Archive for March, 2010

Celebrating Failures

The pursuit of success has remained the single most obsession of the homo-sapiens and so complete and so over-powering has been his thirst to be successful that he could be most ruthless on this voyage. For he believes that success by itself is the only reward for all the efforts that he puts in, be it towards an idea, a process, a mission, a discovery or a philosophy.  Success, for him is not a possible outcome with all the uncertainties associated in its actualization, but an absolute necessity without which there isn’t any justification, either for his past pursuits or his future plans. Success has a multiplier effect on him; for he believes that it breeds more success and as such is most uncomfortable or even dreadful towards the very notion of the so- called failures. 

But history is replete with anecdotes of failures that have provided mankind with great knowledge, priceless insights and definite roadmaps for the future generations on the principles to be adhered and the pitfalls to be avoided. Without these failures the evolution of the human mind would have been stunted and the many scientific, technological, social and historical revolutions that form the core of our common heritage would not have been realised. And it would be only prudent to recall some of those failures without which our destiny would have been different.

The great Indian uprising of 1857 is a classic case of a seemingly failed attempt to over throw an oppressive regime and instil a nationalistic dispensation through the coming together of varied princely states under a central command. Though the movement was ruthlessly crushed, it sowed the seeds of the idea of a nation and a quest for freedom that found fulfilment ninety years later. It also exposed the many social and religious ills that plagued our society then and acted as a catalyst for many reform movements to take root and work towards their eradication. The cohesiveness of the later Indian social order that formed the bedrock for achieving national unity could largely be attributed to the yeomen work done by these reform movements of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. All these would not have been realised without that mutiny, a failed one, which triggered introspection and concerted action. The saga of failure in our independence struggle continued when Gandhiji called off the paralysing Non-Cooperation movement of 1921 at the hint of a slight deviation from the vowed path of non-violence. The freedom was within grasp but such a freedom was non-acceptable if it was to be gotten by means bereft of principles and the nation had to wait for another quarter century to realise its aspiration. And the raising of the INA by Shubash Bose, though failed miserably to defeat the British militarily, had and continue to have an electrifying effect on the youth of the nation to dare and to defy unbridled authority.      

 What seemed to be great failures at the individual level have also turned out to be grand successes in opening up new vistas of opportunities and heralding new frontiers of knowledge.  When Christopher Columbus set out to discover a sea route to India sailing westward, little did he realise that he will fail in his stated objective but succeed in discovering a new world, The Americas, that was to become the new continent for the Europeans to colonise.  And the discovery of Penicillin was the result of many failures, mistakes and accidental coincidences as was also the discovery of X-ray.  “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” commented Thomas Edison on his vast array of experimental failures to develop a storage battery.

While failures of movements and individuals are innumerable, there are also been gigantic failures of great political ideas. The communist philosophy of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, though at one point of time had more than half the globe under its influence, ultimately failed to address individual aspirations and got almost wiped out from the earth. But it compelled nations and governments to incorporate the concept of a welfare state on socialist principles and adopt policies to guarantee minimum standards of living to all citizens. This has been the singular contribution of the great idea that Karl Marx propounded as nations struggle to find ways for a more equitable society.

In the business world, the one Indian experiment that held great promise was that of the Deccan Airlines. The no-frills flying concept of Gopinath, offering air tickets at as low a price as Rs. 500, contributed immensely in the democratising of the Indian skies and in de-glamorising air travel. Though the airlines got sold and tickets are now available at much higher price, it irrevocably brought in a whole new class of air travellers and contributed in the expansion of our aviation industry.

Failures are not just limited to humans but even gods at times seemingly fail in their tasks only to achieve greater success in their ultimate missions. When Krishna as a messenger and negotiator of the Pandavas failed to convince their cousins to part even a handful of soil, he was only preparing for the final assault and annihilation of unrighteousness. And he lovingly reminds us not to harp for the results but to singularly focus on the task at hand.

 So the next time you have the urge to do new things, try out new ways of making a living or implement new ideas, just go all out and get immersed in it.  If you succeed , be happy and if you fail, be happier!

