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(Continued)

Some Missing Ingredients in the Curry

In Plum’s narratives, we encounter American millionaires, French cooks, Russian peasants, Italian waiters, Spanish ladies and white hunters and huntresses who keep popping up in Africa. We also get to meet well-endowed American ladies who are on the lookout for castles which are owned by impecunious English gentlemen.

When it comes to India, we get introduced to military men, royals and others who narrate some juicy details or the other about that exotic land. He also gives us a sneak peek into the civil disobedience movement of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation of India. Rabindranath Tagore’s dietary habits, like those of Mahatma Gandhi, get commented upon. Taj Mahal finds a mention.

Some of his characters are even desirous of trooping down to India to study its social conditions while some emulate the mystics contemplating on the infinite in caves in Himalayas or elsewhere. We come to know of some cities as well.

To Plum’s credit, he even quotes Rudyard Kipling, the India-born author whose works were inspired by his country of birth:

‘I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – girls are rummy. Old Pop Kipling never said a truer word than when he made that crack about the f. of the s. being d. than the m.’ (Right Ho, Jeeves)

But if he had wanted to, Plum could have used a number of other Indian resources to further enrich his narratives.

Alas, we do not find any mention of such literary figures as Kalidasa, besides Aryabhata or Ramanuja, the famous mathematicians. The four Vedas are nowhere to be found. References to India’s soft power comprising such aspects as spirituality, its multi-layered scriptures and various dance forms are sadly missing.

Above all, the mind-numbing diversity of the spirit of India is missing. Its wide spectrum of ethnicities, languages, beliefs, practices and cuisines is nowhere to be found. These are facets of India which have missed out on his wit and wisdom. It is indeed a delectable irony of sorts that this write up is labelled as The Indian Curry Dished Out by P G Wodehouse, even though it has not thrown up even a single reference to any Indian dish!

Imagine a distraught Gussie Fink-Nottle pining for Madeline Bassett and sending messages to her through clouds passing overhead, a la ‘Meghadut’, the classic poem penned by Kalidasa. Poets like Ralston McTodd would have been found drawing some inspiration from the creative outpourings of Tagore. Personalities like Indian scientists and mathematicians would have helped some sleepless guardians of the peace – like Constable Oates – to improve their methods of investigation, improving the prospects of their being noticed by Scotland Yard. To improve Bertie’s intellect, all Florence Craye had to do was to insist that he peruse at least one of the chapters of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Laura Pyke could have drawn some inspiration from the science of ‘Ayurveda’, the healthy-lifestyle system that people in India have used for more than 5,000 years. Anatole could have been found whipping up ‘chhole bhature’ or ‘dosa’s!

Yoga could have helped someone like Ashe Marson to treat his clients suffering from acute dyspepsia to heal faster and better. Sir Roderick Glossop could have gone about advising his loonier patients to make meditation an essential part of their mundane lives. Vicars could have lived a happier Thos-infested life while brooding on spiritual tenets dished out by Indian scriptures, thereby becoming hotter at their jobs. George Bevan, while working on one of his next musical comedies, could have been drawing inspiration from the ‘Natya Shastra’ of Bharata Muni. Gentlemen aspiring for India rubber legs could have been practising such dance forms as ‘Kathak’ or ‘Bharatnatyam.’

The possibilities are endless. The mind boggles. But one would do well not to be concerned with what might have been. Instead, the focus needs to be on the rich legacy Plum left behind for us to rejoice in.

A Consistent Depiction, Despite 1947

The India that Plum would refer to belongs to an era which is long since bygone. India gained independence in 1947, but his works published during the period from 1947 (Joy in the Morning) till 1974 (Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen) do not reveal much change in his imagination. If one were to compare allusions to India based on Wodehouse’s works published before and after 1947, one notices a singular consistency. Astral bodies, scorpions and cobras continue to rule the roost.

The insignificance of the year of India gaining independence from the British Raj in Plum’s works has its own merits. Much like the relationship between Bertie Wooster and Tuppy Glossop, which soured for some time when the former was forced to take a dip in the water even when suitably attired, a friendly spirit of joie de vivre appears to have prevailed and both countries have moved on.

