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Here is how the sight of a wren, the smallest of birds in creation, fighting to protect her little nest from an intruding hawk taught me the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

As she unleashed the fury of her miniscule wings and beak, I heard the wren say the following to the overbearing hawk who had obvious contempt for the little bird seeking to defend so negligible a homestead:

“Dear predator, here is what you need to understand: the same god who made you a hawk made me a wren, gave me a tree into which I could build my nest.My nest is not the greatest of homes, but the only home I know and love, like every other wren in every other part of the earth. Like all other wrens everywhere, I love my nest, just as every hawk on every mountain peak everywhere feels proud of the peak upon which it keeps its offspring safe, regardless of which nation the mountain belongs to.

I make no claim that my nest is the greatest of all nests, or has any magical properties. I defend it because I am used to it and is the only nest I have. I labour in sunshine and sleet to keep it safe, just like wrens in other places value their little nests and defend the same with vigour. And god gives me the strength to fight for its preservation, as wrens in other countries fight for theirs.”

In not claiming that her little nest was anything but a little nest, but one dear to her and her fledglings, the wren was simply proclaiming herself a patriot. And in admitting that her nest was not the greatest abode in the wide world, the wren was disclaiming to be a nationalist.

Many years later, when I was in the United States of America, the memory of the wren became my political inspiration.

Persuaded to stay back and accept a tenure-track teaching job at a reputed university, I declined the kind offer.

Pressed to explain why I was foregoing so exclusive an opportunity, I found myself saying that I would miss home.

On being asked what it is I meant by the term “home,” I found myself pleading that home was something entirely different from a fine house equipped with all the comforts that material advancement makes available. Home evoked the memory of sights, sounds, smells, cadences of social interaction, attitudes to time, space, money, the deep oneness with the languages we wa are born into and in which our imaginations embellish our realities. I remember referring to the charms of the wayside oven (tandoor), now fast vanishing, alas, under press of sophisticated urbanization, where I often stop while traveling to savour a hot-baked bread—a pretty proletarian fetish, but one that filled some deep longing in me. I pleaded that this was a feeling akin to an ordinary American lapping up a bowl of clam showder or beans along an ordinary street; and that just as an ordinary American working man or woman made no claims for American “exceptionalism” on the strength of her quotidian repast, I loved my roadside baked bread without extending that sentiment to claiming that India was the greatest of nations.

Home was simply a cadence of un-self-conscious living that informs everything from our palate to the structure of our interactions with our weltanschuuang. Something that enables us to understand similar feelings in other peoples who live outside the territories that define our geographical nations.

Indeed, the current spectacle of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers trudging to their villages away from the metropolises teaches us that home may not always correspond even to the designated countries of which we are citizens, but recede into hinterland spaces. A migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar may feel as alienated in Mumbai or Bengaluru as a rangy Texan in New York, unimpressed in either case by the superior claims to glitter of the megapolises they leave. In such episodes not only is nationalism a distant thought, but even our patriotism may shrink to pieces of land that speak to our souls.

Thus, were I to echo the sentiment “India first” I would not mean by that India above all, but to express the sentiment of the least inhabitant of my country who might wish her little hutment to be clean and attractive because, simply, it was a space closest to her existence.

I came to realize that such attachment to the concrete conditions of our grooming and lived being constitutes patriotism, whereas projecting that concrete into an unfelt abstraction that has never any basis in fact or reality comprises nationalism. My confluence with my given space and order of living did not, I made clear, in the least cloud my objective recognition that other peoples in other countries have notched up achievements that transcend what India may have to her credit. And, like the wren, I do not covet the mightier claims of the hawk, but simply seek to defend the nest I love.

Patriotism, or our love of our given clime, leaves us free to value a like sentiment among peoples in other climes and countries, and free to find fault with what we may be lacking without letting bravado or false claim distort those realities.

Nationalism, like religious faith, permits no such room. It asks of us that we propagate that we outshine all other peoples, cultures, climes, countries in every sphere of life because of some divine origin or exclusive right to perfection.

Where patriotism denotes love of our country and clime, nationalism denotes a politics of dominace, built on myths and legends that have no discernible or objective reference to who we are and how we subsist in our daily lives.

In that context, I recall a most instructive vignette to which I just happened to be witness.

A political pracharak (propagandist) working with people in a slum area was encouraging little slum children to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (Obeisance to Mother India). At which a little girl with disheveled and matted hair asked “where is she? Where can we meet her”? The pracharak, rather askance, said “She is everywhere.” The little rag picker then wondered why she never comes to meet them, and why, if she is such a caring mother, are they always hungry and destitute.

In that interaction, I saw a telling debate between the abstract and the concrete, and an innocent but searing refusal of reality to be fibbed off by a great nationalist idea. Clearly, the abstract idea of a supervening mother did not square with the little girl’s experience of motherhood as she experienced it.

It struck me that the same sentiment afflicts downtrodden peoples in all parts of the world, and nationalist slogans about their particular countries being “first” do not help alleviate the miseries of the marginalized.

The episode of the little slum girl brought to mind another. In my undergraduate class, there used to be an African-American student named Rufus. Over the semester, I found that he was not coming to class. One day along the university street I saw him, discovering to my astonishment that he had acquired a fair-skinned face, rather like the legendary Michael Jackson. When I expressed my astonishment, he simply said: “this country is great only for the whites, and I mean to be great.” Rufus had clearly decided to go over to a prevailing, even if covert, definition of nationalism. Even as his patriotism remained strong enough to disallow him from abandoning the country he was born and grown up in.

