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Memoirs serve a useful purpose. These not only capture the life and times of a seasoned professional but also offer a deep insight into various facets of life. One gets to learn precious lessons in management of people, resources and institutions. One comes across precious nuggets of wisdom, based on the experiences of the author. These leave behind a legacy of sorts; more so, when written with a sense of humility and not in a self-congratulatory mode.

This book is one such offering. It is an interesting autobiographical account of a life well lived. It sketches out in detail the kind of hard work, persistence and emotional intelligence that a senior administrative professional needs to leverage so as to be able to ensure delivery of timely and effective services to the common man. It gives the reader an inside view of how the vast government machinery in such a diverse country as India functions, and author’s handling of the kind of challenges faced and successfully overcome. 

The narrative is intimate, introspective and invigorating. The author is frank about how an abiding commitment to his career affected his relationships with his family and how his wife dutifully moved in to support him through thick and thin. He mentions some moving encounters with death and disease. Often, he is open about the manner in which he realized in retrospect as to how a given situation could have been handled better. At many places, he does not shy away from revealing self-doubt and disappointment. The narrative is riveting and personal and motivates one to aspire for higher goals in all spheres of life.

The underlying message in this narrative is that of a relentless focus on one’s goals in life and the criticality of following high values and ethics, despite temptations and obstructions. The importance of not always being a yes-man and occasionally standing up to a higher power also gets highlighted. There are occasional dashes of subtle humour as well.

These memoirs are not a commentary on any of the policies of the government of the day. Those who are expecting to read an analysis of the history of the economic strides made by India from the 1960s till now are also likely to be disappointed. Nor do these provide any insights into the various ideologies present across the entire political spectrum. Littered with instructive quotes from scriptures, poets, philosophers and literary figures, these provide a ringside view of the life and times of an able administrator, whether on the personal or on the professional front.

During the past several decades, Indian youth have collectively lost interest in making a career in the central or provincial services. Career choices of youth have invariably favoured the private sector, that too in the realm of Information, Communication and Technology systems, besides engineering and medicine.

Hopefully, this book will not only inspire the youth of today to consider the option of entering public service more seriously but also motivate them to prepare well to gain an entry into this exalted profession. This way, if they succeed, they will eventually have the inner glow of satisfaction for contributing towards the transformation of this unique country of ours.

The present version of the book is available in the Hindi language. It had a global launch recently and is now available at https://www.amazon.in/dp/B091MRXM5R?ref=myi_title_dp.

(The author of this book, Mr. Ashok Bhatia, is a retired officer of the Indian Administrative Services. He had chosen the state of Gujarat to serve the nation. In his career spanning 49 years, he also held several important high ranking positions with the Government of India.

He lives with his wife in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.)

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My audience may by now be losing its patience, thinking as to why I keep harping on the term ‘values’ so very often!

The Road to Happiness

Well, it would not need a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what is happening here. Besides being an occasional author, a speaker, a regular blogger and content creator on such topics as Management, P G Wodehouse, Bollywood and life in general, yours truly has undergone several juicy experiences in life – some sweet and some sour. Based on my 35 years+ experience in the corporate world, I have become aware and conscious of the need for high values and ethics in business. Some of you may recall my having worked across the two opposite ends of the Value Spectrum.

Add to this the enriching experience I have had while our planet has been busy spinning on its axis and completing 68 odd rounds around the sun since I have been around and the plot gets even thicker. Those of you who have had the misfortune of trudging through my articles and books would have already sensed an underlying current highlighting this very theme. In me, they would have discovered a fierce critic of any kind of compromises on this front.

My belief is that business ships (and lives too) which are built on a keel of sound values end up not only having a better brand equity but also yield better returns. When we are broad minded and give back to the society at large, we serve a higher purpose in life. Purpose brings inner happiness. Happiness is what we all seek.

Where Do Our Values Come From?

All this may have left my audience wondering as to from where our value systems come from. This would surely need the keen eye of Sherlock Holmes to explore.

Our Genes

After years of research on bonobos – intelligent apes closely related to us, homo-sapiens – Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but comes from within us. In his path-breaking book entitled The Bonobo and the Atheist, he proposes that moral behavior does not begin and end with religion. It appears that our values and ethics are instead a product of evolution and cultural response. All of us strive to be good within ourselves, in our own eyes. This explains our trait of innate goodness.

A cat or a dog may not think through the process so thoroughly, but bonobos surely appear to be aware of the nuances of social norms. They have a developed sense of reciprocity and fairness. They are even known to intervene in a fight between two tribe members so as to maintain peace and harmony!

Ancient apes, whales and dolphins deserve our gratitude for several qualities that we possess – our sensitivity to others, our concern for fairness, love of harmony and other just forms of societal behavior. If religion or spirituality attracts us, it is because that is how Mother Nature has made us. These present to us a template of good conduct; these touch a chord somewhere deep within us.

We, a Cocktail of ‘Gunas’

However, there is no guarantee that all of us follow the template of good conduct alone. As per Bhagavad Gita, each one of us has a unique mix of the three kinds of traits (gunas): Sattwic, Rajasic and Tamasic.

Spiritual texts tell us that both the good as well as the evil are manifestations of the Divine. When Lord Krishna manifests his all-pervasive and all-inclusive Vishwarupa form in the midst of his sermon to Arjuna, he reveals the negative side of the Divine as well.

Conception, Upbringing and Our Role Models

The thoughts of our parents when we were conceived, the manner in which we are brought up and the role models we have in our lives are perhaps some of the other factors which shape our inner value systems.

