Sunday, December 29, 2013

Monday musings 192: For a new voice

Monday musings 192: For a new voice

"For last year's words belong to last year's language,
And next year's words await another voice"
                                                - T. S Eliot

Another year leaked from the bucket of life. Those who shall attempt some kind of reflection, will be faced with the dilemma of seeing the year gone as either half filled or half empty. Some will find that avoiding such a reflection might be a better idea. 

The turn of the tide could have either strengthened our belief that we controlled the outcomes or led us to believe that much as we work to a plan, the future has a mind of its own. The human heart would discover that we might have some degree of control on what we pursue and how we do it, but we may not have a similar degree of control over how we feel at the end of the journey. We might be surprised by a sense of loss in victory or a sense of contentment in loss. 

I see multiple responses to a year gone by. Some treat this as a non-event believing that it is just a number. Some use this as a unit of time and compare it with what they set out to do and achieve and hence there is a assessment for the year - goals achieved, money made, success achieved, holidays taken, so on and so forth.

At the end it is less about how good or bad the year was but how good or bad were we during the year. How good were we in utilizing the opportunity of the last year 'to make a dent in the universe'? I have also grown to believe that nothing kills human beings faster than regret. How much more the year could have been packed with! How much more was the possibility of being happy and puny were our preoccupations!

There is infinite possibility to give voice to another language in 2014. I pray for courage to claim that language from our deepest fears. The language of possibilities, the language of listening to intuition, the language of instinct, the language of meaning in work. The only thing that separates us from what we know is right and what we must do is courage. May we have that in abundance the New Year. 

May we have another language and another voice – that of our own.

Guru


Sunday, December 22, 2013

191 - The joys of multi-lingualism

191 - The joys of multi-lingualism

The other day I got the opportunity to listen to a discussion on bilingualism under the umbrella of the Times litfest. The discussion revolved around the phenomenon and implications of bilingualism in today’s world viewed from the lens of cinema and popular culture. I must speak on the subject from the point of view of a cubicle-wallah.

India's diversity is most ubiquitous in its languages, apart from its weather, skin color, food and geography. As one travels even a fraction of the 2000 plus miles between Kashmir to Kanyakumari, one 'hears' India as much as one 'sees' and 'tastes' it. While this diversity is documented and taught school onwards it is not systematically and consciously developed. There has been a significant progress made in building the diversity of the palate and it is not uncommon to see culinary diversity at display across. Dosa is no longer a south Indian breakfast just as the stuffed paratha is no longer a north Indian phenomena. However we have not demonstrated a similar catholicity, an openness of mind in adopting linguistic diversity.  

English is our de-facto national language, Hindi a second language to at best half of Indians. So for all practical purposes half of India knows only one Indian language, if we discount English for a while. The rest of the country which has a regional or vernacular language apart from English might have Hindi as third possible language. My suspicion is that most of us do not know more than 2 or at best 3 Indian languages which is a pathetic low in a country which has 22 officially recognized languages apart from more than 1500 'mother tongues'. We must be chasing multi-lingualism while we seem to have limited success at bilingualism. 

I am sure we all would know the barriers in learning more than the languages we already know. However the benefits far outweigh the struggle. For one, nothing helps us bond and know better a people better than in their mother tongue. Language builds bridges that are beyond the here and now. When I speak in Oriya, I do not connect only the person of today but to the history of those people for centuries. I touch and get touched with the collective memory of a people which would have remained out of bounds otherwise. The world of their customs, rituals and deep rooted beliefs opens up for my understanding and empathy. Left to it all of this may develop without the glue of language also, but language achieves this rather instantaneously. 

Diplomacy is helped by language. Connections are strengthened by language. Corporate relationships are aided by language. The other day Economic Times reported how the new CEO of Pepsi food and the world wide CEO of PepsiCo bonded over their common language. Organizations that have a pan India presence include linguistic proficiency as an important factor in their people decisions and not without reason.

As I look around it is not difficult to see the shrinking space for bilingualism. Increasingly the urban youth at least is happy to be well versed with only one language, mostly English. When a language is reduced to become only a 'subject', the writing on the wall is clear - it is the beginning of the end for it. There is hardly any parental consciousness about this either and hence it is no surprise that there is no action in it. However neither are adults doing much about it.

I wonder how many New Year resolutions will be 'let me learn another language' - including mine.

Guru 










Sunday, December 15, 2013

190: The rise and rise of the loser

190: The rise and rise of the loser

Almost two years to this date, 29th of November 2010 to be precise, I described one Pankaj Dubey in Monday Musings 103 - an unusual story of an extremely gifted "middle class boy in the small town of a developing country" (his words) who failed so gloriously academically but still found his feet chasing his dreams. This is a sequel to that story. (strongly recommend that you read that before you move ahead -http://mondaymusingsbyguru.blogspot.in/2010/11/103-monday-musings-story-of-unusual.html). 

Pankaj was abused by academics in his early years and more particularly by maths. In his own words he is a 'merchant of imagination and not a prisoner of knowledge'. His life took him from the hinterlands of Jharkhand to BBC, film festivals and some serious work in empathy building in slum children. I had ended by saying that he has now shifted his base to Mumbai to dabble in film writing and that one must keep watching this name because "this part of the story is still untold". I was not wrong.  

In the last 2 years Pankaj has done script supervision for the movie 'Ghanchakkar', an under-production feature called 'Chauranga', but most importantly next month will see the launch of his maiden book called 'What a Loser' with Penguin India, also simultaneously in Hindi called "Loser kahin ka". Pankaj has written in both the languages-something that yet again indicates how prolific his talent is. 

The last blog on this subject was an ode to what sheer talent, imagination and creativity could do. It was also to shatter the myth of academic success and how underprepared is the current school education to predict the future success of its produce. This blog is to talk about the rise and rise of the tribe of losers. 

Success is so over-rated and I have a feeling it would also be very boring. Statistically more people fail more number of times than those who succeed. Even the best fail a lot more than they care to admit. Success is like nicotine - each time you need a stronger dose to give you the same high. After a while your nerves are jaded and your soul is tired, chasing the mirage of success. You cannot rest because by now you are scared of losing out. The popular culture is desperately looking for the hero of the day - only to be forgotten tomorrow because someone else has claimed the airwaves. Yet the chase continues because the popular culture celebrates the hero. The rest are condemned to live the life of anonymity - the loser. 

