Sunday, March 13, 2011

Monday Musings - 117 - Of another world


Monday Musings - 117 - Of another world
In a wonderful article in the Sunday Express, Shombit Sengupta, who is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management, wrote about the stimuli in his transformational journey from a refugee colony in West Bengal to the creative streets of Paris. He talks about the primacy of the stimuli that he drew from the world of art, particularly mentioning about one Subhinoy Kaku, a poor artist, who inspired his affair with art. I liked the central theme of his writing, the premise that our lives are shaped by the stimuli we are lucky to be enriched with, however insignificant or even painful they might appear at that time. I look at my own stimuli.

Jhinkpani, the hamlet that i was born and where i spent the first 15 years of my life, in the tribal mining districts of todays Jharkhand, is my most defining stimuli. It is only in retrospect, and the complete corruption by the comforts of my current sitiuation, that i realise that that life was tough. Hopping on the shoulders of an elder cousin to cross over a rope bridge on my way to school, swaying dangerously over a river was exciting then. Crossing overflowing paddy fields during rains with shoes in one hand and the school bag in another, only to wear them once you reached school was fun. The soot of the kerosene lamp, called deebri or playing with the molten wax of the candle, smashing the moths that came along with, for the entire duration of school education owing to lack of electicity was normal. Eating out meant 10 paise worth of muree (rice flaks) and dried or soaked gram. Summer holidays was flying kite or killing chameleons - the later a truly ingenuous sport where we used to keep a count of how many we killed with the perfect sling shot or a direct hit with a small stone. Holi meant a day long excursion into the forest to cut trees for the wood bonfire a night before.

Tribal societies offer tremendous opportunities for alternative worldviews. I remember the village oracle who would through his magical powers, would heal, cure and tell the location of the lost cattle and do black magic cure for just about problem. I remember his cure for an eye sore for me once - rub the eye with 7 leaves of berry and let them dry - as the leaves dry, so would the sore. It is only now in hindsight and armed with the so called rational education that i can question that worldview - but i cannot ignore that the first 15 years of my life i not only lived that life, i actually believed it. The day long football tournament would have a goat for the winner and a sheep for the runners up team. There was the annual ├žock-fight where ferocious cocks would lunge at each other for the coveted prize.

I know that i might be susceptible to a romanticised account of that part of my life - but all said and done i cannot erase or wish away that stimuli. If man is a product of his stimuli, then of all the ones i was fortunate to have had, that phase characterised by a brilliant confluence of Sikh, Bihari and Traibal ethos, shaped by the sheer resourcelessness, and very authentic- low cost-original pursuits of pleasure, stand out in my mind as the most defining one. What is your stimuli?

Guru

Sunday, March 6, 2011

116- Prisons of one Kind – Part 2

116- Prisons of one Kind – Part 2
I am almost forced to write a sequel of the last musing owing to some blatant misinterpretation of the last one from some quarters. The fundamental premise of the last musing was that each one us is programmed and shaped by a complex interplay of circumstances and histories and have something unique that drives us. Often that is our biggest strength and sometimes our Achilles heel. Redemption as individuals lies in being aware of what drives us, so that the possibilities of our drive becoming a barrier in the way we relate to others and interact with them can be understood and avoided. In the course of outlining this point I illustrated it with someone whose primary drive was power.
Apart from power other drives of individuals is that of glory, importance, relevance and so on and so forth. Ironical as it may sound negative emotions like revenge and point-to-be-proven can also be a potent enough drives. There is no hierarchy within these drives in terms of how has far worse debris of consequences of one drive is over the other. Each one is equally devastating once it goes out of control. While each one of them is capable enough to uplift us from the mediocrity of existence and propel us into unknown levels of accomplishments and success, each one when left unguarded has the potential to become a menace for people around. Let us not fool ourselves to believe that some of those consequences are more bearable and hence more pardonable than others. In reality each one has the lethal potential to choke people around us. The debris that we leave behind as we interact and relate to others might be different in each case, but debris it unquestionably it is. And it stinks.
It is ironical that Organisations spend millions to teach its workforce a wide array of skills which can broadly be called ‘people skills’ – and with very questionable results. The reason is not very difficult to fathom. As managers grow in hierarchy they do not need domain expertise, as much as they need abilities to relate to people in productive, mutually fulfilling and inspiring way. Armed with the best of intentions, managers being the human beings that they are, and governed by the drives and complexes outlined above, leave their peers and subordinates to clean the debris that the managers leave behind, rather than focussing on the business agenda at hand. The attempt should be to increase awareness. I wish there was short cut or a crash course to increase awareness – organisations would be happier places to work in.  
Finally our drives are our biggest strength. Let us not debunk them or undervalue them or underestimate their power to shape our destinies. But for God’s sake, let’s be AWARE of them – just in case it has become a prison. We owe it to us.
Guru
Many years back I had read a brilliant book called “The road less travelled’’ by MS Peck which is a more academic source of authority on this subject. It was many years later that I truly discovered that book in everyday action.