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Allow us to welcome you belatedly to this wonderful world on a special day,

When you turn one and fans in different continents are celebrating Plum;

For this is the day he decided to hand in his dinner pail,

Leaving a rich legacy of joy, should we ever become glum.

 

Unbeknown to you, you have brought happiness in many lives,

Not only to that of your parents and immediate family members;

But also to the lives of fans suffering from Corona-induced blues,

You brought hope to a sick planet and kept aglow joyful embers.

 

You dispelled our manner of death-where-is-thy-sting-fullness,

Keeping us safe indoors, devouring the works of the Master;

Reveling in the antics of those who lived almost a century back,

Keeping our sanity intact, building immunity, recovering faster.

 

In Plumsville, Death is surely not a dreaded phenomenon,

On the contrary, it confers wealth, castles and titles upon heirs;

Hiring Jeeves or Anatole, buying white jackets with brass buttons,

But not behaving like an American millionaire, putting on airs.

 

Your first year on this planet was a tough year indeed,

When many of us lost our clear vision of 20:20;

Plum’s works kept us afloat, giving us hope of a brighter future,

We have survived to the day and can read these lines aplenty.

 

A stern look from you and the virus would have gone into hiding,

Like a rhino retreating upon seeing a White hunter with a shotgun;

Enthused, we also took it head on, savouring our enforced isolation,

Relishing opportunities for introspection and having fun.

 

Like Bertie Wooster, you may approve of our chin up attitude,

Deploying nerves of chilled steel, surviving a sudden lockdown;

Oh, how we craved renting a cottage in the countryside,

Free of the fear of an Edwin the Scout who may burn it down.

 

Lest we may contract the dreaded virus,

We had to let go of Anatole, God’s gift to our gastric juices;

A Laura Pyke type diet regime we had to follow,

Partaking immunity boosting foods, sans any dietary excuses.

 

Many unopened books adorning our shelves we could go through,

Improving our intellect with tomes dished out by brainy coves;

Curled up in a corner with a tissue restorative by our side,

While affianced couples connected over internet, cooing like turtle doves.

 

Never in our lives did we imagine watching so many flicks,

Many inane, some average and few so very well made;

Homemakers turned creative and tried myriad recipes,

Prompting many of us to don a figurative skirt and chip in with due aid.

 

The pleasures of offline shopping sprees had to be given up,

Instead, online shopping alone saved the day for many of us;

With the giant wheels of commerce temporarily shut down,

A revival of the environment turned out to be a big plus.

 

Some rarely seen birds trooped in, giant butterflies fluttering,

The bees were active, flora and fauna flourished, sky was azure;

Flowers bloomed with gaiety, greener trees swayed gently,

Nature was bountiful; the air one breathed was pure.

 

Those in metros were severely hit, spinsters all alone and forlorn,

Musicals like ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ were sorely missing;

Engagements and nuptials had to be postponed, wedding plans trimmed,

Couples had a tougher time, unsure of even an act like kissing.

 

You have brought great joy into the lives of your parents,

As you grow, you shall surely return their nurturing ways;

They are bringing you up with lots of love and care,

Your innocent smiles and hugs brightening their days.

 

May your intellect be always one up on that of Jeeves,

Your investigative skills as sharp as those of Baxter the efficient;

In culinary skills, may you surpass Anatole, in smartness, Psmith,

A heart that bleeds for its pals may also be sufficient.

 

 

When it comes to heartily gorging on your daily nourishment,

The Empress could already learn a few things from you;

As to keeping the enthusiasm of a big sister under check,

Clarence could imbibe you, proving worthy in his ancestors’ view.

 

Your crawling skills would soon evolve into brisk walking ones,

If ever you get besotted with a Hollywood diva in your pre-teen days,

Like Thos, you may walk six miles to fetch the Sporting Times for Bertie,

Aspiring to win the Good Conduct competition, winning Greta Garbo’s praise.

 

You shall grow to be like a Hercules with nerves of chilled steel,

With abundant milk of human kindness coursing through your veins;

Following the Code of the Woosters with alacrity and aplomb,

Handling overbearing aunts, using Esmond Haddock’s tact and brains.