It should be obvious that our love of our countries bears no relation to the abstract constructions of their alleged greatness, but only to the concrete fact that we are born there, speak our own dialects, and commiserate with one another in specific forms of cadence. And, the fact that other climes and countries may have lesser or greater claims to national stature makes little difference to our love of our little nests.

Natonalism enjoins upon us to believe that our air is the most salubrious, our water magical, our sunsets and sunrises unique ly blessed, our accumulated histories and legends superior to those of all others, our culture the only worthwhile culture, our religious faiths nearest to god, and our stores of knowledge beyond compare.

Patriotism acknowledges that where I live is my beloved space, warts and all. It makes no claims to exceptionalisms that are thought to be god’s unique gift to us. It recognises that our streets are shabby, our lanes full of clutter, our habits shoddy, our resistance to rationality often grossly debilitating, our defiance of law a routine habit of mind, our male chauvinism shameful and violent, our casteism or racism or communalism deleterious to the most desirable ideals of human rights and human oneness. Patriotism recognizes that things may be better in other countries and, less so in yet others, and patriots seek to better such conditions and realities without covering them up in sham slogans born of abstraction that have no real existence, or impelled by a gnawing sense of inferiority.

Patriots understand and honour patriots in other nations. Nationalism constructs them as potential enemies.

Patriotism accepts the great reality of diversity; nationalism seeks to obliterate diversity and aims to create the world in its own abstract theology of supremacy.

 

(The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012. Thereafter he wrote two more books, Idea of India Hard to Beat: Republic Resilient and Kashmir: A Noble Tryst in Tatters.

Permission to publish this article is gratefully acknowledged.)

 

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 A Tribute to Swami Vivekananda: Leader Extraordinary

 

“On the seventh of August 1941, in the city of Calcutta, a man died. His mortal remains perished but he left behind a legacy… that no fire can ever consume…”

That was the baritone, sonorous voice of Satyajit Ray in his documentary titled ‘Rabindranath’ created as a tribute to Rabindranath (a project mandated on Ray, the genius in film making, arts and literature, commissioned by Ministry of Culture, Government of India) on the occasion of the birth centenary of the another genius, Rabindranath Tagore the Nobel laureate poet, musician, novelist, dramatist, artist and philosopher. The first scene of the documentary depicted the last and final journey of Tagore to the burning ghat (crematorium).

Ray’s portrayal of Tagore began with the scene finale. But where do we start in our odyssey with the volcanic monk of India whose 150th birth anniversary we celebrated earlier in this decade?

“Let’s start from the very beginning/ a very good place to start…” (The Sound of Music)

Naren or rather Bile (Narendranath Datta) was storm or turbulence personified from childhood in the premises of the Datta household in North Calcutta. Never obedient to seniors, ever an enigma to peers (his local friends), he would relish his father’s hookas (smoking pipes) or throw away his mother’s clothes from the windows to the beggars on street even while he was locked up in a room for his erratic unmanageable behaviour.  But when the time of crisis came, his friends would run away at the sight of a snake. But he would remain seated, immersed in meditation while the snake rustled away leaving him in peace. Trained in the art of physical mastery, he would combat the white man for speaking ill of Indians. He showed the promise of a Life Exemplary and Leader Extraordinary!

“His pre-eminent characteristic was kingliness. Wherever he went he was the first.’ (Romain Rolland).

Narendranath was a born leader, never ‘made’ – only refined and directed by his great master Shri Ramakrishna.

A good leader accepts the situation at hand and tries to find a way out. But a great leader is ever in discomfort with the commonplace and the hackneyed reality. Naren began his quest for the beyond with burning questions on the existence of God and purpose of Life – only to be answered clear and direct by Sri Ramakrishna, who was to become his master though in appearance, upbringing and otherwise his direct antithesis. But this was not by any devout dedication but through a series of questioning he hurled upon his master. And then came the hour of consecration.

Ei jonmo ei shorir oi murkho bamun kine niyeche”. (This life, this body is consecrated to that old illiterate Brahmin!) – He wrote to a brother disciple later.

By the way, Narendranath was projected as the leader of tomorrow by his master – not by himself!

Naren shikshe debe” (Naren will teach the world) – was the prophecy of Shri Ramakrishna in the Master’s own writing.

A great leader emerges out of stormy crisis from various fronts – death of father, deprivation of mother from family property, futile search for a job. But he had the fortitude to stick to his master’s promise that he would never be plagued with basic sustenance. His primary preoccupation became an immersion into the self, deep in meditation. “Mon cholo nijo niketone…’ (O Mind! Return to thy own repose!). It was for his Master to turn him towards the world with the message of service, love, education to humanity. He was destined to be a leader –a banyan tree for one and many.

Storm as in crises for him was lifetime companion – severe hardship n Baranagar Math in North Calcutta after the death of his Master, hunger and uncertainty during his parivrajaka (the wandering monk) life in India, anxiety about funds for the America trip, spending sleepless and shivering night in Chicago railway station, lampooned and maligned by his opposition religious groups in the West and even from his close quarters back home.

