Archive for March, 2015

When it comes to upholding righteousness in our turbulent times, instances from Indian scriptures offer invaluable insights.


India can justifiably boast of a long history of culture, tradition and values. Scriptures of Indian origin are a treasure trove of nuggets of wisdom. These continue to be relevant in the current context and also find ready application in the field of business management and administration.

Here are some of the areas where I believe Ramayana can inspire management14 practitioners.

  • A Premium on Values

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.

A random sample of all successful business houses which have been around for more than a century now – Siemens and Tatas, for instance – is ample proof that ethics in…

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When it comes to awards, Blogosphere could compete with any other activity of human creativity. Unfortunately, to a person like me, of rather limited intelligence, the awards on offer have so far appeared to be those of a ‘you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours’ kind. But when a fellow resident of Blogosphere decides to write about another blog that we have also come to respect and admire, things sound quite different.

What better recognition can a blogger hope for?!

Permit me to share a blog post by Victoria Madden which speaks of the discovery of ‘Plumtopia’ and ‘ashokbhatia.’

Thanks again, Victoria Madden.

Moulders Lane

I got into blogging almost by accident: I was writing a book and it occured to me – I still don’t know how, I’m a complete techno-idiot – that putting my ideas online would help me get a better perspective on what I was writing.  After many diversions I ended up with three, inter-related blogs: one of which you are now reading.

When someone actually posted a (very nice) comment on an article I’d written here that mentioned P. G. Wodehouse, I had a feeling of slight alarm.  I spent two or three months looking at it doubtfully, then took the plunge and rather gingerly added it to my post. More time passed.

It finally occurred to me to wonder who this person from the Internet was who’d left such an astute and gratifying comment – and more particularly, how they’d found my post.  I followed the link like Alice…

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It is not altogether wrong to say that it is the early worm which gets caught! Quite a few managers have perfected the art of selective amnesia and acquired honorary membership of the Global Procrastinators’ Club.COMPLACENCY

Procrastination works best when the idea is to delay a crucial decision which, if taken at that point in time, could create more problems than it would solve. Governments appear to do it all the time. The flip side is the higher probability of losing a business opportunity.

With due respects to Newton and Einstein, we do have some Laws of Procrastination:

The First Law

A task which has been put on hold will remain undone till the time an external force is applied.

The force could come either from your boss or from a peer or a subordinate. In matters of domestic chores, reluctant husbands succumb to the pressure applied by a nagging wife all the time.

Those who push you deserve to be treated with respect.

The decision to not to take up the task is still yours.Scientist IsaacNewton-1689

The Second Law

Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration.

For people, ‘Mass’ denotes their ego level and seniority in the company. The higher the ego/seniority, the more the force required to get a person to do the work in an accelerated manner.

It follows that the higher you happen to be in the hierarchy, the easier it is for you to indulge in the luxury of sleeping over a problem; if you are still stuck in the lower echelons, try to exert an inner push on yourself to overcome the static inertia. If you don’t, a pink slip could soon become a painful reality.

The Third Law

Any action results into an equal and opposite reaction.

If the reaction of a decision being taken by you is going to be counter-productive, take no action. Simply join the Global Procrastinators’ Club and be happy.

Theory of Procrastinative RelativityScientist Albert_Einstein

The following tenets may be considered:
• Bosses always expect you to do things at speeds higher than that of light (read thought).
• The Propensity to Procrastinate is inversely proportion to the visibility of the task at hand. A mail from a junior team member can remain unopened for a week. A mail on the same subject from the CEO has to be attended to at the speed of light.
• The Propensity to Procrastinate is directly proportional to the manager’s frame of reference. If the manager’s role model happens to be a sloppy performer, the propensity is higher. If the role model is a star performer, the propensity may vanish altogether.
• The relative difficulty of taking up a much-delayed task is directly proportional to the delay itself. The more the delay, the more difficult it is to take up that particular task.

