Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Socrates & Secret of Success!

“A young man asked Socrates the secret to success.

Socrates told the young man to meet him near the river the next morning. They met. Socrates asked the young man to walk with him toward the river. When the water got up to their neck, Socrates took the young man by surprise and ducked him into the water. The boy struggled to get out but Socrates was strong and kept him there until the boy started turning blue.

Socrates pulled his head out of the water and the first thing the young man did was to gasp and take a deep breath of air.

Socrates asked, 'What did you want the most when you were there?"

The boy replied, "Air." Socrates said, "

That is the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you wanted the air, then you will get it." There is no other secret.

A burning desire is the starting point of all accomplishment. Just like a small fire cannot give much heat, a weak desire cannot produce great results.

To develop a strong desire you need to work on your strengths and not on weaknesses. So restart your life now by getting to measure your strengths and your hidden strengths will open up more and more opportunities for you to succeed. Who ever you are and where ever you are in your life, you can certainly make fresh beginning by getting to know yourself much better than before.

Working on your strengths help build success while working on weaknesses help prevent failure. To be on fast track to success and build quick growth opportunities, you can depend on the team of Behavioral Experts who coach you with state of the art measurement and development tools available. These tools enable the entrepreneurs, managers, students and career beginners to work towards realizing their dreams faster and better in less time and cost."

The above write up was a post in one of the Linked in Groups, by a Behavioural training specialist, to which I replied as follows:

While I agree with the message stated at the end, I cannot but say that the story does not support the message.

If we follow the incident, we can see that the boy got air not because of his desire for it but because "Socrates pulled his head out of the water". So the message inadvertently given by this story is that irrespective of your desire or struggle you will not get what you desire unless the outside forces operating against you permit you to achieve the same.

The story goes "The boy struggled to get out but Socrates was strong and kept him there until the boy started turning blue". I would have preferred slight variation. WHEN THE BOY STRUGGLED REALLY HARD, WITH A BURNING DESIRE TO GET AIR, HE COULD OVERCOME EVEN THE STRENGTH OF SOCRATES AND RAISE HIS HEAD ABOVE THE WATER. With such a story probably the inferences drawn my Sree Nidhi would be justified.

The reason I hated Slum Dog Millionaire movie was similar; not because it showed the dirty face of Indian Society but because it underplayed the struggle of human beings to overcome adverse situations. The protagonist in the Movie became millionaire by mere chance, by just being lucky to have got only those questions to which he knew the answers from his life. Even the last question where he took a chance turned out to be sheer luck for him.

The boy in this story or the protagonist in Slum Dog Millionaire did not achieve success through desire or struggle but for other reasons. What we need is stories that really appreciate success achieved through the individual struggles on the face of adversity.


I leave it to the readers to make their own inferences from the above, what makes success possible.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Memorable Beatings!!

It would require a whole book for me to write about all the beatings that I got in my childhood, as beatings were always a part of bringing me up. The general belief in our society was that if you have only one son then you should be very strict with him so that he will become a good son when he grows up. I being an only son, strictness, beatings and not displaying any love were that I always got form my parents for the fear of being spoiled otherwise. Well, I don’t deny the fact that I may have been little naughty too thereby inviting some of these beatings.

In the beginning when I was still staying with my mother, at her parents' place, it was my mother who used to beat me. I thought she was the strictest mother in the world. But when at the age of 10, we moved to my father’s place, I realised that she was a cakewalk as the beatings and strictness of my father was much more severe and I lost all the fear about my mother's beatings. May be my first lesson on fearing only the more powerful!!!

I would speak about some of the beatings here as they had a character of their own and huge impact, either positive or negative, on my personality. Why I chose to chronicle these beatings? Well, partially for people to draw their own lessons from these incidents and partially for my own pleasure in revisiting those incidents of my early life; a kind of purging the memories and leaving no grudges.

Going for a Movie: The earliest of my memories, as regards the severe beatings goes, is about the beating I got for going for a movie. I still distinctly remember the film; a Malayalam melodrama named Santha Oru Devata (Santha- a Goddess). Looking back, the film was not worth at all for all the beatings that I got.