 

You chose to be born on a very special day,

Resurrecting the spirit of Plum, of whom your grandmother is a fan;

May your own life be full of light, sweetness and joy,

As long as a benevolent and humorous sun keeps cheering up man.

 

 

(Master John Jasper happens to be the grandson of Lucy Smink, a fan of P G Wodehouse Down Under. This impromptu composition is addressed to him. Permission of the family to publish it here is gratefully acknowledged.)

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-a-visual-version

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/my-dear-clarence

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/the-gallery-of-rogue-kids-in-plumsville

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/when-masters-thos-bonzo-and-moon-rise-in-love)

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‘Wodehouse is the perfect antidote to today’s misery’, says Gavin Ashenden in one of his posts wherein he  highlights the role played by negative news and contrasts it with the sublime joy dished out by Plum in his narratives. The post is highly relevant in today’s pandemic-ridden era when even the credibility of our media channels, social or traditional, is at a low ebb. I personally know of at least two persons who passed away during the 2020 spate of lockdowns, primarily because of an overdose of negative news.

Here is his post of 2017 vintage, brought to the attention of Plum fans by Morten Arnesen recently.

I’m not sure that too much news is very good for you.

A constant diet of misery chosen by some random news editor gets poured into our ears by a radio, or batters our eyes and heart on the TV. Bad news always grabs our attention; good news, not so much.

The hiatus of horror trumps the tedium of the tepid. After a while, we get used to the non-stop human misery. We develop a thicker skin, toughened against other people’s suffering.

Twenty-four-hour news cycles have only made it worse. We need antidotes to this one-sided misery fest. One of mine is P G Wodehouse. Some people met him for the first time on TV, through Jeeves and Wooster. I slip into his world of rampant aunts and the magic of his mix of metaphors with a sigh of relief.
Once heard, who can ever forget the image: ‘The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say “When!”’

If you have wilted under the constant curse of ‘I told you so’ from your well-informed beloved, you recognise the affliction of Mavis at once: ‘There are girls, few perhaps but to be found if one searches carefully, who when their advice is ignored and disaster ensues, do not say “I told you so”. Mavis was not of their number.’

And perhaps my perpetual concise favourite: ‘I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.’

Wodehouse didn’t come by his plots or his phrases easily. It was hard perfectionist graft. He would take the pages of the day and pin them on the wall opposite him. The best pages would get fixed higher up the wall, and the weaker ones lower down. Then he would take the lowest and work on it to improve it and pin it up higher… and go to the next lowest and so on…
Anyone who has struggled with relatives in general and aunts in particular, will enjoy: ‘It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.’

He married an American chorus girl and wrote the lyrics for Hollywood and Broadway shows as well as crafting the most beautiful English novels that enfolded you into a world that never had been, but you longed to be part of; a world of innocence and charm, where malice was restrained, brains were optional and friendship always triumphed.

His own world grew more complex in 1939. Living in Le Touquet in northern France with a community of well-bred and well-heeled expats, he failed to foresee the speed of the German advance. He wasn’t alone in this. Most of the British High Command made the same misjudgment, but unlike him, they weren’t arrested.

He was. He found himself shoved into a cattle truck and after three prisons ended up in a converted mental asylum near the Polish border.

Throughout his time in Tost, he sent postcards to his US literary agent asking for $5 to be sent to various people in Canada, mentioning his name. These were the families of Canadian prisoners of war, and the news from Wodehouse was the first indication that their sons were alive and well. He risked severe punishment for the communication, but with careful turns of phrase managed to evade the German censor.

Having turned 60, he was released and sent to Berlin where he was asked to broadcast to the US. The Germans hoped they had a propaganda success on their hands, but Wodehouse used the five broadcasts to describe the horrors of internment using laconic understatement, heavy irony and razor wit.

But the British public, freaked out by the radio broadcasts of a real traitor, Lord Haw-Haw, couldn’t cope. They turned to hate. Particularly dense MPs demanded that if he returned he be tried for treason. He was interviewed and exonerated by MI5 in Paris in 1944. He fled to America at the end of the war. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the British public got over their fit of clumsy moral hysterics, but they had forgotten rather than forgiven.

When asked if he didn’t hate the Nazis, one more question designed to flush out the traitor in him, he replied that he found it impossible to ‘hate in the plural’.

