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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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ashokbhatia

Besides perfecting the art of getting suspended, organizing musical events and assisting in the successful launch of such cult classic movies like Sholay, the Class of 1976 also indulged in various pseudo-academic pursuits. Panjab_University

These included holding pan-Indian conferences in the pre-Jurassic days when not many money-gobbling dinosaur-like management institutes with a dubious pedeagogy happened to be clogging our streets.

Participation in elocution contests and winning trophies for the Alma Mater was a routine affair. So was attending professional events in New Delhi, holding a bridge championship, organizing a quiz contest and such other endeavours.

Maruti was then being heralded as a fulfilment of the common man’s transport ambitions. A detailed market survey based on ‘product attribute analysis’ was conducted, the results of which were eagerly lapped up by the Automobile Association of India.

Here are some details of the pseudo-academic endeavours of the gang of 1976.

A confluence of…

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ashokbhatia

One of the major rewards of being a part of the gang of 1976 has been the kind of strong and resilient bonds of friendship one has been able to forge. Bonds which have survived the harsh slings and arrows of Life. Bonds which are like underground cable connections – dormant, but in place, ready to be reactivated as and when necessary.Panjab_University

Way back in the 1970s, UBS was an integral part of what was then known as the Department of Commerce and Business Management. Students of the Commerce stream would tend to treat the ones from the Management stream with some degree of awe, though laced with not-so-healthy contempt. Some lecturers from the Commerce side regularly put on a tie, trooped down to the ground floor, and shared their wisdom in de-mystifying balance sheets and cash flows with the Management students.

How friends made me gate-crash, cruise through, and…

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ashokbhatia

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

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

In marketing parlance, we live in times when the packaging appears to be more important than the…

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ashokbhatia

My dear Blogger,

I think you have a magnificent blog. I just happen to be one of your followers. Allow me to share my plight with you.

De-mystifying my fickleness

To you, I sound fickle-minded. You work hard on creating a marvelous piece that you post. The absence of response 'The Thinker' : Rodinis maddening. You keep twiddling your thumbs, trying to figure out where the denizens of Blogosphere are. It is as if WW-III has broken out and all the followers have gone underground, scurrying for safety. At times, you create something in a jiffy, and lo and behold, you are flooded with likes and comments!

For me, the recipient of all your creative outpourings, yours is just one of the several other blogs I follow. Then there is so much else to be read on the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves. Please understand that I have the unenviable task…

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ashokbhatia

A place grows on us. It offers a comfort zone which we get used to. We might dislike the place for so many things. But when we are away for some time, the gravitational pull again comes into play. We start missing the place.

Lakshmi Lakshmi

Pondicherry is no exception to this general rule. While here, we might bemoan the lack of civic sense, the streets littered with garbage, the reckless driving on the roads and the absence of adequate parking space in the town area. But take us away for some time, and we start missing it somehow. We yearn to get back to the humidity and the heat of the place.

What is so hot and happening about this quaint little town, perched on the Bay of Bengal, you may well ask.

Consider the following.

A small group of close friends

This is what makes Pondicherry so very special…

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I jumped off a cliff and survived.

I stepped into the fire and came out alive.

 

No matter how hard I tried,

Fate held the strings of my life

Knotted around their needles so tight,

And the bladders of my life’s oxygen didn’t seem to die.

 

It later dawned on me that it’s the

Handwriting on my walls that will decide,

For if it’s not yet time for the ferryman

To row me off from the living world,

Across the rivers Styx and Acheron,

Then I still have a purpose

And I still have shed loads of time

To stay alive and shine

And understand there’s no need for suicide.

Vaishnavi Sathish is yet to finish her schooling but has a flair for literature and fine arts. She lives in Pondicherry, India, and has recently published a maiden collection of 39 of her poems under the title Sunflowers of the Dark.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/12/16/the-live-rag-doll-a-poem-by-vaishnavi-sathish

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/12/12/true-love-lost-a-poem-by-vaishnavi-sathish

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/12/26/paradise-lost-a-poem-by-vaishnavi-sathish)

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The world has eyes of misconception,

The kind of eyes that will perceive

The brightest light, a shadow!

 

The world has a nose clogged with

The filth we dump,

For it is numb enough to be unable

To smell the most fragrant tuberose.

 

It has a mouth that will call

An honest man, a liar,

And hands that will title

The abused, an abuser.

 

A heart that has been frozen

Since the birth of time,

And a mind that will aid

In every single crime.

 

Nothing will ever be fair or just

Because the home we live in

Is cursed.

 

It is the ‘Field of Punishments’,

For the alive and the undead,

making us pay for what

Adam did standing underneath a tree

In the Garden of Eden.

 

 

Vaishnavi Sathish is yet to finish her schooling but has a flair for literature and fine arts. She lives in Pondicherry and has recently published a maiden collection of 39 of her poems under the title Sunflowers of the Dark.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/12/16/the-live-rag-doll-a-poem-by-vaishnavi-sathish

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/12/12/true-love-lost-a-poem-by-vaishnavi-sathish)

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In the night, they didn’t care about

All her dresses they tore.

In the morning, they call her names:

Slut, bitch and whore.

 

She was an object

Of concupiscence and pleasure.

If not for her curves and bust,

Would she be treasured?

She was alive,

Yet dead.

 

Unlike the men in her army

Who as soon as captured

Were beheaded,

She was locked up in a golden cage,

Touched by all,

Wore long gowns of silk

But was a mere rag doll.

 

Vaishnavi Sathish is yet to finish her schooling but has a flair for literature and fine arts. She lives in Pondicherry and has recently published a maiden collection of 39 of her poems under the title Sunflowers of the Dark.

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The wind blew her hair

As she stood still in front of

His tombstone in utter despair,

Letting the rough weather beat her skin hard.

 

She would have walked away

From the harsh winter breath

If it were any other day,

But not today, just not today.

 

His arms tried to comfort her

But they weren’t enough.

Instead, she craved for the ones of the man

Whose remains lay deep under the ground.

 

She recollected the times when

Her tiny self lay in the dim light,

Giggling to the stories he said

At half-past eight every night.

 

She reminisced the stories in which

The men in the village walked upside down

To cross the bridge with the Basilisk

To get to the ogres who planted roses of brown.

 

Her memories wandered to the times

When she didn’t have enough height

To reach the cookie jar kept high above,

The arms of her father would take flight

To scoop her up from down.

 

Finally, there was a time when

The cameras didn’t show her tiny silhouette anymore

Because she was as old as the Belle

From his stories now.

 

As she grew old,

It was not just his stories

She ignored

But also the old man

Of whom she got bored.

 

Now standing in front of his tombstone,

She let every single tear

Seep down the grass and into his bones,

So that she could give him a part of her

That she ought to have given him

During the last of his years.

 

 

Vaishnavi Sathish is yet to finish her schooling but has a flair for literature and fine arts. She lives in Pondicherry and has recently published a maiden collection of 39 of her poems under the title Sunflowers of the Dark.

 

 

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