I was absent for a day from school when the teacher announced that there would be a sponsored show of the movie next day. When I reached school next day, I saw all the children thrilled and ready to go for the movie to the local talkies in the afternoon. I could not even think of a situation where I have to stay back when all other children of my class were going to watch movie. So I went back home during lunch break and requested my mother. However, she refused to give me permission as I have not informed father. It was only the father who could give me permission. I was sad and went back to school. But when I saw the children forming a queue to walk all the way to the Talkies that was two kilo metres away (how sad, to think of those children walking for such a long distance in the afternoon son!) I could not resist myself and I got into it too.

I watched the movie and cried at the sight of heroin’s tears. After the movie, teachers walked us back to school from where we dispersed to respective homes. I was late by 30 or 35 minutes when I reached home. Also, I was not carrying any books as I have already left them at home during lunch break. Father was already home and he received me with a question as to where I was and where are my books. When I replied that I have gone to see the movie with the entire school, he started beating me. He was prepared for it and had kept a rod ready. I received all the beatings on my legs and it lasted for about 15 minutes!! I do not know how many of you have actually undergone something like that. Being beaten up with a rod for 15 or so minutes! Well, when he finished I was left with lot of red scars on my legs and a big black scar on my mind. Only positive memories were of my grandmother applying some oil (or water; I do not remember clearly) over the scars and massaging my legs while I was sobbing uncontrollably.

Did I learn a lesson? Well, may be. But was that the lesson my father wanted to teach me? Definitely no. For I do not even know what was the lesson I was supposed to learn from there. When he saw me in town much later, when I was in Pre-Degree at college, during the working hours he probably knew that I have bunked my classes to watch a movie. He could not get down there and catch me at the act. So, when he reached home in the evening he started questioning me. I took a stand that I was in the class for the entire day and it could not have been me whom he saw in the town. The stand I took was so vehement that he fell into doubts whether he actually has seen me!! Believe me... that saved me from the repeat of thrashing and I leave it to you figure out as to what lessons I could have learned from these two occasions.

Winning a Quiz contest:
While I was studying in my ninth standard, I got selected to represent my school in a District level quiz contest for the high school students. The contest was part of the district Youth Festival and had participants from all the secondary schools of our district. I was fortunate to get my father’s permission to participate in this event because (a) he normally does not permit me to participate in any extracurricular activities at school and (b) the event was taking place at a school 35 kilometres away from my home.

To my bad luck, the event got delayed and it was already night when that actually happened. Teachers were not willing to send me home alone and they could not accompany me as there were still other items being performed by other students. They forced me to stay back at that school. I was terrified about staying back at that school, without my father’s permission, yet I had no choice. Finally, I gave up and stayed back at the school. There were no ways to communicate about this, as way back in 1980 the phones were still a luxury in our part of the country.

My apprehensions and the predicament, however, did not affect my performance. I won the event and felt like on the top of the world for beating all those bright kids. Next day, early morning, we all travelled back and I reached home by 9.30 a.m. As expected, father was waiting for me; and all my explanations fell on deaf ears. He started beating me for staying away from home without permission. As I distinctly remember, I never cried during the beating because in my mind I was the winner and it was not my fault that I couldn’t reach home in time. May be my stone face infuriated him more and the thrashings went on for a long time.

When it all got over and he left for his work, I sat down and started sobbing. I wanted to do lot of things; running away from home, committing suicide were among the options that were considered. But for some reason I calmed down and just decided to lie down and sob like a hurt dog. More than the beatings, which any way I expected to happen, it was the fact that no one even asked me about the result of event, let alone appreciated my winning it that hurt me more. This was the highest prize I ever won in a school competition as I was never permitted to take part in these activities and therefore, I usually could only participate in the inter school activities without letting my father know about it.

What did my School, for which I brought laurels at the cost of all these beatings, do? It announced gifting me a set of books for my performance. I was so thrilled about receiving books for it was always my dream and weakness to own nice books. But unfortunately, keeping the promises was one of those things to be taught to students but not to be practiced; and my beloved School never kept the promise!!

Beatings at School
It was not just at the home I had to undergo these beatings. Our teachers also believed that force is the best tool for teaching. I being a generally well behaved and studious kid was usually in the good books of the teachers and therefore, not had much experience in these form of teachings. However, I have had some beatings at my schools as well which are really memorable. Frankly, I can’t remember any incidences of getting beaten up in schools, other than the ones mentioned below.

Lower Primary: In the primary classes, I was really fortunate as far as beatings from teachers go. I under the tutelage of my mother was very good in studies and far ahead of my co-students in academic performance. Hailing from a respectable family, and my uncle, who was a prominent figure in the area, being close friends with most of the teachers I always had a preferred student status at that school.

