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Archive for April, 2019

 

Hapless leaders keep getting bombarded with an overdose of new ideas these days. Other than leading their followers into a world where the roses would always be in bloom and where the sun would never set, poor souls are expected to work upon path-breaking ideas. Consultants keep dishing out advice, followed by hefty bills. Other leaders whose scintillating speeches act like Botox shots to the sagging visage of their organizations have to be incessantly tracked. Political outfits of all hues and shapes need to be kept in good humour. Hellhounds of various taxation departments have to be kept at an arm’s length. Relentless window-dressing of quarterly accounts leaves them no time to pause and reflect on the basic meaning of life. Being connected to operations makes it impossible for them to relax and unwind.

Authors and intellectuals, whose contribution to the evolution of our species is dubious in any case, also do not leave them in peace. They keep churning out literary tomes and books which a leader would not touch with a hundred foot pole even on a space flight to a distant galaxy.

Take the case of the latest book on Leader Mindsets. Here are some reasons they can avoid picking it up.

  1. Even though the focus of the book is on universal human values, it appears to be based on an Asian view point. When leaders think of this part of the world, they only remember irrelevant scriptures, outdated religious beliefs, widespread poverty and illiteracy, and a certain lack of decency in public spaces which others on the planet could readily deride. In other words, there could not be much to learn from the book.
  2. At a time when leaders are grappling with the upheavals being caused by Industrial Revolution 4.0, the need is to understand and adapt newer technologies. The underlying belief is that in the times to come, the human dimension is going to be less important. Understanding machines is what should be a priority. Human behaviour has already been mapped thoroughly. Even if one were to understand it better, one would run the risk of ending up being a ‘soft’ leader who is unable to take ‘hard’ decisions, thereby compromising one’s effectiveness as a leader.
  3. The book appears to be based on the premise that to become an effective leader, one has to change oneself – a tough proposition, indeed. There is nothing wrong with the leaders in their present mould; hence, there is no need to tweak anything within them.

The book goes on to propose that having changed one’s mindset, one should help others to change their mindsets. If the first step is undesirable, this one is near impossible; and the next one – that of changing the entire organization – even more so.

After all, management is the art of the possible. Leaders are happy the way they are.

Smart leaders would do well to brood over these thoughts. It would save them lot of time and trouble. Their followers would heave a sigh of relief upon realizing that they have been spared the trauma of being asked to change themselves in any way; that they can trudge along merrily without a care in the world, focusing on immediate and important tasks at hand. If the critical and strategic tasks get neglected in the process, so be it.

Even if the author were to gift a copy of the book to a leader, the latter would do well to either gift it to one of his arch-rivals, or to simply throw it into the nearest waste paper basket. If the shameless author persists by sending a soft copy as well, prompt use of the delete command would be highly useful.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/a-word-about-the-book-on-leadership)

 

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Non-statutory warning

If you happen to have a pre-determined preference for any specific political outfit in India, you read this only at your own risk and peril. You may get miffed at some parts of this piece, albeit written with malice towards none.

 

Come election time, and the denizens of India forget all their miseries and have a rollicking time. With the biggest festival of democracy on its way, the pampering they receive makes them hopeful of their future yet again. Freebies, sackfuls of the green stuff and tissue restoratives of all kinds are made available in abundant measure. Dreams of the next round of good and secure days get dished out with much aplomb.

Politicos who have an eye on their power and pelf get busy computing their likely ‘returns on investment’ in a high risk game. The media barons enjoy supreme bliss at all the moolah they rake in, thanks to their TRP ratings reaching stratospheric levels. Almost all sectors of the economy experience a boom, what with hassled leaders nipping around all corners of the country.

One can readily spot a Roderick Spode who continues to hone his oratorical skills while peddling his deep commitment to the Cause. The gullible public dreads the day he invokes Shakespeare at the beginning of any of his speeches, addressing them as ‘Friends, countrymen….’ A team of devoted followers ensure that those in opposition keep getting hauled over coals over their acts of omission and commission, the latter term specifically alluding to some alleged scams in the past.

