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Archive for November, 2013

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 in the culture of the organization. Two, the manner in which one was treated as a human being. Often, one of the results is the number of long-lasting relationships that one makes while the association lasts.

Organizations happen to be made up of people of all sizes, shapes and temperaments. But the treatment received at the hands of key people one comes in touch with determines whether the after-taste remains sweet or sour; also, how long it lingers in the taste buds of our memory cells.

The Brand of the People

A brand represents an element of trust and reliability. The concept is not limited merely to the quality of the product or service on offer.  In fact, the systems and procedures followed by an organization, their sturdiness in the face of adversity and change, the element of fairness in its dealings with diverse stakeholders – all go on to add to the allure and enigma of the brand.

Much of the aura which characterizes a brand emanates from its people. It is they who create a buzz in the employment market. The lingering sweetness of an association is often determined by the Employee Brand Value.

I have had the opportunity of working with several companies. Each one had a different culture and a unique way of handling people. Nevertheless, it was interesting to observe how employees got treated far better by companies which had a stronger brand identity.

Allow me to share with you some of my experiences which have left me with a positive feel and a sweet after-taste!

The Human Touch

The care and companionship I was fortunate to receive in all the companies I worked with was unique in more ways than one.

When the management decided to shut down an operation headed by me, a colleague of mine and I were mercilessly beaten up by a gang of misinformed workers. Prompt medical attention, legal support, counseling for the self and the family and a compulsory vacation followed automatically. A month later, the then MD, nine rungs above us in the rigid hierarchy, called us over for a friendly chat over a cup of tea and instilled in us a sense of pride and fulfillment for having stood up to the rowdy elements in the work force.

In another company, a colleague met with a serious road accident on a busy highway while reporting for work. Over the next two years, he had to undergo a series of reconstructive surgeries to regain normality. No effort was spared to ensure that he and his family got the best support available. This, despite the company facing a severe financial challenge at the time.

In yet another case, my entry was marked by a gentle induction into the operations of the company. As my role expanded and evolved over a period of time, support – technical as well as emotional – was invariably close at hand. Above all, the HR policies facilitated a healthier work-life balance to be achieved. Which is not to say that there was ever a compromise on the goals to be achieved.

A Premium on Compassion

While I was on a personal overseas trip, a much revered colleague suddenly died of a cardiac failure. A prompt mail came from a colleague of mine. I was simply devastated. When I called back to find out precisely what had occurred and how, I was given only sketchy details. Subsequently, an inquiry was instituted to find out who had made the bloomer of conveying the disturbing news to me at a personally critical time!

A woman playing a critical role on the operations side faced a dilemma on a day which was very crucial for the company. Her husband, working in a far off city, was to return home for a brief period on the same day, that too after a gap of a few months. Having delegated her tasks and arranging a smooth conduct of her area of responsibility, she requested for half a day off from work. The immediate boss was in no mood to oblige, but relented after the top boss decided to intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Separations as Brand Building Opportunities

In one instance, a popular and effective manager suddenly decided to leave the company. At a glittering farewell ceremony, he was showered with lavish praise and presented with a gold medal by the President of the company himself. Within six months, he found that he was a cultural misfit in the next company. Feelers came in through informal channel and he soon rejoined us.

In another case, a much pampered and popular junior decided to leave the company after a long stint when he was in fact being groomed to take over a key department. A red-faced bunch of seniors met to discuss what steps could be taken to prevent the person from leaving the company’s employment. When all efforts failed, the group decided not to be vindictive in nature. Instead, the exit was facilitated so as to leave the employee in a highly positive frame of mind. The result is that even today, the , channels of communication between the company and the ex-employee remain open and smooth. Whenever the employee needs support in his new assignment, the company is there to back him up.

When the time came for me to part company (due to personal reasons, of my own accord), a smooth and graceful exit was ensured. In a farewell meeting, seniors, colleagues and others from across the company paid rich compliments in a manner which would forever remain fresh in my memory. An informal association continues till this day.

Winding Up With Minimal Resistance

Since business was not doing well, management decided to wind up the operations at the unit I was associated with in the past. The unit, directly employing more than 1,000 persons, happens to be located in an area which has seen multifold increase in labor disputes of all kinds over the past decade. As of date, there is hardly any unit which does not sport a red flag on its main gate, declaring the union which is active therein.