In childhood, when I picked up some money lying on the road outside my home, with gleeful thoughts of treating myself and my friends to an ice cream or two later, I had no other option but to be guided by the moral compass of my parents. I was made to donate the money to a beggar outside a temple we visited in the evening that day. In many other instances, a straight and narrow path of righteousness was laid out.

It was a common practice for my paternal grandmother to read a few pages of Ramcharitmanas almost every evening. Likewise, my maternal grandmother was a follower of the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave and Swami Vivekananda. Stories from Panchatantra et al defined the nature of books and comics available to us in our childhood.

The rich legacy left behind by my parents and other family seniors comprises the kind of values they cherished. Never to brag about one’s accomplishments. To listen to all, but to do only what one’s inner voice holds to be right. Be truthful and honest, but not to hurt anyone in the process. Do not easily promise anything; once promised, just do it. Treat others in the way you yourself wish to be treated. Be punctual; you have no right to waste another’s time. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Be good to others, but protect yourself first. Be always courteous to members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Judge people only by their inner qualities; not by their external appearance. As to your future plans, share these only on a need to know basis.

In addition to the immediate family members, there were a bevy of uncles, aunts and cousins passing by the household, some benign and a few others not so. Their feedback and their comments also shaped up our thoughts.

Those were simpler days when the radio was the only means of entertainment. The power supply would often play hide and seek. At bed time, while watching the twinkling stars high above, one could learn much from the stories of various achievements of our ancestors narrated by someone senior.

Lord Rama and Lord Krishna 

Mahabharata was yet another epic which influenced me. Arising out of an age-old belief that a copy kept in the house could lead to conflicts between siblings, I could read it only when I was in college. Some traits of Lord Krishna – a friendly disposition, fleet-footedness, detachment, helping those who are on the path of righteousness, strategic thinking, treating ends more important than the means, etc – are endearing and relevant to this day.

Both the godheads present a slightly different template of good conduct. Both exhort us lesser mortals to follow the path of righteousness, or dharma. But their methods vary. If Lord Rama is an epitome of virtue and is to be kept on a high pedestal and revered, Lord Krishna is less bound by notions of morality. He is a true friend, philosopher and guide. If a villain in our story is troubling us too much, one could frankly confide in Krishna and request him to ensure that the fellow be somehow banished from Earth and packed off to Mars on a one-way ticket. This is the kind of liberty we just cannot take with Rama who would surely take a jaundiced view of a request of this kind!

Much later in life, in the corporate world, I learnt the practice of ethical values at two of the companies I worked with. Tax planning and tax avoidance was fine, tax evasion was not. Creative interpretation of laws was fine; laxity in following the norms of governance was not. Payment of bribes was ruled out.

In one instance, while in the employment of one of these companies, I was invited by a management institute to be a part of their curriculum finalization team. A token remuneration was offered by the institute and accepted by me. As per company policy, the amount was gifted to a charity rather than used by me personally.

Learning from the Younger Ones

Bring in a leader of high values in an organization and see for yourself the manner in which ethical practices percolate down to all the levels. Given support from the very top, businesses then get run by striking a judicial balance between the commercial interests and the society’s welfare. A culture of encouraging Conscience Keepers and discouraging neither dissent nor whistle-blowing permeates such organizations.

In a way, we can learn much from our younger generation which does not feel shy in calling on its employers to either shape up or ship out. Uber experienced this recently, when it came to dealing with reports of harassment by its drivers of some of its female passengers. Likewise, producers of the 2020 movie, The Social Dilemma, deserve a hearty round of applause for giving us a peek into the way we get manipulated by the social media giants.

Values: Teaching and Learning      

I have no academic credentials to say this, but I believe that values can not only be learnt but can also be taught. Learning comes from within whereas teaching is an external stimulus. One moves as if on a spiral, imbibing things within while also absorbing inputs from outside.

If our inner consciousness is awakened, so to say, we may be more open to learning good values. But if we have somehow evolved into dense, obstinate and shameless beings, believing ourselves to be the epitome of perfection, life’s harsher slings and arrows alone may be able to teach us quite a few things. All of us are like sponges which readily absorb the kind of cultural liquid which surrounds us. That is how, keeping the right ‘company’ is so very crucial in our lives!

In-house orientation programs, backed by relevant case studies and real-time experiences shared from across different verticals of the organization can help. The credibility of the resource person often plays a crucial role.

Grooming Spiritually Inclined Leaders

Businesses (and many of our governments too!) need to consciously groom leaders who rate high not only on their Intelligence and Emotional Quotients, but also on their Moral or Spiritual Quotient, bringing in to the work place a set of healthy values and ethical practices.

This, I believe, is the basic need of our times.

 

(SQ Illustration courtesy Sanket; other images courtesy www) 

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/02/21/a-few-things-which-make-me-angry-these-days

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/values-the-real-soul-of-organizations-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/ethics-and-values

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/towards-sq

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-beauty-inside-bonobos-and-management)

 

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(Non-statutory warning: Reading the article below could be injurious to readers’ mental health and leave them a wee bit depressed. Caution is advised.

The author is reasonably certain that this article is not an outcome of the kind of wholesome pessimism which is believed to envelope one in advancing age.)

There is a mood of despondency which descends upon my frail grey cells once in a while. Dark clouds which have gathered upon me are accompanied by sinister rumblings. Lightning streaks of a menacing kind keep lighting up the sky, duly followed by thunderous howls which pierce my ears. One peers into the future and one shudders to think of the kind of world one would leave behind for our progeny to live in. Tectonic plates of our society appear to be shifting, causing major upheavals.