Aunt Dahlia can be seen quietly tucking into the lavish spreads of Anatole, while keeping an indulgent eye on the career moves of Bonzo. The latter, having learnt his lessons well from the Market Snodsbury Grammar School speech of Gussie, keeps pointing accusatory fingers at those of the other party. To boost his electoral prospects, his sister Angela Travers also pitches in. The jury is still out if she runs the risk of being bitten by any sharks – political or otherwise – on one of her river cruises.

The revolutionary pals who fail to recognize the new-age challenges facing their outdated ideology have their share of the fun by beating up policemen, burning buildings and vehicles, smashing shop-windows, and resorting to pressure tactics to get the clueless citizenry to cast their vote in favour of their party.

When the self-assured stuffed-frog charisma of an A B Filmer starts waning, his family members get deployed to keep the power closer to his saggy bosom. Likewise, the morally dubious character of several of the candidates can be seen to be built along the lines of either a Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe or an Edward Cootes. Many of them have criminal cases pending against them for crimes which exclude the pinching of an Empress of Blandings. The never-say-die spirit of several John Bickersdykes keeps the public guessing as to which political party they might end up joining next.

There is no dearth of aspirants who could beat Smooth Lizzie at her own game. Targeting the constituency of those who toil down the stairs – under-butlers, housekeepers, scullery maids, footmen, and the like – tall promises get dished out with much fervour.

Some of the candidates are cast in the mould of either a Ginger or a Stilton. They happen to be reluctant politicians, upon whom political ambition has been thrust by a no-nonsense family member.

Quite a few lion-tamers built along the lines of Rev Aubrey Upjohn can be seen carefully guarding their speeches, lest they get pinched by the opposition camp, leaving them literally speechless at public gatherings.

What boggles the mind of a lay voter is the kind of melange of politicos on the offer on the opposite side. If one were to devour the exploits of Bertie Wooster, Lord Emsworth, Rupert Psmith, Bingo Little, Madeline Bassett, Stiffy Byng and Aunt Agatha in rapid succession, one could be excused for experiencing a similar swimming sensation in the old cerebrum.

The not-so-pale parabola of joy

As the General Drama unfolds, the conduct of the country’s election watchdogs comes under the kind of severe scrutiny which would put a professional newt-fancier to shame. They keep burning the proverbial midnight oil to keep a track of the blatant violations of its Model Wooster Code, which is observed more in breach than in adherence. At times, where opposition parties are concerned, a Sam Goldwyn kind of aggressive approach is taken to address violations. As to the ruling dispensation, a Poppet like deferential approach often becomes the oportet actio.

Even the likes of Sir Watkyn Bassett, who might have by now risen to the highest echelons of judiciary, are not spared the trauma of being dragged into some controversy or the other, thereby distracting them from dishing out harsh sentences without the option.

Some specific shades of this parabola of joy are as under:

The Eulalie Effect

When the colours of an opponents’ underwear get mentioned as part of a political discourse.

The Angry Swan Syndrome

If the public is behaving like an irate swan, and it is raining accusations on several other fronts, it makes sense to climb to a safer roof top and take cover under the umbrella of a different issue altogether.

The Juice of an Orange Factor

Those who entertain thoughts of civil disobedience in any form routinely get pampered with patchwork incentives which are in the nature of the juice of an orange. These ensure that while fundamental issues do not get resolved, short-term solutions with a transient feel-good effect get worked upon. Rebellion is kept at bay.

Unfortunately, many Indians still survive only on a handful of rice and could indulge in acts of civil disobedience. However, since the Father of the Nation is no longer around, a leadership vacuum of his style – fans may recall that he never sat down to a good juicy steak and follow it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton, as advised by one of the Hollywood producers – ensures that our political Dream Merchants may breathe easy.

The Peggy Rebuttal

If a voter cannot unnerve a speaker by simply staring and giggling at him, the option of watching the person land in a whirring helicopter, collecting one’s quota of freebies and leaving the place before the speech begins is always open.

The Gladys Spell

Empathizing with the vulnerable sections of the society and offering them protection from the Angus McAllisters of poverty, illness and unemployment just before the drum rolls start beating. This enables the Lord Emsworths of our times to make their ancestors singularly proud of them.