One day, the Arabic teacher was late and therefore one of our favourite teachers named TKG Maniyoor was deputed to our class. TKG, as he was popularly known as, was a poet, an orator and a well known leftist. His thoughts were radical and he had a great influence in making me an atheist. A student of 4th standard, I admired his thoughts though today I might oppose many of his firm believes. He was not teaching us any subject that year. So, when he came to the class and started talking to us on some general topic of great interest (can’t remember what the topic was) we all were thoroughly enjoying his words.

Half way through the period, the Arabic teacher came to class and wanted to start his lessons. Since TKG’s talk was just half way he said he would like to continue for the rest of the period and both were arguing (in jest) as to who should continue. Then we children also interfered and started asking TKG to continue the class and I was leading the chorus. Frankly, Arabic lessons were attended by only a handful of Muslim students and all other had to just while away their time; whereas the speech of TKG was interesting for all of us.
Well, the Arabic teacher prevailed and TKG had to leave class. We were all disappointed but then the class in Arabic resumed. But the surprise came after the class. A teacher named Kannan who was teaching in the adjacent classroom summoned me to his class. Mr Kannan was a close friend of my uncle and as such has shown lot of consideration for me too in the school. But something had really infuriated him that day. To this day I do not know if I have done something really bad in that class. Though my leadership role in the clamour for TKG to continue was not best of the class room behaviour, coming from a nine year old boy it was not something really out of the world as well. Neither the Arabic teacher nor TKG took any offence to it.

However, Mr Kannan thought otherwise. He got a rod and started beating the hell out of me. That was the first time I was being beaten up by any teacher. Three things pained me; (i) the first time experience of getting beaten up at school, (ii) not appreciating my fault warranting such harsh punishment, and (iii) the glee on the face of other children who were jealous of me. The last was the most terrific of all. I had to undergo the insults for many days from other students and I learned a lesson very early in my life: the more popular you are, the people around you will enjoy your fall even more!! That is true even for one’s friends.

Class Leader: As many other things, student elections and politics also were taboo for me. If ever it comes to my father’s notice that I have indulged in these sins, well I don’t know what could save me from his wrath. But that did not stop me from being in active politics while in the High School. The fact that the school was little far from home and all others children around my home went to another school than mine gave me some freedom there, knowing that it would not be easy for some news to reach the ears of my father.

One thing led to another and I contested the student election while in the tenth standard. I won the election and became the class leader and also the Speaker for our School Parliament. It is another story that I never got to preside over the so called parliament because it was never in session and the position was rather ornamental.

Our class rooms were just thatched sheds with no walls. So, it was quite normal to find the benches and desks of a class room missing one fine morning. One day this happened in the adjacent class room that housed one division of ninth standard. The students of that class complained to their class teacher and he came inspecting the scene of crime. Based on some secret intelligence that he must have received there, he came to our room and said that one set of bench and desk was in our room. We children pleaded with him, but he refused to listen to us and asked the boys from the other class to pick and carry the bench and desk in question.

Our class teacher has not reached the school yet and it fell upon me to defend our honour (in front of the students of a junior class!!) and property and all other students started nudging me to do something about it. All my pleadings found no effect with that teacher. I then said to someone; “Let them carry it; when our teacher is here we will get them back in the similar fashion”. Unfortunately the teacher overheard this and he slapped hard on my face. I think it was not a reasoned reaction from the teacher; it just happened!!

Then the problem erupted. The whole school (except may be the students of that ninth standard) wanted the teacher in question to apologise to me for slapping a student leader for no apparent reason. The decision was taken to go on a strike at school if he refused to do it. Strikes were a norm than an exception in schools of those days. I had no control over these events any more. No doubt, I enjoyed the new status of a victim or hero, whatever it was. But I was also scared in my mind that if the strike really happens and my father comes to know about my involvement that would definitely result in another one of those ‘memorable beatings’.

The school was suddenly so tensed that the news spread all over. Some miracle happened and the Head Master of the school summoned me and enquired about the whole issue. That was a way out for me. He after hearing the story apologised to me and asked to make sure that this incident does not result in one more strike. I held on to this immediately and pacified all the agitated students and requested them to go back to classes. The strike was averted and I escaped from the memorable beating that was sure to take place in the aftermath.