Malcolm Muggeridge, who was an editor of Punch, had spent two extended periods in India, once during 1923-26, as a lecturer in English at a college in Kerala, and then during the early 1930s as an assistant editor of the Statesman. According to Ruskin Bond, he is reported to have said that ‘the only real Englishmen to be found in the world were to be found in India.’    

Many enlightened Indians who take a broad view of things, or those who were born much after 1947 and have not suffered the birth pangs of their country, admire the Crown rule for having left behind a rich legacy in terms of a legal framework, a bureaucracy, a railway network, partial linguistic proficiency in English and a fine army with its own traditions. The genesis for such a legacy to have come about could have been rooted in stark commercialism and a stiff-upper-lip-type control over the people, but that need not distract us from the fine institutions created and left behind by the British in 1947.  

But many others, especially those who have been exposed to the personal trauma of partition which ended up displacing an estimated 10 to 20 million people along religious lines, or their descendants who have heard the horror stories of those trying times, and many others, would speak of the manner in which Indians of yore were exploited by the British. They would lament the decline of their country’s share in the global Gross Domestic Product from roughly 27 percent in the 1700s to roughly 3 percent in 1947. (Sources: Wikipedia and a talk by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, a famous fan of Plum’s and a Member of Parliament of India, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB5ykS-_-CI)

In the present scenario, both the countries, the erstwhile rulers as well as the ruled, enjoy a healthy and vibrant relationship. Even during the two World Wars in the 1900s, Indian soldiers had made the supreme sacrifice, supporting the British/Allied forces. Over time, close to 150,000 soldiers are said to have died while supporting the wars fought by the Empire. A private sector steel company in India had produced rails much to the satisfaction of the rulers. Sure enough, there were mutinies, internal skirmishes and episodes of non-violent civil disobedience, but there were clear signs of good collaboration between the two even prior to 1947.

In any case, it should come as no surprise that Plum maintains consistency throughout his canon while using Indian condiments for the curry he serves. During 1947, the Indian subcontinent was undergoing some major changes. But these did not register on the Plumsville radar.

From a global perspective, the devastation caused by the Second World War (1939–45) was then the main area of concern, rather than the fact of India gaining independence on 15 August 1947. Plum had personally suffered in his life owing to political developments then and had relocated from Europe to USA during April 1947, never to visit Europe again. One believes that the press in the USA had then covered the fact of India gaining independence rather prominently, probably because it was the first significant nation to have gained independence from the British after the USA, which had achieved the feat some 171 years earlier, in 1776. However, due to his preoccupation with other matters then, perhaps the last thing on his mind would have been the British (or American) reaction to the events unfolding in India. Hence his storylines and characters never touched upon the emergence of an independent India.

Even though his works do not offer any commentary on the politics of the day, at times he does not refrain from deploying the communist ideology to amuse and entertain his readers. Psmith brims over with socialist ideas. George Cyril Wellbeloved has strongly communistic views. At one stage, even Bingo Little becomes a member of the ‘Red Dawn’. Roderick Spode happens to be a born crusader and revolutionary. Vanessa Cook leads protest marches and appears to be gravitating towards politics by chance. Stilton Cheesewright, who is otherwise content being a vigilant guardian of peace at Steeple Bumpleigh, gets egged on by Florence Craye to pursue a career in politics.

(Continued)

Notes:

The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

Related Post:

The Indian Curry Dished Out by P. G. Wodehouse (Part 7 of 9)

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

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

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

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

Consider what is happening around us these days.

Some Ground Realities

The Lack of a Conscious Approach to Business Goals

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

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

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

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

The Monkey Business Called Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rudderless Social (and Anti-Social) Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neglecting Half of the Homo Sapiens

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Silence of the Lambs

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

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

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

With No Malice towards Anyone  

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

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

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

With Whom Does the Buck Stop?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Silver Linings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mighty Churning

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

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

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

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

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

(Related Posts:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A deluge of homage thru editorials, articles, opinions, blog posts poured in after Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee left his mortal coil. The electronic media was abuzz with discussions on the tallest leader that India has ever produced. After those exhaustive and emotional encomia showered by everyone, the opposition included, what else is there to write? After every paean has been sung what is left for me to say?

