example of unflinching loyalty to a boss!

  • Yin and Yang

India has a great tradition of real men displaying not only their macho side, but also their effeminate and softer side. The great yin yangwarrior Arjuna spends a whole year incognito in King Virata’s palace, disguised as the eunuch Brihannala, teaching music and dance. One of his pupils, Princess Uttara, ends up becoming his daughter-in-law who gives birth to Parikshit who eventually inherits the kingdom when Pandavas decide to retire.

There is increasing realization amongst corporates in contemporary times to encourage females to assume leadership roles. Companies like Diageo, Cadbury, Coca Cola and others are making conscious efforts in that direction.

Bringing a better gender balance at the board level is the current buzzword. Leading businessmen are hiring icons of the stature of Deepak Parekh, G M Rao, Mukeeta Jhaveri and a host of others to mentor women who can shoulder board level responsibilities in the days to come.

  • Juniors First

When a decision has to be taken as to who should lead the Pandava army in the war, Yudhishthira first consults Sahadeva, the junior most brother.

This approach has several spin-offs. It instills enthusiasm and self-confidence in the younger managers. If the seniors are consulted first, others may not be able to speak with freedom, and even honest differences of opinion may get construed as disrespect.

  • Strategy and Leadership

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the whole narrative, Krishna emerges as an eminent strategist. He keeps Draupadi’s frustration under check. He knows that Kauravas would never agree to let Pandavas have their share of the kingdom in a peaceful manner. Yet, he himself goes to plead their cause so that peace is given a last chance.

In the battle that ensues, he virtually leads the 7 divisions of Pandavas’ army to a decisive win against the 11 divisions of Kauravs’ Mahabharat Disrobing_of_Draupadiarmy. The manner in which Krishna persuades a demoralized Arjuna to take up his arms by enunciating the basic principles of life in the Bhagavad-Gita is exemplary.

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita is that of the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen Covey urges professionals to pay heed to their ‘inner voice’. While proposing the whole person paradigm, he speaks of the four dimensions of a person – spirit, body, heart and mind.

Coming back to ‘Mahabharata’, all mighty warriors on the Kauaravas’ side fall with specific inputs from Krishna. In case of Bhishma, Arjuna attacks him standing behind Shikhandi. Dronacharya is misled to believe that his son Ashwatthama has fallen at the behest of Krishna. When Duryodhana appears to be invincible in his mace fight with Bhima, he gestures to the latter to hit the former below the navel, thereby incapacitating him. When Balarama gets upset with Bhima for having broken a cardinal principle in his final fight with Duryodhana, Krishna intervenes to pacify him by reminding him of the several injustices perpetrated by the Kauravas on Pandavas.

Once the war gets over and all his sons have got killed, Dhritarashtra attempts to kill Bhima by crushing him in a close embrace. Krishna is able to read his mind and deftly pushes across a metal statue instead, thereby saving Bhima’s life.

Much like a business leader of modern times, Krishna displays vision, flexibility in approach, resourcefulness and an excellent capacity to command. He is the trouble-shooter par excellence who leads, inspires, guides and motivates.

  • Execution and Followership

If Krishna proves his leadership skills, Pandavas display the skills of being true followers and executors. Yudhishtira, considered an epitome of virtue, agrees to announce the false news of Ashwatthama’s death, thereby leading to Dronacharya getting vanquished. Motivated by him, Arjuna takes up his arms against his grandfather, Bhishma. Bhima listens to Krishna and ends up killing Jarasandha (much earlier in the narrative) and Duryodhana (towards the fag-end of the battle).

Often, seniors in companies lament about the lack of some qualities in their assigned leader. But one needs a sense of humility, Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaconfidence in another’s ability and the motivation to achieve a super-ordinate goal to work as an effective team member. An objective assessment of the situation at hand, unqualified support for the overall goal, registering dissent wherever necessary and balancing the leader’s weaknesses with one’s own strengths are some of the factors which result into better execution of plans.

  • Do Not Take Help for Granted

Nakula and Sahdeva’s uncle, Shalya, decides to offer his big army to Pandavas in the ensuing war. However, on the way to the battle field, Duryodhana extends a very thoughtful and warm hospitality to Shalya’s army. The result is that Shalya becomes obliged to fight his own nephews in the war! Yudhishthira ends up repenting for having taken Shalya’s help for granted without worrying about the needs of the vast army marching on its way with the intention to assist him.