Hating has become a political as well as a personal problem recently. When even the state has taken charge over mapping our minds to flush out our ‘hate crime’ and other politicised moral misdemeanours, there is something to be said in taking refuge in the simple nostalgia of innocence in his novels.Laughter lifts a fallen world. We can learn, too, from his blank refusal to hate class, gender or race.

Both the news and the world would be a better and easier place, if like Wodehouse, we absolutely refused to ‘hate in the plural’.

(This article of Gavin Ashenden had earlier appeared in the Jersey Evening Post: https://jerseyeveningpost.com/news/2017/08/17/comment-wodehouse-is-the-perfect-antidote-to-todays-misery)

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Life is not necessarily fair. Once in a while, when one’s Guardian Angels appear to have gone off on a long furlough, it appears to derive a sadistic pleasure in hurling huge rocks at one, leaving the clueless soul twiddling its thumbs trying to figure out as to what it has done to deserve the honour. ‘Why me’ is invariably the query which reverberates in one’s consciousness.

The encounter with an arm of the law described earlier was surely not the only nasty experience yours truly has had. There have been few other incidents as well which squarely fall in the category of a ‘harsh chiselling’ of mine. Many others would surely have undergone far more traumatic experiences. Yet, it is worthwhile to touch upon some of these here, so we may unravel the precious lessons each such experience brought in.

Some Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Experiences

A Low Point in the Career

While working in a company which was steadily going downhill due to very high overheads and also an unhealthy level of internal bickering and politics, a highly embarrassed moment had to be faced. In a meeting of all senior managers, yours truly was somehow singled out my boss and publicly lynched for much of what was going wrong with the operations. The unfairness of it, and that too delivered in wide public view, left me shaken to my core. Whereas all those who know me personally can vouchsafe for my chin-up attitude towards life, on this particular occasion, I confess that suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. Always appreciated for my work and sincerity, this was indeed the lowest point in my career.

Late evening, though, my boss offered his sincere apologies. Thoughts of a spiritual nature and a dash of equanimity helped me to regain my mental balance, so to say. A few months down the road, I moved on to a much better position in another outfit.

The Kidnapping Fiasco

While working in a very senior position with a company located in a small town in India, on one fateful night, I and my son were kidnapped by a gang of four and kept in captivity overnight. They were under the impression that I was the owner of the business I was employed by at the time. They had a ransom demand which I would never have been able to meet.

While held in captivity, I could imagine the sequence of events if they decided to bump me off and dump the body at a desolate location. Concerns about my son’s safety reigned supreme. But tact and imagination, coupled with a dash of faith in a higher power helped. Despite a language barrier, I could explain my financial constraints to them. We could eventually manage to get released without much physical harm by the time the next day dawned. No money was ever paid.

Swift police action followed. Based on my cell phone records, the miscreants were identified and nabbed. Support from the law enforcement agencies was timely and effective. But it took me a very long time to mentally recover from the trauma suffered. For quite a few weeks, I could not manage to sleep in my own home.

Some Deadly Glass Bottles

Due to financial and administrative reasons, a small factory within the ambit of a large business conglomerate had to be shut down. Some operators who were of a violent nature decided to vent their ire over me and a colleague of mine. An expatriate customer who had visited us on the previous day was treated with soft drinks. Some empty glass bottles in the office cabin came in handy for the agitated workers to beat us up mercilessly.

The company took prompt care but the personal trauma lasted a few months.

Confronting Jealousy

I was one of the better students throughout my academic forays. Teachers and lecturers invariably liked me. The result was perhaps a general feeling of jealousy amongst other students, something I realized very late in my life. I would often be the butt of jokes – theoretical as well as practical – in the class. On one occasion, I was even bashed up by a class fellow, for reasons unknown to me till date!

Some Precious Lessons

I confess that after each of these incidents, the brow was indeed furrowed. The heart was leaden. Chirpiness, if any, was missing. Shoulders were drooping a wee bit more. The usual spark in the eyes was sorely absent. At the time, one may easily have been appointed the Honorary President of a Global Morons’ Club.

But with the benefit of a 20/20 hindsight, one could subsequently analyze and identify the crucial lessons learnt from each of these experiences.

