Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Mandela’

 

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)

 

 

Read Full Post »

Quite a few CEOs, when they wake up the day after having secured a crucial business deal, experience a sense of calm happiness within. The flowers are in full bloom, the sun shines with due benevolence, the birds and the bees hop around doing what Mother Nature has ordained them to do, God is in heaven and all appears to be fine with the world.

If they happen to be at a resort with a fresh water lake nearby, they prefer to splash about a bit and invigorate themselves. While taking a leisurely swim, they even start exercising their vocal chords, belting out a favourite song of theirs, generating in the process an off-tune gruesome sound which is calculated to startle the stoutest. Two bees, buzzing among the roses, stop as one bee and look at each other with raised eyebrows. Snails withdraw into their shells. A squirrel practicing for her athletic performance in the upcoming Olympics on a nearby tree nearly falls off its branch. A deer roaming around in the bushes nearby, its reverie disrupted, decides to scoot off to a quieter location. But such CEOs, blissfully unaware of the confusion being caused in the animal kingdom by virtue of their expression of inner bliss, persevere in their endeavours.

Bhagavad Gita speaks of three kinds of happiness – the Sattvic (Pure) kind, the Rajasic (Passionate) kind, and the Tamasic (Dull) kind.

Sattvic: The unalloyed bliss of happiness

The happiness that a CEO experiences when she has executed a business plan successfully, or has convinced the board of directors of the merits of an acquisition proposal, would be that of the pure kind. A path-breaking approach has been taken. Her vision, courage and conviction are easily visible. Much hard work and effort has gone into the work accomplished. Details have been examined with a fine tooth comb. While working on such plans, the proverbial midnight oil has been burnt. Some personal sacrifices have been made. Initial pain and difficulties have been suffered and overcome. A combination of the hard work put in, the self-control exercised in the process, and the resultant sense of self-perfection leads to this kind of happiness.

When we use the term Peace, this is indeed the kind of happiness we refer to.

यत्तदग्रे विषमिव परिणामेऽमृतोपमम् |
तत्सुखं सात्विकं प्रोक्तमात्मबुद्धिप्रसादजम् || 18.37||

That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. It is generated by the pure intellect that is situated in self-knowledge.

For those of you who have come across the movie Invictus, the visionary leadership of Nelson Mandela comes across very clearly. He blunts the edge of apartheid by using the game of rugby to unite his populace, when they cheer Springboks, the team of the South African Rugby Union, to a victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The title of the movie could be translated from Latin to mean ‘unconquered’. Here is the poem bearing the same title:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

 

(William Ernest Henley)

 One can well imagine the kind of unalloyed happiness experienced by those at the helm of affairs in a challenging situation of that kind.

Many CEOs keep fighting the battle of the abdominal bulge. When they take their doctor’s advice seriously and start either jogging or brisk walking, the initial pain and resistance from within act as a deterrent. However, once a habit gets formed, they enjoy better health and happiness.

Rajasic: The mundane shade of happiness

The passionate kind of happiness gets experienced when her ambition of a C-suite gets fulfilled. Or, when she gets a reserved parking slot earmarked for her vehicle. Or, even when the security guard and the liftman salute her upon entry to her fiefdom. Power, pelf and prestige present a package which gives rise to a fleeting sense of happiness in her bosom. But beneath the happiness is a layer of anxiety, because none of these can be taken for granted. In fact, the risk of her developing a queen-size ego and believing that she is omnipotent is pretty high. A major setback in career could just be around the corner, sneaking up and striking her with the stuffed eel-skin of business life.

विषयेन्द्रियसंयोगाद्यत्तदग्रेऽमृतोपमम् |
परिणामे विषमिव तत्सुखं राजसं स्मृतम् || 38||

Happiness is said to be in the mode of passion when it is derived from the contact of the senses with their objects. Such happiness is like nectar at first but poison at the end.

Indira Nooyi, ex-President of PepsiCo, says:

‘Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.’

 

Tamasic: Happiness which leads to a fall from grace

The dull kind is one which is based entirely on the gratification of senses. Lord Krishna points out three specific causes which result in a happiness of this kind:

  1. When emotional and mental sleep leads to one not being able to understand the reality, or one trudges through life without a clear goal in life;
  2. A state of inertia of the intellect when one decides to let others govern one’s life, or allows one’s instincts and impulses to govern her decisions and approach to problem solving.
  3. Ignoring the ‘inner voice’, one perfects the art of heedlessness and often gets into an adventurous mode, indulging in sensory gratification, eventually leading to a spectacular downfall.

यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मन: |
निद्रालस्यप्रमादोत्थं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् || 39||

That happiness which covers the nature of the self from beginning to end, and which is derived from sleep, indolence, and negligence, is said to be in the mode of ignorance.

Ask Martin Winterkorn, the former chairman of the board of directors of Volkswagen AG, who put in his papers during September 2015, several days after the infamous emissions cheating scandal came up. He also resigned as chairman of Audi on 11 November 2015, after further information associated with the scandal was revealed in regard to VW’s gasoline-powered engines. He was criminally indicted over the emissions cheating scandal in the USA on May 3, 2018 on charges of fraud and conspiracy. In April 2019, he was criminally indicted on charges of fraud in Germany. His is a clear case for the kind of transient happiness CEOs should not aim for.

A wise CEO who happens to be aware of different hues of happiness would manage the wild horses of her desires, her egoistic tendencies and her anger and resentments in such a manner as to truly aim for the Sattvic variety of happiness. In other words, do a great job and experience the inner glow of contentment.

Peter Drucker is also of the opinion that happiness is irrelevant in the management context:

‘Never mind your happiness; do your duty.’

