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Archive for June, 2018

ashokbhatia

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

It is here that Indian scriptures and sages provide a ready template for managers of all sizes and shapes. Let us consider a few facets of some of the pearls of Indian wisdom which find ready application in the realm of management.

Some pearls of Indian wisdom 

Ramayana

  • The entire narrative highlights the importance of values in our lives.Ramayana 1 Businesses which follow a policy of righteousness and conduct their operations in an ethical manner enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market. This rubs off on their products as well as on their employees.
  • Lord Rama decides to…

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My Views On Bollywood

By

Sharada Iyer

The very mention of their names immediately brings to our mind the evergreen super-hit song ‘Zindagi ek safar hai suhana…’ from the film ANDAZ. From the opening prelude to the yodelling to the fast-paced beats – everything about the song became unforgettable! Added to that superstar Rajesh Khanna’s charismatic screen presence turned this song not only into one of the most loved songs of Hindi cinema but also became one of the biggest hits of the careers of  Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar and Shankar-Jaikishen. 

ANDAZ (1971): ‘Zindagi ek safar hai suhana…’

Shankar-Jaikishen (SJ): The music director duo who revolutionized the very definition of Hindi film music with their path-breaking music and tunes…

Kishore Kumar: The genius actor-singer who created his own path and carved a place in the Hindi film music scene which people cannot even dream of achieving…   

Both the singer as…

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“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.”

“At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.”
(Uneasy Money)

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.”
(The Code of the Woosters)

“He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”

“I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”
(The Code of the Woosters)

“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say “when”. 

“I always advise people never to give advice.”

“A melancholy-looking man, he had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.”
(The Man Upstairs and Other Stories)

“There is only one cure for grey hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.”

It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t. – 
(Ring for Jeeves)

“And she has got brains enough for two, which is exact quantity the girl who marries you will need”. 

“She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season.”

(Carry On Jeeves)

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Lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension have a tendency to quietly enter the house of our physical bodies, much like unbidden and unwelcome guests. In most of the cases, repeated attempts to entice these to depart and scour around for some greener pastures are unsuccessful. After the first stage of shock and denial has passed, a state of active acceptance comes about. The basic principle of a peaceful coexistence eventually gets followed.

Diabetes is labelled as a silent killer. This unwelcome guest has a tendency to enfeeble almost all the organs of the body. Its special affection gets directed towards ones which are already in a state of disrepair. These could be our heart, eyes, kidneys, feet or any other organ or limb which catches its fancy. Nerve endings get compromised. Initially, some tingling sensations may be there, more bothersome at night. Over time, sensations may be lost completely, leading to problems which do not even get felt.

Excessive thirst and frequent urination are the well-known symptoms of diabetes. These could easily get ignored and we could chug along in our lives, blissfully ignorant of the arrival of this unbidden guest amidst us. With urine, the body also ends up ejecting some minerals. The disease leaves one feeling tired and exhausted.

The alpha and beta of diabetes

At the core of this affliction is an organ known as the pancreas. Due to genetic reasons or owing to prolonged abuse, there are times when it refuses to behave like an alpha male. It ceases to run on all its twelve cylinders. It does not produce enough insulin, the hormone which controls blood sugar levels in the body.

The beta cells in our pancreas not only produce insulin but also govern the sugar level fluctuations in the body. So, the higher the level of blood sugar, the higher is the fluctuation of sugar levels in general. The fact that South Asian genes happen to be more susceptible to attracting this disease does not really comfort someone who is actually suffering from diabetes.

There are those in whose case the cells that produce insulin are selectively lost. They would qualify to be suffering from Type 1 diabetes.

The body surely needs sugar to keep active and kicking. But when the sugar intake is more than what it can handle, insulin production lags behind its demand. The pancreas is unable to keep pace. Those whose pancreas has started losing its efficacy over a period of time get categorized as having Type 2 diabetes. Often, obesity rules. The battle of the bulge gets lost. Pear pressure kicks in.

Then there is a portion of humanity which shows signs of an imminent onset of diabetes. These could be called pre-diabetics. Surely, there is some hope for them, provided they adopt an active lifestyle, change their diet pattern, and do not allow diabetes to walk in.

The delicately nurtured amongst our species, when they happen to be in the family way, face the risk of gestational diabetes.  Though it is a temporary condition, they end up having a higher predisposition towards Type 2 diabetes.