If the low point in career could be handled with the help of humility, equanimity and one’s own job knowledge, skills and attitude, the kidnapping incident could be overcome with faith, tact and resource. The importance of networking with law enforcement agencies was effectively brought home. As to the glass bottles episode, it brought home the point that consequences of all kinds need to be weighed in and pre-emptive steps taken before a crucial decision gets implemented. Not being humane in decision making could lead to adverse consequences.

If the first mentioned experience here went against the basic rule that one must praise in public and reprimand only in private, the glass bottles one highlighted the need to always put our people first in our managerial decision making processes. The last mentioned one could not be helped, but perhaps indicated the need to be humble, especially when being successful at something.

A Cat with Too Many Whiskers?!

Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again,’ says Nelson Mandela.

Let me hasten to assure you that it is not that I have faced only negative situations in my life or career! Although some dark clouds may hover above us and some rain may fall in our lives, bright sunshine is sure to follow. But before we take the narrative in that direction and the author run the risk of being perceived to be blowing his own trumpet, let us consider a basic thread running through whatever he has shared so far.

The 2020 Corona Trauma

If Homo sapiens were astounded, shocked and awed during the first half of the year 2020 by the sudden arrival of this pandemic, hope was the key sentiment expressed by all and sundry by the time they hit 2021. Many jobs were lost. Many careers went for a toss. Many businesses went bust. But then there was a resurgence of positivity. Wheels of commerce started moving, howsoever grudgingly. Large businesses with deep pockets still laughed all the way to their banks. Pharmaceutical companies reactivated their corporate grey cells and saw an upsurge in their fortunes. Governments with a streak of dictatorship in their character pushed through unsavoury laws, clipping the wings of dissenters and ‘undesirable’ elements in the society.

The basic nature of human beings has this unique plasticity or resilience in it. Add to this the spirit of innovation and flexibility to adapt, and we get a winning situation at hand. We may be down for some time, but never out.

So, if I survived the harsh slings and arrows of life, there was nothing spectacular about it. It was true to form. Perhaps, in the process, I acquired some hard-earned wisdom!

 

(Related Post:

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/of-lockdowns-p-g-wodehouse-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness)

 

 

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(One of the many perks which the Corona virus 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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In Part 2 of this series of thoughts on the challenges posed by the pandemic to business leaders, we had noticed that the same are being met by:

  • Reposing one’s faith in the basic goodness of human beings,
  • Responding to fresh challenges in a creative and innovative manner,
  • Adopting a sunnier disposition,
  • Preparing for contingencies in advance, and
  • Reconfiguring operations with due respect to nature and mother earth.

One no longer has the luxury of treating these traits as being theoretical constructs. Leadership is always context-specific and top managements need to evaluate the seniors on the traits listed here. These are the transformative professionals in the organization who need to be brought into critical roles without delay.

Much like a befuddled Arjuna twiddling his thumbs at the beginning of Bhagavad Gita who is made to realize his true path of righteousness towards the end of this unique Manual of Motivation, the pandemic is telling leaders to wake up to a new reality and get their act right.

Lord Krishna does not directly refer to human values; instead, he places a premium on one following the path of righteousness, a concept which is all-encompassing. He exhorts us to work in a detached manner, to focus on our efforts and be clear that results are not in our control. He speaks of the virtues of higher resilience, equanimity and the extent of control we exercise over our desires. All these enable us to enjoy an inner sense of peace and joy. He also speaks of human behavior being governed by the mix of three ‘gunas’: Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.

The qualities mentioned in Bhagavad Gita mostly match with the traits mentioned earlier. Businesses and traders downing their shutters and moving on to totally different activities surely have owners who are learning the art of detachment the hard way. Many have expanded their footprints, revealing their nerves of chilled steel and reflecting a high degree of resilience. Seeking inner peace and equanimity by adopting some meditative practices and doing yoga is helping professionals to switch over to a work-from-home mode, despite distractions caused by family matters. All these have made leaders discard their sense of pessimism and get cracking in the face of a pandemic, setting an example for others to follow.