The Stiffy Byng Approach

In order to keep the opposition leaders on tenterhooks, central investigating agencies get unleashed upon them, much like a bunch of Bartholomews pouncing upon their next human prey. Supercilious gazes and raids apart, they keep sniffing with much alacrity at the latter, often making them climb up their cupboards storing some dark secrets , and then pull these up after them when they have done so.

The Psmith Skillset

In order to bring home the gravy in the form of political power, gangsters in the mould of Bat Jarvis get befriended. They even get encouraged to contest elections and romp home to the highest law-making body of the land.

The Schnellenhamer Track

Movie moghuls are encouraged to dish out flicks which support the ruling party’s agenda, leaving them relishing their place under the sun and also laughing all the way to their banks.

The Rosie M Banks Approach

Authors, editors, content creators and intellectual coves of all hues get hired to tom-tom the achievements of the political party sponsoring their outpourings.

Apparently apolitical interviews to adoring movie stars get used to showcase the softer side of political stars.

The Ashe Marson Effect

When politicos routinely display their exercising skills in prominent public spaces for the entire world to see, the cabmen, the waiters, the chambermaids, the proprietors of the fast food joints nearby, street cleaners, children and cats stop laughing after some time.

The Captain Bradbury Approach

Love for their motherland makes some of the candidates take this approach. It involves invoking the armed forces, the nuclear weapons and such other strong arm tactics which one would prefer to see in a street brawl instead.

The Chivalry Challenge

When the game of naming and shaming one of the female candidates starts, all notions of chivalry vanish. A competition as to who can stoop lower starts in right earnest. A wager on the outcome could remind one of the betting records set by The Great Sermon Handicap.

The Bobby Wickham Technique

Taking a leaf out of the conduct of Bobby Wickham who pitted John Hamilton Potter and Clifford Gandle against each other so as to secure her spinsterhood, politicos have already perfected the art of dividing the society along religion and caste fault lines, thereby securing their respective vote banks.

The Alfred Mulliner Magic Trick

When data becomes a liability, either suppress it, or hire some smart statisticians who might perform the magic of concocting another version which could be unleashed on the unsuspecting public.

If votes are getting recorded in some contraptions of an electronic kind, hire experts to find out the feasibility of tinkering with the same.

The Digital Sharks

These are the unsung digital warriors who have learnt their art of being conscientious from The Efficient Baxter. They keep churning out all kinds of stuff: The Flattering and Deceiving kind, as also the Outright Derogatory kind. Hundreds of millions of voters who are glued to their smart screens take these for gospel truths and unwittingly decide the destiny of the country, handing over the reins to a government they deserve!

The Amusement Quotient

Gullible denizens can be excused for believing that all politicians are as different as chalk and cheese. Nothing could be more misleading. Their means might appear to be different, but their goals are not. Irrespective of their affiliation, they chase the goal of grabbing and retaining power. If they cannot be kings, they aspire to be king-makers.

They live in a fish bowl. Whatever they say or do should appeal to their constituents. Their private lives have to bear the strictest investigation. Their sources of funds have to be kept under wraps. When it comes to their misdemeanours, the media has to be kept at an arm’s length.

With each election, the level of the political discourse keeps deteriorating. But the Amusement Quotient keeps improving, bringing much-needed succour to the Common Man facing the harsh slings and arrows of Life.

(Illustration on top courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.

Caricature of Mahatma Gandhi  by R K Laxman)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/delightful-characters-of-the-canine-kind-in-plumsville)

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Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free; 

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments;

By narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; 

Where the mind is led forward by thee 

Into ever-widening thought and action 

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

 

(1913, Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate)

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When the tireless striving of a true blue fan of P G Wodehouse stretches towards perfection, need one say more?!

Plumtopia

‘The two twin souls gazed into each other’s eyes. There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.’

P.G. Wodehouse – ‘Strychnine In The Soup’

To celebrate World Book Day, I’ve put together a little reading list of some of the books  featured in Wodehouse’s writing.

dickensGEGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens

‘… I’m in the middle of a rather special book. Ever read Great Expectations? Dickens, you know.’

‘I know. Haven’t read it, though. Always rather funk starting on a classic, somehow. Good?’

‘My dear chap! Good’s not the word.’