But the fire in him was never to extinguish.

Vivekananda stood for the principles of acceptance and assimilation of diverse opinions, values and cultures. A true global leader in thoughts, words  and action, he became a fiery inspiration to men and women from the East and West from myriads of background – businessmen like Rockefeller and Jamshetji Tata, European women like Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedita) and Emma Calve, scientists like Acharya J C Bose and many more. His style of communication was different for each according to the nature and character of individuals. His was an enlightened universal mind a century ahead of his times. But never did he lose his anchor in India.

“India was his daydream. India was his nightmare.” (Sister Nivedita)

And his thundering voice rose: “He Bharat bhuliona…” (O India! Forget not…). He never disowned the past and ever cherished the golden heritage of India. But he was ever stretching out his hand and heart of welcome to the West as well, to a future that is different and diverse yet mutually and globally enriching for one and all.

Je somonnvoy kore sei lok” (The one who can synthesize is truly a human) said his Master. Swamiji lived this message throughout life – a grand synthesis of the best from all parts of the world that he had visited during his brief life span.

Srinvantu Vishwe Amritasya Putrah’ (Listen! O Children of Immortality, world over!). This was the invocation of the rishis of the Upanishads. The voice of Swamiji in Chicago Parliament of Religions resonated; “Sisters and brothers of America…” He was a modern incarnation of the ancient rishis (sages and seers) in the attire of a monk.

Back home he chose ‘atmanomoksharatham jagat hitaya cha’ as the motto of the Ramakrishna Mission – (For the liberation of the self and the welfare of the world)  on the foundation of the philosophy and principle of action ‘Siva jnana jivaseva’ (To serve man is to serve God n Man) as he learnt from his Master.

His last life in Belur Math was like that of a child – playing with animals and enjoying the company of tribal people while giving lessons on Upanishads to brother monks. In fact his was a life of a child-like leader yearning for fresh air and new light and learning forever. He learnt from all possible sources including a low caste ‘bhangee’ (one from a low caste) with whom he had smoke and also a dancing girl who, in Rajasthan at the palace of Maharaja of Khetri, taught him the message of non-discrimination among humans.

Jabot bnachi tabot shikhi” (I learn as long as I live) – was the message of Shri Ramakrishna. Following this precious teaching from his Master Swamiji lived, loved, learnt and left a legacy that is lasting and growing even beyond a century! Ramakrishna Mission is sustaining and flourishing every day all over the world for the service of humanity at large – spiritual, social and educational.

His funeral pyre was lit on the bank of the Ganges on the fifth of July 1902. The body of the monk inferno Swami Vivekananda was stretched on pyre in his chosen place under the bilwabrikshwa (The Bengal Quince tree) in Belur Math. His mother Bhubaneshwari Devi was sitting and watching the rising flames from the body of his eldest son. A speck of his saffron robe flew in the wind to Sister Nivedita, the devout disciple of the monk. She collected and preserved that ‘memento’ for her inspiration to action in the days to come.

Thus was the mortal consummation of the Swami, the Prince among men –the volcanic monk who shook the world with the fiery message of the Upanishads under the spiritual umbrage of his ‘seraphic master’ Sri Ramakrishna and ignited the spirit of India towards freedom.

Netaji (Subhas Chandra Bose) accepted him as his fiery guru in mortal absentia. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, it was like “baptism with blood and fire”. Netaji described Swamiji as a leader extraordinary in the following words:

“Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, profound and versatile in his wisdom, boundless in his love, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks and yet as simple as a child, he was a rare personality in this world of ours.

If Swamiji had been alive today he would have been my guru.”

I have ransacked the history of leadership and management literature in my voyage through Human values and Indian Ethos in Management, Spirituality and Leadership for nearly three decades but never found such a detailed, succinct yet most powerful and accurate assessment in these seven leadership qualities of one genius of a world leader by another of no mean stature.

We began with a tribute to Tagore by Satyajit Ray. And here we find a tribute to Swami Vivekananda, the Great Master and Leader Extraordinary by none other than Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. They remain with us as fountainhead of boundless inspiration in a world ruled and dictated by leaders who at best belong to the class of mediocrity in academia and otherwise!

But the fire in the volcanic monk still remains alive and aflame in those who are willing and ready to be ignited.

Agne twam hridayam agachha’ – Oh Fire Eternal! Come and set our hearts ablaze!

Amar modhye je agun jwolchhe tomader modhye o sei agun jwole uthuk… Ei sodai Vivekanandar prarthana.”

(The fire that is burning within me may set all your hearts aflame! This will ever be the eternal prayer of Vivekannada.)

May we live up to his prayers!

It was high in the snowy Himalayas. Swamiji was on pilgrimage with a few chosen disciples. His intense meditation led him to a vision of the Mother Kali, the Black Goddess, the mighty Destroyer and Time Eternal, lurking behind the veil of life. During one evening in a state of high fever he wrote a famous poem that concludes thus:

“Who dare misery loves,

And hug the form of Death,

Dance in destruction’s dance,

To him the Mother comes.”

He said to her chosen disciple Nivedita (an Irish lady of noble origin): “Meditate on death. Only by the worship of The Terrible can The Terrible itself be overcome…There could be bliss in torture too…The Mother Herself is Brahman…The heart must be a cremation ground – pride, selfishness, desire, all burnt to ashes. Then and then alone, will the Mother come!”