Yours

Narayanan

March 31, 2010 at 2:12 am 6 comments

The Prince of Ayodhya

In the many aeons of human history, there isn’t yet another tale that’s so intensely captivating, enthralling in its magnificence and mesmerizing in moulding and sublimating the human character, as the tale of Rama . Through the many contours of its narration, every conceivable human emotion, from awe to ridicule, from love to despair, from pride to piety, are played out on its majestic canvas. And the colossal persona of Rama distils the epitome of idealism that men through all ages readily reckoned to.   When the vision is blurred by the cataract of attachment, when reason flounders over the grip of caprice, and when the individual is caught in the merciless swirl on the tumultuous sea of life, the story of Rama is the beacon of light, illuminating the path and  guiding the route to the safe shores of righteousness.  The Rama Katha, in the current context, is the “panacea for the removal of the ills”, as a great scholar puts it, caused by and of the “morbid itch for sensual pleasure, the mounting irreverence towards parents, teachers, elders …the disastrous frivolity and flippancy in social, marital and familial relationships and the demonic reliance on violence as a means of achieving immoral ends.”

Chew the cane in any of its parts and the sweetness oozes out uniformly throughout. As the sweetness of the cane is independent of many of its angularities, so also is the nectarine message of Rama and his compassion that flows ceaselessly throughout the many twists and turns of the epic.  When Dasaratha  inconsolably lament over the prospect of exiling his darling to a torturous life of the wilderness, the act of Rama enthusiastically adorning the role of a renunciant ,shunning the regal coronation,  is the exemplary illustration of honouring the vows of a hapless father , even a fraction of its application today would  make one immortal.

As Rama was an ideal son, so was he a consummate brother to his siblings as many of the instances in the epic demonstrate. When Baratha trekked to the forest repenting his cursed fate for having seemingly usurped the throne that was rightfully his, Rama assures him of his incorruptible innocence and coaxing him to discharge his sovereign duty without any remorse. Counselling the young one on the many intricacies of governance, his brotherly affection even succumbs to the plea of offering his sandals as his icon in the royal Durbar. Such is the splendour of their unadulterated love, untinged by even an iota of sibling rivalry that stands out beyond compare.

And Rama as a friend is indeed a celebration to that very idea of comradeship where words of assurances are to be fulfilled even at the altar of one’s ultimate sacrifice. Even when many counselled him against taking Vibhishana, the brother of his arch foe, on his fold, Rama, true to his magnanimity, welcomed him with stretched arms, assuring him of the kingdom of his brother. The vanquishing of Ravana was as much towards the fulfilment of this promise as it was the accomplishment of his avataric mission. The friendship of this calibre is etched  in golden letters that ordinary beings can only marvel.

In the battlefield, Rama was the ultimate warrior, honouring every rule of a fair combat and never transgressing the limits of warfare.  The need to annihilate the opposing force never stood in his way to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of the enemy camp and treat them with respect, even in their death. He is the supreme embodiment of righteousness, of Dharma, on which the entire edifice of a civilization rests. As a pupil, as a husband, as a father, as an emperor,…..  Rama stands supreme in his countless facets.

Ho Rama, the valiant son of Kaushalya, the treasure-chest of auspiciousness, I bow to thee as the foundation for magnificent temple is laid today .

Yours

Narayanan

March 21, 2010 at 11:16 am 3 comments

The fine art of flattery

“These can be worn both sides, sir” explained the road side vendor to me, a disinterested browser, highlighting one of the features of his offerings. He has hung jackets of all sizes in his elevated footpath shop in this busy city market and the colourful display, I must confess, was quite attractive. “And sir, there are four hidden pockets, each deep enough to conceal a lap-top” continued the young man exhibiting the inside anatomy of the bulky stuff. I gave him a semi-ridiculous smile as I made lazy steps away to the next shop. “But sir, you should wear it to feel the comfort” insisted the guy holding a crimson bush coat, ready to thrust it on to my unwilling shoulders. “But I don’t need one in this season” was my vein pleading as I soon found myself inside a multi-strapped tight wear. “You look just like Bachchan of Aladin” exclaimed the vendor inviting me to check it up for myself in front of the full-length mirror placed angularly in one corner, with my dark sun glasses on. And I should say that I was quite impressed by my reflection. “Well, what’s the price?” was sort of an auto-reflex question and after two minutes of rapid price negotiations, the guy has succeeded in selling me a three-layered leather jacket on a mid-May afternoon.

Flattery has been one of the most tried and tested weapons in the armoury of many a successful men (and women) as they mastered the skill to deploy it with lethal efficiency. What the most convincing arguments and compelling reasons cannot accomplish, flattery would win the case for you in a trice. While the sales guy could close the deal by complimenting the sharp and the Machiavellian style probing of a necessarily dull witted customer, in the office scenario, verbal admiration of the boss’s terrible PowerPoint presentation could be a surer way to get a short leave than attempting to explain that you have done with the work slated for the day.  Praise his dress choices, admire his sense of humour and marvel at his quick thinking and you are sure to make rapid strides on the corporate ladder.    