A Statistical Approach to Procrastination

Much like in Time Series Analysis, a manager’s Propensity to Procrastinate can be explained in terms of four factors:
(a) Long term, which is inbuilt into the character and the attitude of the manager,

(b) Cyclical, determined by the performance appraisal cycle of the organization, with weeks just preceding the annual appraisal ritual registering the lowest values of Propensity to Procrastinate,

(c) Seasonal, linked to the overall mood of the organization, whether upbeat or downcast, as also to the relative importance of the issue at hand,

(d) Random fluctuations, related to the mood of either the boss or the manager.

How do you handle procrastination? Is there any facet that you would like to share by way of comments below?

(A version of this post appears in the book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’ authored by yours truly)

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Can a business be run without resorting to corrupt practices? This was one of the several questions attempted to be answered by management experts at a recent seminar organized by Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research at Pondicherry (SACAR) at Pondicherry in India.1 Inaugural Session IMG_2266At every step, a business faces a choice – whether to indulge in corrupt practices to get what is its legitimate due, or face hardships and bottlenecks in meeting its obligations towards such stakeholders as its suppliers and employees.SACAR Dr ReddyThere are no simple answers to this vexed issue. However, there could be innovative ways of handling such challenges. A strong anti-corruption image helps. The conviction, that this is just not done, takes time to radiate to those who place such a demand on the business.

Another way to face such a challenge is to politely decline meeting an illegal demand. Instead, an offer to fund a legitimate activity which falls in the realm of CSR and shores up the image of the official/department concerned could get readily accepted. This could be by way of toilets being set up in schools, trees being planted and maintained on a main thoroughfare, or by investing in a scheme of social benefit.

???????????????????????????????The conviction emanates from an inner strength and a resolve to ensure that the dealings of the corporate concerned remain above board. Once adopted and marketed as a strategic choice, the business gains in the long-term – by adding value to its own brand equity and by gaining public trust. In turn, this could be leveraged to command better margins in the market place and also to attract better talent at a lesser cost.???????????????????????????????According to a business captain who addressed the participants at the seminar, the core mantra is to not to readily give in to illegitimate demands and to do simply what is in one’s control. The path of righteousness is not easy to tread but can be adhered to successfully if the top management has the necessary conviction. Decision making based on good values and an inner connection always helps a business person to strike this delicate balance in its operations.

Speakers at the seminar also touched upon VUCA and the increasing rate of change in the business environment. Studies which have proved that businesses which adhere to the basic values of honour, truth, beauty, justice and love were quoted do better in the long run. Participants were exposed to leadership lessons drawn from such Indian scriptures as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Thirukkural and also from Sri Aurobindo’s works.???????????????????????????????The value of meditation and resultant control of one’s mind was demonstrated. A panel discussion explained the likely changes in the business environment over the next decade and outlined the leadership and management attributes which would become more relevant in the times to come. The emphasis was on leaders who steer their businesses not only directed by an economic compass but also by a moral one.

The seminar, entitled ‘Preparing Future Business Leaders and Managers: An Inner Approach’, drew an enthusiastic response from business managers, scholars and students alike. It was addressed by Dr. Ananda Reddy, Director of SACAR, Mr. R. Mananathan, Chairman and MD, Manatec group of companies, Prof R. P. Raya, Dean, School of Management, Pondicherry University, Dr. Saikat Sen from SAFIM, Prof. Kisholoy Gupta, Mr. J. V. Avadhanulu, Mr. Ganesh Babu and yours truly;  a heady mix of management educators, lifestyle coaches, business thinkers and influencers.

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Rest in Mirth, TP.


It is too early to begin contemplating the enormous loss to literature, and our lives, that will follow Terry Pratchett‘s sad passing today. The news has upset me too deeply to write at length, but I wanted to add my small voice to the millions who will surely be mourning Terry Pratchett’s death and celebrating his life over the coming days.

Please forgive me for quoting from my own 2013 review of his novel I Shall Wear Midnight, which expresses a little of my feelings.

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (2010)I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Terry Pratchett, not just for the pleasure his writing has given me, but for demonstrating what can happen when intelligence, humour and IDEAS work together.