It would be appropriate to revisit some verses of the scripture:

Whatever actions great persons perform, common people follow. Whatever standards they set, all the world pursues. (3.21) 

When the mind, restrained from material activities, becomes still by the practice of Yog, then the yogi is able to behold the soul through the purified mind, and he rejoices in the inner joy. (6.20)

 

 In that joyous state of Yog, called samādhi, one experiences supreme boundless divine bliss, and thus situated, one never deviates from the Eternal Truth. (6.21)

 

 Having gained that state, one does not consider any attainment to be greater. Being thus established, one is not shaken even in the midst of the greatest calamity. (6.22)

 

 That state of severance from union with misery is known as Yog. This Yog should be resolutely practiced with determination free from pessimism. (6.23)

 

 Completely renouncing all desires arising from thoughts of the world, one should restrain the senses from all sides with the mind. (6.24)

 

With the benefit of hindsight, those who have a positive attitude are not only surviving the virus but have also discovered newer dimensions in their lives. They are on the way to re-skilling themselves and learning other trades. For many, especially in countries like India, an abiding faith in a divine power brings about a sense of surrender, acceptance, patience and resilience. The result is that they end up following the key lessons of Bhagavad Gita, even though in a subconscious manner. This helps them to do well during the kind of churning that the pandemic has inflicted on us.

What the virus has thrown up is a challenge to human beings to live, work and become smarter; to respect nature and environment better and to focus on being sustainable. It has prodded us in the ribs to be more flexible in our thinking and to expect the unexpected.

It has brought home some basic truths: that human beings come first; also, that the key lessons imparted by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on a battlefield some 5,500 years ago continue to be relevant to this day.

(Inputs from Mr Ashok Narayan are gratefully acknowledged; translations of Gita verses courtesy https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org)

(The illustration is reproduced with permission from the illustrator, Arati Shedde, and Heartfulness Magazine – www.heartfulnessmagazine.com.)

 

(Part 3 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership)

(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)

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How have some of our business leaders responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic? Well they appear to be following the popular saying that when times get tough, the tough get going!

As per press reports, Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and MD of Hindustan Unilever, has spoken of the kind of steps taken to boost the company’s prospects by focusing better on health, hygiene and sanitation products. As many as 50 new product and pack innovations are said to have been made. Agility and speed have helped.

Manu Jain, MD of Xiaomi India, has said that the pandemic has taught him the importance of empathy and patience during tough times. The ability to be able to put oneself in another person’s shoes stands out. Instant gratification is nowhere on the horizon; patience alone helps. So does slowing down and staying calm.

Ronojoy Dutta, CEO, IndiGo, has highlighted the importance of staying connected as well as being transparent with employees so as to retain their trust. According to him, irrespective of the situation, honesty and transparency win in the harshest of times. According to C P Gurnani, CEO and MD, Tech Mahindra, leaders need to give up their ‘command and control’ mindset and shift to a ‘mentor and inspire’ mindset.

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services, concludes that resilience matters as much as performance.

(*Source: The Economic Times Magazine, August 30-September 05, 2020, etc)

Leadership traits which help

Leaders who thrive in an era of heightened uncertainty and bloated entropy are better placed to steer their organizations more purposefully and effectively. The virus has highlighted the following qualities in someone who leads an organization in such stormy times: Prioritizing people. Creating clarity on what needs to be done; providing hope and refusing to let a mood of despondency creep in. Having an ear to the ground and being flexible in an evolving crisis; engaging with other stakeholders, including employees, to understand their concerns better.

The virus has brought into focus the dire need for such leaders. It has even indicated the kind of traits such leaders should have: empathy, compassion, higher resilience, an inner sense of peace and equanimity, brain stilling, actions which are rooted in basic human values and better concern for the environment.

It is already understood that leaders who believe in delegation, decentralization and quiet consensus building are able to handle crises better. The approach to problem solving needs to be non-muscular. A shock-and-awe tactics is best avoided.

Leader Mindsets and Human Values

Prof G P Rao, a behavioural scientist of repute and the founder of SPANDAN, a NGO which espouses the cause of human values in organizations, demonstrates that leaders have three kinds of mindsets: ‘I am Everything’, ‘I am Nothing’ and ‘I am Something’.

In a recent study, he has identified the following five topmost values perceived as being conducive to tackling the pandemic successfully:

  • Faith in basic goodness of human beings
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • A positive outlook: Happiness – contentment – self fulfillment
  • Respect to nature and mother earth, and,
  • Preparedness.