And what happens in this case? A well thought-out separation package gets rolled out. Most of the management staff get either relocated or out-placed. A well-rehearsed PR campaign gets underway with all the key government functionaries to ensure adequate and effective communication. This outcome is this well-designed initiative is that there are no unpleasant obstructions to the winding up plans of the company. Also, no one in authority enjoys the dubious pleasure of subsequently claiming that he or she could have done something to stop the loss of employment to a plethora of people, had they only been told of it before hand. A smart winding up, no?!

The Trust Reposed in the Employee

A common feel-good factor is the exemplary support provided to a senior manager on a critical mission. Just the feeling that one was free to take a call and will get backed up by the management, come what may, does the trick. An intrapreneur gets enthused no end when he or she is working on a mission wherein the survival of a business entity depends on him or her ensuring that a particular issue gets settled favorably. The top man merely looks him in the eye and tells him to go for it – and the goal is met. The after-glow of a professional  achievement of this kind surely lasts a life time!

Building up the Employee Brand Value

Organizations focus on crafting a powerful employee brand so as to attract and retain the best talent. Here are examples from the ones which have added to their brand value by focusing on separations as well. A well thought out plan for winding up can ensure that while business goals are met effectively, there is no damage caused to the brand.

When alumni recall their positive association with the organization, it is a sure sign that the memory of its brand is getting leveraged right. Making an employee feel valued even after he or she has parted company only adds to the long-term allure of the brand.

(Related Post: ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/ramping-down-a-business-the-smart-way)

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Inventors of the world need to quickly come up with a Poop Scoop which would work for humans. This would solve a messy problem which is driving governments all over the world a bit potty.

In third world countries, it is pretty common to find people defecating in the open. Any train passenger who has been Potty open-defecation-titleadventurous enough to peep out of his window while the train is entering an urban settlement in the morning hours would readily attest to the same.

The Great Public Loo

Ask any of the defecators and he would be quick to point out the benefits of open air ablutions – minimal irritation to the olfactory organs, a gentle breeze soothing the hind quarters and the pleasure of a comforting smoke without the imminent danger of a secondary inhalation by any of the co-defecators. A very environment friendly and socially sustainable practice, he would say.

Push him a wee bit more and he is bound to come out with yet another justification. Well-heeled passengers of railways are permitted to litter the tracks all across the length and breadth of the country with smelly abandon. They enjoy this liberty irrespective of whether the train is stationary or moving over vast tracts of land and rivers, pious or otherwise. If so, why should his tribe of open defecators alone be singled out and reprimanded?

A Potty Dawn

Come morning time and vast stretches all over the country witness the unusual spectacle of human droppings, putting Potty Roman Public Toiletsmany a bird and beast to shame. Early morning joggers have already perfected the art of dodging such excrescence, thereby saving their precious branded footwear from getting soiled.

In the bye-lanes of small towns, toddlers can be easily spotted relieving themselves just outside the main door of their palatial houses, thereby saving their parents the hassle of suffering from an Undue Potty Syndrome.

Marketing honchos of companies making diapers and plastic potty contraptions would do well to target this segment in their next promotional blitzkrieg.

A Gratitude towards Mother Earth

Those of the two-legged Homo-sapiens who are far away from home and hearth find the vacant stretches of land Potty Limbourg Belgiumabutting our swank new highways quite suitable for the purposes of fertilizing the soil. This is their way of expressing heart-felt gratitude towards Mother Earth.

In towns and market places, walls become an easy prey to such offerings, duly supported by the local civic authorities who ensure that our streets are poorly lit; if power is available, that is.

In most public spaces, denizens hardly need directions to the nearest rest room. Their keen sense of smell does not lead them astray. Their olfactory organs turn out to be better direction-finders than their GPS-enabled gizmos.

In many countries, democracy is taken pretty seriously. Quadrupeds of all sizes and shapes – whether bovine, canine, feline, or of any other kind – also believe that they have equal rights on public spaces. Since their lives invariably run as per the solar clock, they exercise their rights at any time of the day.

Bollywood Beats

Bollywood is not far behind in promoting the practice of open air urination and defecation. Showing a bunch of boys Potty Ishqiyarelieving themselves in an open space is no longer a taboo.

One of the protagonists in a recent flick (the inimitable Naseeruddin Shah in a particular scene in ‘Ishqia’) waxes eloquent over the sheer bliss of resorting to this ‘environment friendly’ practice.

However, there is some consolation that the heroine (Vidya Balan) subsequently supported a campaign by the Ministry of Sanitation and Rural Development of Government of India to promote an extensive drive towards toilet building.

Petty and Potty Problems

As we celebrate yet another World Toilet Day today (on the 19th of November), one hopes that the coming days would see a better focus on resolving this predicament of our modern lives.