No, one does not allude to the pandemic stalking us these days. Nor does one refer to such universal problems like global warming, economic disparities, widespread poverty and illiteracy etc. Instead, one refers here to tectonic plates of a different kind – the ones which impact our value systems, human values, social harmony, honesty, fairness and justice, norms of democracy, absence of truthful and factual information, materialistic progress, and the like.

Consider what is happening around us these days.

Some Ground Realities

The Lack of a Conscious Approach to Business Goals

Businesses continue to be driven by greed and avarice alone. Hapless CEOs have no other option but to keep delivering results from one quarter to the next.

There are no guarantees that Volkswagen will not soon come up with yet another technical trick to befool the regulators and its customers. Boeing may yet again secure approvals for launching a model which might put air passengers’ lives at risk. Financial scams will keep tumbling out of corporate closets at a standard frequency which might put an atomic clock to shame.

Think of rising inequalities. Consider a report presented by Oxfam at the January 2021 World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, titled ‘The Inequality Virus’. It says that the 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months of 2020, whereas the world’s poorest could take up to a decade to recover from the pandemic induced setback. I am certain that philanthropic initiatives of the richest have not suddenly seen a proportionately higher uptick.

So, every crisis that humanity faces turns out to be an opportunity for the well endowed to amass greater wealth. Is this the kind of Materialistic and Unconscious Business model that we wish to continue following? Our answer would of course depend based on whether we are from the ‘haves’ side or the ‘have-nots’ side of the society.

The Monkey Business Called Politics

Probity and decency in the public life of our leaders is long since buried. Gone are the days when vibrant democracies needed a strong opposition to thrive. These days, even the President of a country can himself turn against the hallowed portals of democracy and send rampaging mobs braying for the blood of those out to declare him defeated in an election. In other words, it is one of those promotional offers – you vote in a President and get another one for free!

The aforesaid top boss’ term has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Even before he exhorted his followers to attack the Capitol and the legislative branch of government, he ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all the while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business.

In yet another country, the main adversary runs the risk of not only being poisoned but also getting imprisoned on some ground or the other, while those in power brutally suppress dissent marked by men’s underwear and gold-painted toilet cleaning brushes.

World over, there is no dearth of leaders who have dictatorial ambitions but mask these well with democratic credentials. Speak of transparent political funding and all one gets is the silence of a tomb.

In yet another country, lies, obfuscation of facts and clever data management seem to have become a norm. Photo-ops, positive optics and feel-good media feed by devout followers keep the entire nation in thrall. Attempts to stifle dissent and to paint anyone not toeing the rulers’ line as unpatriotic continue unchecked. Getting offended by comments made by those living thousands of miles away appears to have become a national pastime. When a stand-up comedian speaks up, our clairvoyant nature allows us to guess what offending remark he is yet to make. Prompt legal action gets taken, nipping the intended mischief in the bud.

Building physical infrastructure is simply great. So is the drive to embrace technology to make life of a common man simpler. But when this comes at the cost of demolishing social harmony and making a democratic country free of any kind of opposition worth its while, the long term price of a ‘progress’ of this kind is rather high. I am not an economist, but I wonder if an economy can grow while the society itself is getting fragmented.

World over, quite a few governments have even used the pandemic as a cover to suppress dissent and cut short processes to introduce laws of an unpopular kind. In the process, their soft power is bound to dive down.

The Rudderless Social (and Anti-Social) Media

During 2020, in India, when our northern neighbour had encroached upon our land, and when the media should have been doling out useful health tips for people to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic, the only ‘breaking news’ was the suspected suicide of a Bollywood actor and the activities of his girl friend.

Social media, duly backed by smart algorithms, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, keeps shaping our thought processes, our choices, our preferences, our perceptions and our beliefs. We are already living in a fish bowl where the law makers as well as the private players are hands in glove to sell detailed information about us to the highest bidder. Privacy concerns and personal liberties be damned. Pretty soon, it may happen that government support is available only to those who have a pro-government presence on various media platforms.

The whole idea is perhaps to help a lay person evolve into a dumb chum of the first order, unable to use his own judgement in matters of public importance; essentially, to numb the person’s grey cells. In other words, we all become zombies (or jack asses, if you prefer) of the first order.

Little do we realize that there are no free lunches in life. Any service available to us free of cost over the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves only means that ‘We, the People’ are the product on sale!

If our social media czars do not come up with a realistic code of conduct for themselves soon enough, governments, to salvage their public image, may soon have to start dishing out harsher laws.

Perhaps, one of the czars will soon set up an academy to groom many of our whizz kids into becoming ethical hackers and algorithm developers.

Neglecting Half of the Homo Sapiens

If they stay at home, their contribution to society is never even acknowledged. Rather, it is taken for granted. If they venture out of their home and hearth, lustful gazes disrobe them mentally. If they get violated, they only have to take the rap. In war zones, they are the instruments used to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the other.

Yes, I refer to the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured. They are the ones upon whom Mother Nature has conferred the unique capacity of keeping our civilization alive and ticking. They may be as tough as nails and proving themselves to be better than the so-called sterner sex in all fields of human endeavour. A fact which was reinforced yet again when a deadly pandemic arrived at our doorsteps. In public, they may get put on a pedestal and revered. But in private, they often get treated like a doormat, treated as mere objects, only to be used and abused.