The empirical study covered a total of 100 professionals, of which 57 were drawn from the senior and middle management rungs of a software company and 43 belonged to a mixed group from different professions and organizations. The study was conducted during the months of July and August, 2020.

The basic premise is that ‘I am Something’ leader mindset needs to balance the needs and aspirations of others and that of the environment, choose suitable human values and facilitate others to do likewise.

Examples quoted above from the practical business world also testify to the proposition put forward by Prof Rao – that the aim of a leader should be to strike and acquire an optimal balance between and among the select human values so that there is synergy between ‘I am Something’ leadership and human values.

By reposing one’s faith in the basic goodness of human beings, by responding to fresh challenges in a creative and innovative manner, by adopting a sunnier disposition, by preparing for contingencies in advance and by reconfiguring operations with due respect to nature and mother earth – that is how the challenges posed by the pandemic are being met.

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

(Part 2 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership) 

(Related Posts:

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

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

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When businesses started limping back to a state of suboptimal normalcy – call it the new normal, if you will – they woke up to the kind of belt-tightening they could do by increasing their dependence on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and many other technological advances. Many digital czars see the pandemic accelerating tech-trends in the long run, driving social good.

The future portends enlarging the scope of technology in such diverse realms as education, health, security, agriculture, river management and the like. India has just announced plans to create a health data base for its citizens. Hopefully, when a suitable vaccine comes up, an ambitious roll-out program could be undertaken.

According to Genpact CEO Tiger Tyagarajan, the pandemic has cut companies’ digital transformation timelines to as little as 6-12 months from about 4-5 years. Remote working and online transactions have already become a norm rather than an exception across industries.

Rahul Aggrawal, CEO and MD of Lenovo India believes that ‘the recovery journey could be tedious and technology is playing a critical role in helping us adapt to this new reality. The growing role of technology is already evident through enabling remote working, virtual learning, remote business engagement and significant growth in tele-medicine, e-commerce, PCs, smart phones and many other industries.’

Cheer-bots and Bot-dogs have started brightening up life for sports persons and patients. In Japan, in stadiums bereft of human presence, robot cheerleaders have perked up players on the field. Robotic priests have started popping up in Buddhist temples. Therapy dogs have started spreading sweetness and light amongst patients.

Large companies which place a premium on employee goodwill have responded by hiking salaries, promoting good performers and facilitating work-from-home. Quite a few others have had no other option but to resort to issuing pink slips and giving people a compulsory break from work. Many have slashed salaries temporarily so as to manage their cash flows better. Many others are struggling to cope with a sudden spike in demand after a lull induced by extended lockdowns.

The fact that growth rates have plummeted across most sectors of the economy indicates the need for accelerated innovation and a higher rate of learning. Since newer technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning need to be absorbed faster, there is a need to have hybrid organizations which utilize technological interventions alongside human ingenuity.

As per recent press reports, Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of Infosys, has highlighted the need to absorb newer technologies faster. Falguni Nayar, Founder and CEO of Nykaa, emphasizes that ‘Digital has emerged as a clear Winner.’ Whether shopping for daily provisions or for cars, the customers have shown a preference for digital transactions. Virtual meetings have become a norm. Carbon footprints of organizations have got reduced.

The pandemic is helping leaders to identify the slack in their systems. The need for leaders to keep coming up with out-of-box solutions was never higher.

(Part 1 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership)

(Related Posts:

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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Never did Bertie imagine seeing such a mess in his life,

Eagerly waiting for Drones to reopen so loneliness gets over;

Target practicing with darts is a skill which is getting rusted,

Bingo Little has time to sit together but cannot come over.

 

Back-slapping, hugging and shaking hands is a strict no-no,

Chatting over phone alone sounds a safer proposition;

Telegraph services to-and-fro nephews no longer work,

Aunts use video calls, trying to change their matrimonial disposition.

 

Roads are virtually free but a drive to Brighton is ruled out,

Peggy receives from Miss Tomlinson online grace;

Kid Clementina is missing the fun of putting sherbet in ink pots,

Prudence Baxter awaits her next egg and spoon race.