When working on a project, we often take our friends and colleagues for granted. ‘Mahabharata’ exhorts us to first put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, realize his constraints and then only expect to be helped accordingly.

  • Receive Favors with Humility and Alertness

Shalya receives favors from Duryodhana with humility but without alertness. He does not bother to check whose hospitality he and his army are enjoying.

There are days on which a manager may be pleasantly surprised to find himself being unduly praised by seniors. In some cases, this could be a sign of impending doom – of being saddled with an impossible task which others might be loath to pick up! Alertness while accepting praise surely pays.

  • Key to Failure  

As the crown prince of Kauravas, Duryodhana initiates a war which has to be fought under the leadership of commanders who have a soft corner for the Pandavas! With the exception of Karna and his own brothers like Dushasana et al, all his commanders – like Bhishma, Dronacharya and Shalya – are only duty bound to support him. Their real sympathies are with the Pandavas. Thus, he is saddled with an army which is far superior to that of Pandavas in terms of sheer numbers, but sorely lacks in motivation. Duryodhana’s greed, envy and jealousy lead him to his doom.

In the business world, we often come across fool hardy leaders who set their goals so high as to be unrealistic. If a proper assessment of the resources available at their command is not made, failure is bound to follow.

  • Rash Commitments

Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, gets killed unfairly and the main culprit is held to be Jayadratha. Arjuna is livid with rage and declares that he would kill Jayadrath by the following evening or renounce the world. At a crucial moment in the next day’s war, Krishna intervenes to ensure Arjuna’s victory, bringing relief and joy to all.

Faced with a drastic situation, a professional needs to sit back and think for some time before committing himself to a target which could well turn out to be unattainable.  

  • Knowledge vs. Virtue

One of the sub-plots narrates the story of Arvavasu and Paravasu. Both are sons of a great scholar and become great scholars in their own right by acquiring knowledge. But one turns out to be good and the other evil. Moral of the story – knowledge which remains undigested information crammed into the mind cannot instill virtue in a person. Such knowledge merely remains like our clothes, an external factor in our appearance which does not reveal what we are within ourselves.

Post Lehman Brothers, educational institutions have started taking the issue of instilling the right values in their students seriously. A business leader without a strong moral compass and lacking a set of virtuous values and ethics could lead the business to eventual ruin.

  • Seeking Favors sans Competence

In another sub-plot appears the story of Yavakrida, who craves to master the Vedas without having to study them! He is grudgingly granted a boon to this effect, but eventually dies at the hands of a demon after being charmed by a young maiden.

A true blue professional would surely aim to occupy the coveted corner office, but only after he has done his own SWOT analysis.

  • Avoid Arrogance

One of the several sub-plots in ‘Mahabharata’ is that of Nahusha who falls from grace after having occupied the throne of Indra, king of the Gods. His fall comes about because of sheer arrogance and pride.

Power and pelf bring in severe obligations in their wake. Successful CEOs understand this, take extra care to keep their pride in check and tailor their inter-personal relationships accordingly.

‘Mahabharata’ is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.


  1. ‘Mahabharata’ by C Rajagopalachari.
  2. Adi Parva original.
  3. Bhagavat Purana.
  4. Series by K M Munshi.
  5. Series by Ram Kumar Bhramar.

(Related posts:

    1. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana
    2. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna)

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In a majority of movies churned out by Bollywood, doctors and nurses have only been on the fringes of the narrative. But there are some which have highlighted the professional trials and tribulations faced by our healers. Few have even commented upon the complex challenges of poverty, malnutrition and scarce resources faced by doctors and nurses in a developing country like India.

Keeping in tune with the times, the depiction has also undergone a major transformation. As our society has become more self-centered, so has the general character of the doctors and nurses shown in the Bollywood flicks. The self-sacrificing doctors of yesteryears have slowly but steadily given way to glamorous ones playing second fiddle to a mostly romantic script at hand.

Risking Their Own Lives

In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the Poster Dr_Kotnis_ki_Amar_Kahanipeople affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946, V. Shantaram, ‘The Immortal Saga of Dr. Kotnis’) which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis helps the people of China during the Japanese invasion. Rendering a selfless service, he marries and settles down there itself but eventually dies of plague.