The loser never claimed his space. But not anymore. The loser is the underdog who must now come from behind despite his feeble chances of winning. If only the top of the pyramid must get all, then such a pyramid must be damned. This is not a socialistic utopia which justifies mediocrity, but an appeal for diversity. There can more than one pyramid - and the loser of one can be the winner of the next. 

'What a loser' by Pankaj Dubey must be bought, read and re-read - in that order, as a celebration of ordinariness. It must be held dear by all those who did not top their class ever but are special nevertheless. It is not an apology but a celebration. I have a feeling being a loser will become fashionable with this book.  There cannot be shame in being ordinary or not being the first. 

Well done Pankaj! I am so looking forward to both the books. 

Guru





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

189 Monday Musings: The AAP phenomena and organisations

189 Monday Musings: The AAP phenomena and organisations

The victory of the political novice AAP in Delhi will be dissected for quite some time now as it must be. The so called middle class shot to economic prominence in the last decade of the previous century with its colossal purchasing power along with consumption power. Every producer of goods and services paid homage to the likes and dislikes of this block of consumers. Choice was a bad word till then because the consumer had none and the producers had no incentive to give one – from scooters to TV, from telephone to clothes the gloom of choicelessness was all pervasive. Economic emancipation fired and fanned by the forces of liberalization finally changed that. Business writing started to recognize the collective might of the middle class and perhaps the best work on this came from the bureaucrat Pavan K Verma who wrote ‘The great Indian middle class’. 

Economic emancipation often makes way for a need for political and cultural emancipation. The AAP dent in the political universe must be seen in that light. A group of people wanted a voice, wanted to be heard and taken notice of – and when the traditional system refused to do that they made themselves heard by taking matters in their own hands.

Let us examine the lessons for organizations from this.
#1. Recognize the shifts in the voices for all segments/functions/departments. With time the prominence of departments change and the voice available to them must be commensurate to their emerging criticality. Backbenchers of yesteryears may be at the vanguard of tomorrow.

#2 Provide organized and formal avenues of expression to teams and individuals. It is foolhardy to believe that the system ‘knows what ails itself’ all the time. The power of self correction is often overestimated in systems however desirable it might be. One never knows when a minor thread of discontent becomes a short fuse for a revolt.

#3. Change the nature and the idiom of discourse with the changing times. Speak in metaphors of the times and not of a bygone era. When the corporate geriatrics (read 45 plus) rule the Gen X, fault lines will emerge. Similarly each function has a different idiom and when the conversation within the organization takes place in the idiom of the dominant department then we are sowing seeds of discontent. The organizations must have an amoebic ability to reach out and engage in ‘local’ idiom of every unit, function and department.

#4. Finally, never underestimate an upstart. Do not ridicule early voices for or against an idea or a policy. Isolated voices gather momentum because, to borrow Voltaire’s words, ‘it’s time may have come’. Organizational movements are messier than political revolts because they are rarely visible. They can paralyze a system, rob it of its ability to create what it can and be what it can be.


Guru

Saturday, November 16, 2013

188 - Monday Musings - Good guys can finish first

188 - Monday Musings - Good guys can finish first

It is difficult for any observer with even a small cricketing bone in him in India and outside, not to be swayed by the Sachin-mania that has swept them like a typhoon. They can be broadly be classified in the following categories - The cricket enthusiasts, The worshippers, and The pattern makers.

The cricket enthusiasts are the purists within this lot. They adore the 'Big' little man for the sheer cricketing genius that he was. Their love for Sachin was nothing but a personalization of their love for the game. What better way of expressing their love for the willow or the cherry than idolize the one man who almost became larger than the game itself! In praising Sachin they praised cricket and their love for it. They loved him because he took the game to levels higher than what he inherited. But make no mistake - they loved Sachin because they loved cricket and not the other way around. 

The worshippers loved him for what they aspired to become but probably fell short of. Sachin represented the Indian version of the 'American dream' if there is one - A middle class Indian who aspires to make it big by the dint of his hard work in the right way, An 'Aam Admi' who wants to raise his future to a level where matters of existence do not faze him anymore and allows him the rare luxury of doing what he loves. The worshippers were in awe of Sachin because he had demonstrated that such a thing was indeed possible. He represented what they always wanted to do and become. His God-like following was perhaps less to do with his cricketing genius but more to do with what he came to represent for the 'aam aadmi' - a metaphor for unbridled aspiration even in the face of scarcity. In an icon hungry but icon scarce country he offered hope. 

The pattern makers are intellectuals who try to solve the non-sporting aspects of Sachin the person and his meteoric rise. They explore, amongst other things, how Sachin's rise coincided with the rise of India along with the liberalization of economy, how Sachin represented the rise of youth power in the face of a geriatric leadership, how he heralded a silent aggression in an otherwise lukewarm dressing room so on and so forth. They will continue to draw such patterns. 

What do I like Sachin for the most? Given the cubclist that i am, of the many things i admire about him the one thing that keeps coming back to me is that - 'Good guys can finish first'. Sachin's rise to prominence and stardom is unblemished. His humility and personal disposition is unquestionable. In 24 long years, despite his dizzying stardom, there is absolutely no question about his integrity. Even his worst critic knows this as an ablsolute truth that he owes his success, riches, and iconic status to nothing and nothing but merit. In the corporate world where it is so easy to be disillusioned as many have, for right reasons or wrong, and where everyone is in search of the secret of making it big, that is such a reassuring conclusion. 

Guru


Sunday, November 10, 2013

187 Monday Musings: A walk in the graveyard

187 Monday Musings: A walk in the graveyard

I am midway through a book "The art of thinking clearly" by Rolf Dobelli. It is not an earth shatteringly original book, though it sits pretty in that comfortable area between original research and common sense. It has a collection of a hundred common biases that prevent human beings to make perfectly rational, logical and objective decisions. It is an easy read and everyone should read the book to at least become aware of the ubiquitous nature of biases that we are susceptible to.

The first bias outlined by Rolf is called the "Survivorship Bias' which says that 'people systematically overestimate their chances of success'....and that we should 'guard against it by frequently visiting the graves of once promising projects, investments and careers....it is a sad walk but one that should clear your mind'. This bias stayed with me for quite some time, for it is not strictly a statistically provable bias, but probably more like a folk wisdom.

