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

Traditions.

The inspiration for this topic came from a character in the novel A Peoples’ History Of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian. The character is a professional rangoli artist. In my childhood, I distinctly remember rangoli being drawn every morning outside our homes and the logic for it. The images were always drawn with rice flour and the belief and also the fact was that ants would come to eat the flour. Why feed the ants? So that they did not come inside the homes to look for food and also the traditional belief that we are obliged to feed all creatures big and small in whatever way that we can. That tradition of rangoli disappeared from our lives over the years due to urbanisation and moving into flats / apartments but, feeding creatures continues to be practiced quite widely. In my own home, we had the tradition of feeding crows, doves, sparrows and squirrels till urbanisation took its toll but, my children feed stray dogs and cats in our neighbourhood every day and also during the day time when at least one particular tabby cat comes meowing for food a few times.

Many other traditions have disappeared from families due to the pressures of modern life and one that I miss most is the original use for our festivals for the families to come together for a few days of feasting and fellowship. On the other hand, some traditions like respect for elders and taking their blessings continues to exist though even that seems to be disappearing with replacement with modern Hellos and other forms of greetings.

Most families and other groups have traditions that they follow without having any idea as to how they started or the logic for them and I share below two stories to illustrate such traditions.

1. We visited our newly married daughter, who was preparing her first Thanksgiving dinner. I noticed the turkey thawing in the kitchen sink with a dish drainer inverted over the bird. I asked why a drainer covered the turkey.

Our daughter turned to my wife and said, “Mom, you always did it that way.”

“Yes,” my wife replied, “but you don’t have a cat!”

2. When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

I came up with the idea for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog posts where Shackman and I write on the same subject. Please do go over to his blog to see what he has to say about the topic but, before you do, please enjoy this song,

The Irishman.

My readers have perhaps noticed that I have stopped reviewing movies. I stopped going to movies because of the need to walk long distances in the malls where the multiplexes were located and my COPD came in the way of doing that comfortably. Somehow, despite Netflix, Amazon Prime and what else have you, having been installed at home by the younger generation, I never got around to watch any except the rare one which I happened to see if they were watching earlier than their normal time in the late nights.

I however sat up late last night for three and a half hours and watched The Irishman as, I just could not resist the temptation of seeing De Niro, Pacino and Pesci in a Martin Scorsese directed film. Thanks to its being available in Netflix I did this much to my satisfaction.

For people of my age, the characters in the film, Jimmy Hoffa, the Kennedy brothers, Nixon the mafia dons etc were familiar figures and just having finished reading Ken Follet’s Edge Of Eternity where some of these personalities feature too, it was an orgy of nostalgia for those days of wonder. Once again synchronicity playing a memorable role in my life.

For those of my vintage, this is a must see film. The characterisation, cinematography and direction with period details are simply magnificent. I intend seeing it again after some time to catch up on some dialogues that I think I did not quite catch due to poor reception.

Spirituality And The Media.

This week’s Friday 2 on 1 fascinating topic has been chosen by Shackman. I am really curious to know quite what he will have to say on it and, I am sure, so will you be. So, without much delay, please go over to his blog to find out for yourself.

For me, the most important media is the print one. I prefer that to any other and I am lost without my quota of newspapers, periodicals and books. The largest of these is the newspaper one and India’s largest, The Times Group in two of its publications offers daily small stories and every Sunday, publishes a suplement devoted entirely to Spiritualism.


The next in the Print series will be my monthly dose of publications from five separate institutions, though three of them belong to the same order, The Sri Ramakrishna Mission.

The next in line for me are shows on religious / spiritual themes on our television channels. India has a long history of such serials starting with the famous Ramayana Series by Ramanand Sagar in the eighties. Today too, there are any number of channels offering such fare and I watch one on Sai Baba Of Shirdi every week day for half an hour.

India has any number of Godmen as they are called derisively by the sophisticates, and I occasionally get links through WhatsApp to Youtube broadcasts on spiritual matters by some of them. Here is one by Satguru, a very popular religious leader which should amuse my American readers.

One also gets bombarded by messages on spiritual and religious matters via WhatsApp, email and SMS messages, all using modern social media and I often get quite annoyed at the sheer volume of stuff that I have to delete every day.

I can therefore conclude that this must be the single largest subject for modern media and I am sure that my readers will agree.

Time For Some Fun.

My fellow Friday 2 on 1 blogger Shackman has suggested this week’s topic as “Time For Some Fun” and gives three topics. Please go over to his blog to see what he has to say about this topic.

Favourite song lyrics.
Most overrated book/series.
Fave movie in the last year.

The first one is very simple for me. It is this poignant song that has been a ear worm for me for decades.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago.

The next one – Most overrated book/series.

For me, it is a no brainer. It is How To Make Friends And Influence People. . In my not so humble opinion, it is the most superficial way to establish relationships and not for long term ties. The less said the better about this book that made many people snake oil salesmen.

The last one – Fave movie in the last year. For me it was Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.

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.