How people think they can achieve anything seriously worthwhile without humour is beyond me. But it’s worse than that. Our world is run – and our ‘important thinking’ done, predominantly…

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c1 (25)You can be forgiven if you think we, the people of India, have let you down,
We have deeply ingrained prejudices upon which many of us do frown;
Like an ostrich, or like the three monkeys of the Father of our Nation,
We refuse to hear, see or speak evil, or to examine our value fixation.

Our society needs to stop mistreating and tormenting those of your kind,
Killing the likes of you in the womb, denying them a healthy body and mind;
Treating them like mere toys, made to fulfill the males’ lustful impulses,
Prisoners to their patriarchical mindset, ignoring your appeals and curses.

Some of us would like to know why at all you went out on that fateful day,
Why did you have to flag a bus full of maniacs while finding your way?
Were you not being stupid when you dressed the way you did that night?
Did you not realize we will continue to mentally undress you with all our might?

Some claim that you never had the right to resist even a ‘normal’ assault,
Hoping for a shred of mercy from your tormentors was only your fault;
When they tried to force themselves on you, you were naïve to protest,
You were expected to meekly surrender and be subservient to their lust.

You stood up, you resisted, you protested, and sealed your fate,
Escaping ignonimity at the hands of your family and a future mate;
Had you lived, lawyers would have made you relive the horror repeatedly,
The butchers who disemboweled you would have gazed at you heatedly.

In your death, you have found silence and peace, an end to your suffering,
A freedom from the denial of opportunities to live life your way, with a zing;
But you have set for your sisters a new benchmark of courage and hope,
To face social prejudice, stigma and gender bias with a short rope.

Thanks to you, women are now fighting back, reporting misdeeds,
Politicos no longer sure of winning elections till they take care of your needs;
The delicately nurtured are now more aware of their situation and rights,
Standing up to be counted as citizens, demanding respect and scaling new heights.

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For avid fans of P G Wodehouse, it is not easy to relish the kind of comedies Bollywood keeps churning out. Humour which is loud, crass and uncouth repels them. Back-slapping and guffawing is something they do not take kindly to. What appeals to their finer sensibilities is a subtle brand of humour. Even mild sarcasm does not make their shapely eyebrows arch upwards by a fraction of an inch, as long as it is delivered in fine taste.Movie Mad world

Play a so-called comedy which is full of inane humour, double entendres and much back-slapping, and they are apt to recoil in horror. Bring in a typical rom-com and they would bemoan the repetitive nature of the goings on. But switch to a movie with a dash of Wodehousian humour, and one would find them in good cheer, nibbling a yummy chocolate with their soul-mate sprawled next to them on the couch.

The purists amongst us would argue that movies mentioned below are not even a pale shadow of the original sunlit brilliance of the Wodehousian brand of humour. No disagreement whatsoever. Wodehouse is Wodehouse. He stands tall and alone in providing soothing comfort to tormented souls on this planet.

Yet, let us not overlook the fact that the luxury of eloquence enjoyed by literature is simply not available to movie Movie Mrs_Doubtfiremakers. Moreover, the commercial considerations weigh much more on the minds of a producer-director duo whose principal aim is to set the box office afire. Given these constraints, if a team does come up with an offering which is clean and unalloyed fun, due credit may be given. Yes, the movies listed below were not based on Wodehousian narratives. But they deserve a mention because at least a part of them manages to capture the kind of subtle humour which the residents of Plumsville relish.

From the stable of Hollywood, one fondly recalls movies like ‘It is a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World’, ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, ‘Baby’s Day Out’ and ‘Dunston Checks In’, just to mention a few.

Bollywood has also churned out quite a few rollicking comedies, but very few of these have the dash of subtlety which is the hallmark of Wodehouse in literature.

Here is a quick look at movies which have provided us a clean, sumptuous and sophisticated comic fare over the years.

Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958 (That which runs is a vehicle)


A story of three brothers who run an auto garage. The eldest takes a jaundiced view of the delicately nurtured and complications arise when the younger ones start behaving like Bingo Little and discover the Rosie M Banks of their lives.