Doting lover boys, upon metamorphosing into husbands, often shed their chivalrous masks and start behaving like dictators. If a family breaks up owing to mistreatment, ridicule, abuse and violence at the hands of their husbands, it is the lady of the house alone who gets the entire blame – for being obstinate and uncompromising. The general view is that she is a gold digger of sorts.

Such a patriarchal mindset is not an exclusive prerogative of the poor alone. Nor does it respect geographical boundaries. Education levels also do not make much of a difference. Take couples across different countries, economic status and education level and one is apt to find this to be a universal phenomenon. The Chivalry Quotient may vary across all these parameters, but a singular shortage of preux chevaliers is felt all over our planet. Religious beliefs and even some spiritual tenets reinforce such derogatory views.

In respect of the legal framework, our experience in India has been a mixed one. The females have learnt the art of terrorizing their husbands and their families by foisting cases of imagined harassment, with the sole aim of securing better settlements while seeking divorce. Surely, the training in chivalry truly begins at home – either in the kitchen or at the dining table. Laws can play only a limited role.

The tectonic shift taking place here is that of divorce rates going up and couples preferring to remain friends with perks. Upwardly mobile wives who can stand on their own feet detest drawing husbands who refuse to wear skirts and help out with domestic chores. Once the family structure crumbles, there is a higher probability of the value system of the next generation going for a toss.

The Silence of the Lambs

In many of the issues brought out above, are we ourselves not responsible for the mess that we are in? The silence of our intellectuals, the self-centredness and public apathy of the middle class which more or less upholds values in society and the mute surrender of the common man – are these not some of the factors which have enabled this situation to have come about?

Many years back, I vaguely recall having read a satirical story in Hindi, written by a well known humourist in the language, Hari Shankar Parsai. A herd of lambs is made to believe that few wily foxes alone can solve all their problems. Pretty soon, foxes get voted in. One fine day, a ruling comes that to save the ruling foxes, some sheep should voluntarily surrender to be sacrificed each day so the patriotic fervour is kept alive and the nation is run effectively!

I am not a political science buff. Thus, I am not qualified to say if democracy as a model of governance is failing us. But one of its enabling factors is the presence of conscious leaders who are not shameless and still have traces of humility, empathy, decency and a concern for genuine overall good.

With No Malice towards Anyone  

Educated youth who have no means of earning a living, will they not have a raw anger simmering within them? Will the poorer lot not take a jaundiced view of grand government schemes the benefits of which do not reach them?

Perhaps there is a feeling of helplessness within them. Perhaps they have dollops of patience.  May be they realize that they are too small to bring about any change and feel it is better to accept things as they are and continue wallowing in misery and self-pity, blaming God for all their troubles.

But is a meek acceptance of murkier developments in the world around us a better approach? Can we not dissipate the seething anger within by at least saying what we find to be reproachable? Can we not break our silence of the lambs and speak up?

With Whom Does the Buck Stop?!

Are we ourselves not a part of the problem? Why have we, reasonably educated and rather wise people, decided to outsource our thinking processes and have instead opted to become zombies?!

Do we not keep patronizing companies even we know they have been cheating in the past? Are we not the ones who get swayed by propaganda and cast a vote for a particular party or a particular leader? Do we ever boycott a media outlet which acts as a mouth piece of those in power?

If we are addicted to, say, WhatsApp or Facebook, can we really blame their inventors for the issues that we face? Don’t we find it convenient to remain in touch with our friends and family members through these platforms?

When we notice a female being harassed, are we not likely to look the other way? Is the onus of ‘adjusting’ not always put on the female? Can we take a pause before we make a victim the facilitator of a crime?

Overall, by remaining a mute spectator and witness to acts of corruption, misinformation, lies and half-truths, do we not become accomplices to such misdeeds?

It is not wise to altogether point a finger at others only. A knife kind of a tool is given to us. Let us use it to prepare a juicy dish and not to hurt someone. The choice of usage is with us.

Our endeavour therefore should be to stand up, be courageous and outspoken. This alone can get us counted. Even if there is one sane voice amongst all the noise and din, it would resonate with other like-minded individuals out there.

Our salute needs to reach out not only to those who are already raising their voices but also to the decision makers who might eventually get around to listening to us.

Some Silver Linings

All this is not to say that there are no silver linings in the dark clouds hovering above us. As P G Wodehouse puts it, even when the air is pregnant with V or W-shaped depressions, there are always silver linings on the clouds. We shall do well never to repine, never to despair, but to work upon our own selves and on others in our sphere of influence. It is good to remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.

There are business houses which keep following good values and ethics in their day to day operations. There are leaders who respond well to challenges like social disharmony and stalking pandemics with a dash of human values. They treat dissent as a valuable input for their decision making processes. We also have very few social media and gig economy barons who are being forced by their own employees to either shape up or ship out.

Lawmakers and pressure groups in USA are already reported to be thinking of ways to bring in a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics, laws, the likes of which have not been seen since the post-Watergate era.

Perhaps, eminent legal eagles in India can also take a leaf out of the USA experience. As a country, we had experienced suppression of dissent even during the 1970s, when an emergency was declared. Can some more constitutional safeguards be brought in so that a popular mandate does not give the executive the right to ride rough shod over other arms of the government, thereby increasing the probability of the country being taken in a direction which is not the same as what our founding fathers had envisioned?