But it is believed that a tribute is truly paid only when you emulate the leader and walk his path. For doing that one has to understand Atalji’s exemplary leadership style.

Despite many thousands of empirical studies, leadership remains a tantalizing enigma for many – me included. Is it possible to annotate Atalji’s actions? Is it at all possible to codify the colossus called Atal Bihari Vajpayee?

To fit his great persona into a frame, to capture his myriad methods and to titrate his thoughts would greatly tax even a scholarly brain – but the practical value of that exercise will be invaluable for the country. Therefore I will make an attempt.

His Leadership Style – Elusive yet Effective

All the leadership theories espoused by the west are inadequate to describe Atalji’s style. His style straddles the oldest to the latest western theories effortlessly – but the core of his unique leadership style is completely elusive. Not much has been understood about the guiding ‘force’ behind his style.

When Atalji addressed the ISKON meeting on Ram Navami 5th April 1998, he said “I am all in favor of globalization of the message of the Gita and messages of all the sacred books of the world with which the message of Gita bears close conformity” – This openness expressed by him would have been categorized at best as a collaborative or an inclusive style by the Western theories but ‘NITI Shastra‘ of Kautilya would elevate the same to a higher level of ideological depth – ‘Which country, which faith is foreign to a man of True Learning?’ it says.

After the 1999 Pakistan coup, Prime Minister Atalji had to deal with the crafty general Musharraf. Atalji persisted with his offer of friendship but when that was resisted by Musharraf, he made another attempt at Agra which also failed. But three years later, it was Musharraf who made the long walk at the SAARC Summit in Islamabad to greet him. He made a commitment then not to allow any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorist activities against India!

No western style, however contemporary, explains this persistence and patience of Atalji.

However, the eastern tradition of TAOism highlights this kind of engagement. “The leader who is centered and grounded can work with erratic people and critical groups without experiencing harm. The wise leader is like the water that can YIELD yet LEAD!”

A RAJARISHI Leads the Coalition

Atalji was the great harmonizer. He aligned different coalition partners and managed to drive major reforms during his tenure as the Prime Minister. He was the great unifier who built bridges between different ideologies, political parties and countries.

What made the Coalition partners align with Atalji? Why was he was fondly referred to as the  ‘Gentle Giant’and ‘Ajatahshatru’ (someone who has no enemies)?

According to Kautilya, a leader will turn into a ‘Rajarishi-a King Sage’ through purity of speech, of the mind, of heart and of the senses – all these can be acquired only through ‘Indriyajayah’ – control over the senses- lust, anger, pride, arrogance and fool hardiness.

The traditional philosophies Taoism and Buddhism also explain how leaders deal with the complex dilemmas of the real world. Taoism explains this craft beautifully – “Because the leader does not push, the group does not resent or resist: A moderate ego demonstrates wisdom: remain open and receptive, no matter what issues arise: Learn to lead without coercion. Both praise and criticism should not excite – Interestingly Indian scriptures too praise ‘Sthitaprajna (to remain stable through intellect) as a great leadership trait !

Atalji was known for long spells of silence and contemplation. The Tao principle, ‘Wu-wei’ generally translated as non-action or non-doing is the most powerful of all. Paradoxically it’s not about inaction but is about ‘Action without Effort’. All the tenets of Tao resonate with our very own ancient prayer to the universe “Samastha Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu” (May everyone in all the worlds be happy).

No wonder Atalji the Rajarishi could lead the largest coalition effortlessly.

His style was HARMONY in WAR

Atalji’s biggest success in foreign affairs was in bringing relations with the US back from the brink after the US imposed sanctions on India– This cannot be explained effectively by any theory, only AIKIDO can.