The sweet memory: Well, my memories about beatings were not all that sore. The most memorable beating of my life probably is also one of the sweetest memories of my life. As I stated above, with all the restrictions that my father imposed on me, I still managed not to remain a boring perfect student. Wherever I could manage, I got myself involved; be it student politics, extra- curricular activities, or even sheer naughtiness befitting a teenager that I was. I am proud to say that no restrictions could stop me from being the best male performer at school level Youth Festivals in all the three years of my high school.

All these extra activities had their adverse impact on my studies. The rebellism that was slowly taking route in me reduced my interest in studies and my performance was falling short of the expectations of my teachers. Many of the teachers used to advise me to concentrate more on studies and reduce all student politics activities. Some of them were really upset with me over this.

Indira teacher was a very young teacher just out of training institute and was really fond of me. She used constantly chide me about my lack of concentration in studies and openly declared in the class that she would give me maximum punishment if and when she catches me for even the smallest of mistakes. However, I could keep away from such a situation easily as I was attentive and extra careful in her classes.

One day finally she got the chance. I had forgotten to bring the text book to the class and she promptly caught me at it. Then she made a big show of the satisfaction for catching me once. She asked one of the boys to get a rod to beat me and believe me; he got the worst one that could be found. Then she gave a lecture as to, how I was straying from my studies, how I was more interested in other activities, how bad I have become and so on. The whole class was enjoying it; seeing the teacher getting ready to punish one of the favourite students, that too, a student who hardly gets any punishment at all in the class.

Finally she came near with the rod in her hand... and asked me to show the palm of my right hand. I was not scared.... for beatings were not something new to me. But I was definitely embarrassed to be at the receiving end of one of my favourite teachers. I raised my hand. My face was white from the embarrassment. Then, she raised the rod and brought it down on to my palm. It was the softest beating I ever got in my life!!!!!

I was taken aback. I was ready to get a hard beating the way she built up the scene and probably to hate her for doing this to me for such a silly mistake. What I was not ready for was this softest beating and it me directly at my heart. I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. My face turned as white as a ghost.

Looking back, I realise that this teacher has achieved easily what my father or the other teachers could not achieve through those cruel and hard beatings. I have never felt affected as much by a beating, howsoever hard it may be, in my life. This was unbelievable.

The teacher left our school and moved to some other school closer to her home which was in South Kerala, and of course, I have lost touch with her. But all these years her beating has continued to affect me and her memories remain as sweet as ever. It is one of my greatest wishes to find her again one day and tell her about the difference she made.

As I stated in the beginning, it is not my endeavour to make any judgements here. I just share my experiences and leave it to the readers to reach their own conclusions on the effectiveness of beatings, as a method of raising children.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A holy business model!!

A business model is defined as a formal or informal representation of the core aspects of a business. Along with the business plan (which is a formal statement of business goals of a profit oriented organisation, the assumptions under which these goals are thought to be attainable and the plan for reaching these goals) business model helps in understanding a business and its true value and potential.

As a part of my current job in an investment banking company, I have come across many a business model and plan. A careful study of the business model and plan often tells you about the philosophy of the promoters of the business. They could be conservative, defensive, aggressive, innovative, path breaking and more, depending upon the attitude and risk appetite of the promoters.

It is often very interesting to know the ingenuity with which the entrepreneurs convert a seemingly bad business into a profitable venture. This is achieved through innovative business models. They often introduce various by products or other sub-processes into the main plan and thereby make the entire process financially more attractive.

While I have often wondered about the origin of ideas that have attained the shape of these business models, the most impressive business model that I have ever come across was not found by me in any Excel sheet or Power point presentation but in the real life!

The other day while on my way back to home, after my holiday lunch in a Kerala style restaurant at Mahim, Mumbai, I was passing in front of the famous Sheetala Devi temple. Right outside the temple gate, I saw an aged lady sitting there with a basket of green grass and a cow standing next to her. The scene caught my interest and I wanted to know what is happening. Then I saw a man walking up to the lady and paying her money for buying little of that grass. The man then fed the grass to the cow and walked into the temple for a darshan.

Then I realised as to what was happening there!!