We are sure of things more often than not only of what we want, but also how we want it and most importantly why we want it. Life is governed by certitudes. May be some of us care to admit not being sure of things in our personal moments, but continue to maintain the charade of surefootedness. It is not difficult to see why such certitude is the norm and expected behavior. We derive our place in the sun - at workplace, families and society by being sure about things. This is most pronounced at workplace because being sure pays for your groceries. Organizations do not like tentativeness in circumstances and people. They demand guarantees and certitudes. Hence that is what they get. Sometimes authentic and at other times manufactured.

It would all be fine except the survivorship bias. 'Visiting the graves of once promising projects, investments and careers' provides a sense of proportion. I 'knew' of this but I 'felt' the enormity of this wisdom only now. I bounced it with a friend and he assured me that I am now officially 'middle age' or suffering from mid-life crisis. I checked the public view on this bias with a few more and realized the following. One, if you are young and have had no major failures or struggles so far at work or relationships, then you are going to dismiss this bias as humbug of the weak and/or old. Two, if you are not that old and have had a mixed bag of successes or failures, then you are most likely to identify with this wisdom. If you are not that old and have missed the bus in your career or relationships or were particularly ill fated to be dealt with more than normal bad hands then you will use this bias as the 'scientific explanation' of your bad fortune - and then order another drink. Finally if you are old, irrespective of your successes at work or relationships and are by and large mature then you will identify with this bias as one of those things that we must remember, just when we are planning to conquer the world.

Finally, where do I stand on this or better still where do I want to stand on this? I want to go for the final assault with all my might - want the victory badly enough and then go for the walk in the graveyard. 

Guru

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monday Musings186: Bias for Inaction

Monday Musings 186: Bias for Inaction

Any cubclist worth his salt will tell you that a 'bias for action' has been dished out as a panacea and as his corporate karma more number of times than any other corporate sermon ever; others include 'think out of the box', 'being proactive/creative/innovative', 'I don't know how but just get it done' et al. 

The phrase 'bias for action' in the corporate corridors was made famous by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal in their book 'Bias of action' - and although the book itself never promoted wasteful action or frenzied overaction - this phrase snailed its way into the lexicon of business managers who usually used it to mean 'always be doing something'. In good times act because a semblance of work has to be shown and in bad times keep up the act to let others know that you are not sitting idle but trying to solve things.

I am sure action is good - but purposive action is better. Action must not be for action sake. It must be for the sake of a preferred outcome, after having satisfied oneself that the action will indeed lead to the desired outcome. Otherwise and till such time such causality is established, it may be wiser to do nothing. Considered non action is more powerful than mindless action. 

Non-action is not the same thing as inaction. Inaction means you are not doing when something can be done. Non-action means you are exercising a 'choice' - of not doing anything when you have both the inclination and the ability to do something because you believe on the basis of information and wisdom that not doing anything is a better thing to do. However in today’s frenzied context that may be a terrible thing to suggest. All around us there appears to be a premium on doing something or the other, keep taking some initiative or the other (I call it the 'initiative overdose'). Considered Non-action is misconstrued as intellectual lethargy or lack of application, that is surely not going to attract encomiums. 

Research headed by Michael Bar Eli at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel studied how the goal keepers should defend penalty kicks. He concluded that based on the two factors that influence the outcome of a penalty kick - one the distance a goal keeper can jump on both sides, two the time available for the goal keeper to respond (.3 seconds), it makes eminently more sense to stay still rather than jump on either side.(http://www.scienceofsocceronline.com/2009/04/penalty-kicks-by-numbers.html) - that is considered non-action than non-purposive action. Yet goal keepers jump either side more often than not because it is better to appear losing a goal while doing something rather than just standing there. 

There is merit in purposive, passionate and perseverant action. There is wisdom in purposive non action. Sometimes it makes sense to dig in your heels, cover your head and let the storm pass. There are two billion dollar questions around this conundrum - the lesser evil is to know what the time for purposive non-action is, the greater evil is to know how to answer your boss when he hollers at you "why the hell don’t you do  something". 

Guru


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monday Musings 185: New wisdom in old knowledge

Monday Musings 185: New wisdom in old knowledge

Sometimes things make sense only across time, when you connect the proverbial dots. 

More than a decade back I had read a seminal book 'Yuganta' by Iravati Karve. The book came recommended through some colleagues who were active in the area of human behavior while I was this wannabe who carries the drinks while the good ones play. The book, originally written in Marathi and winner of Sahitya Academy award, studies and analyses the central characters of Mahabharata, as if they were normal human beings and not heroes in a religious text. For those who are fed on one standard interpretation of Indian epics, this book will be thought provoking at best and sacrilegious at worst.  I did not understand much about the book because it did not align with my standard understanding about the lead characters based on the popular discourse. For example Yuganta lays a large part of the blame for the war with the selfless Bheeshma - in the many injustices he did and the many he condoned or let happen, only to fulfill his own vows. Yuganta describes the character of Kunti detailing her contradictions, some of them not very kind. Finally, and the one which had the maximum shock value for me at that time, was this seemingly preposterous suggestion that Vidura may be the father of Yudhisthir. The shock value of the whole book notwithstanding, I read Yuganta and forgot about it, more because i did not understand it, never realizing that it was such a celebrated book. 

Last year I read another book based on Mahabharat, called 'The difficulty of being good' by Gurcharan Das, the famous ex CEO of P & G, writer and now columnist. This book also looks into the epic more from a pragmatic standpoint and what it can teach for day to day living, rather than as a reverence seeking religious book. If Ramayana is utopian, then Mahabharata is practical. The book makes us see human imperfections in their true glory and concludes that 'Dharma is subtle' and that it is fundamentally difficult to be good. I have my own views on what is not good with the book, but I give full credit to the author to have attempted a scholarly dissection of the most popular Indian epic which has been rendered stale by looking at it as a monochromatic narrative, frozen in time. It tries to put some life in the epic by viewing it from fresh lens, something Yuganta had done many decades earlier. 

Now comes the third dot, which incidentally is the trigger for this musing. Although I have not seen even one frame of the new Mahabharata on the telly, my better half has - and what she has seen, she has liked it, to an extent that she was moved to talk about it. She found the new Mahabharat 'refreshing', 'more balance for the characters - that each character is presenting his/her point of view' and hence 'we see those characters in a new light'. Kudos to the script writers of the new Mahabharata that they have injected some freshness into a stale tale to an extent that the ordinary viewer is able to discern a difference, see those characters in a new way that she has not seen them so far. 