Vivekananda exemplified an authentic synthesis of the East and the West, the past and the present, Science and Religion, contemplation and action, spiritual pursuit and service to humanity. He was the messenger of dynamism and hope to India and the world. Could it be that he was under a spell of so-called negative thinking when he wrote the above verse? Or did he want to convey a pertinent message in a different mood that might be useful for all in moments of turbulence and uncertainty?

Leaders of tomorrow in business or otherwise, when shall we learn from death and destruction of old orders that we need creative quantum breakthroughs in our leadership principles, roles and practices to shake the very foundation of our outdated models and worn out concepts, our tunnel vision and fossilized values, by keeping alive and aflame just one precious element within our hearts – the passion to transform and infuse new life in our organizations and the planet at large?

Millennia ago, Socrates exhorted us to think and look within ourselves: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”   Closer in time, the voice of Nietzsche sounded even more daring and adventurous: “If one is to live, one is to live dangerously.”

 

{Tribute to Swami Vivekananda, the Great Master and leader extraordinary on The Foundation Day (May 1st, 1897) of The Ramakrishna Mission, the first Indian international organization with headquarters in India (Belur Math, Howrah – Kolkata on the bank of the Ganges) but outreach all over the world with more than 200 centres and still thriving in glory for almost more than a century and a quarter dedicated to the service of suffering humanity. An entrepreneurial venture of timeless significance even in times of crisis as in the present, this institution remains and grows as the ever expanding  global vision of this great master as an inexhaustible source of energy and inspiration, firmly rooted in Indian culture, ethos and heritage but with appeal reaching all over the world. At a level of Philosophy in Practice (Practical Vedanta, a term coined by himself that he spread like wild fire in the West even within the short span of his life of less than forty years) he gave a new turn to the ideal of monkhood with simultaneous emphasis on pursuit of salvation of the self through evolution of Consciousness and welfare of humanity at large.The Ramakrishna Mission that embodies the ideals of globalization and sustainability propounded by its founder a century before the pioneers of management in the West could even conceive of these ideas and principles. Even at a functional level the structure of the main temple of Shri Ramakrishna in Belur Math represents a grand synthesis of the East and the West – of Christian, Islamic and ancient Indian architecture.]

(Sanjoy Mukherjee (58) is Faculty of the Sustainability, CSR and Ethics academic group at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Shillong. He is the Chairperson of the Institute’s Annual International Sustainability Conference (SUSCON) and also the Chairperson of Student Affairs, Placement and Public Relations.

His detailed profile can be accessed at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanjoy-mukherjee-72b18823

Permission to publish this tribute here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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You would not find the Bhagavad Gita in the self help section of a library or a book store. It is good that it is so. A book of the stature of Bhagavad Gita should not be reduced to the level of popular, (maybe even best seller) self help books which give a feel good message when you read and are shallow and misleading when you probe deeper. But if you ever get to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita, you will find that this is the self help book you have been looking for all your life.

There are reasons why I say so. Self help books focus on one thing – how to get what you want. Self help authors and motivational gurus suggest various seemingly easy and short cut methods to achieve what you want. But they don’t tell you what you should want. Bhagavad Gita does so. It tells you what should be the highest goal of a human being.

It is important first of all to know what you want. Quite often people work hard for years for something, but after they get it they become more frustrated. They wish they should not have desired to achieve that.

Secondly, when you only prescribe ways for getting what you want, it can be utilised for good purpose as well as evil purpose. It can also be utilised for pure selfish purpose which would come at the general good of the society. In fact many self help books encourage you to be selfish and recommend unethical methods to achieve your goal.

These so called motivational authors call their books self help books. But tell me about any self help book where first of all some idea about ‘self’ is given. The fact is that they themselves may not be knowing what self is all about. Bhagavad Gita fulfills this shortcoming. It gives you some idea about your innermost core which is elusive to the conscious mind but can be experienced in deep meditation. Let me assure you, if you don’t have the proper perspective about the ‘self’, no amount of tips, tricks, and hacks will be of any long term use to you.

We are all interdependent, not only from human society point of view, but also from the point of view of our surroundings consisting of living and non-living elements. We cannot progress in isolation. Self help books rarely talk about your position in the cosmic order of things. These books never give you the big picture. Remember that if your actions are not aligned with the big picture of things, the selfish goals you achieve by using the unethical and near- unethical tips and tricks of self help books will frustrate you in the long run even after you get all your desires fulfilled.

In an earlier post also while explaining the fallacy of the self help books I had recommended Bhagavad Gita as one of the few books that I have come across to be of real help. But, to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita there are practical difficulties. There are thousands of translated versions of Bhagavad Gita available in various languages. If you do not have expertise in Sanskrit, you will not know how wide off the mark many of such translations and their commentaries are. Even knowing Sanskrit is not enough. To understand Bhagavad Gita one should have basic knowledge of various systems of Indian philosophy known as Darshanas.

While going through various books on Bhagavad Gita in the three languages that I can read and write I found that many of the interpreters did not have any experience in yoga or meditation. Such people who set out to interpret Bhagavad Gita do great injustice to the book.