AIKIDO, a Japanese martial art, is where practitioners defend themselves while protecting their attacker from injury. The tactic of blending with an attacker’s movements for the purpose of controlling their actions resembles a dance rather than a fight. How Atalji restrained the US to protect India, yet rallied support for the US later by controlling China’s nuclear aggression, is but the skill of an AIKIDO Master!

His style is BEYOND THEORY

No theory spoke about how ‘silence’ can silence the enemy or how ‘contemplation’ can control the situation. No leadership theory spoke about poetry paving pathways into people’s hearts. No theory praised a dignified ‘retreat from public life’ as a laudable leadership trait.

ALT is the key for India

His leadership style, call it the ‘Mother Leadership’ that is intuitive and all giving or the ‘Mother of Leadership’ styles that straddles all existing theories is the key for India’s progress.

The exercise to codify his leadership style will have far reaching implications for the country’s progress. For patriots it should be a blueprint to follow. For people in power it should be taught as a refresher course and for the newly elected politicians, it should be introduced at the orientation training.

ALT – Atal Leadership Theory – is as much about ALT key of change as it is about Altruism– it is a theory about Impact, Influence and Inspiration. A Master Class on leadership paradoxes- for ALT, WHEN I GIVE MYSELF I BECOME MORE is but the MOMENT OF TRUTH !

Karuna Gopal

President, Futuristic Cities

Global Thought Leader, Advisor on Smart Cities, Governance & Policy

Published on 22-Aug-2018

The Hans India

 

(Note: Sh Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the 10th Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004)

(Permission from the author to blog this piece here is gratefully acknowledged. Details about her work can be seen at http://www.karunagopal.com)

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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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Ladies and Gentlemen of the world,

Allow me to lodge a protest.

The derogatory manner in which I am generally referred to by the Homo sapiens is a matter of sincere regret. I wish to ass-everate that I have sterling qualities of head and heart. Even though a vast majority of you copy me ass-iduously in your day-to-day lives, you hold the member of my species in a low esteem. This is patently unfair. Permit me to set the record straight and ass-ert myself.

Members of your species have always given me a raw deal. You wilfully neglect some of my great contributions in diverse fields of life. Prohibition, literature, health, discipline, education, free speech, human values, law and order, science, politics, management, architecture, adventure and logistics are some of the fields where I have enabled your civilization to scale great heights.

Here is a quick recapitulation of some of…

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Our politicians are more to be pitied than censured. Lesser mortals would cringe at the kind of multi-tasking they have to do.

The hapless persons cannot sleep easy, since they have to keep their ear to the ground and make the right noises at the right time in the public sphere. They have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them.

Some of you may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist. Think of such eminent personalities as the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, who have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

They have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state.

Here are some cartoons from the stable of R K Laxman and Sudhir Dar which capture the perils of a political career.

A career in politics is invariably a high-risk one. However, one cannot complain about the returns on investment being low.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/psmith-and-mike-discuss-politics

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/this-is-it-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/this-is-it-part-2)

 

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Psmith put his smart phone away. A sigh escaped him.

“Nothing makes sense”, he muttered.

For the space of about twenty-five seconds, Mike, sitting across a small table on a sunlit balcony in Mumbai, India, sat in silence.

“What is wrong with you?” asked Mike, with a concerned look on his face.

Some time back, Psmith and Mike had returned to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank for a short audit spree. It had again taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the metropolis, which they found much noisier than during their last stay, what with elections in India just round the corner.

They were put up in a guest house of the bank located at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“It is a pity to see the hapless denizens of most countries getting bombarded with all kinds of inane propaganda around election time. The level of allegations and counter-allegations leave them totally aghast, wondering if there is any sense of decency left in the world. I am sure they are clueless about being able to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it comes to deciding who to vote for”, said Psmith, looking somber and grave.

“Yes. Perhaps, they would end up voting for those who have greater lung power, both in the physical and in the virtual world!” said Mike.

“Elections will come and go. But, frankly, I do not really see any hope for the millions who have put their faith in the concept of democracy without realizing the kind of chaos and confusion it so very often amounts to.”

Mike eyed Psmith with grave concern.