 

Aunt Dahlia is unable to invite nephews and nieces for meals,

Though Anatole is ready and willing to offer many a lavish spread;

Uncle Tom is delighted at Milady’s Boudoir being in a limbo,

Amidst lockdowns losing his silver collection he does not dread.

 

Friends like Gussie Fink Nottle have ample time to study newts,

Madeline has bouts of insomnia and looks at stars all night long;

Roderick Spode is busy launching on a new Eulalie line with masks,

While Cora Bollinger practices a rappy version of Sonny Boy song.

 

 

Sir Roderick Glossop is frightfully busy attending to loony coves,

Dr Murgatroyd has a long list of patients with red spots;

Dr Sally is immune to proposals over WhatsApp while on duty,

Doctor Hailsham takes a pound a day off you with his vegan shots.

 

Lord Emsworth freely potters about in his gardens,

With Parva School Treat Day off, peace and relaxation he elicits;

The Empress in the pink of health, savouring her 57,800 calories,

Freddie peddling online some immunity-boosting Dog Joy biscuits.

 

Aline Peters has money but is looking for ways to spend it,

Joan Valentine has no money and would do anything to be paid;

Ashe Marson does Larsen exercises on the roof top these days,

He and Joan avoid kissing on the lawns, saddening a scullery maid.

 

Life is like a drink which they all keep drinking deeply from,

A cup in which the beetle of a virus floats with all its variations;

Or, gorging on a green salad on top of which rests a caterpillar,

Demanding an apology from anyone trying to disturb its meditations!

 

They appear to be adjusting quickly to their travails,

In Plumsville, the Principle of Peaceful Coexistence prevails;

All this may sound ironic but wisdom is in being positive,

And, when it comes to Coronavirus, testing negative!

 

(Illustrations courtesy Kevin Cornell)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/who-ropes-in-doctors-and-paramedics-from-plumsville-to-counter-corona-virus-part-1-of-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/of-lockdowns-p-g-wodehouse-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/07/25/the-corona-gladiators-proposal-for-a-plummy-movie)

 

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Mr Schnellenhamer, the head of the Perfecto-Zizz-baum Corporation, the leading movie studio, is reported to be having an odd disagreeable feeling these days. Perhaps, it is caused by what Roget’s Thesaurus would describe as  agitation, fury, violent anger, wrath and similar emotions listed under the heading ‘Rage’, that too of an impotent kind.

Having struck a deal with Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC in short) to unleash upon the public a movie based on the current pandemic, he believes things to be moving a tad sluggishly. He is not able to gather enough goofy ideas to add a sparkle to the script. Discussions with his team of directors, script-writers, music composers, yes-persons, deputy yes-persons, junior yes-persons, nodders and trainee nodders have led to finalization of the basic outlines of the movie. But he feels much more could be done. CGC had mandated that the movie should get released before any vaccine or virus anti-dote hits the market.

Tentatively titled ‘The Corona Gladiators’, the movie would capture the positive effects of the pandemic over all the inhabitants of our planet; also, the eventual victory of Homo sapiens over the deadly virus emanating from the laboratories of Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC in short).

Details of the plot are yet to be revealed but perhaps the hero and the heroine, cast in the mould of Psmith and Eve, would both be scientists working on an anti-virus drug. Frustrated at the lack of results, they go underground on a super secret mission to steal innovative ideas from laboratories elsewhere in the world. To be shot in Washington, London, Paris, Oslo, Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra, the movie will have car chases, gun fights, encounters with secret services and many other elements which would ensure not only commercial success but also critical acclaim.

The climax may see the couple, after having whipped up an anti-virus drug, facing a bunch of rogue Vice Presidents of CGC inside the Colosseum in Rome. Before being threatened with pistols designed to fire a volley of vials filled with the brand new anti-dote and running off to safer pastures, CGC personnel will blast humanity in general for its apathy towards environment and Mother Nature. As the drums start beating, declaring the brave gladiators to be victors, the titles start rolling. The end will leave the doors open for a sequel which could cover the onset of a far more deadly version of the virus.

Some of the sub-plots discussed so far for spicing up the script are as follows.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Leaders  

 Poor politicos live in glass houses but are well-endowed to hurl stones at others, as and when the situation demands so. The pandemic is merely just another tool in their hands to beef up their image further and also to win upcoming elections by clipping the wings of those in opposition.