Manufacturers of all kinds of sanitary products can pitch in and tackle this issue. Technocrats and scientists who are busy exploring the universe can come up with scoops designed to handle excreta of all hues and shapes.

Social scientists who keep discussing inane matters on our TV screens ad nauseam can plan for campaigns which are directed towards changing the mindset and attitudes of our citizens.

Movie directors can weave in clear messages denouncing the practice of open defecation in their future projects. Potty Vidya-BalanMayors of our cities can raise pig squads which would hopefully ensure that our streets are squeaky clean.

Politicians of all hues can stop wasting their energies in running down each other and highlighting petty problems; instead, they can address potty problems.

Mind over Matter  

The fact that we have more phones and TV sets than toilets goes on to show that, as a civilization, we accord a higher priority to matters of the mind than to those of the material body.

We are perhaps heading towards the next step of our human evolution into a species which would be far better endowed in terms of its intellectual capabilities!

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/the-monkey-business-in-india)

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Quite a few fans of P G Wodehouse often wonder as to how Jeeves and Bertie come together and why they stick PGW CarryOnJeevestogether despite having stark differences in matters of attire, appearance, love and relationships in general. Is there an underlying message in all their innumerable escapades that we are treated with, each one laced with intoxicating verbosity and linguistic opulence – a hallmark of this great author?

Getting Hired the First Time

In Jeeves Takes Charge, we are treated to the scenario of Bertie Wooster hiring Jeeves in the first place.

For the privilege of someone of the caliber of Jeeves shimmering into Bertie’s life, we have to thank two persons. One is Bertie’s previous valet, a bloke by the name of Meadows. Had he not stolen a couple of things from the master’s place, a request for a replacement would not have gone to the registry office. Second is some brainy bird at the registry who, God bless his soul, ended up sending Jeeves across. But for these two blokes, all of us would have missed a lot of fun in life.

Having attended a rather cheery party the previous night, Bertie is struggling to make sense of a book recommended by Florence Craye. Her intention was merely to boost Bertie a bit nearer to her own plane of intellect. Jeeves streams in, concocts one of his after-morning specials for the master, making hope dawn once more. He gets hired instantly.

Jeeves therefore displays an uncanny skill of diagnosing the problem and deploying his extensive knowledge and marvelous skills to whip up a solution. No marks for guessing why he gets hired in the first place. All job seekers can learn from his example.

Getting Re-hired; Becoming Indispensable

Given his track record, Jeeves does not really need to exert himself to get rehired. In Thank you, Jeeves, he puts PGW ThankYouJeevesin his papers, annoyed as he is with Bertie’s insistence on playing the banjo. Towards the end of the narrative, Chuffy, Jeeves’ new boss, decides to get married to Pauline Stoker. Bertie declares that he is no longer interested in pursuing his interest in the instrument; nor is he planning to retain Brinkley, Jeeves’ replacement. The following dialogue ensues:

Jeeves: ‘I ventured to express the hope, sir, that you might be agreeable to considering my application for the post. I should endeavor to provide satisfaction, as I trust I have done in the past.’

Bertie: ‘But…’

Jeeves: ‘I would not wish, in any case, to continue in the employment of his lordship, sir, now that he is about to be married. I yield to no one in my admiration for the many qualities of Miss Stoker, but it has never been my policy to serve in the household of a married gentleman.’

Bertie: ‘Why not?’

Jeeves: ‘It is merely a personal feeling, sir.’

Bertie: ‘I see what you mean. The psychology of the individual?’

Jeeves: ‘Precisely, sir.’

Bertie: ‘And you really want to come back with me?’

Jeeves: ‘I should deem it a great privilege, sir, if you would allow me to do so, sir, unless you are thinking of making other plans.’

He gets re-hired!

Employees who wish to be labeled as indispensable have to be in the learning mode, almost always. Those who continue to ‘sharpen their saw’ (as Stephen Covey would put it) stand a much better chance of attaining this exalted status.

Key challenges faced by HR honchos are: (a) Retaining good people who are routinely getting poached by aggressive competitors, (b) Wishing away those who are below average performers, and (c) Keep motivating those who are average performers but believe themselves to be star performers!

Managements need to identify critical positions in the organization which need continuity over a longer duration so as to bring home the bacon. In not-so-critical slots, they could otherwise end up being vulnerable to people who prove themselves to be indispensable.