Above all, it is the man on the street, busy keeping his body and soul together, eking out a living for his family and even helping others in distress. When the scales from his eyes fall and he wakes up to a life threatening situation at hand, he reacts. The farmers in India are already showing their resolve following the strategy of peaceful protests and civic disobedience used by Mahatma Gandhi many decades ago.

Then we have lone wolf professional bodies. World Without Corruption in Belgium gives businesses a voice in fighting corrupt practices. The Conscious Enterprises Network in UK speaks of conscious leaders leading their enterprises in a holistic value-based manner in all spheres of human enterprise. The Center for Business Ethics & Compliance in Russia is focused on best practices in the realm of ethics and compliance.

Likewise, in India, Spandan Foundation is passionate about human values in organizations and even plans to set up a centre dedicated to the cause. Shakti Leadership highlights the importance of using feminine traits like empathy and compassion in decision making and assists individuals and organizations in their quest for conscious evolution. The Association for Democratic Reforms keeps relevant political issues alive and kicking in public eye.

I am sure there are many others scattered over other continents. Their attempt is to bring like-minded people together and keep the embers of a pious fire aglow, focused on values and ethics.

The Mighty Churning

The society is always in a flux. These days, it appears to be undergoing a mightier churning which reminds one of the episode of Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Sea) in Indian scriptures. The churning throws up poison as well as the nectar which grants immortality. Those who believe in following the path of righteousness end up securing the latter.

It is easy to see that we have a leadership crisis on our hands. Since a situation also produces a leader, one hopes that more and more conscious leaders keep emerging, nudging us in the right direction.

Admittedly, the silver linings appear to be like a pale parabola of joy, to borrow an expression from P G Wodehouse. This will remain so till the time a bevy of conscious leaders – whether in business or in politics – do not appear on the scene and convert this into a shimmering parabola of bliss.

The solution is not to keep sweeping issues like hunger, poverty, economic non-inclusion and prejudicial animosity under the carpet. Nor is it to raise the existing walls, whether political, commercial, attitudinal or religious. It lies instead in a truly global view based on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam: The World is One Family.

Being a born optimist who believes in having a chin-up attitude, I do hope that some of these tectonic shifts can at least get retarded, if not altogether reversed, in the years to come.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/why-the-wren-is-a-patriot-and-not-a-nationalist-guest-post-by-prof-badri-raina

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/jeeves-and-the-social-media-challenge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/jeeves-seeks-a-placement)

 

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Those of you who had gone through my earlier post might recall the fact that the trauma of cardiac surgery was adequately compensated for by my Guardian Angels. On the positive side, other than a career breakthrough, pending family obligations got met successfully; marriages of both my children got fixed up in this period. Moreover, in subsequent life, I became a sort of cardiac expert, dishing out sage advice to my colleagues, friends and relatives.

Incorrect Choices and the Value Spectrum

This change was just a way for life to reinforce within me the importance of observing values and ethics in whatever I did.

The strategic flaw in the scheme of things was that I had willy-nilly landed in an organization the value system of which did not match that of my own. It was my pumpkin headedness which led me to continue with the organization for as long as I did. Like a pilot in a flight hit by an enemy’s missile, I might as well have pressed the cockpit eject button much earlier.

If you are one of those who twiddle their thumbs wondering as to why I tend to place a high premium on sound values to be followed in business can rightfully blame my corporate career for the same. Having worked in organizations which were at two opposite ends of the value spectrum, I have seen at close quarters the perks of being value-driven and also the perils of not being so. That is how, in yours truly, you are apt to find a fierce critic of any kind of compromises on this front. The underlying belief is that business ships which are built on a keel of sound values end up not only having a better brand equity but also yield better returns to their stakeholders. When businesses are broad minded and give back to the society at large, they serve a higher purpose.

Our personal Brand Equity gets built by the kind of choices we makes and the kind of company we seek over a long period of time. The right strategy to follow in any career is to give due weightage to this single factor when choosing organizations we decide to work for. We consider this issue in some detail somewhere else in this compilation.

No Fault in Our Stars! 

When one undergoes a humiliating experience, one feels as if one has been simply used and thrown into a trash bin. One’s stock is down. The market is sluggish. Only bears, having come out of hibernation, rule.

The first response is to blame it on our stars. But it is the choices we make ourselves which lead one to suffer in life. We create our own destiny, so to say.

Shakespeare was bang on when he said that ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings’ (Julius Caesar: Act 1, Scene 2).

A Chiselling Towards Perfection

One may say with a reasonable degree of accuracy that Life has indeed been wired to act like a Master Sculptor. Life has not learnt the art of sculpting by means of a correspondence course which was not even completed but left midway.

All this chiselling business, you see, comes in pretty handy in life. Each of these highlights at least one glaring deficiency in one’s personality. At the time it happens, it startles one, much like a nymph surprised while splashing about in her Jacuzzi in the comfort of her home and hearth. Shock and disbelief quickly follows. A deep resentment gets felt, in the vein of what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this.

Eventually, once reason starts returning to its throne, a pitiless analysis follows. Root causes get identified. An action plan to address these gets made and then worked upon. A better self emerges. Weaknesses often get converted into strengths. It is as if our Guardian Angels are gently nudging us to mend our ways, develop healthier attitudes, acquire better working habits and enjoy life better.

All of us have villains in our lives. With any change in the family setting or in the organization we work for, the name and the face of a villain alone changes. The element of villainy simply refuses to go away.

