“No more fiendish punishment could be devised than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead” and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would well up in us”

~ William James.

In India we not only have status based on class, we have it based on caste and also a combination of both.  Neither matter under some special “circumstances”.

Let me share a recent story.  I had gone to a party where I was introduced to a highflying executive.  While his present status was clearly mentioned, mine was simply mentioned as a Senior Citizen of Pune.  In fact, the host had no idea whatsoever as to who I was and I was there only because his son wanted to meet me as he had brought a book for me from the USA from another friend.

This executive after exchanging pleasantries disappeared and I did not meet him again that evening.

Last week, I had invited two friends for lunch at my club and we were busy chatting about a project that we are involved in when the same executive happened to pass by and stopped at my table to say hello while his host was delighted to see me there as he had not seen me for a while.  It registered on the executive that I too was a member of the club and his entire demeanour changed.  He insisted on sharing his visiting card with me and said that he would like to come over and meet me at home.  All because I am a member of that club.  A status symbol if any thing, and one that explains what status can do to individuals. This incident was still fresh in my mind when I suggested the topic.

Once a tiger entered the washroom in a Corporate Office and hid in a dark corner.
Many people frequented the washroom, after four days it couldn’t bear hunger anymore, so it caught a man who had come in, and ate him.

This man happened to be an Assistant General Manager in the organisation but, nobody noticed his disappearance.

Since nothing untoward happened, the Tiger became bolder and after two days caught another man and ate him.

This man was the General Manager of the organisation.

Still, nobody worried over his disappearance.

Next day, the Tiger caught the Vice President who was a terror in the organisation. Again nothing happened.

Then Tiger caught a man who had entered the washroom while balancing a tray of teacups in one hand.

Within 15 minutes a huge hue and cry ensued, and everyone in the office started looking for the man. The search team reached the washroom, flushed out the Tiger and saved the unconscious man. He was the tea boy in the office.


*It is not the position, but our usefulness to others that makes us loveable and respectable. If your subordinates are happy in your absence that means you are not a perfect leader.*

From the book *Tiger in the Toilet*

This topic has been suggested by me for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog posts.  Please go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the subject.


20 thoughts on “Status.”

  1. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead” and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would well up in us.”

    Not necessarily. Something like that happened to me several years ago in a group I was attending. There was a reason for my going to it, but some of the people there acted like cliquish 6th graders and behaved as James described. I simply ignored them and always brought a book to read or puzzles to solve when waiting for the business of the meeting to start. That’s one of the great perks of growing older.

    1. Forgive me, Jean, but the first question coming to my mind reading your comment: What did YOU do to break into that “clique?.

      By “simply ignoring them, always bringing a book to read or a puzzle to solve” won’t have exactly given off the vibe that you are interested and approachable. Sometimes it takes time to connect. But you have to put the effort in, even if those efforts come to nothing at first.

      And, WHAT is “one of the great perks of growing older”? Sitting all on your own? You wouldn’t have related the above episode if being/feeling excluded hadn’t stung. Ramana seems to be the gregarious type, drawing people to him. That doesn’t happen if your attempt at joining in is half hearted, sending clear signals by quickly closing yourself off. A mechanism of self protection? Nothing wrong with it but should be recognized for what it is rather than making a virtue out of it. Age doesn’t come into it as, I suspect, you know well from your life’s experience.


    2. We differ in our personalities Monk. I would have tried to break the ice and if that did not work, I would have simply abandoned that group. I have plenty on my plate without getting involved with a bunch of snobs.

      1. I did try to be friendly and break the ice the first few times, but there was some meanness going on — it does happen at times. My usual approach would be not to go back, but there was a reason for continuing and ignoring that part of the situation. It was a very unusual situation, it didn’t take a lot of my time and didn’t last forever, so my approach worked just fine. One could call my approach passive aggressive, because they were aware of the message I was sending and it tickled me.

        And James is partially correct, it wouldn’t have worked if I didn’t have enough people in my life whose eyes lit up when they saw me. They didn’t have to be with me in that situation.

  2. A great story about the tiger, and so true to life. It reminds us that a business can well do without the senior figures for a while as it’s the lower-grade employees who actually do all the routine stuff that keeps the business going. And like the tea boy, they’re the ones who’re missed very quickly if they’re not there to make the tea, fix the photocopier or change the light bulbs.

  3. It is a great ego deflator that story. I remember thinking in my younger “important” years at work that they couldn’t carry on without me only to realize of course they could and did. Fabulous filing clerks, however, were like treasures and just about irreplaceable.


  4. I can’t comment on your ‘Tiger Tail .. Oops ! .. Tale’, but I do recall how many years ago I decided to join a local golf club. I should point out that I was a lousy golfer and never thought that I would pass the test of playing nine holes with the club captain, who just happened to be a local bank manager. Another ‘prospect’ joined us for the test. He just happened to be in ‘finance’ in The City of London. I might just as well not have been present for the nine holes, but I did pass the test !

    1. I can well imagine that situation John and I wish that I had been there to see the scenario! I have had a few experiences like that too but now can look back and laugh at them.

  5. Hi Rummy,

    You have the gift of discussing deep issues in a very light fashion. Social Status can be useful but it is not vital in interpersonal relations. Besides, how much of it is related to ego? I ask this because if she wants to a person can downplay, if not erase from public attention, one’s social status and people will never notice; but if a person needs public recognition then she will never miss the opportunity to flash it (especially if the Status is high or apparently high). We could spend a whole afternoon discussing this topic…

    Cheers, my friend 🙂

    1. There are people desperate to get memberships in clubs because of the status that such a membership brings to them. Similarly, there are other situations too like being invited or not to some functions. I look at these and enjoy the discomfort that it brings to some people.

  6. Here is a little story to illustrate and cement your post (as I interpret it):

    Some years ago I did a little experiment in the name of research. If I have related it before please do excuse me on grounds that it had such a massive impact on me I can’t relegate it to the mists of time, repeating it like so many anecdotes of our lives that had an impact on us.

    On purpose, mission and brief in hand, I dressed poorly, down at heel (shoes), entered my favourite and expensive shoe shop (albeit a branch in a different city so they’d not recognize me). For all they knew I could have been the Queen of Sheba bar her skin colour but with all the tea of China in gold coins in my purse. They looked me up and down. They couldn’t get rid of me fast enough.

    Fast forward a week or so. Dressed up to the nines. They “Madame”d me so much that they didn’t fall over was a miracle. Well, my dear Ramana, that was a lesson. What I had expected, but not hoped for, since reading Christian Andersen “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Truth be told, I smiled, I charmed the birds out of the trees for them. Afterwards? Afterwards, I sat on a bench in one of the city’s lovely parks, tears rolling down my face. I was the SAME person – the week before and now. Different attire. Bloody hell.


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