The point of this musing is twofold. One is that it is time for me to read Yuganta once more. I think I am more prepared to understand the book and hence the epic. The second and the more important one is that we must reinterpret all our epics. We must not only read more and more interpretations of them because there is a lot of work that has happened on critically analyzing them (read the banned-in-DU essay "300 Ramanayans" by AK Ramanujam), but more importantly we must read them ourselves and create our own narratives. Some of these epics, in most of the core religions of the subcontinent has enough and more to consume our lifetimes. If not for the esoteric satisfaction of metaphysical development, then for the mundane joy of reading an old story and understanding it in a new way, these epics must be read and re read. Who knows what they might tell us this time.

Guru

Post script - the cubiclist in the corporate world is a worm busy in its survival. He has the industry report, the competitive analysis, and the monthly review presentation to read. The epics can wait – and by the way so can his life.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Monday Musings184: The inanity of company taglines

Monday Musings184: The inanity of company taglines

LG, the Korean company changed its famous tagline 'Life is good' to 'It is all possible'. As a common consumer who is not trained in the science of crafting company taglines, it appeared to be unimaginative at best and a counterfeit at worst. It did not take me long to realize that it reminded me, and not without reason, of another famous tagline by the footwear giant Adidas, 'Impossible is nothing'.  A little bit of research on the subject also revealed that ABN AMRO BANK has used a tagline 'Making more possible' and Huawei a technology company in Asia is using the tagline 'Make it Possible' or yet another case when HP invent claimed 'Everything is possible'. Frankly there might be verbal jugglery and a distinction of semantics in each one of them, but for the layman on the street, me included, they appear all the same, or least suspiciously similar. What were the creators doing while crafting these lookalikes? Weren’t taglines supposed to be boldly original, thereby differentiating companies in a boringly cluttered market? 

Another example, though not as grotesque comes to my mind, this time a little more subtle. Shahrukh Khan exhorted all of us to 'Thoda wish karo, Dish Karo' in a commercial which wanted us not to be satisfied with less. The intention was to push us 'satisfied with less' morons to want more. Kareena Kapoor has been tugging at our heart strings these days by saying 'Pyaas badhao', again with an intention to want more, desire more, ask for more. Nothing connects the two product lines but clearly the tagline writer looks likes he was 'inspired'. Curiously Shahrukh Khan in yet another ad has also said 'Chalo Paint Karen', suspiciously similar to the Dish TV ad. As I remarked earlier this category is not shamelessly same as the first category but subtly similar in the construct and the imagery.

We know that imitation is the best form of flattery, but guess the taglines of companies by design are supposed to be different. I also wonder at times what is the exact role that these taglines actually play in the success of a company or a brand or is it something that is nice to have. Is it a statement of intent that guides the company in its day to day operation or is it nothing but the worm that attracts the fish to the hook? AIG spoke about 'The strength to be there' before it went turtle and what a deadly combination of hilarity and irony was the Lehman brothers tagline 'Where vision gets built'. I wonder why Enron said 'Ask why’; because that is exactly everyone else is asking since it sank without a trace. 

So look around, in the companies you work with or have worked with or plan to work with - how much these taglines mean to them and how much meaning these taglines have for the day to day decision making. And if you are not the serious kind, then keep looking for and keep enjoying the inanity of some of them. 

Guru 










Sunday, September 22, 2013

Monday Musings 183: The anatomy of atrophy

Monday Musings 183: The anatomy of atrophy

Everything begins as a movement, becomes a business and then ends up becoming a racket. 

All status quo generates a need to change from within. Only sometimes the need is felt just in time but most of the times it is late. All status quo germinates an ecosystem of vested interests, however much the system raves and rants about the authenticity of intent. Hence the forces of self preservation will keep change at bay. There in hangs the tale. Change from outside is rarely peaceful and the change from within is often late. 

Every religious system began as a movement to reform the status quo and soon it became an oligarchy, spawning reformist movements as a response, over time meeting the same fate. Reformist movements needed reforms. There goes a Zen story that captures it so beautifully. Disciples of a wise Zen master were searching for truth in a jungle and soon it became a competition as to who will discover the truth first. A disciple came rushing and shared with disappointment that someone had found truth first. The Zen master replies with nonchalance, “do not worry - they will make a religion out of it - and soon the truth will be lost". 

Economic systems which promised El Dorado are nowhere to be seen and those which are still around are struggling for acceptance in the puritanical form and shape that they were conceived. Communism is buried in history and capitalism is a prisoner with the capitalists. If the former had the hypocrisy to deal with the latter has cronyism to battle. Both began with great intent, but got corrupted along the way, like a clean spring from the mountains acquires silt and mud as it flows down the plains. 

Organizations begin with fancy vision, mission and value systems and soon become a caricature of itself. More remain a pale shadow of the promise that they had shown than the ones who blossom to their potential. It takes only a few years of blinking to let the innards get corroded. Academically organizational processes, systems and institutions are supposed to keep a watchful eye on this degeneration, and yet there is clear evidence of all of them failing - sometimes dramatically, and at other times corrupting the fabric like a silent malignancy. Individuals gone berserk can bring even the most sensible organizations to its knees over time. Soon everything becomes a sham, a charade, an act - and ultimately a racket. 

This seems to be an ageing process. Is it natural atrophy, which is the way things will always be? Will things become a racket only because only then it will give birth to the chrysalis of reform? As Peter Senge, a systems thinker says, "Things become worse before they become better". 

God - why are there always more questions than answers? 

Guru 



Friday, September 13, 2013

Monday Musings 182 - The someday list

Monday Musings 182 - The someday list

A friend of mine introduced me to this phrase the other day - what it means is the list of things that we want to do but keep on postponing it for some reason or the other. The modern day cubiclist is a work in progress of guilt and unfulfilled list of things to do. A random conversation with a score of such cubiclists will reaveal to you that it is not an isolated case worthy of being quarantied and treated in isolation, but a pandemic which does not kill but leaves you in state of permanent suspension, bereft of imagination and joie de vivre. This is not to say that the life of the cubiclist is all that bad, but there it is not all that hunky dory either. The drugery of the powerpoint can be lethal. 

Each has his own someday-list which they so ruefully talk about, usually when they let thier guard down aided by the therapeutic effects of a few beers. Some want to do more music, some a little bit more of painting and yet others a bit more travel. Some want to read a bit more, some want to watch some great movies and yet others want to excercise a bit more. Some want to do thier own thing and yet others, like me, want to do nothing. Nothingness has great virtues. 