The Art of Gentle Persuasion

In one of the rare pieces written by P G Wodehouse on behalf of Jeeves, Bertie Changes his Mind, Bertie PGW MuchObligedJeevesexpresses his frustration at the monotony of his life and his loneliness. He says he desires to have a larger house with several children prattling about around him. Jeeves realizes that if a wife comes in from the front door, he – the valet of bachelor days – has to go out at the back.

Landing up at a girls’ school, Jeeves manages to portray his master as a celebrity and somehow motivates the headmistress Miss Tomlinson to announce a lecture by Bertie Wooster to the students. The assembled lot of giggling students quickly manages to unnerve Bertie, thereby erasing from his mind any thoughts of children and matrimony. Thus, Jeeves’ employment prospects remain unaffected.

Smart managers often use the art of gentle persuasion to get overly enthusiastic employees to be realistic in their goals, thereby improving the team’s contribution to the organizational goals.

Jeeves is not a Yes-Man

On several occasions, there arise serious differences between the two. Even if Bertie displays annoyance and irritation, Jeeves remains steadfast in his views. Right from purple socks, check suits, mauve pyjamas and pink-feathered alpine hats to growing a moustache, Bertie invariably has to give up his bizarre tastes to accommodate the rather rigid views of Jeeves in matters of attire and appearance.

Yes, there are times when Jeeves appears to be rather flexible in his approach. For example, in Much Obliged, Jeeves, he confesses to having destroyed the eighteen pages of The Junior Ganymede club book, covering some intimate details about Bertie.

When Bertie contemplates a marriage, Jeeves does not hesitate to speak freely. In Jeeves Takes Charge, he tells Bertie that Florence Craye is of a highly determined and arbitrary temperament, quite opposed to his own. In Jeeves in the Offing, he opines that Roberta Wickham is volatile and frivolous.

This is a sterling trait of Jeeves’ character, worth emulating for all senior managers. Registering dissent in a polite but firm manner is a great quality to have.

What makes Jeeves and Bertie Tick

The fact that Jeeves gets unbridled authority to run Bertie’s affairs single-handedly is surely an important motive for PGW JeevesInTheOffinghim to aspire to continue in latter’s employment.

As to Bertie, he desists from the prospect of ever getting married. He shudders to think of Honoria Glossop who is hearty and a confirmed back-slapper. Madeline Bassett has large, melting eyes and thinks the stars are god’s daisy chain. Roberta Wickham is easy on the eyes but has the disposition and general outlook on life of a ticking bomb. Pauline stoker has the grave defect of being one of those girls who want you to come and swim a mile before breakfast and expect you to play five sets of tennis post-lunch. Florence Craye is an intellectual girl, who would like the male of the species to be sculpted into fine examples of cerebral excellence.

Also, Bertie is a perfectly chivalrous gentleman. He is bound by the Wooster Code which does not allow him to refuse a proposal coming his way. Nor does it allow him to bandy the name of a female in public. He is always open to risking his own reputation to help a pal of his.

Bertie and Jeeves – A Formidable Team

Why does Bertie allow himself to be dominated over by his valet? Despite being an employer, he is reduced to a hapless victim of circumstances and Jeeves invariably gets the full credit for having pulled him out of the soup almost every time. Bertie’s aunts consider him a blot on the landscape. His close friends, while seeking favors from him, describe him as being utterly unselfish. At times, he is held to be mentally negligible!

Overall, we get the picture of a person who represents a decaying aristocracy, is content to live a routine and comforting life where he is surrounded by goofy friends, potty females and scheming aunts. As to thinking things through deeply, he appears to have outsourced this function in his life to Jeeves. It is not that he does not try coming up with fruity schemes. Unfortunately, the harder he tries, more of a mess his intended beneficiaries get in to. Add to this his obvious distaste for a saunter down the aisle and the picture is almost complete.

In The Inimitable Jeeves, we are treated to a scenario where Bertie has made up his mind to sack Jeeves.  To PGW Inimitable_jeevesquote a delectable passage from the memoirs:

I buzzed into the flat like an east wind…and there was the box of cigarettes on the small table and the illustrated weekly papers on the big table and my slippers on the floor, and every dashed thing so bally right, if you know what I mean, that I started to calm down in the first two seconds. …. Softened, I mean to say. That is the word I want. I was softened.

Needless to say, Jeeves stays put!

P G Wodehouse has visualized two characters which form a mutually appreciative team. Both Bertie and Jeeves complement each other, thereby forming a perfect team.

In business organizations, it is not uncommon to find teams comprising members who play the roles of Bertie and Jeeves alternately. Smart bosses often form such teams to extract the best results in a difficult situation.

