A Common Enemy.

No, I will not talk about the latest common enemy.  For me, the common enemy has been for many decades, the idea of “the other”.  Mind you, I am talking about the idea and not “the other”.

“The other” has been the bane of human beings from time immemorial and there does not seem to be any end to it, not at least in my life time.

Let us take the most common today.  Islamophobia.  A conference of some Heads of Islamic States was recently held to address this issue. This is a global phenomenon and locally in India, I have recently been reading some very explosive material on the alienation that the Muslims in India feel. The first one is this book from a young mother and the other is from two very knowledgeable and erudite Muslims of India.

All the three links given above will give my readers some idea about the problems faced by the Islamic world in general and the Muslims of India. I am particularly concerned about the latter as it can have serious repercussions in the next few years with Right Wing nationalism growing in India, Pakistan imploding and Bangladesh in an economic crisis. If the problems faced by the two countries result in a refugee problem in India, there will be a major upheaval which I would rather that did not take place.

Let us talk about some other kind of “Others”. Here is an instance of old people becoming the other. I would very much like to meet this worthy when and if he ever gets to be as old as the people that he suggests die for the cause.

Need I say anything about the biggest “Other”, gender?

Every community has its share of “The Others”, thanks to inadequate education of the different types of people, religions, languages, colour, appearance etc and prejudices and fear drive bigotry and hate crimes besides discrimination.

The latest in the line of many “The Others” is China, thanks to the Coronavirus. It is extrememly difficult to determine how much of it is fact and how much just fake news but, the damage is being done.

If we delve deep into our prejudices, we will find enough and more “others” to keep us discussing them till kingdom come. I have just listed a few here to give a pointer to the IDEA of “The Other” as being our number one Common Enemy.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, Padmum and Shackman and Conrad.   Conrad incidentally, is the original founder of the weekly bloggers group formed way back in 2009. This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Unemployed.

I received this image as a forward in WhatsApp from a friend who felt that I should get some printed like this for myself.

I did not think that this would serve any purpose for me but, on seeing it as a forward from me, another friend who has the necessary infrastructure of an office with staff suggested that he order for a hundred cards with my name and with some modifications.

I agreed and when it gets printed, I shall write another blog post on it.

In the meanwhile, the “Unemployed” description on the card took me to one of my favourite exchange of letters in The Economist between a reader and The Undercover Economist.

The Letter.

AUGUST 6, 2005

Dear Economist,

My son-in-law has been unemployed for a couple of months now. As far as I can make out, he’s enjoying a PlayStation lifestyle while being supported by the state and by my daughter, who has had to find a temporary job. What concerns me is that he’ll get used to this. Should I tell my daughter to apply pressure by quitting her job?

Yours sincerely,

Godfrey Pickens, via email

The Response.

Dear Mr. Pickens,

The issue here is whether your son-in-law’s preferences will change over time—will he “get used” to a life of leisure, and so be less likely to work?

There are two competing views here. One is that he will become hooked on leisure (the welfare trap hypothesis) and will work less in the future, even if his wife quits her job. The other, equally plausible in theory, is that he will become addicted to the extra income provided by his wife’s new job, and if she quits, he will go on to work harder than before.

Such competing hypotheses have been hard to test in the past. But economist John Kagel has succeeded in running a series of experiments that shed light on the matter.

Kagel first forces his subjects to work for their income. Then, for a while, he provides them a substantial unearned income—a kind of welfare, if you will. Unsurprisingly, they slack off at once. Later, he withdraws the welfare and observes whether they work more or less than before welfare had ever been paid. The answer: the interlude on welfare makes very little difference.

This implies that your daughter should keep working for a while and see what happens. No harm will result. The only question for you is whether Kagel’s findings apply to your son-in-law.

Kagel’s subjects were rats. Do you think the parallel with your
son-in-law is close enough?

Yours experimentally,

The Undercover Economist

Courtesies.


As my readers know, I am a newspaper addict and I wait for my dose of them every morning with bated breath. As soon as I hear the newspaper boy drop them outside the door to our flat, I stop doing whatever I am doing to go over, open the door and retrieve them.