Whatever it is that they are aching to do someday, is both a liberation and thier greatest bondage. It does not allow you to enjoy what you have and currently do as much as you can, and yet not having it keeps you going in the hope that some day lady luck will shine and you shall reach the El dorado of your dreams. The underlying assumtion is that you will live happily thereafter, but that is another story. 

Each one has his own script that he uses for not being able to do the stuff on the someday list. The most popular of them is not having enough time. Long commutes, late hours and ever increasing domestic chores is a grim reality leaving no time and energy to do what is a springboard to the soul. The less you do them, more acute is the void, which means you do it even lesser. The fall in the abyss is long and hard.  However it is also true that most of the time lack of time is a ruse, a master script on self deception.

The second reason is lack of opportunity. There are a lot with amateur talent which can be chiselled with a little amount of care or who missed doing thier stuff in thier prime because of thier own reasons. The genuine ones amongst these require the most empathy, for the wheel of time cannot be turned back. We must only nudge them to reclaim whatever they can at this stage. There are enough and more tales of late bloomers around that have the potential for inspiration. 

The third type are waiting for enough money in the bank to be able to embark on the journey for which they think they were born for. There is never enough money in the bank to give you that security to jump. Ask me! This is the second worst script of self deception after the no time deception. I can personally vouch that the real reason is often lack of initiative and courage. 

The someday list can either be an inspiration, that eggs you on, replenishes the fountain of hope or it can be an albatross around your neck. 

Guru

By the way, have you ever compiled your someday list. 


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Monday Musings 181: Making sense of the world order

Monday Musings 181: Making sense of the world order

Such is the human need for constructs and frameworks, that one would be forgiven if we lose our way in the maze. The globe and nation states have particularly been classified and reclassified in myriad ways, many times countries moving in and out of clusters as frequently as the change of fashion. Let us take a tongue and cheek look at some of them. 

I am sure if the big bang theory of the origin of the universe would not have been propounded, we must have had created a small bang theory, for an explosion it must have been for what we have ended up being! Another interesting theory that has slipped by, almost as an country cousin of the previous one, is the drifting of continents theory. Insects crawl up my spine to imagine, that apart from the galactic movement in empty space, where the earth is hauling itself to i-dont-know-where, apart from the earth singing songs around the sun like a starry eyed teenager, and apart from spinning around itself in the throes of some unseen magnetic intoxication, even the continents are drifting away! I mean come on, there is a limit to  the ridiculousness of this whole thing. When i look around, i see every proverbial Tom, Dick, and Harry, their aunt and her dog, chasing stability in life and the fact is everything else is in motion, chaos or movement. 

Coming back to the subject of classification of nation states, the broadest of them all is the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere, creating possibly the oldest form of divide. Clearly the northern cousins are broadly more developed, richer, and powerful than their southern counterparts. I am told there is no scientific reason why the northern hemisphere must be on the top on the global map, but guess somethings become too routine to be questioned. 

Then there is the classical distinction of a group of nations broadly labelled as the 'west', others broadly classified as the 'east', also called as the oriental. There is some kind of musical chairs between the two when it comes to deciding who is ahead. I have concluded, that the answer to this is how long a view of time do you take to answer this question. Very very long ago, East seem to have civilizational superiority, a little while ago the west seemed to have dominated and rumor has it, the east is planning a coup of sorts to usurp the pole position. Africa, where the grapevine suggests, it all may have started is considered almost as an afterthought and it usually drops through the cracks in this epochal debate between the west and the east. 

Growing up in India, text books informed me that we were the 'third world'. I mean whoever authored the term was highly unimaginative. No creative adjectives, no acronyms, no fancy terminology - just number the damn countries - first world, second world, and third world. I am sure it must have been an economist - cannot expect anything better from them, can we?

Within Asia, there is middle east, south east and far east. There is central Asia which sits in proximity with the underbelly of Russia, but maintaining tenous relations with the larger Asian identity, though there is only that much similarity between a central Asian and a south east Asian as much as between a chimpanzee and a crocodile. Within Europe there is western and eastern divide and some argue, given the length of time they have fought and continue to do so like recalcitrant children, Europe is merely a notion. 

A few years back there were the tiger economies of the south east Asian cluster. Then there is G 20, which is more secular in its construct because you have to be seriously rich to be its member, not some fancy reason of geographical proximity. In 2001 came the phrase BRICS which is where the future lay, as that guy from the Goldman Sachs made everyone believe. Dollars and Euros and some serious money chased the BRICS, but all of that has fallen like a pack of cards. The latest i am told is the N-11 or the new 11. It consists of Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and others. I am sure someone worked very late and hard on his presentation to coin this term. Be ready to hear this term more often in the coming days. 

Where do we truly belong? Well, that i guess is a subject for another musing. For now enjoy wherever we have been placed by whoever worked late into the night. 

Guru 







Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Musings 180: Compliance and commitment

Monday Musings 180: Compliance and commitment
Modern workplace is a minefield if not a battlefield. Many still find time, space, opportunity, energy and wisdom for happiness and meaning in the nine to no-time schedules. They should be christened as saints, given bravery awards and must be protected under wild life protection act or preservation of rare species, flora and fauna programme.
Our work systems are designed to create the average. Everyone wants the incumbent to follow the job description, the role, the boundaries - no one wants him to stick his neck out, ask uncomfortable and unconventional questions, or follow the non traditional paths. Career choices are made not on the basis of what he truly enjoys, but what would guarantee a basic security of a traditional job. It is nothing short of miracle that so many clones get churned out through the factory shop floor, each one looking like a clone of the other, go about the motions of life, work and career and still hold the pretence of happiness. But scratch the surface a bit and almost everyone wants to do something different, something that gives them more joy, more satisfaction and meaning that what they are doing today. Most will not know what exactly ‘that’ elusive thing is, many just want to escape from the current pigeonhole, and some may actually be fortunate enough to know what they enjoy but cannot make themselves to take the risk of foregoing the security of a well paying job. 
It is not surprising again that such straight jacketed, stuck between walls employees only generate compliance, while organisations need commitment. Actually most organisations take a stated position that they need commitment, while the systems, processes and the culture are designed to elicit compliance. Employees must comply with the boundaries of their role, follow established norms, and work within the broad contours of what is prescribed as ‘role boundaries’. They are also expected to follow instructions, understand orders and obey. When they come up with an idea, it will be ‘value added’ by an over excited supervisor, whether that value is sought or not. Author Malcolm Goldsmith says that such unsolicited value addition “improves the idea by only 5%, but reduces the employee commitment by 50%”, because in his mind, it is no longer his idea but that of the supervisors.
Supervisor behaviour is often the worst culprit, even though there is clear evidence that intellectual lethargy of the employee can be an equal contributor. If a suggestion is given only poorly camouflaged as an order or an expectation, it will generate only compliance. If dissent is considered tantamount to questioning authority, the next time around it will only elicit compliance. If a failed initiative or attempting a new way of doing things is come down upon heavily, the next time around it will foster only compliance. If credit is shared disproportionately or unfairly, then it will encourage compliance. If policies, practices and systems get short-changed at the altar of convenience or whims and fancies, it will promote compliance. Compliance will only do what is absolutely necessary.  It will engender survival mindset. Servility goes hand in hand with compliance, but progress is fuelled by the horse power initiative – the spirit of doing more than necessary, in more ways than known
Commitment is the engine of progress in organisations. Team members and employees do not commit because you want them to commit to your cause. They commit for theirs – and only when they want to. They commit either when it works for them, benefits them; they want to do it for you – which again is a choice whose locus rests with them and not you. Knowing, discovering and triggering your teams commitment is a rare art – but so is leadership.
Just because people have complied does not mean they are committed.
 Guru