In spite of all the shortcomings it is worthwhile to try the Bhagavad Gita in whatever versions you may land your hands on. These days of course you have many online versions. It may be useful to compare two to three versions to enable you to at least get the core versions. By the way my own version is also underway. From time to time while going through various versions of the Bhagavad Gita I have made notes of insights gained. My advantage is that I can fairly understand Sanskrit even though I am no expert in it.

 

(The original post can be accessed at ‘Pebbles and Waves’ : durgadash.com. Permission to repost it here is gratefully acknowledged).

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/sacred-scriptures-of-india-and-the-bhagavad-gita

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/27/when-ceos-are-left-twiddling-their-thumbs-bhagavad-gita-could-help)

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The big and fat weddings which keep taking place all across the length and breadth of India are well known. These are occasions on which gullible parents, overjoyed by the prospect of finally getting rid of their respective wards, loosen their purse strings, showcasing their wealth, power and pelf.

Ostentatious decorations, lavish dinner spreads which could make Anatole raise his eyebrows a fraction of an inch, sumptuous upholstering of those in attendance and a chain of rituals which keep the hapless bride and the groom on their toes – all of these create an ambience which befits the social status of the well-heeled parents, making many others green with envy. It is another matter that such display of wealth often makes our tax sleuths sit up and take notice. The Bartholomews under their supervision promptly start sniffing around, their bare teeth on full display. Unless prompt steps are taken through proper channels, such visits get followed by a couple of tax notices. Tax consultants lose no time in demanding their own pound of flesh in the whole affair.

The Hapless Bride and the Groom

Clueless to-be-weds, having initially announced their matrimonial intentions, look helplessly around as the drama unfolds.  They may have had little say in the tough negotiations between their families as to the commercial terms and conditions of the proposed merger and amalgamation of two families.

Detailed arrangements to be made for their big day need the supreme intelligence of Reginald Jeeves. Around the big day, the poor youngsters go through a complicated litany of rituals, acting like dumb puppets under the command and control of senior relatives. When they make a grand entry, the grinning groom would normally be riding a well-decorated mare which is visibly shuddering due to the high pitch music being played by the band accompanying the procession. The dashing bride walks in, all decked up, a hand-held flowery canopy over her held by relatives and friends. The couple exchanges heavy garlands and soon starts experiencing cervical spondylitis.

High-end technology-backed priests chant unintelligible ‘mantras’ from Indian scriptures to the accompaniment of seven vows the couple takes while going around the sacred fire. The camera men call the shots as the wide-eyed couple refrain from openly complaining about tired facial muscles due to a need to keep smiling without a break, commercial or otherwise.

While the couple sounds bright and beaming, one never knows what is ailing them within. Realization dawns that while they may derive momentary pleasure in the proceedings, they have unwittingly unleashed some sinister forces which have snatched the initiative from their hands. It would not be surprising to find that both are resolving never to go through all the rigmarole once again in this life of theirs.

A Carnival of Egos

However, people assembled rejoice, not losing time to start gorging on rich food being served. Their taste buds reign supreme. Laughter and merriment is spread all around. A carnival of egos gets rolling, with each of the attendees shamelessly trying to prove his or her superiority to those around. Supercilious gazes, duly laced with ill-concealed jealousy, abound. Spruced up by expert cosmetologists, most of them come in wearing their societal masks, offering either a limp handshake or, in these virus-threatened times, a simple ‘namaste’.

Hosts suffer from having to put on synthetic smiles and greeting all and sundry – the essential ones, the desirable ones and the not-so-desirable ones. Their real worries are multi-dimensional: whether all arrangements would play out well, whether the gang of guests who whole-heartedly support a healthy supply of tissue restoratives would be exercising abundant caution, and if either the bride or the groom would play a vanishing act on the big day.

Onerous Duties of Detectives

Like Maudie, several owners of detective agencies prowl around the grounds, keeping an eye over the proceedings. One of their mandates is to keep guests like absent-minded Lord Emsworth on a tight leash, lest they pocket a couple of scarabs, if any happen to be floating around. Nabbing the likes of Smooth Lizzie before they could lay their hands on anything precious adorning the guests’ pear-shaped physical frames is yet another goal of theirs. Gifts and envelopes containing cash bestowed on the couple need to be kept under strict surveillance, lest these get pinched. Gangs of perennially giggling sisters of the bride need to be kept under a closer watch, so as to render their plans of stealing the groom’s footwear null and void. Bride’s ex-suitors who plan to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at the groom when he struts out of the wedding need to be kept at bay, so he does not suffer the fate of Teddy Week in one of the Ukridge stories.

In other words, the detectives endeavour to avoid any kind of disaster which could sully the reputation of the hosts and lower the dignity of the occasion. Obviously, they have no control over the basic disaster occurring in the lives of the couple who happen to be blissfully unaware of what is about to hit them, much like the cosh used to deadly effect by Jeeves occasionally – the marriage itself.

Of Smarter Marriages

As technology invades all aspects of our lives, the marriages in the near future may become qualitatively different. E-Invites are already the norm. Video invites could soon become the order of the day. Gifts for the couple could be received by courier. Bobby Wickham’s Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies has already come up with a range of gift packs to suit all kinds of attendees. Return gifts – like laser-guided needles meant for puncturing hot water bottles – could reach potential attendees by courier services, along with pre-paid food coupons.