Pyar Kiye Jaa, 1966 (Keep Loving)Movie Pyaar_kiye_jaaA story of two couples who resort to a bag of tricks to get united. The scene where a Tuppy Glossop (Mehmood) aspiring to turn a movie director narrates a scene to Pop Glossop (Om Prakash) shall forever remain fresh in the memory of those who love a dash of Wodehousian humour on celluloid.

Padosan, 1968 (The Lady Neighbor)Movie PadosanA musical which brought out the Indian North-South divide in a humorous manner. A Bertie-like simpleton attempts to woo the woman in a neighboring house. A Jeeves-like friend, played by the inimitable Kishore Kumar, helps him in his mission.

Bawarchi, 1972 (The Chef)Movie BawarchiWarmth of relationships in a joint family gets revived, thanks to the efforts of a servant. Much like Jeeves, he has a solution to all their problems.

Piya Ka Ghar, 1972 (House of the Beloved)Movie Piya_Ka_Ghar,_1972A humorous take on the shortage of housing in the city of Mumbai. A newly married couple tries to find some privacy in a small place which is infested with parents, an elder brother and his wife, a young brother, inquisitive neighbors, intrusive friends and, of course, some mice.

Rajnigandha, 1974 (Tuberose)Movie Rajnigandha,_1974A Madeline Bassett has to make a choice between two persons, eventually deciding in favor of a Bertie-like simpleton. Based on a story by Manu Bhandari.

Chhoti Si Baat, 1975 (Such a Small Matter)Movie Chhoti_Si_BaatA Gussie Fink-Nottle type hero, shy and diffident to the core, gets tongue-tied when it comes to winning over the love of his life. Coaching by a Jeeves-type expert makes him successful in his endeavors. Based on ‘The School for Scoundrels’, a 1960 British comedy.

Chupke Chupke, 1975 (Hush Hush)Chupke_Chupke posterA rip-roaring treatise on the eccentricities of the linguistic purists. Tired of the lavish praises being heaped by his newly wedded wife onto her Lord Emsworth type brother-in-law, the husband assumes the role of a driver in the latter’s family. Much hilarity ensues as one subterfuge leads to another, eventually making the brother-in-law realize that he has indeed been outwitted.

Khatta Meetha, 1978 (Sweet and Sour)Movie Khatta_Meetha_(1978)An elderly couple ties the knot and handles the challenge of keeping their grown up children together. If Piggy and Maudie had children when they decided to live together, the scenario would have perhaps played out along similar lines. Unfortunately, a Jeeves does not figure in the narrative, nor does the lining of the stomach.

Baton Baton Mein, 1979 (By the way)Movie Baton Baton MeinA light-hearted comedy about two young persons discovering their love for each other. The only complication in their love story is the Gussie-like boy’s shyness in clearly expressing his love for the girl.

Gol Maal, 1979  (Hodgepodge)220px-Golmal_PosterA well-intended pun directed at moustache maniacs. A father, in the mould of a Pop Bassett, is convinced that those without a moustache are characterless. Unwittingly, his daughter falls for a smart young man who wears a false moustache to get a well-paying job with her father. Much hilarity ensues and the father eventually relents and accepts their marriage.

Khubsoorat, 1980 (The Beautiful One)Movie khoobsuratThe need to strike a healthy balance between freedom and discipline in family life, espousing the cause of nirmal anand (unalloyed bliss). The lady of the house is a strict disciplinarian; a stiff-upper-lipped person, much like Aunt Agatha. A Bobby Wickham type heroine who believes in spontaneity walks in and wins the heart of the family.

Chashme Buddoor, 1981 (Let No Evil Glance Come Your Way)Movie Chashme_BuddoorA youthful story of three friends and a damsel who is not in distress. Two of the friends are jealous of the third one for whom the damsel falls and create a rift between the two. Luckily, the damsel has an aunt fashioned on the lines of Dahlia, who intervenes to reunite the couple.

Naram Garam, 1981 (Soft but Hot)Movie Naram_GaramWhen a Lord Emsworth type landlord decides to get married to a much younger Honoria Glossop, the employee hero needs to call in the landlord’s young daughter and former mother-in-law to the marriage venue so as to walk down the aisle himself. In the process, he is able to negotiate a hefty increment as well as secure possession of a big house to stay in. The hero sounds like a Bertie, though with brains of a Jeeves.