The Pothunters (1902)

adventures_of_sherlock_holmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

‘Mr. Downing had read all the Holmes stories with great attention, and had thought many times what an incompetent ass Doctor Watson was; but, now that he had started to handle his own first case, he was compelled to admit that…

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As per press reports, the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, had some time back touched upon the fact that nature provides rich lessons in harmony. On a retreat at Mashobra in Himachal Pradesh, President Ram Nath Kovind wrote that nature provides lessons in harmony as nation debates big challenges of education and health.

Excerpts:

  • I was experiencing nature at its most divine. I was also experiencing nature at its most caring. The sanctuary nurtures Shimla and its people. It cares for us as only Mother Nature can. Nature loves us and we love it back.
  • We don’t know the answers (for future). But what we do today- the social, intellectual, ethical and ecological investments that today’s generation makes – will help determine the answers. It is we who will determine the capacities of those who will build India in the next 25 to 50 years. It is we who will determine whether rivers and mountains and forests, with us for millennia, will still be available in all their glory for succeeding generations.
  • The wildlife sanctuary I visited does not distinguish between one and the other. It provides water to all. Its trees provide shade to all. Its clean air nourishes all. Its clean air nourishes all. Fraternity and compassion are written into nature’s DNA… Nature does not compartmentalise. Its instinct is integrative and holistic. Nature promotes mutualism. The flower nourishes the bee. The river waters quench the thirst of all living beings. And trees provide a welcoming home to so many birds and animals… There is a rhythm to this togetherness. And there is an almost cosmic bond that allows every living being, small and big, silent and loud, to live in harmony, to flourish, and to thrive. Human beings can learn from this.

(Source: Compassion, mutual dignity will protect the future of all Indians, The Times of India, May 25, 2018)

(Yours truly has contributed some of the chapters in the book and has also edited it.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/11/some-quotable-quotes-which-appear-in-the-book-on-leader-mindsets

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/some-quotable-quotes-which-appear-in-the-book-on-leader-mindsets-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/some-quotable-quotes-which-appear-in-the-book-on-leader-mindsets-part-3)

 

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ashokbhatia

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…

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The Association of Sterner Husbands (ASH) hereby seeks nominations for its prestigious Star Sterner Awards which are conferred upon those of the tribe of the so-called sterner sex who have managed to break the bond between themselves and their delicately nurtured spouses during the preceding year.

ASH is devoted to the cause of promoting Masculinism. It has instituted the awards to counter the ‘rising trend of all this nonsense about the modern emancipation of women which has resulted in them getting it up their noses’, eventually manifesting itself in such ‘movements’ as Feminism, #MeToo and the like.

Things in the society have reached a state where physical violence inflicted upon the party of the other part, even if the husband is all sozzled up, is in the realm of imagination. So is the provocation of an extra-marital affair. The level of delicacy of the f of the s has already jumped up several notches, putting a lot of burden on the m of the s. Besides the harsh slings and arrows of a career, he is now expected to take care of household affairs. The days when he could afford the luxury of exerting his authority without being responsible for whatever may be happening on the domestic front are long since over. The rise in the delicacy level has resulted into a sharp drop in the tolerance levels, thereby making it relatively easier for aggrieved husbands to persuade their wives to seek a divorce. A mere flick of the eyebrow is all that is needed these days to send a wife scouring around for a lawyer.

But the foundations of our civilization are quivering. The institution of marriage itself is being torn down brick by brick by cold-hearted wives clawing their way up the power ladder in a family. Unless prompt steps are taken through proper channels, the future of humanity is at stake. Males need to reassert themselves so the process of human evolution does not get derailed.

Those who qualify to apply for the Star Sterner Award would need to conclusively demonstrate having any or all of the personality traits mentioned herein below. They should have successfully persuaded their soul mates to promptly file for a divorce.