Celebrations could be telecast live over smart phones, thereby reducing the carbon foot print of the marriage and protecting our denizens from the kind of exotic viruses which Nature keeps unleashing upon us at frequent intervals. It is a win-win situation for everyone, providing a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, avoiding security bottlenecks due to VVIP attendees, fat charges for hiring large venues, huge catering costs, cushioned seating and other incidental costs.

Yes, many of us would miss the back-slapping, bonhomie and networking which entails at a traditional wedding. Some may shudder at the prospect of losing out on those awkward elbow shakes and clumsy fist bumps. Parents who are scouting around for potential soul mates for their progeny would get dismayed. Relatives who despise each other would miss the sadistic pleasure of passing caustic comments within the earshot of the party of the other part. Service providers of all hues, sizes and shapes would be upset at the downturn in their billings. But one has to make tough choices at times.

The time of smaller, slimmer and smarter marriages is already upon us. Rupert Psmith and Eve Halliday would surely approve.

(Illustration courtesy the www)

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https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/an-invitation-from-the-international-league-of-happiness

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/a-plummy-wish-for-a-bride-to-be)

 

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Dustedoff

I have been watching with increasing despair and sorrow these past few months as India has teetered on the brink of disharmony and violence, hoping against hope that it was just a passing phase. There were moments when I felt things were looking up, for instance, when people of other faiths—not just Muslims—came together at Shaheen Bagh and elsewhere to oppose CAA and NRC. There were times I told myself it was getting better, that India was essentially secular, and that divisive forces would eventually be defeated.

Then the Delhi carnage happened. Many were killed, even more injured. Property was destroyed, people were forced to flee their homes. Curfew was clamped. We mourned. Not just for the dead, but for the way the hydra-headed monster of hatred, bigotry and violence had again reared its head.

I have lived in Delhi for most of my life, and to see the city…

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ashokbhatia

Rashtrapati Bahavan

The denizens of Delhi have cast their vote and shown the way,

Indians now have a new App downloaded, keeping voter fatigue at bay;

Considerations of caste, creed, sex and religion no longer count,

A clean image, humility and performance on the job alone count;

The age of the political party no more entices, nor does a dynasty,

Use of religion to polarize voters is an attempt which turns nasty;

What counts is the delight and empowerment of the common man,

Absence of graft, delegation of powers, with corruption facing a ban;

Transparent political funding, good governance not a myth but a reality,

Tangible returns from the citizens’ franchise, a non-criminal polity;

Better life, time-bound delivery of services, safety on the road and street,

Hopefully, the new government lives up to its promises and does not retreat;

Meer slogans and jingoism would not do, nor skillful media management,

Gone are…

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Few years back, when Lord Emsworth had been invited to be the Chief Guest at the Indian Republic Day parade, I had been persuaded to accompany him to India. It was good to see the kind of warmth and affection with which my master and I were treated then. I had been lovingly fed and Mr George Cyril Wellbeloved had ensured that I never miss my daily rations designed as per Wolff-Lehmann feeding standards. I was even garlanded and paraded around, after some red powder lines were drawn on my forehead. Wherever I had to make a public appearance, I had been greeted and applauded by those present.

The new secretary of Lord Emsworth, Mr Rupert Psmith, came over to my den today morning and told me that yet another trip was being planned to India pretty soon. As a President of Plumsville, the Lord has been invited over to India, to preside over the annual general meeting of the Wooster Institute of Chivalry, which works towards the goal of preventing sexual violence and other misogynistic challenges being faced by the members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured in India and elsewhere.

He wanted to know if I would be interested in accompanying the Lord’s entourage. This has left me all of a twitter. There are many reasons for my reluctance. Permit me to share these with you.

In Praise of the Cow 

  • Indians, I am told, revere cows. This tribe of quadrupeds rises above the narrow confines of religion, caste and creed, holding aloft some of the basic principles – such as equality, freedom and fraternity – upon which the country’s constitution is based.
  • Cows have individual vocal characteristics and change their pitch depending on their emotions, according to a study done by Alexandra Green and others at the University of Sydney. They know how to keep asserting their individual identity all through their lives. It remains a mystery as to why the legislators in India have not yet thought of including mooing in their list of official languages. I wonder if any cow can comprehend my body language, my unique smelling capacity and even my oinking.
  • While pottering around on congested city roads, they enjoy full liberty.
  • Unlike billionaires from USA or elsewhere, they do not gobble their food greedily. Rather, they chew their daily dose of vitamins leisurely. Thus, the lining of their stomachs is almost always in the pink of health.
  • As long as they are in their productive age bracket, they get tended to very lovingly. Thereafter, their fate is determined by their individual Guardian Angels.

Given this scenario, I am certain that my popping up in the country in its present mood, when some constitutional and democratic matters are getting hotly debated, might be taken amiss. The cows themselves may look askance at someone from my tribe being shown the kind of attention and care I would attract. Sure enough, even some of the cow-protection groups might be offended by my sheer presence. Had it been China, I could have been more positive, since the Year of the Pig is yet to get over there.

Security Concerns

  • I learn that some protests are going on there. If these turn violent, visitors face an inherent risk to their lives and limbs. Next time Mr Psmith passes by, I shall check if the Lord’s entourage could secure protection by the Scotland Yard while visiting India.
  • In case my stress levels go up owing to this trip, my daily ration of 57,800 calories might get compromised.