A Beacon of Hope   

The character of Jeeves essentially symbolizes hope for all those who are depressed and temporarily knocked off by the rugged punches of life. He stands out as a friend, philosopher and guide – par excellence.

Howsoever bleak the scenario in life, if one picks up any of Wodehouse’s works, the clouds in one’s life start getting cleared away, the good old sun starts buzzing along on all six cylinders, the sky turns a bright shade of azure, the birds start chirping merrily, a soft breeze starts swaying the palm trees, the spirit is uplifted and one feels…,well, I mean, dash it!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/when-jeeevs-takes-charge)

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All diehard fans of P G Wodehouse are well aware that when Jeeves takes charge, things begin to happen. When PGW HughLaurie-BertieWoostermatters spin out of control and Bertie is twiddling his thumbs trying to figure out how to handle the harsh slings and arrows of life, Jeeves invariably comes to his rescue. With his eyes gleaming with intelligence and the head bulging out at the back, Jeeves is there to provide solace to his master. All others who repose their trust in his superior problem-solving abilities merely need to leave matters in his deft hands and positive results start showing up. More often than not, anyone who comes to depend upon him is concerned if he is eating enough fish those days. And no one really minds being a mere pawn in his hands because he delivers solid results.

How does Jeeves really pull it off? Here are some of the problem-solving techniques one can learn from the inimitable and incomparable Master Problem Solver.

The Psychology of the Individual

This is a recurring theme and the cornerstone of Jeeves’ policies and prescriptions. The root cause of all troubles is the absence of an in-depth understanding of the motivating forces governing the actions of an individual. Once this is properly addressed, results are sure to follow.

To quote only one example, we have the case of Esmond Haddock in The Mating Season. He is a man of retiring PGW MatingSeasondisposition and suffers from an inferiority complex. He quivers like a jelly fish when facing any of his several aunts. Just before he is set to perform at a concert, Bertie and Jeeves manage to let him have an intoxicating intake of the old fluid. Also, Jeeves manages to buy out some captive audience which goes on to cheer him with gay abandon. The result is a Haddock who is buoyed by his spectacular success in a public forum. He sheds all his meekness and promptly proceeds to propose to Corky, the love of his life. He then manages to tick off his aunts Daphne, Emmeline, Charlotte, Harriet and Myrtle, even going to the extent of blaming them for insubordination. As a Justice of Peace, he restrains Constable Dobbs from putting his would-be brother-in-law in the jail for a month.

Ask a business leader and he might just shrug his shoulders and say, ‘What ho!’ Well, the message here is very clear – if you have a silent and submissive type of a person in your team, ensure that you take necessary steps to draw him out. For all you know, he could have some very good ideas which could boost the team’s performance manifold.

Handling employees at all levels, conveying negative news to a team member, managing a customer grievance – in all situations, it helps to have a prior understanding of the psychology of an individual.

Meeting the Boss Half-way

Jeeves is invariably proactive. When it comes to extending the helping hand to a master in distress, he takes immediate steps through proper channels to provide succor to the poor lamb. Sometimes it is the liquor which does the trick. At times, either a hearty breakfast or one of his pick-me-ups brings home the bacon. In most cases, help comes in even before Bertie has asked for it. In some cases, it involves Jeeves painting Bertie in rather unflattering colors to those around!

Consider the memoirs titled as Jeeves in the Offing. Jeeves has gone off on a vacation and Bertie has landed up at PGW JeevesInTheOffingBrinkley Court. He looks forward to enjoying the hospitality of his Aunt Dahlia, not to mention the exotic dishes whipped up by Anatole – God’s gift to the gastric juices. However, the joy is short-lived as he is surrounded by the likes of a potty ex-fiancée Bobbie Wickham, Mrs. Cream the crime writer, his favorite brain specialist Sir Roderick Glossop and his ex-headmaster Aubrey Upjohn. A tax-saving lucrative deal of Uncle Tom is at stake and a silver cow creamer has gone missing.

Jeeves returns and Bertie gets extricated from the imbroglio he has gotten himself into. Yes, there is a flip side. All concerned have to be first convinced – by Jeeves, who else – that Bertie is off his rocker and a kleptomaniac. With Bertie taking the rap for having stolen the silver cow creamer, everything else falls into place. Uncle Tom’s deal comes through.

Eventually, Bertie’s frayed nerves are soothed by the fact that he has sacrificed himself in the interests of his uncle. And, yes, there are always cocktails at hand to help!