Sharing some key observations

Yours truly is neither a physician nor a person even remotely connected with the field of medicine. Nevertheless, here is a summary of what one has learnt so far. Some of you might find these of use. These observations pertain to Type 2 diabetes.

Blood sugar levels are a function of the following major factors:

  • Stress: The higher the stress levels, the higher the blood sugar levels. A prolonged challenging situation – whether on the home front or on the office front – could reduce the immunity levels of the body and increase the sugar levels.

Laughing things off helps, so does the company of those who exude positivity. Building up inner resilience reduces the impact of external circumstances, and thereby helps in controlling sugar levels better.

  • Physical activity is a basic factor. Be a couch potato or a chair tiger and repent at leisure. Regular brisk walks and light exercises help. But these produce results only after about six weeks, by which time the body forms a habit and starts demanding its daily dose of whatever physical regime you decide to follow.

Pottering about in the garden or in the kitchen and doing household chores provides some protection. Climbing up stairs and not using an elevator helps. Living life with lesser dependence on your favourite Ferrari helps.

But nothing to beat the efficacy of either cycling or a brisk walk, which is closer to the way a soldier would typically walk. Sweating it out is a key factor. It also helps with heart-related issues.

Much like a tube light needs an initial surge of additional power to get going, the body also needs an initial impetus of will power to walk the first 500 meters. Thereafter, once it has warmed up, a brisk walk often sounds more like a cake walk.

  • Medication cannot be taken lightly. It needs to be taken regularly, on time. This implies that meals required to keep the body and soul together also need to be taken on time, day after day.

Oral medication is convenient. At times, if it is unable to bring blood sugar levels within control (fasting values in the range of 70-100 and other values being in the range of 120-200), the physician may prescribe insulin injections.

Insulin has a singular advantage of the necessary hormone reaching the blood stream directly. But the flip side of using insulin, or any other anti-diabetic agent, is the risk of blood sugar dropping down to such dangerous levels as 60 or below. Symptoms could be tiredness, giddiness, excess sweating, palpitation and even coma and other          complications. This could even prove to be fatal.

To avoid such complications, a bar of chocolate, some dry fruits and biscuits should always be kept handy. Sugar cubes could also help. A glucometer needs to be used to immediately check the blood sugar levels and the incident reported to one’s doctor.

  • Diet is a crucial factor in managing diabetes. Our scriptures often extol the virtues of leading the life of an ascetic or a monk. Diabetes propels us towards such lofty goals in life. Controlling our taste buds is a serious challenge and needs nerves of chilled steel. When a piping hot junk food item like a ‘samosa’ comes up in front of us, or when a ‘rasgulla’ gets lovingly offered by an otherwise well-meaning friend, the deep reserves of our tenacity have to be marshalled to refuse these and instead pick on a green salad.

Even fruits like mangoes and bananas are harmless, if taken in moderation and if in the absence of any other item on our plate.

Some tests and parameters

  • Regular checks on blood sugar levels (fasting as well as postprandial, PP) are highly recommended.

For fasting level to be correctly ascertained, during the previous night, except for plain water, nothing else should be consumed after 10 PM. Medicines to be taken after the test. Normal breakfast can be had after about 30 minutes.

For PP, a reading would need to be taken two hours after breakfast, with nothing else being consumed in the meanwhile. Any deviation from this procedure can be brought to the notice of one’s physician.

  • Once in six months, our physician may recommend a test known as HbA1C. This one tells us the weighted average of our sugar levels over a period of the past three months, thereby indicating the extent of control we have exercised over ourselves during that period. A value below 7 would normally indicate a fair amount of control, though the exact value is best decided between the doctor and the patient.
  • Frequent eye and feet check-ups are necessary. Once in a year, functioning of the kidney needs to be reviewed by means of appropriate tests.

When prolonged tension leads to hypertension

Yet another lifestyle disease which creeps up on one is that of high blood pressure. If left unattended, this could result in the hardening of arteries, cardiac problems and an increase in one’s intraocular pressure in the eyes. Keeping this on a strict watch is in some ways even more crucial than regular monitoring of blood sugar levels.

Of doctors and miracle cures

The role of a doctor in managing diabetes is more akin to that of a guide. The hapless physician has no clue as to what our daily meals comprise and the amount of liquors and desserts we gobble up at social events.