Post-independence, we had Dil Ek Mandir (1963, C. V. Sridhar, ‘Heart is a Temple’), where the doctor performs a successful surgery but ends up collapsing due to the tireless effort he puts in preparing for the same. Aman (1967, Mohan Kumar, ‘Peace’) was inspired by the story of Dr. Kotnis. The hero gets inspired to serve humanity after meeting Sir Bertrand Russell and goes to Japan to serve the victims of nuclear holocaust.

In Selfless Service  

In movies like Anuradha (1960, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) and Khushboo (1975, Gulazar, ‘The Fragrance’), the heroes are doctors Poster Khamoshiwho decide to serve poor villagers in the interiors of India. Risking their own health and welfare, they keep busy with their work and neglect their family and personal lives. In Anuradha, the wife eventually ends up sacrificing her urbane musical ambitions to support the husband. In Khushboo, the wife does so but not before she has questioned his lack of initiative in inviting her to live with him. Both movies had finely chiseled performances by the lead actors – Balraj Sahni, Leela Naidu, Jeetendra and Hema Malini.

Khamoshi (1969, Asit Sen, ‘Silence’) had the inimitable Waheeda Rehman playing a nurse in a mental asylum. She falls in love with a patient who gets well and moves out without reciprocating her sentiments. Impressed by her success, the doctor-in-charge entrusts yet another patient to her care. She falls in love with him as well but loses her own mental balance when he is cured. The moral of the story: a medical professional should not get personally involved with a patient. Easier said than done!

Battling the Big C

In the 1970s, Bollywood came out with several movies which had a medical problem as the cornerstone. In quite a few movies, cancer took over from TB as the real villain. Most of these movies tugged at our heartstrings. One, there was the inevitability of death. Two, the sheer helplessness of a doctor made the narration even more poignant. Audiences loved them nevertheless and often came out of theatres with drenched handkerchiefs.

Safar (1970, Asit Sen, ‘The Journey’) had a doctor facing the charge of intentionally killing someone dear to her. The story was Poster Anandessentially a love triangle. The underlying theme was that of jealousy of the doctor’s husband, guilt of the doctor wife and reconciliation with the fact of impending death by the wife’s close friend who is afflicted with cancer.

Anand (1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, ‘Bliss’) was a landmark film which touched upon several facets of a doctor’s life. Indian health care system’s discrimination between the haves and the have-nots of the society was one of the facets. Yet another was the transformation of an atheist doctor into someone who starts  believing in the power of prayer to heal. The need to have a positive attitude towards life, howsoever short it may be, was the basic message of the movie.

Commercial and Legal Dilemmas

Tere Mere Sapne (1971, Vijay Anand, ‘Your Dreams, My Dreams’) narrated the story of a doctor who migrates to a city after Poster Tere Mere Sapnehaving suffered professional as well as personal setbacks in a rural setting. His transformation into a money spinning professional in an urban environment is well captured. Eventually, he migrates back to the village and regains his sense of good values and ethical practices in healthcare.

Achanak (1973, Gulzar, ‘All of a sudden’) posed an interesting dilemma faced by a doctor at times. Does it make sense for a doctor to strive hard to save the life of a convict who is to be sent to the gallows? The movie answers this question in the affirmative.

The Fringe Benefits of Healthcare

In Silsila, we had a hapless doctor (Sanjeev Kumar) trying to figure out how to handle the post-marital affair of his wife (Rekha). In Satte Pe Satta, we had the heroine (Hema Malini) playing a gutsy nurse, though only in the first few reels.  Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, Abhishek Bacchhan in Dostana, Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots, Vidya Balan in Pa and Aishwarya Rai in Guzaarish were all glitzy characters playing to the gallery, with their medical talents appearing only on the fringes of the main narrative.  

Healthcare with Bear Hugs

Munna Bhai MBBS (2003, Rajkumar Hirani) was a hilarious take on the medical profession. It touched upon the mixed up Poster-Munna_Bhai_M.B.B.S.priorities in hospitals where patients lack a personal healing touch and where procedures take precedence over urgent medical issues. Quite a few of our aspiring and practicing doctors would have drawn inspiration from the movie to improve the healthcare system by according better priority to compassion, empathy and liveliness in treating patients!