Angoor, 1982 (The Grapes)Movie AngoorA modern-day take on ‘The Comedy of Errors’, with two pairs of identical twins getting mixed up in a series of funny situations.

Satte pe Satta, 1982 (Seven on Seven)Movie Satte_Pe_SattaA comic thriller, adapted from the 1954 Movie ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’

Hamari Bahu Alka, 1982 (Alka, our Daughter-in-law)Movie Hamari_Bahu_Alka,_1982A newly married couple tries to find some privacy by running away from home.

Shaukeen, 1982 (The Connoisseurs)Movie ShaukeenHow three elderly but young-at-heart friends learn to give up their lecherous and voyeuristic ways.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, 1983 (Let It Pass, friends)Movie Jaane_Bhi_Do_Yaaro_1983The perils of investigative journalism.

Kisi Se Na Kehna, 1983 (Don’t Tell Anyone)Movie KissiseNaKehnaAn educated lady-love is projected as a traditional village belle. Post-marriage, however, it becomes a challenge for the couple to live the lie.

Rang Birangi, 1983 (The Colourful)Rang_Birangi PosterHow a bored housewife gets helped by a friend to rekindle the embers of love between herself and her husband. Many of us still remember the role played by Utpal Dutt, that of a police inspector named Dhurandhar Bhatawadekar. Goes on to show what a Constable Oates could achieve, when not restrained by a Justice of the Peace.

Chameli ki Shaadi, 1986 (Chameli’s Marriage)Movie Chameli ki ShaadiA comic look at how a couple overcomes objections from their guardians to get united, all thanks to a lawyer friend. A satire on the caste system prevalent in India.

Pushpak, 1987 (The Love Chariot)Movie Pushpaka_VimanamA full length feature film sans dialogues of any kind, the movie remains a critic’s delight. Somewhat dark and pungent in parts, but otherwise a perfect fit to the kind of subtle humour a Wodehouse fan yearns for. A Bertie type hero faces joblessness but ends up with a positive attitude, with squared shoulders and a chin-up disposition.

Chachi 420, 1997 (Aunty 420)Movie Chachi_420Loosely based on Mrs. Doubtfire, the movie was about a father impersonating as a house maid so as to be close to his daughter.

Jhoot Bole Kauwa Kaate, 1998 (Speak a Lie and the Crow will Bite)Movie Jhooth_Bole_Kauwa_KaateThe value of truthfulness in all relationships. The hero begins to create a series of lies (hence the title – whenever he lies, the crow caws) in attempting to get the person he loves.

Munna Bhai MBBS, 2003Poster-Munna_Bhai_M.B.B.S.A hilarious movie showcasing the gaps in the medical education system. When a medical college is headed by a principal who is built along the lines of Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, a rowdy-turned-student determines to show him the need to treat patients with empathy.

Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 2006 (Keep at it, Munna Bhai)Lage_raho_munna_bhaiThe hero does not wear a green colour beard, but projects himself as a college lecturer with high ideals. In reality, he is a gangster. A rip-roaring comment on property sharks, inane superstitions and the need to uphold Gandhian values.

3 Idiots, 2009pondy movie 3_idiotsThe spirit of innovation often gets killed by the pressures of society and parents, when youngsters are not free to chase their own dreams and take up professions which they are passionate about. An Aubrey Upjohn, a Bertie Wooster, a Bingo Little, a Tuppy Glossop, a Roderick Spode and an Angela come together and present a sparkling narrative.

Well Done, Abba, 2009

Shyam Benegal is renowned for having exposed oppression and corruption of different kinds in his earlier works during the ‘parallel cinema’ wave. ‘Ankur’ (1974), ‘Nishant’ (1975), ‘Manthan’ (1976) and ‘Bhumika’ (1977) etc left us stirred and shaken up in the earlier years. All these were very intense and serious movies. In the recent past, he has effectively used humour and satire to convey a similar message. A remarkable transformation!