Here is an important lesson for all professionals – meet the boss half-way through. Plan and offer help even before he himself asks for it. Your career is bound to go places.

Keep Trying till you Succeed

In Ring for Jeeves, to clear a financial obligation, the ninth Earl of Rowcester, Bill, is persuaded to purloin aPGW RingForJeeves diamond pendant from the persona of Mrs. Spottsworth, who is not only a guest but also a potential buyer of Rowcester Abbey. The first attempt, by using a ‘spider sequence’, results into the pendant instead finding its way into the recesses of the lady’s costume. A Charleston dance is then arranged, with the fond hope that the pendant gets dislodged from the lady’s costume and can then be retrieved unnoticed from the floor. This too fails.

A third attempt is then made. The lady is interested in psychical research and is keen on seeing Lady Agatha’s ghost. Jeeves offers to lure her away in the dead of night, claiming that the ghost has indeed made an appearance in the castle on the grounds, whereupon Bill enters her bedroom and secures the pendant. Mission accomplished.

There are times when difficulties sound insurmountable. Repeated failures bog us down. But with Jeeves egging us on with newer schemes, can success be far behind?

An Out-of-box Approach

When the situation becomes too hot to handle for the master, Jeeves does not shy away from recommending a tactical retreat. In some cases, a quiet escape merely amounts to a drive back to London from a stately estate out in the hinterland (Joy in the Morning, The Mating Season, etc). In ‘The Artistic Career of Corky’, as also elsewhere, when faced by the impending wrath of a formidable Aunt Agatha, a voyage across the Atlantic helps Bertie Wooster to earn mental reprieve.

To Jeeves, ends are more important than the means. However, he eventually delivers solace and comfort to his boss, PGW ThankYouJeeveswho continues to live his idle bachelor life without an interruption.

In Thank You, Jeeves, Bertie Wooster is finally persuaded to impersonate the loony doctor Sir Roderick Glossop and to appear as an accused in a case in which he is not even remotely at fault. The result is that a real estate deal gets firmed up between Pop Stoker and Chuffy; also, a wedding gets finalized between Chuffy and Pauline Stoker. In turn, this releases Bertie from the obligation of getting married to Pauline. All this happens because Jeeves quietly manages to secure a telegram from USA indicating that the late Mr. Stoker’s will is getting contested, thus leading to reconciliation between Pop Stoker and Sir Roderick.

A Feudal Outlook

Throughout the memoirs of Bertie, Jeeves displays an abiding commitment to his master.

In Ring for Jeeves, the gentleman of gentlemen is temporarily assisting Bill. Eventually, a letter comes in from Bertie that even though he had won a prize at sock darning, it was found that he had used an old woman to do the work. The scandal has affected him deeply and Jeeves feels that his place is by the side of his master. He therefore declines a generous offer of employment by Bill.

Consider Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. Suspected of stealing a statuette from the collection of Pop Bassett, the youngPGW StiffUpperLip master is cooling his heels in a police bin. Jeeves has a job offer from Sir Watkyn Bassett. Jeeves accepts the offer on the condition that the latter refrains from pressing the charges, thereby securing freedom for Bertie. When Jeeves shares the news with Bertie, he can hardly believe his ears. Jeeves clears the mystery thus:

‘I think it more than possible that after perhaps a week or so, differences will arise between Sir Watkyn and myself, compelling me to resign my position. In that event, if you are not already suited, sir, I shall be most happy to return to your employment.’

Senior managers at all levels fervently wish to have many such committed team members supporting them!

Breaking the Eggs to Make an Omelette

In Right Ho, Jeeves, Gussie Fink-Nottle – a teetotaler – ends up distributing prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar PGW RightHoJeevesSchool after getting duly sozzled up. With so much of the right stuff sloshing about within him, he comes up with a highly comic performance. Unfortunately, his betrothed, Madeline Bassett, takes a rather dim view of the whole affair and ends up putting him on notice. On the rebound, she ends up hitching her lot with the hapless Bertie who is now stuck with the prospect of a saunter down the aisle with the goofy lady who thinks stars are god’s daisy chain.

Jeeves makes Bertie ring the fire alarm bell at the stroke of midnight hour, leaving the entire family out in the cold, apparently locked out of the living quarters of Brinkley Court. All of them are upset with Bertie who is then made to fetch the house keys by means of a futile eighteen-mile midnight ride on a bicycle without a lamp. Meanwhile, various members of the group start ironing out their respective differences. Even Gussie and Madeline reunite, thereby getting Bertie off the hook.