Monday, July 15, 2013

179 Monday Musings: Bhag Milkha Bhag

179 Monday Musings: Bhag Milkha Bhag
It is difficult not to be moved by the story of the iconic Milkha Singh and despite cinematic excesses in the movie ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’(BMB) by the thoughtful Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, it is difficult to come out of the movie without being inspired, in small measure or large. You can treat this musing as a kind of movie review along with how the tale touched.
Partition continues to intrigue me. In story after story, where partition is the central character or in other stories where partition is like the subtext, hanging like a shadow, the bloodiest part of the subcontinent’s history has left individuals, families, communities and nations with memories. The angst and literary expression it has generated is rivalled only with the one generated by the holocaust. However it is clearly not been dissected with as many nuances and perspectives. I guess we are not as fearless and large hearted in dealing with our past and its demons. The impact of the partition on the impressionable young Milkha, despite its barbaric nature has been dealt with sensitivity. One would almost miss the humanity of the maulvi saving Milkha’s childhood friend, raising him as his own and getting him married as an alternative narrative to the mayhem and bloodshed. As the friend quips in a scene, ‘Those times were mad and not people’.
The story to finding his calling in running is beautifully told. Children of disasters must find their calling in something that takes their mind away from the pain, grief and squalor around them; otherwise these have a way of sucking human beings into a bottomless abyss. What better way of dealing with them but to drain your body of every ounce of energy, not leaving enough even to brood, complain and be depressed. Running is a release. Running to the level of having tested your limits, is liberating.
Farhan Akhtar’s chiselled body is a treat to watch. For most middle aged men with mild to more pronounced paunches, his physique is not only a treat to watch but also a matter of envy. He plays the physicality of the celebrated athlete with √©lan, but misses the plot in portraying the punjabiness of the character. He looks out of place in depicting the demeanour, diction and earthliness of a Punjabi youth of the 60’s. He betrays the Bandra-boy roots.
In my view, the crown goes to Divya dutta, who plays the elder sister to the young Milkha. There are two sequences that will make eyes moist. The one where she finds Milkha amongst the survivors and the other when Milkha returns from the army and makes her wear his India blazer. We are told through other accounts that the real Milkha Singh considers the influence of his elder sister as pivotal and through the movie it’s not difficult to see why. If I had the powers I would give Divya two things – this year’s best supporting actress award and second a big hug.
Finally a word on film making. I wish we make more biopics and more sports movies. Our cinematic record sucks on both these counts. Till that time, kudos to Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra for bringing us this story. I hope that it inspires yet another generation, not only to run but how to live. 
Guru 
 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

178 Monday Musings: The conspiracy of coincidences

178 Monday Musings: The conspiracy of coincidences

I got introduced to this phrase the day before yesterday and ever since it has been swarming on my mind like a beehive. The basic premise of the phrase is that coincidences, particularly the positive ones, have their own algorithms. They are not isolated or random as they appear to be. When things happen in a way that everything falls in place or when people turn up to help and solve when you are stuck in the most unimaginable way or when breakthroughs fall in your lap or an unrelated chain of events creates ripples which land at your feet, one cannot help but smile at the conspiracy of coincidences. 

I have heard many recount how their project was stuck for long in either bureaucratic maze or resource crunch or a difficult roadblock and then suddenly someone appeared from nowhere and solved it for no apparent gain of his. The conspiracy of coincidence is the savior. 

There are times when you are nursing a dilemma that has become the sore of your soul and you meet someone at the airport or the train and the casual conversation meanders through banalities and reaches exactly at the doorstep of your dilemma. You find that the stranger has been through it or is going through it, and in the course of the conversation either gives you an insight which you were missing it all this while or a solution that your were blinded to or makes you feel puny in the petty way you were relating to the crisis. You are amazed at the conspiracy of coincidence. How did he know what your were thinking or going through?

You are reading a book, researching a subject, following an author and the new joinee at office seems to have researched the subject in a detail that you can't even imagine. He adds a new zing to your pursuit and makes you widen the audacity of your ambitions. You cannot thank the conspiracy of coincidence enough. 

You are nursing a relationship ache. If you are dramatic you will believe it is the end of the world, if your are a realist you will believe it was meant to happen and move ahead and if you are a pragmatist you will find the silver lining - in all possibilities there is a great chance that you are left disillusioned. Just when you are at the tethering end of the rope, dangling precariously from the precipice, you meet someone who is either so naive and happy that you feel guilty at your own corruption of soul and ask yourself 'did i give up a tad too early', or he is so optimistic that you tell yourself 'let me give happiness one more chance'. Either ways, you are thankful to the conspiracy of coincidence, which saved your soul.

I guess, the rainbow of life lends such conspiracies to make it more tolerable or enjoyable - the perspective however is yours.

Guru

Saturday, June 1, 2013

177 Monday Musings: Total Recall

177 Monday Musings: Total Recall

What makes companies recall leaders, either in management positions or on the board, after they have either retired or have been sacked before? Narayan Murthy, the venerated founder of the iconic software giant Infosys has been called back to be its executive Chairman. A few days ago, on the other side of the world P & G recalled A.G. Lafley as its chief executive officer after having retired from the company in 2009. The legendary Steve Jobs who was fired from the company he co founded, Apple, was called back to change its fortunes in 1997. Similarly Howard Schultz reentered Starbucks and created a success story. I am sure there are more, some which have worked spectacularly and some which have not. 