Often, we may come across miracle cures made by those who are proficient in alternative streams of medicine, claiming to get us rid of diabetes in a short period of time. If followed, these could achieve good results in the short run, but could do more harm to the body in the long run. The reason is simple – these are not sustainable. In a controlled environment, these cures could really work. But when we are back in the civilization, living our routine lives and facing all the harsh slings and arrows of Fate, the short-term benefits could simply evaporate. However, there is a general belief that some medicines from alternative streams do work as supplements, somewhat nullifying the side effects of allopathic medicines.

A helping hand from the government  

One has no statistical evidence, but there is no doubt that those suffering from this lifestyle disease do end up suppressing the economic growth of the country they inhabit.

Revenue-hungry governments world over could think of imposing a hefty ‘sin tax’ on all things sweet. Tax breaks can be offered to those who suffer from a lifestyle disease. The delivery of public health services can be strengthened.

The civic authorities would do well to ensure that there are adequate provisions for bicycle tracks and for taking brisk walks in open spaces for its denizens. Public transporters could pitch in by ensuring availability of diabetic diets to those who might be in need of the same.

The trick of managing a lifestyle disease

The real control of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases rests in our own hands. Guided by a competent physician, management of these is no rocket science.

Basically, the trick lies in holding our chin up, looking ahead to a joyful life with clear eyes, and marching on with our lives, wearing this affliction as a badge of honour on our sleeves, aspiring to evolve spiritually, with nary a wrinkle on our forehead.

Bertie Wooster and Jeeves would heartily approve of a sunny disposition of this nature. So would Ashe Marson of the ‘Something Fresh’ fame.

(Inputs from Dr B S Suryanarayana, Additional Professor, Department of Medicine, JIPMER, Pondicherry, are gratefully acknowledged)

(Illustrations courtesy www)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/o-my-beloved-when-would-you-depart

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/getting-india-in-the-pink-of-health

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/handling-the-diabetes-tsunami-in-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/how-diabetes-helps-us-to-improve-our-sq)

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The short half-life of all things material

If Marie Curie had decided to become a human resources professional at some point of time in her sterling career, she would surely have had something to say about the half-life of so many things:  Interpersonal Relationships, Joys and Sorrows, Promotions, Increments, Awards and other recognition which come one’s way all the time. Even insults, abuses and rebukes hurled at managers by their bosses, whether in private or in public, would have invited a comment or two.

Consider this. When one is about to join a company, a sage looking junior executive responsible for handling one at the selection stage would invariably paint a rosy picture about the state of affairs. One would be shown the kind of awards won by the company while discharging its Corporate Social Responsibility mandate.

If selected and upon joining, the demo version would continue right into one’s induction period. A honeymoon phase would invariably follow. All would be hunky and dory. Till the day, of course, when the boss would call one in, look her in the eye, and suggest that she start preparing for a bigger challenge – something like camping on the Mars and peddling the company’s goods and services out there. The scales would then start falling from one’s eyes. The warts would start becoming visible.

Likewise, when a special promotion or increment comes one’s way, a short span of happiness and exhilaration is bound to lift one’s morale. However, with the passage of time, the recognition would start losing its sheen. Challenges in the new position would weigh one down. Ask a canteen boy who is suddenly promoted as a canteen manager. Ask a production supervisor upon whom fate has smiled and who has suddenly found himself promoted to the level of a production manager. Ask a sales representative who finds himself elevated to the rank of a sales manager. There is a good chance that most of such promotees, having found their level of incompetence, would start ruing the day they got promoted. To their utter horror, they would discover that doing a job with their own hands was far easier than getting others to do the same job. Bosses who had originally pushed for the promotion of these souls would be looking sheepish and diffident in such group meetings where the performance, or the lack of it, of the promotees would be on full public display. The management may eventually come to regret the decision to confer a promotion on such souls.

Or, take the case of a bloomer having been made and the resultant rebuke delivered by a senior. If the same is delivered in private, it could lead to some soul-searching and perhaps some improvement in the future handling of similar assignments. Once the basic feedback is ingrained within, the incident may tend to get relegated back into one’s consciousness. However, if the same feedback is delivered in public, the impact would be much higher. A feeling of guilt, shame and remorse may come about, leading to poorer performance on the job. One could then be caught in a downward vicious cycle. A feeling of revolt and revenge may also pop up. Depending upon one’s sensitivity levels, the incident may remain in one’s active memory for a long time to come, leading to a drop in self-esteem and self-confidence.

The common thread in all these occurrences is that nothing is of a permanent nature. Life keeps throwing bouquets and brickbats one’s way. The impression created on one remains a function of time. That is how, wise men say that ‘Time is a great healer.’