A clueless Sir Cuthbert, desirous of having a well of his own on his agricultural land, is unable to handle rampant corruption which makes a mockery of the benefit schemes rolled out by the government. His daughter, Bobbie Wickham, comes up with a fruity scheme. They report to the police that their non-existent well has been ‘stolen’! What ensues is sheer hilarity. Upcoming state assembly elections ensure the complaint gets heard and acted upon.

Atithi, Tum Kab Jaoge? 2010 (Dear Guest, When Would You Depart?)Movie Atithi_Tum_Kab_JaaogeHow even elderly strangers can add value to a family’s life.

Vicky Donor, 2012Movie Vicky_Donor_2012A delightful spoof on sperm donation and infertility. One of the main characters, a pseudo doctor who claims to specialize in assisting couples in begetting designer babies, sounds much like a Jeeves who has all the right answers.

Oh My God! 2012Movie Oh My God PosterA satire on the ills plaguing organized religion and idle worship.

Finding Fanny, 2014Movie Finding_FannyThis one is like a Joe searching for a long-lost Julia. The story is essentially about a road trip set in Goa and follows the journey of five dysfunctional friends who set out in search of Fanny, the love-interest of Naseeruddin Shah. A gracefully matured Dimple Kapadia and a voyeuristic Pankaj Kapur add some extra zing to the proceedings.

PK, 2015Movie PKA delightful comedy which depicts the satirical outlook of an extra-terrestrial being towards our religious beliefs and practices. Some fundamental questions relating to faith get raised, but with liberal doses of sophisticated humour.

We are in luck that God has not stopped dishing out directors who excel at regaling the audience with sunlit humour woven into their scripts. If we had the likes of Hrishikesh Mukherji, Basu Chatterji, Gulzar and Sai Paranjpe in the past, now we have Ashwani Dheer, Shoojit Sircar and Rajkumar Hirani who have perfected the art of blending social messages with a dash of Wodehousian humour.

Admittedly, this could not have happened but for the support of some exceptional character actors. In the days of yore, we had the likes of Gope, Mehmood, Johny Walker, Mukri, Dhumal, Tun Tun, Manorama, Jagdeep and Asrani regaling the audience with their raucous and overdone funnies which kept popping up a dime a dozen. In the recent past, the likes of Raghuvir Yadav, Rajpal Yadav and Paresh Rawal have kept us rollicking in our chairs.

Nevertheless, one would be tempted to put Om Prakash and Utpal Dutt at the top of the pack. Their virtuosity, mannerisms and body language were always understated, and kept tickling our funny bones in the right spot.Movie Ram_Aur_Shyam

When it comes to providing a comic relief, heroes of mainstream commercial movies have often competed with hard-core comedians. Raj Kapoor came up with his Chaplinesque mannerisms. The ‘tragedy king’ Dilip Kumar made us smile with his antics in such movies as ‘Kohinoor’ and ‘Ram aur Shyam.’ The comic timing of Amitabh Bachhan and Dharmendra is legendary. In fact, over a period of time, mainstream heroes and heroines have somewhat managed to make the role of a stand-alone comedian redundant.

Even our much-hated villains have surprised us with their flair for comedy. Pran did a tango with the inimitable Ashok Kumar in ‘Victoria No. 203’. Amjad Khan, whom we all hated in ‘Sholay’, did not disappoint us in such movies as ‘Chameli Ki Shaadi’ and ‘Qurbani.’Movie Victoria_No._203

The core message in earlier Bollywood comedies was either about the value of togetherness and harmony or about the travails of a Sippy-type hero who suffers from an inferiority complex. Recent offerings have instead touched upon the ills plaguing our society. Many Bollywood movies have managed to deliver a message crafted of chilled steel couched in a velvet-like mirthfulness.

May the tribe of such directors, producers, actors and script-writers continue to multiply!

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The recent collapse of the 144-year old Mairie at Pondicherry has raised a basic question – can the stream of Civil Engineering be re-engineered to include a specialization in heritage structures?Mairie hall b4 collapse

Since the advent of civilization, humanity has attempted and perfected the art of building magnificent structures. The pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Brahideeswara Temple and the Taj Mahal in India are some of the outstanding examples of craftsmanship, architectural design and structural robustness.