Perhaps all these villains keep popping up to show us our place in life. They teach us the value of humility. The day we are feeling on top of the world and patting ourselves on the back on the successful accomplishment of a long cherished goal, fate, donning the mask of a villain, quietly sneaks up from behind and hits us with a nail studded club.

Blessings in Disguise

In a way, these turn out to be blessings in disguise. If these do not happen, we are likely to trudge along on a straight and narrow path. We are apt to keep wallowing in our comfort zones in a protracted state of procrastination, refusing to budge from our prejudices, much like an obstinate Balaam’s Ass!

We cannot change others. But we can look within and be open to change ourselves. That is indeed possible.

While at school, I won many prizes in local as well as in national level essay writing competitions, but never on the subject of scripture knowledge. However, I do believe that if the concept of reincarnation is believed, whatever Life leaves incomplete in us during this life time perhaps takes it up with missionary zeal in our subsequent lives!

In other words, the earlier we shape up, the easier it is. The choice is entirely ours!

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/01/17/some-more-encounters-of-a-weird-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/08/01/the-karma-operating-system)

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Many of us these days are fed up of quiet a few things – handling lockdowns, an overdose of the Work From Home virus, a torrent of depressing news from all sides, being bleary-eyed owing to movie/serial binges on online streaming platforms, to name only a few.  We wish to hedge our bets and take wings. We are looking out for a well-deserved vacation.

If you fall in this category, here is a guide which can help you to choose the country of your choice and plan the gig in advance. What follows is a review of the book by yours truly. 

 

When life puts a human resources expert and a history buff together, one gets a formidable team which loves adventure and believes that the routine and the mundane is lethal. Provide them with an insatiable urge to explore new cultures, discover new places, savour different cuisines and make friends in distant places, and they treat the world like an oyster. They keep falling in love with places they have never been to before. They end up making memories all over the world.

Here is a sumptuous offering from the team of Rajeev Varma and his wife, Meenakshi Varma. It is a meticulous record of their travels to countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Russia, Norway, Belgium, UK and Switzerland, to mention only a few. The book here covers as many as 23 countries, with the tantalizing promise of few more to come!

Other than the places and their famous attractions, the couple have often taken the road less travelled. By chronicling their travels, they enrich our understanding of the countries captured in this book. Behavioural traits of many of the countries have been captured lovingly. As one joins them in these wanderings, one gets a sneak peek into each country’s history, the evolution of its cultural and racial potpourri, the collective behaviour of its people and the kind of staple diet they relish. Written in a lucid style, the book offers a vivid description of distant places on our planet.

In fact, one of the outstanding features of these memoirs is the mouth watering description of a wide variety of delectable local dishes on offer in almost all the countries. Even names of restaurants have been captured at places, prompting one to catch the next flight and land there to taste the savouries!

There are several other ways in which these memoirs stand out amongst the otherwise readily available tourist brochures, travelogues and the kind of details available over the world-wide-web we humans have spun around ourselves.

One, these are first-hand accounts based on relatively objective observations, sans any value judgements about any of the countries or its denizens.

Two, given the details etched out so very painstakingly, one can plan one’s next visit to a specific country far more knowledgably.

Three, a realization dawns – that the purpose of travelling to a different country need not always be ticking off the list of ‘Places-To-Visit’ of the more famous of its attractions – the monuments, the palaces, the relics and the museums. Admittedly, these do have their utility as fodder for our public relations and ego-boosting drives on social media and amongst our circle of relatives and friends. But the key purpose of travel is also to get a first-hand initial feel of the soul of a country, rather than merely exploring its physical body.

These memoirs also offer some underlying lessons. If life enables one physically, emotionally and financially, it makes eminent sense to avail opportunities to forget one’s own champagne and caviar at home and instead venture out to taste the world! Moreover, to extract the best juice out of such opportunities life gifts us with, meticulous planning in advance helps, just the way Rajeev and Meenakshi have done in their several sojourns described here.

Travel amuses, entertains, educates and enlivens us. If the book in your hands serves to whet your appetite to explore our beautiful planet, its purpose would have been adequately served. But budget your travels wisely. With similar compilations to follow in the times to come, you may run the risk of splurging on the first few trips, thereby making future escapades relatively dreary – a prospect best avoided!

Another word of caution – every trip could make us realize that we seem to know less and less about more and more. So, keep vacationing, continue to explore newer places and keep following the sequels to this maiden compilation!

 

About the author:  

Rajeev loves travelling, conversing, writing and singing. He is a lover of arts and is fond of theatre and documentaries. He values human interactions and likes to reach out to long lost acquaintances and re-forge relationships.  He has re-connected with friends who were his closest some five decades ago!

A Human Resource Management practitioner by profession, Rajeev was associated with the TATAs in India for nine years before relocating to the Middle East. Initially working for 15 years as Corporate HR Head for organizations in Dubai and Oman, he later managed his own Training & Management Consultancy Company in Muscat, Oman for 10 years.  He is a qualified coach and a counsellor. He is a University topper.

He now lives in NOIDA, India with his wife, children and grandchildren.

His next venture is to write a book on life of expatriates in the Middle East.

He can be reached at: rajeevtheomnist@gmail.com)

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My dear Heart…..

ashokbhatia

heart care

Seven years back, when you protested, the plumbing had to be set right;
I became aware that you existed, now you continue working with all your might.

I feel your throb throughout my body, in my feet, in my arms, in my ears;
I hear the pulse even in my head, realize you have been there all these years.

Never have you asked for a vacation, relentlessly you go on thumping;
Supplying blood to all corners of the body, you always keep pumping.