A Drive Against Size Zero

  • World over, females of all kinds inwardly aspire to attain what is euphemistically alluded to as Size Zero. India, I am sure, is no exception. However, I am grounded in reality and have no such ambitions. Those who keep a track of my dietary habits already know that I am a hearty and boisterous feeder. Many of them are well aware that I live to feed. I prefer to drink deep from the fountain called Life. I do not care if I look like a balloon with two ears and a tail.
  • I daresay that I am a role model for all those who wish to live a blissful life without bothering about their Size Infinity looks. This is the one reason I would feel happy about visiting India or any other country.

The Noise

  • One thing I did not relish on my last visit was the crowded and noisy streets of New Delhi where everyone appeared to believe that honking a horn was a fundamental right conferred on the denizens by the country’s Constitution. Any restrictions on the same were treated with much contempt, as if their right to free speech was getting denied. I was elated at having been transported back to my own den, enjoying the bliss of solitude and regaining my sang froid, so to say.

I am surely on the horns of a dilemma. I am inclined to think that some tact would be needed to convey my concerns effectively. If so, satisfactory results may ensue, leaving me in peace to enjoy my life in my own sty. I am hopeful that Lord Emsworth would not like the prospect of my getting upset about anything, thereby running the risk of my losing out on a medal at the upcoming Shropshire Agricultural Show and instead being relegated to the mean obscurity of an ‘Honourably Mentioned.’

Flowers would then be in full bloom, birds would be twittering and trees would be swaying in a gentle breeze. In other words, God would be in heaven.

What would you advise?

 

(Illustration courtesy www)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/lord-emsworth-gets-invited-to-the-republic-day-celebrations-in-india)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ashokbhatia

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

It is here that Indian scriptures and sages provide a ready template for managers of all sizes and shapes.

The bookSurviving in the Corporate Jungle’ covers some lessons from the following:

-Ramayana

-Mahabharata

-Bhagavad-Gita

-Thirukkural

-Chanakya Neeti

-Sri Aurobindo

Managers with a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart

The success of the likes of Satya Nadella (currently the CEO of Microsoft) and Sundar Pichai (currently the CEO of Google Inc) goes on to show the growing importance of managers who are not only exposed to the Western models of management but also steeped in Eastern…

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What happens when a banking professional like Suvarna Sanyal, who has spent a life time poring over bulky ledgers and checking debit and credit figures, turns his attention to one of the popular stories dished out by P G Wodehouse? Well, he simply whips up a series of illustrations which figure some of the better known characters from the canon in some selected scenes from the story!

Residents of Plumsville would recall that this is the only story in the canon which is narrated by Jeeves. Savour below the results of his labour of love which, incidentally, have already undergone a scrutiny under the precise microscope of an expert in all Plummy matters.

 

I want to explain to you why I am speaking to you directly, instead of letting Mr Wooster present one of his tales.  I have been asked quite frequently to explain any formula I might have for success in my profession, and have concluded it could be summarised as ‘Resource and Tact’.  I hope the example of this story will show you what I mean.

 

 

 

“Oh, dash it, Jeeves!” he said, sort of overwrought. “I wish at least you’d put it on another table for a change.”

“Sir?” I said.

 

 

I should mention that Mr Wooster then told me he was considering adopting a kid, but also wondering whether to give up his London flat, take a house, and have his sister and her three little girls to live with him.  But I avoided the blunder of outwardly expressing my disapproval of the idea at this juncture.

Well, it was a respite, and I welcomed it. But I began to see that a crisis had arisen which would require adroit handling. 

 

 

Mr Wooster wearied of Brighton after two days, and decided to return home, and we started back about 5 on a fine summer’s day.  We had only gone about two miles when I noticed a red-haired young person of about 12, with a snub nose and an extremely large grin, seeking a lift.  She seemed to me to have the air of one who had been absenting herself from school without leave.

 

 

 

“I’m going to get into a frightful row,” she began. “Miss Tomlinson will be perfectly furious. I thought I could get back in time so that nobody would notice I’d gone, but I got this nail in my shoe.”

“Oh, I say, this is rather rotten,” he observed. “Isn’t there anything to be done? I say, Jeeves, don’t you think something could be done?”

“I think it would be a legitimate subterfuge were you to inform the young lady’s school-mistress that you are an old friend of the young lady’s father; that you had been passing the school and had seen the young lady at the gate and taken her for a drive. Miss Tomlinson’s chagrin would no doubt in these circumstances be sensibly diminished if not altogether dispersed.”

 

 

The young one was delighted at this generous offer, and as I turned in at the gates of a house of imposing dimensions, and brought the car to a halt at the front door, she volunteered her name.

 

 

I decided it might be simpler if I explained the situation to Miss Tomlinson, who proved to have a handsome but strong-minded appearance, and she recalled to my mind Mr Wooster’s Aunt Agatha.  ‘She had the same penetrating gaze and that indefinable air of being reluctant to stand any nonsense.’

I went on to explain to her that Mr Wooster is an extremely retiring gentleman.

“He is an extremely retiring gentleman, madam, and would be the last to suggest it himself, but, knowing him as I do, I am sure that he would take it as a graceful compliment if you were to ask him to address the young ladies. He is an excellent extempore speaker.”