Top honchos like Prime Ministers and others are improving upon their macho-but-sensitive images these days by not only flexing their muscles to browbeat enemies – real or imaginary – but also remaining in news for unexpected reasons.

Scribes were recently surprised – much like a nymph while bathing – when the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did some push-ups on his office carpet during a newspaper interview to demonstrate his post-Corona fitness for the job.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredricksen decided to postpone her wedding in order to be able to attend a meeting of the European Council on the virus. We understand this is the third time she has done this.

Hon’ble A B Filmer has been requested to collect more details on the leaders who have publically defied such norms as social distancing and wearing masks.

Atithi Devo Bhava

Back home, India has always believed in treating guests with reverence, atithi devo bhava being the norm. Many Indians thus decided to heartily welcome the Country Managers of Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC) by clapping, lighting candles, ringing bells and banging pots and pans from their balconies.

In order to assist CGC in exceeding its own estimates of market share and bottom line in the country, some imaginative steps were taken. First, a complete lockdown ensured that the migrant labourers got stuck in cramped urban spaces where they could easily get infected. Gradually, they were prodded to migrate to distant rural areas, thereby improving the spread. Those who remained in urban areas threw caution to the winds when it came to wearing masks and following norms of social distancing. After all, there is a limit to what a hassled government and its officers can do to change the behaviour of its citizens in public places.

Aunt Dahlia is in agreement that this needs to be considered for inclusion in the proposed movie.

A Budding Romance

When two young and bright persons come to explore a small and peaceful place like Pondicherry in south India, a transient bond of affection gets strengthened. But on the 4th day of their stay, they are caught unawares by a harsh lockdown announced by the government at a notice of less than 4 hours!

While their needs for survival are adequately met, the sheer fact of living through a major event in their budding lives brings about a stronger play of the hormones. A not-so-astute observer might be forgiven for missing the stars in their eyes and the way their faces light up when they happen to be together.

Angela and Tuppy Glossop concur with this idea.

Cupid and the Mummification of the Corpse

Cupid is busy with his e-initiatives. Love birds living in different metros have learnt to remain contented with video and text chats till the time things return to a newer state of normalcy. A young couple whose marriage had got indefinitely postponed find that the boring part of their relationship has already started. The bride-to-be feels that there is a limit to the number of times one can ask each other how their day was, what they plan to have for dinner and the movie they intend to watch every night. It feels as if they have been living in a fast forward mode and have already sensed the process of the mummification of the corpse of love some time after the priest has chanted the last mantra and the marriage has been sanctified.

Bertie Wooster is delighted that he is not being asked to play a role in the movie.

Some Green Shoots

It is an open secret that thanks to the aggressive marketing strategy being practiced by CGC the world over, sale of sanitizers and related hygiene products has registered an exponential growth. Lifestyle coaches and loony doctors are laughing all the way to their respective banks. Yoga-gurus-turned-business-honchos are busy re-labelling and re-launching select products, unleashing these upon an unsuspecting public. So are the owners of online streaming platforms who have grabbed the rights of movies being churned out by our dream merchants.

The last mentioned would be delighted to know of a retired Rev. Aubrey Upjohn who has created an excel sheet which lists the movies on offer on various streaming platforms. Much of his time now gets spent on keeping the list always updated in terms of new arrivals and the ones which are yet to be watched!

Immunity-boosting Tissue Restoratives

Across homes, homemakers are whipping up turmeric and basil based tissue restoratives, prompting all their family members to gobble the same without much ado. Those who are in the business of spices are chuffed at the sudden uptick in their fortunes.

Laura Pyke heartily approves.

Suggestions are welcome!

Would you have a suggestion to offer as to how to make this movie a wee bit juicier? Suggestions may be mailed to Wilmot.mulliner@zizzbaum.org.

Those whose ideas get selected will receive an invitation to visit the studios and have a meal with Mabel Potter and Wilmot Mulliner.

(Illustration courtesy Mr Suvarna Sanyal)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/who-ropes-in-doctors-and-paramedics-from-plumsville-to-counter-corona-virus-part-1-of-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/of-lockdowns-p-g-wodehouse-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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