The lady was selling grass to the devotees so that they can feed the ‘holy cow’ before they visit the temple deity. What struck me in all these happenings is the excellent business model that aged lady has devised. The cow belongs to her and being from Mumbai city, she has no choice but to purchase grass to feed the cow. May be there are hundreds of old women who rear a cow and buy grass for feeding it. But for our lady it also offered an excellent business opportunity. She buys the grass from the market and then sells it to the devotees who in turn feed it to the cow. I am sure she must be earning more money by selling the grass than what she herself had to shell out to buy it from the market.

Her business model is very simple. She just route the grass for the cow through the devotees and makes more money than what she has invested. Her benefits are twofold; (i) she can feed the cow free of cost, and (ii) she gets some extra money to keep in the process. Wouldn’t you agree with me that it is an excellent business model? Well... if you have found a better one you can share it with me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Job Satisfaction

Not all the people work for mere financial gains. If it was so, then one can easily measure the level of job satisfaction on a scale of the income they receive from the job. Same time, it would be incorrect to say that money is not an objective for working. The truth is, as always, somewhere in between. While people work for money and many other factors, job satisfaction is not merely dependent on any single factor but on various factors affecting the job.

The factors contributing to job satisfaction varies from person to person. However, I have noticed that while other factors like salary, prestige etc might have a larger say in a person’s decision to accept a particular job, once he lands the job the satisfaction he derives from that job is not much dependent on these factors. To a great extent it comes from the feeling of accomplishment from the job i.e., the feeling at end of the day that he has achieved something.

What amounts to accomplishment in a job again differs from person to person, depending upon the values and aspirations of each individual. The feeling of accomplishment, and therefore satisfaction form the job, could be very high in the case of an honorary worker for an NGO; whereas the same may be much less in the case of a highly paid staff functionary in a large corporation.

I once happened to be a part of an animated office discussion, where it was passionately being debated as to which is the more satisfying job- an investment banker or a pizza delivery boy?

The supporters of the investment bankers put forth that it was very respectable job, glittery, globetrotting, highly paid, most challenging etc. etc. In reply the supporters of the Pizza delivery boys stated the challenge of each delivery where the time taken is the critical factor. If the delivery boy is not able to deliver the pizza within stipulated time, he stands to lose his income. Each delivery order is therefore a challenge to him. The moment he delivers it in time, he gets the highest level of achievement and satisfaction.

For an investment banker, the supporters of pizza delivery boys argued, a closure of a transaction such as a Private Equity funding, a merger or an acquisition takes anywhere between 6 months to 2 years. He will have to toil day and night to reach the closure. But anything he does only takes them towards closure and not the closure itself. The closure is never sure for the variables in these transactions are not in the control of the investment banker who merely acts as an advisor and facilitator in the transaction. It depends on many other players including management, promoters fund managers etc who are involved in the transaction. Finally, when he actually closes it he must have waited as much as 2 years or even more to get that feeling of achievement.

The above argument of the supporters of the Pizza delivery boys made me think. I have been working in the investment banking sector, for over 18 months now. The challenges are many, income is great; yet I often wonder as to what I am doing here. Coming from the Hospital Industry and Legal background, where challenges are more short living yet sense of accomplishment is much swifter, here I don’t even know whether what I do will ever result in any positive outcome. I might struggle hard and prepare something very valuable; yet might end up seeing the result becoming useless for reasons beyond my control.

How do I overcome this lack of accomplishments? I think that is the challenge for every investment banker and for that matter, for many others. Everyone needs something to motivate. Money itself won’t last forever as a motivational factor. Once a person get used to a particular level of income, that income will not do anything much to motivate him. He needs more challenges and results to keep him going. I have tried to tackle this problem in a simplistic way. I try to break down the transaction itself into small tasks for myself. Each small task or goal is then taken up as a challenge and I celebrate its completion. I have noticed that this process has increased the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction for me. Yet I am not sure if this is any match for a pizza delivery boy, who gets to complete a job every half an hour or so.

I am not oblivious of the thoughts of a pizza delivery boy at this stage. I am sure he is seeing the greenery on the other side and wondering how an investment banker can be jealous of him. There lie the paradoxes of human beings and their constantly revised needs. There have been serious studies on what motivates a worker. The Malsow’s theory on hierarchy of human needs, starting from basic physiological needs such as breathing, water, food, rest, clothing etc and growing through, safety needs, Love/ belonging needs, esteem needs and finally reaching the self actualisation needs, has been the one most appealing to me; probably from my own personal experiences.