“What gives? I have never seen you so very pessimistic about things.”

“In general, I feel that politicians of all hues have failed the public at large. People should start using the None Of The Above option more aggressively!” said Psmith ruefully.

“Why do you think so?” asked Mike, picking up his cup of tea from the table separating the two.

“One, I do not see any party speaking of issues which really matter. Talk of global warming and the threat people face from rising sea levels is nowhere to be heard. We have come to a stage where we need kids like Greta Thunberg to remind us of our obligations to Mother Earth. World over, use of land is a question which never gets raised, even though instances of urban flooding keep popping up every once in a while. Another crisis which looms large is that of the acute shortage of potable water, but our politicos appear to be behaving like well-fed ostriches on all these counts.

“Two, the basic needs, like providing for affordable healthcare, an education which makes the young employable, and an ecosystem which enables the people to make a decent living, are only touched upon obliquely and never addressed in a meaningful way. We are already well into Industrial Revolution 4.0. Requirement of skill-sets is changing rapidly, creating a new set of haves and have-nots. But I do not see any politician talking about this grave challenge.

”Three, many of the founders of modern democracies had vowed to create a just society. They seem to be nowhere near the goal that their founding fathers had set. Not to talk of either Millennium Development Goals or a gradual shift to Gross National Happiness Index for measuring progress.”

Psmith paused and looked at the seagulls flapping their wings over the Arabian Sea.

“Yes, I understand your anguish”, said Mike. “But this is true for many of our politicians in many countries. They are essentially dream merchants, with an eye on their own seat of power. Lofty promises get made at election time, mostly to be forgotten thereafter. The execution part is left to poor mandarins who sit in their ivory towers and keep swaying like wild grass on a sea coast to the likes and dislikes of different political masters from time to time.

“We live in times of volatile politics and general insecurity. We are just getting used to some stunning and illogical triumphs. Over the past few years, we have seen it in France, Italy, USA, India and elsewhere. A wave of isolationism appears to be washing down upon us. So is a phase of de-globalization.”

“Let us not lose heart, Comrade Jackson. The world follows its own cycles. Pretty soon, the tide could turn again. The omissions and commissions of those who look invincible today may soon return to haunt them. But what amuses me is that rather than focusing on long term key issues, our politicians just keep goading the ordinary person into making a choice between a brand of hyper-nationalism and a secular and liberal outlook. They sound much like our corporate honchos who live from one quarter to the next, dishing out guideline values!”

“We are lucky that elections keep popping up every once in a while. Some work gets done, at least!” quipped Mike, a chuckle adorning his visage. “Also, you ignore the fact that poor politicians have a tough job on hand”, he added.

“Oh, and what makes you say that?” asked Psmith.

“You see, they have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them. You may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist!

“Much like the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, they have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

“At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

“They even have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state. Surely, they are more to be pitied than to be censured, don’t you think?”

“Well, all professions come with their own perks and perils” remarked Psmith philosophically. “And what about political funding, Comrade Jackson, what do you think of it? Would that not be effective in reining in corruption and in keeping the parallel economy in better check?” enquired Psmith.

“Well, some countries have given it a respectable name like lobbying. But the fact remains that a quid pro quo exists between private players and politicos. Surely, private players know how to extract their pound of flesh from whosoever makes it to the seat of power.”

“Hmm. But if political funding is made transparent, the voters would know exactly who stands to eventually benefit from their votes, even if these be such obnoxious businesses as those dealing in arms.”

Mike frowned.

“Yes, but there are so many other subterfuges a government in power can resort to, so as to quietly favour the businesses of their choice!” he added.

“Such as….?” Psmith enquired, raising an eyebrow a fraction of an inch.

“A pliant central bank can come in handy and get treated like a cash cow. In emerging economies, it can simply tinker with the way Non Performing Assets get classified. It can use forward swaps to enable private players to dip into the forex reserves. May be, there are several other ways which lesser mortals like us would be blissfully unaware of!” said Mike.

“Spoken like a true banker, Comrade Jackson! And the tab gets picked up by the common man!!”