A little explanation. We have two doors to our flat, one solid wooden inside and a screen mesh one outside. We had installed the outside one as an added protection when we first moved in here almost thirty years ago as, then our neighbourhood was in the boondocks and still being developed. The problem with the outside screen door is that it opens out to the landing from where the stair case to go up to the first and second floor flats start.

After the newspapers are dropped off outside our door, the young man charges upstairs to both the floors to drop off papers for the four flats there. On his return, often it happens that I have to wait for him to pass before I can fully open the outside door so that it does not hamper his exit. When he sees this, he inevitably bends down, picks up the papers from the floor dusts them off and hands them over to me with a cheerful “good morning” and when I thank him, with a “you are welcome” and pushes off.

This morning, he went one step further. He must have seen me sitting in our veranda having my morning mug of tea and so decided to come over to the outside of the veranda and handed over the papers to me through the grill. I was overwhelmed. He is not on my payroll nor do we have a relationship other than the morning greetings whenever we meet each other.

Remarkable, in these times of break neck speed and hurry to spare such thoughts and extend a small but meaningful courtesy to a senior citizen. All that I could do was to mentally give him my blessings for his thoughtfulness. May his tribe increase.

That exchange led me to dig out this clip by Simon Sinek to look at the real world.  This morning was my porcelain cup for just the reason that I am a senior citizen!

Marriage.

The idea for this title for our weekly 2 on 1 Friday post where Shackman and I write on the same subject came to me when I received the following piece of humour from a friend:

Today is ‘World Marriage Day.Let us keep 2 minutes’ silence and read some quotes of fellow – sufferers.

A few interesting
*GLOBAL OPINIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE* :

After marriage, husband and wife become two sides of a coin, they just can’t face each other, but still they stay together.
– Al Gore

By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.
– Socrates

Women inspire us to great things, and prevent us from achieving them.
– Mike Tyson

I had some words with my wife, and she had some paragraphs with me.
– Bill Clinton

“There’s a way of transferring funds that is even faster than electronic banking. It’s called marriage.”
– Michael Jordan

A good wife always forgives her husband when she’s wrong.
– Barack Obama

When you are in love,
Wonders happen.
But once you get married,
You wonder, what happened.

I was a married man for forty years and never once had to crack a joke on the institution. My late wife used to say that it was because I was hardly at home due to the travelling nature of my job and so, whenever I was at home, I just enjoyed the comforts and security of home and was not exposed to the other realities that other stay at home husbands did. By the time I retired or chose to retire due to her illness, the nature of the relationship changed and there was no scope for humour.

We got married according to Vedic rites the most important parts of which are the seven circumambulations that the couple take around a sacred fire.

After that ritual, this is the shloka from Vivaha Karmakandaa that every bridegroom is made to recite after taking the seven steps holding the hand of the bride around the fire. I too did.

धैरहम पृथ्वीवित्वं
रथोहं रेथोभूतत्वं
मनोहंसमिवाकतवम
सामहंसमि क्षुत्तृत्वं
सा माँ अनुव्रता भवा.

Dhairaham pruthviveethvam.
Rethoham rethobhuthathvam
Manohamsamivaakathvam
Saamahamsami kshuthruthvam
Saa maa anuvrthaa bhava.

“I am the sky and you are the earth. I am the giver of energy and you are the receiver. I am the mind and you are the word. I am music and you are the song. You and I follow each other.”

How beautiful! We did indeed follow each other for as long as her health lasted. When it failed, we got joined at the hips as it were and that lasted for another eight years till death did part us.

Like all relationships, we had our ups and downs but, mostly it was all ups. There was rare chemistry between us which I think was due to our having been friends for eight years before we decided to get married. I can honestly say that it was a successful marriage.

I despair at the frequency with which modern marriages break down but I understand that the world has changed and different value systems and pressures operate now than those that prevailed in our youth and middle ages.

Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the subject.

The Old And The New.

A friend of mine had posted this on his Facebook page.

I was fascinated with this observation for its depth and truth but also its appeal at the superficial level. I decided to change it to reflect  the physical aspect and came up with this one.