A skip on your part and I go crazy, a flutter and things around me go hazy;
You may label me a couch potato, I always try not to be too lazy.

The soothing music of your pulse, sometime slow, sometime fast;
Like the strains of a vibrant drum filling up my being´s theater vast.

I walk and I exercise, keeping both of us fit with positive…

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ashokbhatia

Music has great power. It touches the innermost recesses of our being. It invigorates. When we attend a concert and soak in music which is uplifting and rich, there are moments when we can hardly bear the sheer bliss. Mellifluous notes surround us. We float in an ocean of musical waves, enjoying its depth and grandeur. We just wish for the time to stop its relentless onward march. We wish to forever live in that frozen moment of inward happiness. We crave to be left alone in space and time.

We live in exciting times. We have geniuses who enthrall us with music of diverse genres. Scintillating dance performances, mesmerizing concerts and rapturous vocals keep us spellbound. Right from the snow-clad Swiss Alps to the lush green plains of India, one is fortunate to have heard and seen maestros who have perfected the art of touching our souls and made…

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ashokbhatia

Often, we hear that age is a mere number,
But also wonder if it makes us dumb and dumber;
Unless proper and timely steps are taken through channels right,
The chances of our becoming dull happen to be bright.

The body needs all the care and affection it can get,
The mind needs to be kept active, not to forget;
The soul needs nourishment of a different kind,
Otherwise it is left in torment and in a bind.

The zeal of youth makes us leap light-heartedly into traps,
The spirit of adventure keeps us wandering off the known maps;
Romantics at heart, fragile in maturity, we jump at gold coins with strings attached,
We behave like zombies, often getting disappointed over chickens un-hatched.

 ZOMBIES

When advanced in age, our optimism fades, no longer making the spirits lift,
A feeling grows that our guardian angels no longer care to bear a…

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(One of the many perks which the Coronavirus has conferred upon Homo sapiens is that of making us realize the criticality of being part of a ‘Soul Family’ and also rediscovering the one we happen to blessed with in this life. In my own terms, these are a bunch of buddies who happen to have an underground cable connection with us, to be reactivated as and when the situation demands so. 

Here is an insightful message which I received from a friend of mine recently. The author is unknown. But the intention to share it here is merely to spread its wisdom and the positive vibes, not to plagiarize!) 

Your soul family is slightly different to your spirit guides and guardian angels as they are usually a collective group of beings to whom you are on similar frequency levels and energetically connected, related and in tune. However, there are variations to this as occasionally a soul family member may be of angelic or seraphim origin or if in physical form they may even be incarnated as your pet who watches over you.

Some of your soul family members travel with you and incarnate at the same time as you do, while others remain in higher frequency worlds. These relationships are often powerful and have a notion of a mission that is shared by the various family members. Your soul family members who have incarnated here with you at the same time don’t always have to be part of your bloodline family but can be anyone who you strongly connect and resonate with and often share similar interests.

Connecting and working with your soul family may help you feel protected and nurtured as they do their best to assist and support you.

Your soul family brings with them great wisdom that may not have been previously fully accessible to you. This wisdom and knowledge may be able to assist you in remembering your life purpose and feeling like you have a mission in life. Your soul families wisdom may be very useful in healing deep wounds and assist in clearing things from your life that no longer serve you. Better life balance may be established also.

Your soul family may have worked spiritually on planet Earth in previous lifetimes may be part of the collective of etheric elders, shamans and protectors of planet Earth. If any of your lifetimes included spiritual shamanic work, then you may be able to establish a connection to this shared knowledge and wisdom.

Ten Extraordinary Things That Happen Once You Connect With Your Soul Family 

For any individual, there are very few people with whom they actually connect at a deeper level. These few people hold enough power to overhaul a person’s worldview and force them to face the realities of life, making them much stronger and wiser. They share a strong system of mutual love and support.

If you already have such people in life, keep them close, for this is your soul family. If not, be on the lookout for them!

Soul groups comprise of people who knowingly and unknowingly uphold the mission of waking each other up and helping break illusions of life. They work together to serve each other.

Given below are the ten important signs that occur when you are with your soul family:

1. THEY HELP STRENGTHEN YOUR INTUITIONS

Being a part of a soul group will activate a harmonious energy exchange inside you which will activate your heart chakras. All their words will emerge from the heart, and you will feel the same. Your conversations will be on an intuitive level, exchanging thoughts and energies.

2. YOU FORM AN IMMEDIATE CONNECTION WITH THEM

There will always be a member of your soul group with whom you feel most comfortable with. You will always feel secure with them as your energy signatures will match.

3. IT’S EASIER TO FORGIVE

To forgive and forget is easier said than done for most of us. As much as we would like to do it, we struggle with the idea of forgiving others for the hurt they caused us.

However, when it comes to the people in our soul group, we find it easier to forgive them. We understand their intentions and motives, and thus don’t misconstrue their actions or words.

4. THERE ARE NO OFF-LIMITS TOPICS AROUND THEM

You are able to be yourself around them and be free with what you say and how you express yourself. You don’t shy away from showing them your goofy side. Same goes for your vulnerable feelings and thoughts too. You are completely authentic around them.

5. THEY ARE YOUR MIRROR

The members of your soul group will share certain aspects of yours. Some of these friends will help bring out positive traits and habits which you might have forgotten over the years. Others might help shine a light on the darker aspects which will help you in understanding yourself and healing your cracks.