“But if the businesses are worried about adverse reprisals when and if the opposite party makes it to the seat of power, and if the politicos do not wish to go to the public in a transparent manner, what do you think can be done?”

“I think power has to be truly secured back by the people!”

“Oh, so you mean riots, civil disobedience and all that stuff? Or, are you saying people should return to a dictatorship model?” Mike said in a surprised tone.

“No, no. I am not a social scientist. I can’t say if the democratic model is at fault here. It fails when those in power do not engage with the dissenters. Dictatorship is not necessarily a solution. God forbid if someone like Roderick Spode ends up controlling the affairs of a nation!”

“On the contrary, he could be very popular with the masses. If he announces plans of giving each citizen at birth a bicycle and an umbrella, a swanky tablet to all students who enter an institution of higher learning, a cooking stove, a pressure cooker and a kitchen cabinet to all those getting married, building world-class infrastructure, and even compulsory, scientific measurement of all male knees, he would romp home with a thumping majority. People just love elections for the kind of freebies these bestow upon an otherwise deprived population.”

“Yes, I have vaguely heard of some politicians from the southern parts of India who have perfected this art”, said Psmith.

“Not to forget the hard cash, occasional meals and a sumptuous supply of tissue restoratives during elections. But we digress. You were mentioning civil disobedience.”

“In fact, days when most Indians were starving and could register their protest by resorting to civil disobedience are long since past. Hunger inevitably leads to a seething anger within, and someone like Mahatma Gandhi who is smart enough to channelize it properly brings home the bacon, so to say. This tactic can now only be used by those at the bottom of the pyramid.

“As to all the others, it might only yield results if the delicately nurtured in their families follow the example of Wilmot Mulliner and go on a crash slimming spree by shifting to a diet based only on the juice of an orange. Pretty soon, their natures would become warped, and they will start spewing off the resultant venom on the men around them. Gradually, the men would undergo a transformation in their characters. From being ewe lambs, they would become crouching tigers, ready to pounce upon anyone who they believe is dishing out injustice to them and their families.

“Or, something more imaginative has to be done in the case of the well-endowed classes.”

“Like what?” asked Mike.

“For one, I think we need professionals from the fine arts side to come up with a sustained campaign to keep the key issues alive and kicking. Not-For-Profit entities can pitch in and so can intellectuals. Above all, we need a band of committed comedians, the stand-up kind or otherwise, who can churn out shows over social media to convey the importance of such issues which are critical to the survival of our race. A silence would willy-nilly imply either a state of resignation and disinterest, or quiet acquiescence. The coming generations would never forgive us otherwise.”

“Interesting” said Mike. “Perhaps you take a leaf out of Ukraine where Vlodymyr Selenskiy, an anti-establishment comedian, has played a role in elections! But who will fund the kind of activities mentioned by you? One would not like this to remain an open-ended challenge,” said Mike.

“Crowd-funding could work. Also, there is no shortage of well meaning people who wish to do something good. But the real challenge is to identify a leader who would be committed to a cause of this nature and magnitude, despite opposition.”

“Opposition will of course be there. I read somewhere recently that eminent lion-tamers like Rev Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Mapleton and Miss Tomlinson have appealed to students the world over to give up their tirade regarding global warming and instead focus on their studies. On the contrary, I thought they would be feeling proud that they have tutored their pupils rather well.”

“Oh. One person who could possibly be consulted on the issue is Jacinda Ardern, the present Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities recently.”

“Perhaps you should then seek an audience with her. But wait, this merely goes on to show that a situation produces a leader. So, if the steps outlined by you are taken and sustained for a long time, one can hope for an enigmatic leader to emerge from such peaceful protests, right?”

“I do believe so.”

Mike rose from his chair and stretched his arms. His gaze drifted off to a couple of fishing boats bouncing up and down on the bluish-green waters of the Arabian Sea. The rays of a setting sun were waltzing over the waves.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday evening! I rather think I’ll nip down to the beach at Santa Cruz and take some fresh air into my lungs,” said he. “You couldn’t come too, I suppose?”