The dialogue at the end of the ordeal says it all:

Bertie: ‘I suppose you might say that all is well that ends well’.

Jeeves: ‘Very apt, sir’.

Bertie: ‘All the same, your methods are a bit rough, Jeeves’.

Jeeves: ‘One cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, sir’.

The message is that when you wish to unite a team the members of which do not see eye to eye, bring in a person who can become the center of common animosity and see how quickly the team becomes united once again.

A logical extension is that mention a grandiose vision to your team members and see how charged up they get about doing their own bit to achieve solid results.

Extensive Knowledge Helps

In Ring for Jeeves, Sir Roderick Carmoyle and his wife Monica Rory consult Jeeves on the matter of choosing a favorite for the upcoming Derby. They are baffled at the depth of knowledge Jeeves possesses about the chances of various horses competing for the top slot at the Derby. He manages to quote names, lineage, timings and quite a few other details of various contestants, leaving both of them dazzled.

In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, the inimitable valet comes up with a lucid explanation of holding a much coveted PGW JeevesAndTheFeudalSpiritpearl necklace to be a poor intimation. The result is two-fold: an otherwise meek husband L G Trotter ends up dominating his aggressive better half; Ma Trotter’s brother ends up confessing his having pawned the real necklace to raise funds for a play written by the love of his life, Florence Craye, who loses no time in accepting him as a soul mate. In turn, this leads to Bertie being relieved from the life-long prospect of having to read and memorize intellectual stuff like that of Spinoza and company.

Poems, quotations, literary quips and an extensive knowledge of diverse affairs are some of the unique qualities of Jeeves. He is apt to pull out one fit for any occasion, essentially to register a point and to explain his own analytical endeavors. Similar qualities come in handy for any manager who wishes to lead a team in an effective manner.

Nerves of Steel

Howsoever grave the situation at hand, Jeeves shows virtually no sign of agitation. At the very worst, a minor flicker of one of his eyebrows is the only sign that the situation is indeed grave. When the young master is jumping about like a cat on hot tin roof, Jeeves maintains his equipoise and calm.

When the master waxes eloquent on a critical occurrence, Jeeves favorite responses are either ‘Indeed, sir?’ or ‘Disturbing, sir’. Understandably, this infuriates Bertie more often than not.

A tough inner core is what it all amounts to – a quality many business leaders would like to imbibe and emulate. Unfortunately, they don’t teach this at Harvard.

Listening with Respectful Benevolence

This is one of the many admirable qualities that Jeeves possesses. When a character comes across a baffling situation, all he/she has to do is to share it with him, pretty assured that he would lend a respectful ear. Often, when the young master comes up with a fruity scheme which he wants to handle all by himself, Jeeves is all sympathy and benevolence. This, despite the knowledge that pretty soon he would be called upon to lend a helping hand so as to PGWodehouseextricate the master from a royal mess of his own creation.

All of us need a Jeeves in our lives!

Jeeves is a man of extraordinary sagacity and never fails to deliver the goods. He can be relied upon to untangle the most ferocious of muddles that people may land in.

It does not really matter which profession one follows in life. Whether one is a manager, a doctor, a technocrat or an artist, there are valuable insights available from Jeeves in handling one’s affairs.

Literature is replete with characters which tell us how to get out of a messy situation in our lives. P G Wodehouse has undoubtedly left behind an idyllic world for us to marvel at and enjoy and learn from. What is presented here is merely a modest attempt to capture a very small slice of the delightful universe of his works.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/when-jeeves-takes-charge-2-0)

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SoulCarriedtoHeavenI am left wondering……

From which plane of existence do the new souls join us?

How do they select our children as their parents?

Do they descend from the ethereal worlds beyond

And provide us a glimpse back into the sheer joy of childhood?

With sharp and clear eyes denoting strong and resolute souls

Unalloyed, pure, simple thinking minds,

Yet to be corrupted by influences

Of what we believe is the civilized world!

Blessed with bodies the flexibility of which

Leaves us a wee bit dumbfounded!

Easily persuaded to shift attention to other objects of fancy

Each fancy having a short time span of but a few minutes;

Eager to learn more and more,

Persistent in demanding fulfillment of basic needs,

Crying for immediate attention,

Teaching us about getting things done with an obliging cute smile,

Or regaling us with gestures which are hard to forget!

In the future lie their myriad challenges

Of new technologies and methods

Of living, behaving and conducting oneself;

Carrying on their slender shoulders

The unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of their earlier generations

Working in a universe full of uncertainty

On a planet which is forever shrinking in time, space and resources.