I wanted to insert an older photograph of mine but, I was too lazy to go to my collection of hard copies and spend time looking for one. Facebook came to my rescue and gave me this photograph with my siblings and two cousins which my sister had posted some years ago.

Rear row from the left, my late father, I, my late younger brother Arvind, my uncle’s driver Narayanaswamy;  front row from left, my younger brother Barath, my sister Padmini, cousin Gayathri and her elder brother Ramani.  Another important fellow, the brother between Gayathri and Ramani, Shankar, is missing as he was playing hard to get to pose for the photograph.  This was taken in one of the ubiquitous photographer’s studios that used to proliferate those days.

I took a cropped version of me alone, to show how I looked when I was about twelve, circa 1955.  The occasion, was a day’s outing to a temple outside Chennai, then known as Madras.

When I sent the middle image to my friends and family on WhatsApp I received some amazing responses about how either I have not changed at all (!!!) or, how I am still as handsome as I was then and so on!  Very flattering but, the point was totally missed!

The outer scores over the inner.

Leadership.

My exposure to good leadership started when I was eighteen years old in a brand new sales job reporting to a young MBA from Boston University. This man was neither the boss nor the leader shown above but, a mentor. He saw something in me that tickled his fancy and asked his most successful sales person to take me under his wing to train me.

That Super salesman, let us call him SSM, took me under his wing literally as well as metaphorically and taught me things that have lasted as part of my personality till today. Two of the most significant things that have stayed with me and which wisdom I in turn, have passed on to innumerable mentees are: 1. Be very good in your job, constantly try to be the best among the colleagues and;  2. Build up a healthy bank balance and keep it growing.

At that impressionable age, I could understand the first maxim but, I had to ask SSM to explain why the second maxim was necessary. That wise old man told me that one never knows when one will come across a superior who will not accept or appreciate your ability and the best thing to do under the circumstances will be to quit and seek your fortune elsewhere. The bank balance will help you tide over the period of unemployment.

The second maxim succinctly explains leadership problems that subordinates face as, there will be different types of people in positions of authority and all of them need not be good leaders or even bosses, and could well be monsters.

Many other persons in authority came into my life and,  three were particularly great leaders and mentors who ensured that I performed well and in turn became a good leader / manager.  Naturally, I also came across many who were neither good leaders nor mentors but they gave me lessons on how not to be.  I also had the amazing experience of working for some narcissists who come under a different category altogether.  A book can be written about my experiences with those worthies but, I learnt a great deal from them too.

Early in my managerial career, I came across a formula that enabled me to be effective in managerial positions and something that as a mentor, I passed on to my mentees too.  This formula is CCDO.

The first C is Connectedness.  This implies good relationships with one’s superiors, colleagues and subordinates.

The second C is Constancy.  Constancy in maintaining the relationships.

The D is for Dignity.  Giving and demanding dignity in all relationships.

The O is for Opportunity.  This implies the ability to provide opportunities to all connected with one to perform well and progress.  Providing the opportunity would also imply providing the wherewithal to exploit the opportunity.

All the good leaders that I have come across in my life have inevitably shown these characteristics.

There is another important element that often comes into play in leadership and that is what I would call situational.  There are people who provide great leadership under particular circumstances but fail to under normal circumstances.  I am sure that my readers will readily identify many in their circles who feature this trait.  The most famous of such leaders was Winston Churchill who was a great leader during WWII but flopped as one during post war peace time.   I have come across many such individuals and as I write this, I am in touch with one particular person who is providing such leadership under totally unexpected conditions.  Once the crisis is over, I am sure that this individual will revert to his earlier placid role in his circles and I would be very surprised if he would be comfortable in that role later.

An important element in leadership is the exercise of power. I refrain from writing on that for now as a book can be written on that subject alone. For those who are interested, one book that impressed me a great deal in my formative years and which also helped me exercising power effectively was and continues to be The Anatomy Of Power.

To bring some humour to this rather serious post, here is something that should cheer up many of my readers who would have come across such bosses in their lives.

I hope that you have found this 2 on 1 Friday blog post interesting and I request you to go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the topic that he  has suggested.