These are of course high profile examples that are being talked about in the press, but everyday in organisations this issue gets played out in dozens, and without much fanfare. At its heart, such recalls betray a fundamental question, are some people more indispensable than others? One might couch such recalls in sophisticated glibness, but it boils down to a plea-on-the-knees to such knights in shining armory, 'please-save-us'. Its nothing but an SOS!

Where does that leave the celebrated HR process called 'succession planning'? Can it be really planned? Does a process, fitted with objective talent assessments, development plans, shadow learning, coaching and the whole nine yard of it, guarantee success for the incumbent? Almost everyday, vacuum gets created when incumbents hang up their boots or are shown the door in everyday roles and one is left wondering, if the organisation got it wrong. As the downward slide begins, there is denial to begin with, artificial patience is discovered in the name of giving time, because no one wants to admit that they messed it up, and finally when the stink goes out to the neighborhood, a suitable explanation or scapegoat is found. 

But what if everyone genuine believed that the replacement was indeed capable to shoulder the responsibility, but the cookie crumbled in an entirely different way? What if a fool proof succession planning is actually a myth, a conceptual impossibility?

Yet another dimension to all of this is what is the message you are sending to different stakeholders. The customers, shareholders and the markets will be delighted because they draw comfort from familiarity and track record. But how do employees view this? Employees, usually at one or two levels below the incumbent might view this as the return of glass ceiling? They might view this as a delay in their own aspirations, which impacts their engagement and motivation. A sense of indispensability around one has the potential for alienating dozens. 

Guru



Monday, May 13, 2013

176 Monday Musings: First Jobs

176 Monday Musings: First Jobs

First jobs are always special. They linger on forever. You remember them for a variety of reasons. 
You remember them for not knowing the head or tail of what you have to do. You remember them for the long hours of instructions and endless days of meaningless information overload, euphemistically called induction training. Since no one department can handle fresh nincompoops for a very long time, hence they would shuttle you from one department to another in the name of rotational training, so that by the time the first year is complete everyone knows how utterly useless you and your education is for the real world and from your side you become completely disillusioned by the way the corporate world works. 

For every query, a manual, a section, a sub section and a policy is thrown at you. There is a travel policy which tells you that the kind of hotel that you would want to live in is always beyond your band and that all local travels must have details of where you went and with whom, which often is something you are not willing to divulge. For example why would you tell them that you took the afternoon off and went to have beer with freshers like you and indulge in competitive bitching about whose job sucks the most. There is a leave policy that you need to memorize  even though leaves don't apply to newbies like you. There is promotion policy that you are shown as a tantalizing carrot, but which is something you are not even allowed to imagine for the next three years. 

First job is remembered for endless trips to the printer, photocopier, the printing press and any other clerk job that all seniors did when they were freshers, but now want you to do it, positioned to you as learning the basics, but in reality nothing less than revenge. You often stay till the last because everyone believes, because you are a fresher you do do not have a life, not at least a social one. They believe, like normal human beings, you do not feel hungry or feel the need to sleep every once in a while. They also believe that dumping more work just when you are about to leave for the day at 10 in the night is preparing you for larger things to come. First job teaches you the virtues of smiling at gross stupidity, tolerating lack of logic and finally warming up to the idea that the longer people have been here the more skeletons they have to hide. You learn more about the office politics. cliques, coteries, cabals and history from the guard, pantry boy the housekeeping staff and the lowly support staff, something the HR department inadvertently forgot to mention in their induction. 

The good news is that everyone remembers his first job, at least the normal ones do. The bad news is only a few remember who they were and how they were then. Considering what they end up becoming, its a good thing to remember. Check it out!

Guru

Sunday, May 5, 2013

175 Monday Musings: On Road

175 Monday Musings: On Road

Indian roads may be bad for the back but are are balm for the soul. Road travel by and large will score over on all other modes of travel . Air travel is aseptic, clinical and wholesomely lacks character. Train travel is poetic in many ways, at least second class long distance certainly is. More on that some other time,  Road travel is a lot like life. 

Like life, one can chose the road one takes but cannot predict the twists and turns, the traffic and signals, the climb and the fall. Like life, you can make broad calculations about how much time you will take to reach the destination and how comfortably you will accomplish the journey, but beyond that the road journey has a mind of its own. It will slow you down when you least expect it, it will run unperturbed and smooth in patches and then it will run into a rough patch where it will only inch. Many a times you have to take a detour, a diversion because the roadblock is substantial. When the going is good one should make the most of it to cover maximum ground, because you will lose time when the going becomes tough. There will be stops, and you must stop to reinvigorate, both your body as well as the machine you are making this journey on. Rarely but sometimes you may also realize that you have taken the wrong road. 

The road also teaches you to not to speed too much that you lose sight of the view. There is great fun in absorbing the terrain, the barren nothingness that separates habitation, the isolated tree in wilderness holding fort, the wavy hillocks which may have been mountains of yore, the one man walking to his fields out of nowhere. The road travel makes you aware of nothingness and makes you appreciate the calm that lies between cities. One can see life coming in slow motion as one speeds down the road and at that 80kmph. 

At that speed, the mind also becomes fertile. The mind can become still and you can hear the silence in your head, something that you so terribly lack caught up in the din and bustle of existence. The mind at 80kmph can thoughtful and sensitive and can start relaying memories of the past, love and hate of today and vision of the future. It uplifts you to a new level of awareness, should you chose to listen to it. The loneliness of the road tells you of the futility of so many things. You can meet yourself during such a road trip. You may even begin the journey of reclaiming it. 

Guru

Sunday, April 28, 2013

174 Monday Musings: Two movies

174 Monday Musings: Two movies

Most movies tell stories. Some become stories. The eighties were generally tacky, gaudy, loud, preposterous, formula flicks which, as some would argue represented the worst phase of Indian cinema. There were typical formulas, of brothers separating, village thakur as the villain  who would often kill the honest father, revenge, the avenging of the sister's honor, a few dances with a dozen costumes, and a hapless crying mother. One cringes when he sees any one of those horrible ones on the TV, even though i am told there is a fan club of that genre of movies, who get together to watch them for old time sake. Clearly, an imminently forgettable phase of Indian Hindi cinema. 