“On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could, and will. A stroll will just restore those tissues which our intense discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this political quagmire. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque beach of yours of which I have heard so much.”

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/politicos-in-plumsville-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism)

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the world,

Allow me to lodge a protest.

The derogatory manner in which I am generally referred to by the Homo sapiens is a matter of sincere regret. I wish to ass-everate that I have sterling qualities of head and heart. Even though a vast majority of you copy me ass-iduously in your day-to-day lives, you hold the member of my species in a low esteem. This is patently unfair. Permit me to set the record straight and ass-ert myself.

Members of your species have always given me a raw deal. You wilfully neglect some of my great contributions in diverse fields of life. Prohibition, literature, health, discipline, education, free speech, human values, law and order, science, politics, management, architecture, adventure and logistics are some of the fields where I have enabled your civilization to scale great heights.

Here is a quick recapitulation of some of my contributions to your so-called civilized society.

The fine art of advocating prohibition  

When I use my vocal chords to articulate my feelings, you make fun of me. You hold me to be mentally deficient. You do not realize that those of you who have had an excess dose of tissue restoratives sound much similar in their mindless laughter. When I bray, I merely advocate prohibition. Mahatma Gandhi would have been so very proud of me.

On the literary high table

Frequent references to me in the kind of literature many of you devour and admire goes on to establish my superiority in more ways than one.

In ‘Oliver Twist’, penned by Charles Dickens, law is held to be an ass. You may disagree with the proposition, but you cannot deny the honour conferred on me thus.

In ‘The Mating Season’, dished out by P. G. Wodehouse, even such an illustrious figure as Marcus Aurelius is alluded to as an ass.

“I wonder if I might call your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He said: ‘Does aught befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the Universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web’.”
I breathed a bit stertorously.
“He said that, did he?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.”

When I find a place at the literary high table, I do not see any reason for you to refer to me in a condescending manner.

Promoting good health

A part of your anatomy (that you mistakenly hold to be superior to that of me) is known after me. You use it to sit comfortably, thereby warming up the chair endlessly and missing your daily set of exercises.

The smart ones amongst you never remain seated for long and follow a physical fitness regime. They use this very part of their body in quite a few postures and thereby maintain good health.

Discipline and Education

While recollecting his late night encounters with the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, Bertie Wooster, in his delectable memoirs, often shudders to think of the juicy ones he used to get on the soft spots. He obviously alludes to the very part of your anatomy referred to above. This shows the important role I play in shaping the character of your coming generations.

Hapless students try to ass-imilate the heaps of knowledge that gets dumped on to them by means of listless lectures delivered in dinghy classrooms. Even kids ass-ume the role of beasts of burden while lugging their extra-heavy school bags under the adoring eyes of their indulgent parents.

Free speech

When an ass-emblage of a group of students chagrined with crude attempts of authority figures to curb their right to free speech, they often make me an icon of their peaceful protests. Candlelight vigils do not deliver the kind of strong message that my presence, with a poster shaming the authority looped around my slender neck, does.

Some protestors learn the tricks of the trade from such non-profit groups as the ASS – Advisory Services for Squatters, based in London, UK.

Law and order, human values

Ask any rozzer. When not in the presence of a human rights enthusiast, he is likely to confess the utility of the part of your anatomy named after me to make even a law-abiding citizen admit to a crime he never committed.

I confess that, when provoked, I am wont to deliver strong punches, using my hind legs. Despite the training you receive in martial arts, you can never really copy me on that account. The criminally inclined amongst you keep ass-aulting innocent citizens without any care in the world. My punches are designed to deliver a message of respecting human values and civic sense which many amongst you do not follow.

Science

Those of you who win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry keep ass-aying metals at periodic intervals, never ass-igning any credit to me in their much-applauded research papers.

Chemists can be forgiven to refer to me as AsS, a formula for Arsenic Sulfide. Likewise, I do not mind mathematicians referring to me as an ass-ociated collection of prime numbers of module M, Ass (M).