Based on the level at which an individual is at the moment, the motivational factors for him would definitely differ. Yet one common thread is the satisfaction he can derive from the job. For most people, a satisfying job would mean better motivational level at the job, irrespective of his position in the Maslow’s hierarchy. Therefore, it would be the challenge for every HR manager to make each job a bundle of accomplishments, whether little or huge, so that the person feels more like a pizza delivery boy than an investment banker at the end of the day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

God's purpose!!


Here, I take the liberty to use a conversation I had with my friends, through mails. I am sure they will forgive me for this use of private conversation since my object is to understand the logic behind the concept of God, as we see it.

The conversation began when one of my friends, Ms P, forwarded two photographs to all of us in the group. The first photograph shows the close up of an accident site where two young passengers had a miraculous escape, after their car went over a railing and did many summersaults before landing many feet below from the road. What shocks one is the second photograph. It shows that if the car had moved a bit more it would have fallen 100s of feet down into a precipice and the survival chances would be practically none.
Ms P ends her mail with a question; “If this guy didn't believe in God before, do you suppose he believes now?

To the above question another friend Ms E responded; 
Whether he believes or not, I BELIEVE, though some people may call it just luck....”. She was convinced that it was the God rather than sheer luck that saved the passengers in the car.

I joined the debate with these words: “Dear P, It is neither God nor Luck. It is just physics and the law of motions. If this guy starts believing that it was the God who saved him he will only think the God will save him again and continue to be reckless. But if he realizes that it was a sheer chance that saved him this time, he may be more conscious in his future driving. If it was the God who saved him God could have saved all this trouble in the first place by avoiding this accident at all.

No.., Don't try to tell me this is the way God teaches people for if all these are controlled by God then the way those people turns out in their life is also God's responsibility; I mean the driver's reckless driving is also the responsibility of the God and the driver can wash his hands off from any culpability.

Accidents do happen as reaction to some action. Do not start searching God's hands there. It is an insult to God. It is like the survivors of Tsunami claiming that they were saved by God for it would mean that those who lost their lives were killed by God.”

I was waiting for the rejoinders and Ms S another friend of ours did not disappoint. She immediately replied to P; “Please don’t make a mistake of preaching the Gospel to Lucifer(s). Whatever said and done...I believe in God. There are various circumstances in your life where your wealth, health, knowledge, power, foresight and whatever else does not have any value and we tend to stand helpless despite being whoever we are....This is when you really believe and trust in God...” (when she mentioned the Lucifer(s) it meant me and another friend Mr J, only two male members in the group and it is out of fondness rather than any malice).

While Ms S was trying to get even with me in the debate, she actually stated a universal truth that is applicable to most of the believers. God is the believer’s last resort of hope. When (s)he stand hopeless, as in the case of a sinking person trying to hold on to some grass, s(he) tries to hang on by taking the name of God. In other words the faith in God is similar to the ostrich mentality; to close your eyes and believe all that is happening is planned by the God in advance and God will save you from there. It makes the life easier with no remorse or disappointment. No question asked because it is God’s will.

This kind of thoughts and the blind belief in fate makes the people rather susceptive to all sort of exploitation by so called men of God. The brahminical society in India has suppressed the masses, for ages, by this line of thought. The Christian priests of pre-protestant era England could get money by selling homes in heaven to gullible people in the most organised way. The list of exploitation in the name of God is endless. The believers would just sit back and accept their ‘fate’ without raising any questions.

While I agree that the ‘God’s will’ may have therapeutic value for those who are “standing helpless despite being whoever” they are, it diminishes the will to fight back and change the system. If all the human beings in the history of mankind had accepted all their experiences in this world as God’s will we would not have reached the stage where we are now. It is the willingness of human kind to explore and challenge the known that differentiated us from the animal world.

If an accident takes place, we must see what caused it and try to learn lessons so as not to repeat the same. Instead, if we choose to believe that God made it to happen or God helped us to escape that then we are shirking our individual responsibilities and the result can only be bad.

I have nothing against someone believing in God. What I dislike is the tendency to blame or give credit to God for everything. Instead let us always try our best to achieve what we dream or desire and accept that every dream is not achievable and failures are as much a result of efforts (or lack of it) as the successes are. One must learn to assume responsibility for one's failures or successes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BJP's Plight!!!!

It is disheartening to see the plight that BJP is going through in these days.