“A very good idea!” said Miss Tomlinson, decidedly.

 

 

I drove round to the stables, and although the car was in excellent condition, I seemed to feel that something would go wrong with it, something which I would not be able to put right for a couple of hours. One gets these presentiments.

It was about half an hour later that Mr Wooster came into the stable-yard, and complained that he had lost his cigarette case.  He then went on to extol the virtues of his recent companions.

“Extremely so, sir,” I said. 

“But a bit exhausting en masse.  And they giggle so much.  Makes a fellow feel a bit of an ass.  And they stare at you.”

“When I was employed as a page-boy at a school for young ladies, sir, they had a regular game which they used to play when a male visitor arrived. They would stare fixedly at him and giggle, and there was a small prize for the one who made him blush first.”

“I’d no idea small girls were such demons.”

“More deadly than the male, sir.”

 

 

Mr Wooster returned to the company of the girls, while I took tea with the maids in the kitchen, after which I returned to the stable-yard, and Peggy Mainwaring appeared.  She asked me to return Mr Wooster’s cigarette case to him, which she said he must have dropped somewhere.

She then told me he was going to give a lecture to the school.

 

 

She had barely scampered off to rejoin her friends when a deeply perturbed Mr Wooster came round the corner.

 

 

And within minutes, Miss Tomlinson appeared, and spoke to Mr Wooster.

 

 

The large schoolroom was situated on the ground floor, with commodious French windows, which, as the weather was clement, remained open throughout the proceedings. By stationing myself behind a pillar on the porch or veranda which adjoined the room, I was enabled to see and hear all. It was an experience which I should be sorry to have missed. Mr Wooster indubitably excelled himself.

Mr. Wooster is a young gentleman with practically every desirable quality except one. I do not mean brains, for in an employer brains are not desirable. The quality to which I allude is hard to define, but perhaps I might call it the gift of dealing with the Unusual Situation.

 

 

Miss Tomlinson  made a short but graceful speech of introduction, stressing the fact that he was Mr Bertram and no other breed of Wooster. But before he was able to open his mouth, the young ladies burst into a species of chant, of which I am glad to say I remember the words, if not the tune.

 

 

The performance, which was notably devoid of cooperative effort, seemed to smite Mr Wooster like a blow. And then he tottered forward.

Girls!” said Miss Tomlinson. She spoke in a low, soft voice, but the effect was immediate. Perfect stillness instantly descended upon all present. I am bound to say that, brief as my acquaintance with Miss Tomlinson had been, I could recall few women I had admired more. She had grip.

 

 

I fancy that Miss Tomlinson had gauged Mr Wooster’s oratorical capabilities pretty correctly by this time, and had come to the conclusion that nothing much in the way of a stirring address was to be expected from him.

“Perhaps,” she said, “as it is getting late, and he has not very much time to spare, Mr. Wooster will just give you some little word of advice which may be helpful to you in after-life, and then we will sing the school song and disperse to our evening lessons.”

She looked at Mr Wooster, who passed a finger round the inside of his collar. It was painful to see his brain endeavouring to work.

“We will now sing the school song,” said Miss Tomlinson, rising like an iceberg.

 

 

I hurried round to the car, and in a very few moments Mr Wooster came tottering up. I had climbed into my seat and was about to start the engine, when voices, including those of Miss Tomlinson,  made themselves heard.  At the first sound of them Mr Wooster sprang with almost incredible nimbleness to the floor covering himself with a rug. The last I saw of him was a pleading eye.

When Miss Tomlinson asked about the whereabouts of Bertie Wooster, I expressed helplessness, but she went on, obviously stirred with emotion.

“Mademoiselle has just found several girls smoking cigarettes in the shrubbery.  They stated Mr Wooster had given them the horrid things.  I think the man is out of his senses.”

 

 

One night about a week later, I took the whisky and siphon into Mr Wooster’s study.

“Jeeves, this is dashed jolly.  A sort of safe, restful feeling.  Soothing.  That’s the word,” he said.

“Indeed, sir.  By the way, sir, have you succeeded in finding a suitable house yet?

“House?  What do you mean, house?”

“I understood, sir, that it was your intention to give up the flat and take a house of sufficient size to enable you to have your sister, Mrs. Scholfield, and her three young ladies to live with you.”

Mr Wooster shuddered strongly.

 

 

 

So, how does one manage bosses and ensure they never go round the bend when they get too enthusiastic about an idea of theirs? Jeeves would heartily recommend ‘tact’ and ‘resource’!

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/when-bertie-entertains-thoughts-of-having-children-around

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ashokbhatia

LEADERSThere is something unique about managers from India. Apparently, they have a Western mind and an Eastern heart. In other words, a unique combination of analytical prowess and intuitive faculties.

Here is a thought-provoking guest post from Mr K V Rao, Resident Director – ASEAN, Tata Sons Ltd , Singapore.

“I was born and raised in India in small towns, and started reflecting how is it that so many of my compatriots make it to global leadership positions ?

Many of our ilk have left the shores, for distant foreign lands. Have studied and imbued the best of cultures, but retained some of some of that inner rusticity, and native eclectic personalities. They have made it to the top jobs of Google, Microsoft, Mastercard, or a Pepsi, and the list is endless and still more to surface. All have been exceptional fighters, who seem to compete fiercely but fairly, often guided…

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