Of reversal of polarities

Yet another feature of mortal things is what experts in the science of magnetism would thoroughly approve of. This one pertains to reversal of polarities. A person, an object or even a relationship which happens to be positive at one point in time could easily become negative at another point in time.

A boss who happens to be a role model could one day metamorphose into a villain in one’s career. Over a period of time, unstinted support from her could vanish and assume the sinister shades of vehement opposition to whatever brainy scheme one comes up with. The underlying reasons could be many. An inner sense of insecurity in her. A mere suspicion that you are in cahoots with a senior of hers she takes a jaundiced view of. A personal issue which has made her lose a sunnier outlook about life.

Likewise, a much coveted transfer or promotion could eventually prove to be an albatross around one’s neck. Unforeseen dimensions could open up when handling the situation on the ground. When wisdom dawns, one might realize exactly what the boss meant when she looked one in the eye with a steely eye and surmised that the only person who she thought could gleefully take up a challenge of that nature would have been one alone! The glamour which appeared to have been associated with the event gives way to a sense of entrapment. A sense of despondency overtakes one.

This is what the Gita has to say on the nature of material things:

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदु: खदा: |
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत || 14||

mātrā-sparśhās tu kaunteya śhītoha-sukha-dukha-dā
āgamāpāyino ’nityās tans-titik
hasva bhārata

“O son of Kunti, the contact between the senses and the sense objects gives rise to fleeting perceptions of happiness and distress. These are non-permanent, and come and go like the winter and summer seasons. O descendent of Bharat, one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

Why sweat over the small stuff

The fact remains that life rarely unfolds the way one wants it to. Others do not necessarily behave as one would like them to. There are always those who would disagree with one. Things are not handled the way one would expect them to be handled. Some things work out with little effort. Others do not, even with much greater effort. So, if one chooses to fight against this strong undercurrent of life, one would spend much of one’s time in life fighting battles of an insignificant import. Instead, much like Arjuna, one could eventually choose to fight in a war which is based on the principles of righteousness.

One needs to realize that things are of a transient nature, whether people, objects or incidents. Also, what emanates positive vibes and gives pleasure today could well turn out to be a source of torment tomorrow.

If so, there is no reason for one to sweat over such transient things. One might instead focus one’s energy, time and resources on things which are have a much longer shelf life.

A hapless CEO lives from one financial quarter to the next. A gentle nudge to her Chief Financial Officer brings about some improvement in the quarterly guidance values. However, there are limits to which receivables can be stretched, inventories can be buoyed up and expenses deferred to the next quarter. Sweating over the same stuff every quarter takes its own toll on the team’s stress levels. A myopic vision gets developed. A long-term value-based view runs the risk of getting relegated to the background.

Of things which have a much longer shelf life – Values, Character

Which are the things which have a longer shelf life, one may well ask. One’s value system. One’s character. One’s attitude towards life in general. One’s own brand equity. One’s capacity to be able to handle the rough and tumble of a management career. One’s ability to take decisions based not only on big data analytics but also on intuition.

These are the kind of things which are made of sterner stuff, so to say. Vagaries of time find it difficult to chip away at these innate qualities of one. Once this core is managed well, external things fall in place most of the times. One’s responses to people and circumstances become more nuanced, thereby improving one’s managerial effectiveness.

Putting a realisation to practice

It is one thing to know about the impermanence of things in one’s life. But it is quite another to learn to ignore the small stuff and not get swayed by the immediate circumstances. Nerves of chilled steel need to be developed. A state of inner calm needs to be cultivated. A habit of calm endurance, both in pleasure and in pain, needs to be formed. Inner Resilience needs to be imbibed.

Bhagavad Gita exhorts one to do precisely this. It goes on to propose that a person who has attained this state of mental equipoise attains immortality. The principle of reincarnation comes in here.

यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ |
समदु:खसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते || 15||

ya hi na vyathayantyete puruha puruharhabha
sama-du
kha-sukha dhīra so ’mitatvāya kalpate

“O Arjun, noblest amongst men, that person who is not affected by happiness and distress, and remains steady in both, becomes eligible for liberation.”

Leading a vibrant life

Lord Krishna is not exhorting one to lead a monastic life which would be somewhat monochromatic in nature. He is merely saying not to get swayed by the ups and downs of life. In one’s journey towards attaining perfection, one can make the conscious choice of enduring meekly the little joys and pinpricks of life.