When a student of geometry conveys the lack of congruence of triangles by using the term ‘Angle-Side-Side’, I do not object. When a genetic expert tries to describe a human gene which encodes the enzyme Arginino-Succinate-Synthetase, I feel flattered.

When it comes to advancements in science or technology, I follow the Jeeves dictum – of never raising a bushy eyebrow even for the smallest fraction of an inch, except when I am sad at being summarily ignored in all such references.

Politics

Unwittingly, whenever there are elections around, I get dragged into political controversies. If there are malpractices in the conduct of academic examinations, the top politician of the region runs the risk of his name being paraded on a member of my species. When a region showcases the wilder ones amongst us in a tourism promotional video, we get dragged into an unseemly political controversy.

Such ass-ociations merely reveal the shallow intellectual abilities of the Homo Sapiens. The hard work put in by me in any endeavour thrust onto me does not get due recognition. The simplicity with which I handle the burdens so very gleefully heaped on to me gets neglected. The soulful eyes with which I view my human masters never get appreciated.

Many politicians who happen to be ass-ociated with dynastically run outfits shamelessly copy me in their subservience to their political masters, but fail to acknowledge my contribution.

The manner in which your elected representatives often behave in your ass-emblies leaves me deeply disappointed in your race. When a favoured legislation has no chance of making it through the normal process, your politicians know how to rush it through as an ordinance and seek the ass-ent of the First Citizen of your country

Management

Excellent traits of followership that I possess could provide invaluable clues to leaders of all hues, sizes and shapes who aspire to achieve loftier goals in their chosen profession. Leading management institutes ought to be doing a detailed study on this aspect of my behaviour. Alas, they keep churning out inane stuff on leadership traits alone.

Unimaginative incentive schemes get launched, killing productivity and proving my superiority over some of your over-zealous but short-sighted production chiefs.

Finance honchos amongst you keep twiddling their thumbs to project the correct ass-ets of their companies in their books of accounts. Whenever a catastrophe strikes a business, insurance surveyors are called in to ass-ess the extent of damage.

When a manager has goofed up on a critical ass-ignment, he is referred to as a Jackass, thereby establishing my supremacy in all matters managerial.

Top bosses cannot function in the absence of their Executive Ass-istants.

In an annual ritual called Appraisals, human resources honchos routinely ass-uage the feelings of those who are left out in the latest round of promotions or increments. They are routinely ass-ured of a brighter future in the days to come, and advised to follow the path espoused by Bhagavad Gita – that of performing their duty without any expectation of rewards.

When a new boss ass-umes charge after a much-delayed promotion, the Yes-Men in his team quickly change their affiliations and try to ass-ert their importance in the scheme of things.

Architecture

Well-designed civil structures cannot come up unless I have carried some of the building materials on my sturdy back. While carrying heavy loads, I am invariably obedient and docile. No member of my species has ever entertained the idea of floating a trade union to ass-ert its labour rights.

Adventure and logistics

When it comes to your adventures in a rough terrain, there is no better provider of logistics services than yours truly. World over, for millennia, my services have been there at the man-not-so-kind’s disposal. Alas, these get taken for granted. I am yet to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in logistics.

Accord me the respect I deserve

I hereby urge upon you to look deep within and start treating me with the respect I deserve.

I might be perceived as being stubborn at times. But I am also companionable. My bite might be worse than my bray, but I am a friendly creature. You may find it difficult to frighten me. But you know that I am a dependable chap.

While almost all of you are still trying to conquer your ego, as advocated by some of your scriptures, I have already achieved that feat millennia ago. You are still trying to eliminate racial and gender discrimination. By following the principle of peaceful co-existence amongst all other species, I have been promoting racial harmony for centuries already. When it comes to chivalry, I am way ahead of many of you. Bertie Wooster would surely approve.

You think the members of the species of Equus africanus asinus possess a poor Intelligence Quotient. I beg to differ. As you can see for yourself, even our Spiritual Quotient is higher than that of the Homo sapiens.

Thank you for your time and attention.

An ass-ertive ass

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