Summer 2007 (2008, Suhail Tatari) raised the issue of lack of awareness amongst medicos about the social ills and absence of any healthcare delivery service in India’s rural areas. Greedy moneylenders and power-hungry politicians rule the roost. A group of medical interns attempts to cope with the daunting challenges facing villagers.

Waiting for Medical Blockbusters!

The wide variety of healthcare related issues touched upon in these movies is commendable. However, one still waits for an in-depth poster comatreatment of the field of medicine at the hands of Bollywood. There is immense scope for medical thrillers based on patent rights of gene based therapies, moral dilemmas raised by the new frontiers of medicine, whistle blowers exposing corrupt practices in the pharmaceutical industry, shortages of critical vaccines and contemporary challenges on providing universal healthcare services in India.

In the last decade, Bollywood has demonstrated its capacity to make shorter movies based on innovative themes. Hopefully, the field of medicine would also get better attention with script-writers and directors coming out with a Coma, a Strong Medicine, a Virus and, possibly, even an Erin Brockovich in not too distant a future!

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Pressure is an external stimulus. Stress is what we experience. The level of stress we experience therefore is directly proportional to the pressure weSTRESS receive. The good news is that stress is inversely proportional to our inner strength and resilience.

Since each individual is uniquely configured, the response of each person to the same level of Pressure would be different. Some would take it lightly and focus on the action at hand, thereby improving their chances of a better and quicker delivery of results. Others would take it seriously, and jeopardize their own achievements and career. Those who are ever-anxious and have an ‘A’ type personality would invariably experience more stress than those who are the happy-go-lucky ‘B’ types.

Stress experienced by a professional is also a function of time. The psychological condition varies with time and also plays a role.

Distress can be handled positively. Art of creative dissatisfaction, loosening up and letting go, a dash of humor and meditation can help.  (You may read more about this in a blog entitled ‘Handling Hurricane Stress’, published on Feb 1, 2013.)

A little bit of stress is good for a professional’s health and output. Thanks to Richard Lazarus and Hans Selye, we understand the distinction between ‘eustress’ and ‘distress’!


Smart companies would have a talent pool which enables them to keep refreshing the senior levels at all times. If one senior gets promoted, they are prepared for two other seniors quitting. If one senior gets poached by a competitor, there are two to choose from internally.


John Elkington has coined the term “triple bottom line”, based on people, planet and profits. Corporates which offer products and services based on this premise will surely sustain their businesses longer.

Jochen Zeitz, Director of Kering and Chairman of its board’s Sustainable Development Committee is also a Co-Chair of The B Team. He has worked on the first-ever environmental profit and loss (EP&L) for Puma. (You may read about Team B in a blog entitled ‘Plan B for Business’, published on June 27, 2013). 

Bill Ford Junior wants Ford Motor to evolve from a car maker to a “mobility company”. It is working with stakeholders to offer a spectrum of transportation solutions – walking, cycling, buses, metro rails and waterways.

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A creed which has simply vanished from the corporate world. The advent of computers and the intelligence with which MS kept coming up with upgraded versions of its Windows software has resulted into most yester year secretaries donning a line manager’s hat by now. They have shown excellent results in most organizations, for which, of course, their erstwhile bosses take full credit, having coached them well in the first place.


A good way to kill an otherwise brilliant idea is to first convey it over mail.

If you are a lazy bum who can’t walk up to some of your seniors and colleagues to discuss an important matter, and have instead decided to send a mail on the subject, at least show due courtesy in addressing the mail in a proper manner, with due respect for seniority; also, double-check it for accuracy before hitting the “send” button.

Seniors are highly status conscious. An ever-changing sequence of their names in bulk mails, ignoring their level in the hierarchy, keeps most of them on tenterhooks; some could get offended and respond to your brilliant idea by hitting the “delete” button!


Managers who either lack information or are too lazy to bother about details often end up being part of the Shooting from the Hip brigade. It takes another bunch of managers to use their ingenuity to the full and handle the nuclear fall outs of wrong decisions.


This is just not done! Label your junior’s idea as your own and push it upwards at your own peril. Openly name the team members who have contributed to a success, and your people would just love you.


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