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/looking-for-a-ceo-who-is-peaceful-and-happy

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/a-quest-for-true-happiness)

Read Full Post »

Quite a few amongst us are fed up with our daily dose of bad news. Wars – covert or overt. Disasters – natural or otherwise. Genocides. Murders. Rapes. Income inequalities. Social prejudices. Accidents. Every single day, the media keeps reminding us of what is wrong with our world.

During the last three weeks, we were fortunate to have come face to face with institutions and bodies which try to do something good for the world.

Here is a quick recap of such encounters of the pleasant kind.

THE UN OFFICE at Geneva

A guided tour of the Palais de Nations in Geneva makes us realize the way the UN functions and the organs through which it operates in fields as diverse as health, education and sustainable development, besides matters of political import.

Palais de Nations

Palais de Nations

Other than United Nations administration, the UN Office at Geneva also hosts the offices for a number of programmes and funds. As many as 23 organs of the UN are located at Geneva – such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the International Labour Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Health Organization.

The General Assembly hall at Geneva

The General Assembly hall at Geneva

We get to witness a Human Rights Council meeting where records of countries are getting reviewed and commented upon.

The compound has impressive artefacts, including a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi in the UN compound at Geneva

Mahatma Gandhi in the UN compound at Geneva

Where the League of Nations failed in 1939, the UN appears to have succeeded so far – keeping a global war at bay by a relentless effort to defuse tensions. However, several conflict zones remain active in various parts of the world, needing intervention.

The ICRC at Geneva

A visit to the global headquarters of the Red Cross brings us face to face with the kind of trauma, pain and suffering the denizens of our planet have undergone over the last 100 years.

The ICRC Headquarters at Geneva

The ICRC Headquarters at Geneva

The ICRC, established in 1863, works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people affected by conflict and armed violence and to promote the laws that protect victims of war. An independent and neutral organization, its mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

At the permanent exhibition, testimonies of witnesses and survivors can be heard. A section on children missing from strife-torn areas moves us deeply. Records of persons missing during both the World Wars and the attempts made to reunite families leave us wondering as to why wars are waged at all.

An exhibit at the permanent exhibition at ICRC

An exhibit at the permanent exhibition at ICRC

Havoc caused by natural disasters like earth quakes, tsunamis and global warming can be experienced by means of movies, working models and testimonies of witnesses.

A painting lauding the efforts of Nelson Mandela

A painting lauding the efforts of Nelson Mandela

For those made of sterner stuff, some details of the treatment meted out to prisoners of war can be realized through a temporary exhibition of paintings, sculptures and short movie clips.

The NOBEL PEACE CENTER at Oslo

In an ironical twist of faith, Alfred Nobel, in his sunset years, decided to do something to help society overcome the damage some of his inventions had done. Of the five prizes conceived by him, he decided to allot the Peace Prize to Norway in 1905.

The Nobel Peace Center at Oslo

The Nobel Peace Center at Oslo

The Centre at Oslo captures the spirit behind the prize, the process of its finalization and details of all its 123 recipients till now. An electronic book about Alfred Nobel provides interesting insights into his life.

Use of technology to display the details of all the Prize recipients

Use of technology to display the details of all the Prize recipients

Activities of the 2013 winner – Organization for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – are on display. We get to understand how the OPCW inspectors monitor, locate and destroy chemical weapons. It is interesting for us to know that it was only in 1997 that the protocol for control of chemical weapons came into force.

In a temporary exhibition entitled ‘Be Democracy’, we learn the extent to which the democratic form of governance has become popular all across the world. In an interactive section, one can form a message supporting global peace and leave it behind.

An interactive exhibition

An interactive exhibition

Mahatma Gandhi appears at different places in the exhibition. It is a matter of deep regret that a person of his stature could never get a Nobel Peace Prize.

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi

In a small room, we come across some paintings done by children of different countries. We are delighted to see three by Indian children.

A Churning and Cleansing

Global bodies which try to do something good face tremendous challenges. Better access to health and education continues to cause concern; so does the rise of terrorism, the sophistication in weaponry, the change of a bipolar world into a multi-polar one, economic predation, sustainable development and non-compliance with humanitarian laws, just to cite a few.

Stop Terrorism, Spread Peace - a painting by Sudarshan V, 12 years, India

Stop Terrorism, Spread Peace – a painting by Sudarshan V, 12 years, India

We live in times when the spread of internet has changed the way we experience and interact with the world. Use of armed drones and robots and cyber-attacks are newer challenges on the horizon.

One may scoff at the idea that peace prevails. There are conflicts all around us. Possibly these are part of a churning which takes place within the collective soul of humanity. Such churning appears to be a cleansing process, designed by nature to rid us of the poisons within our collective conscience.

Beacons of Hope for Mankind

When hatred grows with no end in sight, it generates its own momentum. That is where the role of organizations like the United Nations, the Red Cross and the Nobel Foundation assumes relevance. It is a role which earns more brickbats than bouquets and is never short of generating controversies.

Voodoo dolls depicting the problems affecting humanity (ICRC, Geneva)

Voodoo dolls depicting the problems affecting humanity (ICRC, Geneva)

The good news is that despite political pushes and pulls, they continue to discharge their obligations towards humanity. Going forward, a conscious drive to make them more inclusive – providing better role in decision-making to the emerging economies – would surely help.

The presence of dynamic institutions and bodies which stand up for righteousness and work for the collective good assures us that there is hope for mankind. May be, a day would dawn when ‘Vasudhaiv kutumbukam’ (let the whole earth be one family) would become a reality!

Read Full Post »