May the Divine bestow upon them

All the mental and physical dexterity

Required to cope with challenges of environment and circumstances

During this life span of theirs;

And infinite bliss and solitude

When they reunite with the Divine!

(Image ‘Soul Being Carried to Heaven’ courtesy Wikipedia)

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Nina Davaluri, a dark beauty of Indian origin, recently got crowned as Miss America. She ended up eliciting a backlash of Dark Nina_Davulurixenophobic and racist comments. Yet again, this brought to the fore our predisposition to judge people by the color of their skins.

We tend to forget that the pigmentation of our skins is a work of nature. To be able to judge people better, we have to look a little deeper. Their character, their attitudes and the qualities of head and heart are some of the attributes which define the real person behind the veneer of skin which could be of any hue or grain. Irrespective of the color of the skin, those who have true talent and a pure soul continue to outshine all around them in a very natural manner.

In marketing parlance, we live in times when the packaging appears to be more important than the product. But this is a myopic view of things. If the product does not perform to the satisfaction of the customer, it will eventually fade away. Likewise, irrespective of looks or the color of one’s skin, if a person has what it takes to be successful in a career, he/she is bound to get noticed sooner or later.

The Not-so-fair Divas

We have several examples out of tinsel town where gutsy divas are known to have clawed their way up to success despite having a skin tone which could be called anything but fair. Here is a quick look at some of those who continue to be heart throbs of millions of movie buffs all over the planet. Most of them have a multi-dimensional personality. Just to rustle up the memory cells, a single movie for each one of these divas also finds a mention. Admittedly, there are several others for which they are remembered.

Angela Bassett

(What’s Love Got to Do with It, 1993)

Dark Angela_Bassett

Bipasha Basu

(Corporate, 2006)

Dark Bipasha_Basu

Deepti Naval

(Chashme Baddoor, 1981)

Black Deepti_Naval

Deepika Padukone

(Love Aaj Kal, 2009)

Dark Deepika_Padukone

Halle Berry

(Die Another Day, 2002)

Dark Halle_Berry

Jennifer Lopez

(Maid in Manhattan, 2002)

Dark Jennifer_Lopez

Kajol

(Fanaa, 2006)

Dark Kajol

Konkona Sen Sharma

(Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, 2002)

Dark Konkona

Nandita Das

(Earth, 1998)

Dark NanditaDas

Rekha

(Khubsoorat, 1980)

Dark Rekha 1

Shabana Azmi

(Saaz, 1997)

Dark Shabana_Azmi

Smita Patil

(Mirch Masala, 1985)

Dark Smita_Patil

Sridevi

(English Vinglish, 2012)

Dark Sri Devi

The Perks of Being Chocolate-hued

All those who feel disheartened by the prominence of the fairer amongst us may take heart from the fact that most of them support a multi-billion industry which churns out fairness creams, thereby creating employment opportunities for many of our denizens.

Some orthopaedicians are of the opinion that those blessed with a dark skin have stronger bones because they end up absorbing much more Vitamin D from natural sunlight. Hence, they face lesser risk of being afflicted with either osteopenia or osteoporosis!

The Yearning for a Dark Tan

There are an equal number of fair skinned ones who would go to great lengths to acquire a darker tan. This yearning makes Dark Bandinipeople pack up their bags and head to the nearest sun-bathed tropical beaches over most weekends.

In one of the immortal songs penned by lyricist Gulzar for an old Hindi movie ‘Bandini’ (The Imprisoned, Director Bimal Roy, 1963), the fair skinned heroine expresses her yearning for a darker complexion thus:

‘Mera gora ang layi le, mohe shyam rang dayi de,

Chuup jaoongi raat mein, mujhe pee ka sang dai de.’

(Take away my limbs so fair, give my skin a dark hue,

So I may hide in the dark night, grant me the company of my beloved’)

A Festival to Dispel DarknessDeepawali-festival

As we get ready to celebrate the Festival of Lights in India, let us be aware that the real darkness to be dispelled is that of some of our belief systems and prejudices. In some regions, these take the form of apartheid; in some areas, these manifest as exploitation of the disadvantaged; whereas in some others these come up as harassment of the delicately nurtured.

The diversity of homo-sapiens – whether in terms of race, caste, creed, ethnic origin, monetary status, sex and the hues of the skin – is a wonderful fact of life which simply deserves to be celebrated. The brown and black beauties and celebrities from Hollywood, Bollywood and elsewhere are living examples of the fact that merit ranks supreme in any walk of life!

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