As the eighties was drawing to a close and around 1990, two movies got released and i would argue they represented a decisive shift in Hindi cinema. Qyamat se Qyamat tak, otherwise known as QSQT, a love story with brilliant songs under the absolutely fresh music director duo Jatin Lalit and directed by the young Mansoor Khan, brought back the genre of romance back after almost a decade. Most importantly, the movie spoke the language of the youth, its impatience with the restrictive structures of those times, pretty much coinciding with the build up to the 1991 economic reforms and the anti Mandal commission agiatation. Indian youth was wanting to be freed, and QSQT became a smashing hit riding on that wave. The death of the leading couple at the hands of fighting elders only galvanized the youth to fight against regressive world views. Good melody came back to prominence in an industry which was flooded with cheeky lyrics and extremely forgettable tunes for quite some time then. Interestingly, QSQT celebrates 25 years this year and I am told Amir Khan is planning to do a get together. I hope he also talks about how, in a limited sense, critical was the movie in the history of cinema and the social history of India. 

Ashiqui got released right at the beginning of the 90's, and represented the rush of melody back in Indian cinema. The leading pair, unknown small stars, under the hero's jacket adorned the covers of the T series magnetic tape cassettes. The music was a smashing hit because it was hummable, brought by the brand new Nadeem Shravan, sung by then unknown singers, under the tutelage of the slain music baron Gulashan Kumar - all of them to become household names within years. Ashiqui taught everyone that good music can sell and it can shoulder the entire movie if good enough. India opended its eyes post Mandal, post reforms with the songs of Ashiqui on its lips. Last week Ashiqui 2 was released as a tribute to its predecessor. Whatever be the merits of the movie, it is unlikely that it will capture the youth's imagination in this version as the first version did, owing purely to the circumstances then and the fact that it broke new ground. 

Most movies tell stories, some become stories, for what they end up being associated with. 

Guru

QSQT was the first movie i saw in a theatre. I was 15. Ashiqui was the first cassette i bought. I was 17. I guess that makes both of them personally significant. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

173 Monday Musings: The Signs

173 Monday Musings: The Signs
We look for signs all the time in life, for approval, validation and permission.
Different cultures treat various events, objects and occurrences as good omen or bad. For example in India sneezing or a black cat crossing your way when you are beginning something is considered as a bad sign, but finding a penny in western culture is associated with good luck.  Animals can be symbols of good luck in various cultures like, dolphins ancient Greece, pigs in Germanic cultures, tortoise in Feng Shui, and Red bats and tigers in Chinese cultures. Gifting certain things can be associated with good omens like gifting a laughing Buddha or a used horseshoe, or bamboo. On the other hand breaking a mirror, spilling salt, walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella inside, putting new shoes on the table or calling someone from behind as he is leaving home forebodes bad luck.
Beyond good and bad signs and omens, certain concurrent events are considered indicative. For example repeated sneezing means someone is remembering you, when a lizard makes a sound as you have said something indicates that it is true, crowing of crow means guests are on their way, itching on the right palm means you will receive money.
The ones described above are institutionalised superstition and signs, however we also have our personal signs that help us take decisions, get validated and offer hope. Let me share some that i have heard from friends and foes alike.
A friend wrote the name of the prospective groom on one chit with two blanks and picked one in front of the household deity to see if the divine was blessing the union. Another friend, who was quite attached to her father, discovered her feelings for a gentleman, on the precise day she was attending  her father’s death anniversary, treated it as her father blessing the relationship. Yet another friend, considers the company he works for the best for him, because it’s the name of his mother.
We are unsure and insecure deep inside. We find comfort in innocuous things, events and coincidences, which we consider as signs of divine providence. It assures us, and come to think of it, what is wrong with it.
Look around – there are signs for everything.  
Guru 

Monday, March 25, 2013

172 Monday Musings: The four cases of nuts!


172 Monday Musings: The four cases of nuts!

In my younger days, I held the belief that a person choosing to study psychology was in dire straits and was perhaps studying the subject as a cover for his need to be go through therapy. Overall it indicated to me a study of those who had lost it. Luckily there are always plenty of those who had lost it, and for the want of a better word, were popularly christened as nuts. I don’t know what they had against nuts. These nuts are not be eaten, but to avoided. When your opinions elicit dismay, crossed eyebrows, surprise, and when the listener is unable to take it any further, even a groan, then you must know that you have earned the dubious distinction of being called a nutcase. You might have company, but that still will not limit your power to destabilise social harmony. If it was not for politeness that people studied in the moral science lessons, you might have a broken skull long time ago. You might earn the epithet of a nut by any of the following methods. Your mental models resemble the Neanderthal, your tastes resembles the primitives, your jokes are an assault on senses, your decision making process must be framed and put in the museum and your take on things might prove life on mars!
On the other hand, you are simply amazed how everyone disagrees with you violently,  is always hyper with their reaction to your views, are at their edges when they have to deal with you, are ready to pick up a fight even when you make a harmless suggestion – overall they all seem to be, well – nuts. Bingo, that is yet another proof of Newtonian brilliance, that ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’.
There are four ways in which a sentence around nuts can be structured and has to be interpreted appropriately, a failure to do so leading to disastrous consequences.
Case 1 :‘Are you nuts or what?’ is not a question germinating out of curiosity, it is a statement of finally, stamped, notarised and registered!. Do not be fooled by the question mark, it exists to mislead you that your view about the question matters and your answer will make a difference.
Case 2: ‘You  must be nuts’ is a judgement proclaimed with the sanctity of the Supreme court. It cannot be questioned or opined upon. You can always look forward to a Presidential pardon, but a reputation tarnished is damage done. As far as the person who has issued the statement to you is concerned, the verdict is out. You better find a way to deal with it.
Case 3 :‘You are a nutcase’ indicates that you are congenitally deformed and there is no hope for correction and cure. It is proclaimed when the attempt is make you feel less guilty about your nutcase status as all blame can be assigned to interplay of the XX and YY chromosomes, sourced obviously from your predecessors.
Case 4: ‘Are you nuts!’ Well, don’t lose the exclamation mark because it is the only sign that differentiates it from case 1. It is expressed as a surprise, almost a shock, mostly pleasant, and often by the fairer gender to express the absolute unimaginable joy, amongst other things, of finding the right shade of nail paint, getting the Gucci bag in a bargain, finding a new shop that sells clothes that you don’t need etc. 

Guru