Here, He does not allude to a hapless endurance of the setbacks experienced in one’s career. That would indicate an attitude which has its origins in the dark recesses of the mind, harbouring such tendencies as procrastination. Instead, the reference here is to the sunlit valleys of life through which flow the rivulets of wisdom and understanding.

Consider the case of a manager who has been given a pep talk by his boss. He is now aware of the bigger picture and is fired with a missionary zeal to achieve his target. He is prepared to make many sacrifices on the way, because he has found a deeper purpose behind the task he is entrusted with. If a bouquet is received in the interim, he feels happy but does not slacken his efforts. If some brickbats get flung at him, he takes the feedback in his stride, sifts the wheat from the chaff, and chugs along till the target is achieved.

 

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Just in case you ever feel that you have evolved into a headless chicken and have ended becoming a zombie chasing deadlines and goals with not even time to breathe, try coming over to Pondicherry.

For many of us, our lives are so much filled with stimuli, not to speak of the onerous responsibilities we carry on our slender shoulders. It is not possible for us to sit still and do nothing, much less relax, even for a few minutes. We have no time for meditation. Nor do we have time for some simple yoga exercises. We are always doing something or the other. How proud we feel in telling someone that we do not have time for this or that. Our fragile ego gets a much-needed boost. In place of being ‘human beings’, we have become ‘human doings’.

Often, relatives from distant parts of the world call up to check as to what they can do if and when they land up in Pondicherry. When they are told that the beauty of Pondicherry lies in the fact that they have the option of doing nothing here, one can either hear an astonished gasp or just suffer a long silence over the phone.

There are times when life becomes too exciting and one yearns to get a wee bit bored. The good news is that a brief spell of boredom does lead to a feeling of inner peace. And once we get used to it, with little practice, we could learn to really relax. Then we start enjoying our chance to have a real conversation with ourselves. We ask ourselves where our lives are really headed. We wonder as to what our goal in life is, and whether we are really working towards that or have we got trapped in the quicksand of our materialistic ambitions. The payback is tremendous.

Most of the times, our anxiety and inner struggle happen to be a product of a restless mind which is forever looking for some diversion, as if it is afraid to allow us to be calm and be with ourselves.

While rushing to office, we are wondering if we shall make it for that crucial meeting on time. When we enter the conference room, we are anxious as to which colleagues would be puncturing holes in our image by raising some obnoxious concerns. At lunch time, we shall be worrying about the maid who might be stealing something from the bedroom cupboard at home. Every ten minutes, we shall check our messages or mails, just in case that critical one we had sent to the big boss the other day has elicited any response.

By evening, we are a bundle of frayed nerves. Upon reaching home, we shove some morsels down the hatch so as to keep our body and soul together. Some phone calls get made. Then we slouch in front of the idiot box and try to improve our track record of being a couch potato. The day ends. The next one begins. The cycle gets repeated ad nauseam. We end up becoming a zombie.

You can be said to have attained the exalted state of zombie-ness when you go through the motions of life in a lifeless manner; when you have surrendered your free will to your guardian angels, who have been allowed to take decisions for and on your behalf; and, when instructions received from the boss during your working hours make you spend sleepless nights in the comfort of your bed.

The beauty of doing nothing is that it teaches us to clear our mind and relax. When the mind is rested and stilled, it becomes sharper and stronger. It becomes more focused. Creative juices start flowing freely.

The art of nothingness does not make sense logically. But when practised, it propels us on the path of spirituality. The resulting bliss is something to be personally experienced.

Let all this not scare you off. Pondicherry has a lot on offer – sea breeze, exotic food, tissue restoratives which lift your spirits temporarily, cultural events, book launches, off-beat movies, dance classes, horse riding, scuba diving, heritage walks…….the list goes on. But if you simply wish to give your life a break, it is the place you would do well to head to!

 

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ashokbhatia

We live in times when the only feline creatures we happen to know are from the realm of cat-toons. We knowPGW Doraemon Doraemon, Felix, Garfield, Tom and Top Cat, to name just a few. Their eccentricities we adore. Their haughtiness we endure. Their ingenuity makes our spirits soar. Their ruthless manner in handling mice of all kinds we ignore. To put it simply, in a world dominated by TV and internet, they have become a part of folklore.

Now, one does not mean to offend any of these personalities whose intrinsic felineness is rather unmistakable. But there are several others from the realm of literature who are no less admirable. They were born in times when the printed word was ruling the roost. They have left an indelible impression on the minds and psyches of several generations. They have exemplified the traits of bosses and the bossed-over alike. Surely, once in…

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