Our politicians have long discovered the priceless value of flattery and have developed it into a fine art, worthy of emulation in other fields of human enterprise. A powerful women chief minister can be the re-incarnation of Durga, the Madam in charge of the High Commend could be a combination of the valour of a Laxmi Bai, the compassion of a Mother Theresa and the Shrewdness of a Chanakya and a ranting octogenarian seldom seen outside his habitat could be the heir apparent of Akbar, The Great!. For many in the tribe, flattery comes as a natural instinct, both to survive and to surge ahead, in the choppy waters of Indian politics.

But flattery as an art has a long history to it, practiced extensively in the courts of kings and emperors of yore as the titles and decorations they enjoyed suggest. A chieftain of a feudal state could be a “ Rajadhiraja”, a ruler whose writ runs not more than few kilometres can be a “ Digvijay” and an erstwhile king who lived on a stipend of the British could be an “Alampanah.”  Poems were created in their praises and were lavishly compensated with cash and land by the objects of admiration. Such has been the influence of flattery that we have not even spared our gods and goddesses in its application- higher the flattery, more would be the boon conferred.

Why flattery has a very illogical grip over us is the fact that it works on humans at the sub-conscious level and make us feel good about it even while we know it is utter falsehood. So there is a science to flattery besides the art.

So the next time you want to make that extra leap to reach your goal, try flattery. It works every time. Even at home!

Yours

Narayanan

March 16, 2010 at 7:48 pm 8 comments

A tribute to our MPs – Men in Parliament

 

Of the many virtues that men are adored for, it’s valour that stands supreme. In the face of formidable challenges, men of valour fight heroically, vanquishing every foe or perish themselves in the process.  While the thunderous army of chivalrous cavalry men pulverising the mightiest of armies dot our medieval history, it’s the indomitable courage of our countless countrymen, armed by the sheer strength of character and sacrifice, that broke the vertebrae of a mighty global empire and rooted out the foreign yoke from our land .And men of letters wielded their pen to inspire a generation script new annals, unparalleled in valour and never wanting in courage. From Shivaji to Gandhi, from Arjun to Bhagat Singh, from Tagore to Bharati, our national heritage is an uninterrupted stream of towering heroism of noble men. 

This heroism continued to find eloquence in the post-independent India as erudite men immersed themselves to the task of nation building and in structuring the many institutional edifices that nourish it.  An Ambedkar and his colleagues set upon to the meticulous crafting of the most comprehensive and inclusive constitution, the like of which the world has neither seen before nor thereafter, a Sardar Patel single-handedly embarked on a Bismarckian mission of annexing and unifying a scattered motley of princely states, and a Nehru unravelled the blue-print for the social, economic and scientific regeneration of a majestic country long subdued by alien dominance.  These astute parliamentarians were ably supported by the financial wizardry of a TTK, by the oratory skills of a Krishna Menon, by the non-partisanship of a Mavalankar and many such titans inside the house while men of the stature of Mahalanobis, Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai gave purpose and direction to the young nation from outside. Oh, what a masculine lineage our present parliamentarians have!

But the challenges thrown to our current MPs are much more over-arching than anything their predecessors had ever have to content with and tests their very character and the limits of their spirit of sacrifice. By asking the male MPs to vote for the women’s bill that, in rotation, reserves 1/3rd of the seats in Lok Sabha and state legislatures for women, they have been virtually instructed to script their own political obituary. When called upon to decide on the question of Indian independence, Churchill famously remarked that he cannot preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. And now our own men in the parliament are called upon to preside, participate and actively vote for the liquidation of their own survival! A choice between one’s instinct for self-preservation and the larger national aspiration for gender equality. Will our MPs rise to the occasion?

 The answer is a resounding Yes. It’s yes because our men have always put national interests before selfish agendas. It’s yes because they have the ideal of a galaxy of stalwarts who selflessly propelled our freedom movement. It’s yes because we have a glorious tradition of honouring the women at all costs and that includes the subjugation of one’s self interests. And it’s yes because our men in parliament correctly gauge the pulse of the nation which is overwhelmingly towards giving women their due. It is this accurate assessment that resulted in the passing of the bill in the upper house. And it would again be for the same reason that it will get its accent in the lower house.

In all these the valour of our Men in Parliament is in ample display. The true MPs!

 Yours

Narayanan

March 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm 10 comments


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