6. YOU JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF EACH OTHER’S COMPANY

When you spend time with your soul group, it fills you up with energy. This happens because of a mutual exchange of energy between its members which fills you up with positivity.

7. THERE ARE PROGRAMMED SIMILARITIES

Close members of a soul group will generally share similar upbringings. It may be a similar religion, profession, or ethnicity. This shared base promotes a growth in the group which benefits everyone.

8. THERE ARE NO MANIPULATIONS HERE

There is no sense of destructive competitiveness among the members of such a soul group. No one drags another down in order to pull themselves up. There is no manipulation done to achieve the upper hand and everyone takes pleasure in watching their friends succeed.

9. PERFECT TIMING

A soul group will have a shared innate sense of timing within them. They will be there to pick you up when you’ve given up hope and are questioning your abilities. Their sense of timing will bring to you a support system which is there for you in the depths of your despair and one which brings along the best of surprises when you are least expecting it.

10. THEY SERVE AS YOUR CATALYSTS

Spiritual awakening of any kind occurs after a period of pain and suffering. Your soul group acts as the catalyst which sets this in motion and stand alongside you through thick and thin. When they leave, the pain will be excruciating, but important to lead you forward on the way of spiritual awakening.

Once people find their soul group, their lives go through radical changes. It transforms them, serving their higher good. So hold on tight to them if you already have them, or else always observe the energies you get from people. The right kind will always fill you with elation.
(Illustration courtesy www)
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The year 2020 is turning out to be an extraordinary challenge for individuals, families and businesses. Coronavirus has spread several other viruses – those of fear, uncertainty, hunger, jobs, lack of physical interactions in education as well as in life, and the like.

The pandemic has left traditional business models in a shambles. Supply chains have got disrupted. Businesses have shut shops. Industries with some core strengths have diversified into newer markets and products. The first priority happens to be that of servicing the critical requirements of customers while shielding the employees to the extent possible.

Economies the world over have taken a severe beating. For a vast majority, sources of income have simply vanished overnight. The virus has exposed, yet again, the fault-lines in our health, social and economic infrastructure.

The Innate Goodness in Humanity

Many amongst us have already turned cynical towards a proposition of this kind and believe that human beings are selfish. Being bombarded relentlessly by the propaganda mills run by shameless politicians, a TRP-chasing media and movie directors who keep churning out dark and depressing flicks, we often end up taking a jaundiced view of people and events around us.

Rutger Bregman, the popular Dutch historian, in his book Humankind, argues otherwise. He points out that there is a spontaneous coming together of people immediately after any natural disaster. He says that ‘cooperation has been more important in our evolution as a species than competition. What we assume in other people is what we get.’

Walter Scheidel, in his book, The Great Leveler, argues that throughout human history, the following four kinds of disasters have led to economic equality: wars, revolutions, pandemic and state collapse. Each of these, he proposes, results in excess mortality, thereby creating a shortage of working hands and, as a consequence, a general rise in incomes.

A ‘X’ Shaped Recovery?!

However, the proposition is arguable. Take the case of the pandemic stalking us at present. It is true that it strikes all and sundry. But to say that the loss of livelihoods and economic hardships faced is the same across different income levels and business verticals would be wrong. Social biases, disparity in access to quality education, health and networking and a non-level playing field for small businesses to cash in on newer opportunities in the environment – all these play spoilsports. With each disaster faced by humanity, the inbuilt inequalities and fault lines only end up getting reinforced. The plight of the millions of Indian migrant labourers who travelled long distances on foot to reach their homes during April and June 2020 cannot be erased from our collective memory easily.

Credit Suisse economist Neelkanth Mishra speaks of four classes in the society: government, wage earners, informal enterprises and formal firms. For 2020-21, he has attempted to examine which group bears how much of the overall GDP loss. In these computations, 50% of loss is borne by the government, 25% by the wage earners and 10% each by informal and formal firms. Looking beyond 2020-21, a growth slowdown will be unequally distributed between these groups.

Recovery in the economy would not be as rapid as the slowdown has been. From the computation done by Mishra, it appears that it would neither be a ‘V’ or a ‘W’ shaped one. Perhaps, a ‘X’ shaped recovery is in the offing.

A Silver Lining in the Corona Virus Cloud

Broad sweeping generalizations of a situation could also hide some silver linings in an otherwise gloomy-looking cloud. According to a study done by Badri Narayan, a social historian and cultural anthropologist and, Director, GB Pant Social Science Institute, major challenges also tend to bring out the innate goodness in human beings.

He has interviewed 215 quarantined rural migrants in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The respondents were from a diverse set of castes like dalits, other backward classes and upper castes.

By way of a conclusion, he states that ‘Caste is deeply ingrained in our social system….. but an emergency like a pandemic gives jolts and shocks to it.’

In other words, when it comes to handling overwhelming challenges, caste considerations normally take a back seat. This indicates a possibility of the pandemic facilitating better social unity and cohesion, an idea which deserves to be explored further. This proposition fits in well with the views of Rutger Bregman.

The underlying need is to build resilience and inclusivity across the vast socio-economic spectrum of our society. Our politicos, economists and social activists appear to be missing a road map to counter a strategic challenge of this kind.

(Part 4 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership) 

(Inputs from Prof G P Rao are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Image courtesy https://medium.com/@brca.iitdelhi/social-harmony-e7cbacc76287)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-virus-and-an-early-onset-of-industrial-revolution-4-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/corona-virus-leadership-traits-and-human-values

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/corona-virus-some-lessons-from-bhagavad-gita)

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