  • He has always imagined himself to be the King of Babylon and has treated his wife like an Egyptian slave. He would have been the lord and master of the house in the truest sense of term. His wish should have been her command. From time to time, he should have shown her place by assaulting her physically. He should have made her submit unconditionally to his whims and fancies. Like a caveman of the distant past, he should have never cringed at the prospect of hitting her with a club and dragging her with her hair to the cave. This would have fulfilled her inward yearning to be treated like Mrs Spottsworth.
  • He realizes that the proof of his masculinity lies in his donning the mantle of a Serial Harasser. He may otherwise lose whatever respect he gets from the society. Following would have been his role models:-Vincent Jopp who is known to have been terrible to his wife Luella Mainprice Jopp. He always insisted that her dog eat the leg of a chicken and not the breast.

    -Sir Derek Underhill, the knighted MP whose treatment of Jill (the reckless) scored rather high on the Richter Scale of Harassment of the Delicately Nurtured.

  • He should have an ostrich-like outlook on life. The trauma the wife suffers even when she receives a short message from him is her problem, not his. His arrival at the doorstep should make her wilt like a flower which has not been watered for some time. By traumatizing her, he merely hastens her spiritual growth. He has continued to live in a bubble of illusion that the wife alone is responsible for all the problems he faces. A bout of introspection or soul-searching should have been the last thing on his mind. 
  • The nominee has been firm in his belief that he is merely a victim of circumstances. He should have played the victim card to the hilt, scooping up sympathy – real or feigned – from all those who have come under his spell. He is convinced that by doing so, the rift between the partners would get resolved. He refuses to address the basic issue at hand. A direct dialogue with the person he believes to be the Harasser would have been a strict no-no. He has played safe by remaining at the fringes and never coming to the point.
  • He should have been a harsh critic of all endeavours of his wife, clearly conveying the deficiency in her services, such as:-Her culinary skills not matching to the standards set by Anatole, God’s gift to the gastric juices;

    -The need for her to undergo a crash course in rearing children under the aegis of such stalwarts in the realm of lion-taming as Aunt Agatha who brought up Thos and Miss Tomlinson who, with her steely gaze, could control goofy kids like Peggy Mainwaring. 

    Either cleaning the dishes and doing the laundry, or in maintaining the house like a five-star hotel, all spick and span.

    -Having a dreamy demeanour, like that of Madeline Bassett, or being someone who deserves to consult Sir Roderick Glossop so as to ascertain her Loopiness Quotient.

  • He should have repeatedly told her of all that he has done for her and for her ungrateful family. Hating her parents and her family is one of the essential conditions. So are misbehaving with them in her presence, ignoring her siblings when they come to pay a visit, rebuking her sister-in-law, showing open disrespect to her brother-in-law and even taking their kids to task for any goofy adventures. Driving a wedge between their kids and his kids would have been his policy.
  • Evidence of having insulted her in the presence of her kids would help.
  • Unlike Bertie Wooster, he should have never behaved with her like a preux chevalier.
  • Nor should he have ever followed the example of Bingo Little, ensuring that she got her afternoon cup of tea without fail. He should have never behaved like a spineless worm beneath her chariot wheels when she wanted to accompany her mother for some treatment at the Droitwich brine bath. Displaying nerves of chilled steel, he should have put his foot down. Even if her mother had decided to kick the bucket, he should have bluntly refused to support any of her travel plans.
  • If he had ever been persuaded to wear a skirt and undertake such household chores as dish washing, baby sitting and vacuuming, he should have let it be known in clear terms that he performs such chivalrous acts only as a great favour to the family; that he does so after making great personal sacrifices, such as catching up either on the latest political gimmickry on television or on social media updates streaming through his smart phone. He should have resorted to such tactics as may have irritated her no end, like never tidying up the toilet seat and even honing his discus throwing skills by using his wet towels in the master bedroom.

Those who have ever felt like a Tubby Vanringham to a cold-hearted Miss Whittaker need not apply.

It is presumed that applicants have covered their tracks well and ensured that no evidence of any of the acts mentioned above and indulged in by them exists. Documentation submitted in support of the application shall be kept confidential, thereby minimizing the chance of an applicant being hauled up in a harassment case.

The awards will be presented on the next International Men’s Day at the Blandings Castle by Sir Derek Underhill in the august presence of Lord Emsworth, the Chairman of the Association of Sterner Husbands and himself a member of the old school which resents a disposition on the part of the young man to act like a slave to the deemed Cleopatra of his life.

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