I have never had any sympathies for the ideology or politics of BJP. Yet today I feel bad about it since we do not have another credible alternative in the opposition space. While Congress continues to demonstrate that it is still the natural choice for ruling party, in any democracy the opposition has an equally important role to play too. It is not my case that BJP ever was a responsible opposition. Their behaviour in many situations (remember Mumbai attacks and Nuclear 1-2-3 agreement for example?) has shown an intolerance and impatience. Yet we have no other choice at the moment but to live with BJP as the opposition for I do not even want to contemplate the CPI (M) with Prakash Karat at its helm or other parties like MSP and Samajvadi Party as the principal opposition party.

What has gone wrong for this so called party with difference? This party not long ago used to trumpet about its young leadership and of course the so called ‘Loh Purush and Prime Minister in waiting’. But today we find them unable to contain the growing individual ambitions among the same young leaders or manage the softness and helplessness of the Loh Purush.

I think the problems lies in the fact that BJP had attracted a lot of so called leaders, who never had any ideological basis at all, when they thought the Congress is in its last. What motivates them (more than Ram Mandir or Hindutva) was the prospect of BJP gaining power at the cost of Congress. What else can explain the presence of a person like Ms Najma Heptullah in BJP? Now these turncoats are realising more and more that the BJP’s chance for gaining power at Centre is slipping away. That makes them restless in the party. See the speed at which Sudeendra Kulkarnis are trying to jump the ship and join committees that are available and waiting.

The Loh Purush Advani is a burden today. Anyone who matters in the party knows his statements on Kandahar and the “weakest Prime Minister’ has caused as much damage to its electoral prospects as any other reason. He simply does not have another five years of fight left in him. There comes the opportunity for the so called young leaders. Narendra Modi did not even show the patience of waiting till the election result to be out while trying to place him above others in the race but seems to have had some mud on the face in the process. His uncharacteristic silence in these troubled times cannot be taken at its face value. He is just biding for his time.

The present President Rajnath Singh is a sorry figure. He neither has the moral authority over others nor has the tact to lead such a great party. He is there by default and he, as well as all others, knows his time is also running short. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is definitely out. LK Advani is just hanging by thread. Rajnath Singh is only alienating more and more leaders and workers. What is left is a group of second rung leaders with each of them having a very great opinion about their own capabilities to lead the party. Each of them knows that their own capacities will not make them the contender; they have to cut to size the others to be above the pack. For these they do not mind planting stories in the media against each other or make use any occasion. Remember the sulking Arun Jaitely during the run up to Parliament elections? They are aware of their lack of base among people and at best their base is limited among the selected journalists to whom they keep giving scoops.

What is saddening is that BJP is not even making a try to solve its problems. Even a well respected intellectual like Arun Shourie suggests a solution for all problems in the Party - and what is that? RSS to take over the Party and manage it!! Can’t these leaders talk among themselves and reach a solution for their internal party affairs? They don’t even have to worry about the affairs of the country now for there is a government to take care of that leaving them with lot of time to resolve their own issues. Yet it is the RSS honchos who are camping in Delhi and trying to cook up solutions.

Can a party that can’t even resolve its own internal problems and looks towards outsiders (even if they are within the so called parivar) take care of the problems of this great nation of over one billion people? I doubt it. People like Narendra Modi might be able to sway sections of people for some time with his rhetoric and backward looking ideas. Yet it is not easy to manage the affairs of a nation of this magnitude; for such a task requires lot of ability to give and take.

A case in point is the duo of Manmohan –Sonia, each playing the role to near perfection without creating any troubles. Being Loh Purush does not mean being inflexible. The so called weak Prime Minister has been able to manage the affairs of the Nation without much damage while Sonia holding the Party together and that by itself is no mean feat.

Unless BJP is willing to adapt and accommodate to the realities and its leaders willing to cut short their own egos any solution cooked up by RSS (whose ability for inclusiveness is doubtful) will not make the party cohesive. These leaders will only get more axes to grind and they will surely wait for their opportunities. We cannot at this moment foresee any one leader emerging from this motley group with his head above others, like Bajpayee or even erstwhile Advani. Till then the plight of BJP is bound to continue for they are not likely to get any soon the great adhesive for any political party, i.e., power.

Lack of a cohesive and focused opposition is likely to put Indian democracy to stress. The level of debate in the Parliament is not something great even now. With BJP taking a beating it is likely to slip more and more and that is not a welcome sign for any concerned citizen.