Much before the modern stream of civil engineering came up, structures which are labeled as heritage ones today came up. The discipline of civil engineering has evolved over the last 150 years or so. Many advances have been made in building technology and materials. However, what has perhaps not progressed much is the capability of the so-called modern-day civil engineer to understand the basic science and technology of building structures in the past. This has led to a situation whereby assessment and certification of the structural stability of a heritage structure has become a highly subjective area. Called upon to do so by governments and other organizations, a vast majority amongst us are rendered clueless. Gizah_Pyramids

We apply criteria which appear to be untenable. We try to assess the structural stability of a building based on the clouded vision of our own education and experience over the years. In many cases, it proves to be an educated guess which, to the outside world, sounds like an ‘expert’ opinion. The result is often disastrous. Buildings certified to be ‘safe’ by some of us collapse like a house of cards, unable as they are to face the fury of nature at some point in time.

Let us not rush to blame our education system and our academicians for this drawback. Perhaps the fault lies more in our attitude and mindset. Sure enough, there is a serious deficiency in the tools, techniques and tests that we apply to assess the robustness of a heritage structure. Great_Wall

Even at the risk of appearing to be digressing from the main subject, let us draw a parallel from the field of medicine. How do we judge the level of sickness of a patient? Once we ascertain the extent of the ailment, we are in a better position to prescribe a cure for the hapless patient. If allopathy offers a wide array of diagnostic tools, we are surely wise to use the same. But when it comes to medication, allopathy may perhaps end up treating only the symptoms. A real cure may come only from an alternative system of medicine, say, from ayurveda, homeopathy, etc.

In a similar vein, when we apply the modern-day tests and techniques to ascertain the stability of a heritage structure, we get good information. But what we lack is an ‘alternate’ stream of civil engineering which would provide a cure for the ailing structure. Brihadeeswara_temple_Thanjavur

The challenge before us today is to develop an alternate stream of this exalted branch of engineering. What we need to undertake is an in-depth research project which would apply modern-day techniques to heritage structures the world over. Obviously, this has to be done in a non-destructive manner. Right from the structures which came into being more than 5,000 years back to the ones which were built just 150 years back, we need to understand their structural elements, their materials and their building techniques which have gone into making them withstand not only the vagaries of nature but also the abuse by people over centuries.Taj_Mahal

This alone can help us to develop our in-depth understanding of the art and science of heritage structures. A global research project of this nature, if taken up, would help us to re-engineer and reform our present day stream of civil engineering. By bringing in a specialization in heritage structures, we shall lay the foundation of an alternate stream of knowledge.

This would ensure that future civil engineers would be better prepared to assess the stability of priceless heritage structures which have survived so far. This would also ensure their being able to prescribe ways in which the longevity of such structures could be improved upon. Such structures would then be preserved for posterity, enabling our coming generations to marvel at their beauty, aesthetics and stability.

(Thoughts of Mr A K Das, a prominent expert in the realm of Civil Engineering; images courtesy Wikipedia)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks)

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On the occasion of Auroville celebrating its 47th birthday yesterday, it was time again to soak up the early morning ambience and inhale lungfuls of ozone at the Matrimandir gardens!


Auroville, an international township near Pondicherry in the southern part of India, celebrates its birthday on the last day of February each year. A bonfire is lit in the amphitheatre next to the Matrimandir. Much before the sun has made its appearance on the horizon and the first bird has sung its mellifluous note, a bluish darkness envelopes the exquisite structure. The leaping flames of the bonfire spread a golden hue all around, as if fighting off the dark forces of nature. Soothing notes play in the background. Soon, all is quiet and a collective concentration starts. Gradually, as the sky starts revealing its azure shade, some wispy clouds float across in a leisurely fashion. Finally, the sun appears on the horizon. The Matrimandir presents itself in all its majestic charm and  ethereal beauty.







A truly invigorating experience for the senses as well as for the soul.

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