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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Amazing Railways! Incredible India!

Incredible India could do with some credibility. This thought dawned on me while in line to receive the National Tourism award for New Delhi Railway Station at Hotel Ashok on the 28th this month. Our credibility and also our national pride has gone for a toss with the non stop revelations of incredible scams day in and day out. This perhaps is in a way responsible for the fleeting fervor of national pride that the forthcoming battle of the titans at Mohali has provided. With almost nothing to feel proud of, a win against our old rivals may provide a fleeting moment of national pride.
Incredible, isn't it?

The great Indian Railways that is still the most visible symbol of dynamic delivery in our nation is also amazing. That it delivers despite being an antithesis of an efficient corporate is a tribute to its cutting edge employees. Its acts of abundance in bonuses, awards, ceremonies and saloons impart it a sheen of a cash rich organization, even though on the other hand it is forced, for want of funds of course, to stop all non-staff payments much before the closure of the financial year. Amazing is its HR policy, despite being the largest employer in the world. Yet, it remains the most important economic lifeline of the nation.
Amazing, isn't it?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Learning from Munnabhai!

Lage Raho Munnabhai is perhaps the only movie that I have watched twice, the second time in the company of all my office staff, in the office and during office hours. The only matinee show within official premises replete with popcorns and coke was a pleasant surprise for all my official colleagues. The show was also unique in the fact that it was attended by the entire staff together without caring a fig for the official hierarchial system that prevents a managing director from breaking bread with his peon.

And all this without any of us feeling guilty of having wasted precious official hours that are strictly meant for file (mis)handling and being tossed around by the system.

A serious and socially relevant message was thus conveyed in a light manner. The screening of the movie within official premises was a part of a continuing attempt that most of my official colleagues would find wasteful and also laughable, an attempt to change the thought process, even if slightly of the men (and women) who constitute officialdom in the corporation headquarters. A few years back while donning my earlier avatar of the Chief of a sick PSU, I had decided to write a piece titled ‘The travails of a PSU chief” for the op-edit page of a national daily, but saner (not exactly wiser) counsel then prevailed and prevented me from doing so. Even objective criticism of the government machinery, while being a part of the system is often considered treason and this thought brought home to me by many of my “sarkari” colleagues, perhaps made me abandon the idea. The screening of the movie was therefore also an attempt, a serious one at that, of trying to reduce the travails especially those inflicted by people who work for me.

The USP of “Lage Raho Munnabhai” is that it conveys a very powerful and socially relevant message in a very light manner. Its social relevance is undisputed but I have strong reservations whether the message would be taken seriously by anyone at all, especially by those who hail from the privileged sarkari sector. That Gandhi was a leader far ahead of his times whose philosophy was relevant then, is relevant now and will be relevant in the times to come, suddenly dawned on me after the show and the popcorns were over. It is always nice to see nice things happening to nice people on a nice screen, but the majority of us always end up sermonizing that real life is different from reel life and it is wiser to be crafty than being nice in the present times. Munnabhai however left everyone thinking. Should we not always be on the right side of truth? Should we not always be ready to pay the price for all our deeds and misdeeds? Should we not always have genuine concern for all human beings irrespective of his color caste, creed or place in the society? Is the service of society not the primary responsibility of sarkari officials?

There is a scene in the movie when a girl walks out of a restaurant and also her suitor only because of the way her suitor addresses the waiter. Gandhi’s litmus test that would separate a good human being from someone not so good, is how a person treats someone from the under privileged section of the society. Having for over thirty years watched the drama over who comes on the telephone line first and how someone needs to be addressed as “My Dear” or ‘Dear Shri” despite at times there being a very inconsequential hierarchial difference between the two blokes, I stand convinced that almost all of us from the hallowed sarkari sector would abysmally fail this test of Gandhi. And therefore this screening was also an attempt to make my men imbibe some thoughts of Gandhi, that may perhaps make them a better human being than at present and in the process enhance his contribution to the society as a member of the privileged human race.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The power game

Power to harass!
Power to transfer!
Power to suspend!
Power to summon and fire!
Power to stop things from hapenning!
Power to dispense knowledge and ideas!
Power to throw your weight around!
Power to install a beacon!
Power to be important!
Power to be nasty!

Sounds familiar. All of us are generally mute spectators to the unbridled dance of powerful people. What we are generally not witness to is the -

Power to improve!
Power to help!
Power to make things happen!
Power to make the environment better!
Power to improve and increase infrastructure!
Power to dispense happiness!

Yes, the real power is the one that is utilized for the good of the society. Is it not unfortunate that what is generally on display is the vulgar flaunting of power for the sake of the self? And the higher one rises in the sarkari hierarchy, the more prone is he to misuse the power conferred on him, not because he is cat's whiskers, but by virtue of temporarily resting his backside on a seat that is not really his. And it is hilarious that the "post power" scenario marks a radical reversal in the thought processes of erstwhile powerful people.

I wonder whether things will ever change for the better!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Know-All syndrome

It is almost daily that one bumps into a Mr Know-All, inside the great Indian bureaucratic well. And it is not at all surprising that these living and walking epitomes of knowledge and wisdom do not miss any opportunity to flaunt their superiority over lesser mortals. With exceptions of-course, the high and mighty whose primary responsibility is that of providing vision and leadership, are perpetually engaged in battles of one upmanship, but never with their superiors.

When shall the top guys of the sarkari sector realize that what they are paid for is not what they generally end up doing. Remaining occupied in the mundane, for that is the easiest thing to do, is what the upper echelons are generally busy doing day in and day out. And therefore the organization suffers in the long and also short runs and the top guys remain busy passing the buck to the lower rungs for the sorry state of affairs.

These eminent Know-All's never take the rap for anything. And that is the sure shot sign of decaying organizations. It is the top guys who have to steer organizations, not by flaunting their shallow pools of knowledge, but by providing vision and leadership and assuming full responsibility, especially for things gone wrong.

It is rather unfortunate the the reign of mediocrity in our nation shows no sign of ebbing and therefore the Mr Know-All's shall continue to thrive.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The spice of life!

In uncertainity lies the spice of life. If we knew exactly the turn that our lives would take in future, the fun, spice and excitement would fade away leading to a drab and fearful existence.

Who could have imagined that the economic superpower of the world, Japan, would suddenly stand devastated. It is moments like these that bring us face to face with the power that the supreme power wields over the human race. And despite the high sounding titles and positions that humans may wield, they all pale into insignificance when nature shows its sleight of hand. Yet the human quest for wealth and power continues unabated, despite often being made aware of their transient and also, if one delves deeply enough, insignificant nature.

Yes, the twin mirages of power and wealth may give us sensory pleasures but they do not make us immortal. And the silent slide into the other world, is devoid of any worldly affiliations. And then what really matters is whether one has been a good human being or not, whether one has treated other souls with human dignity, despite tremendous hierarchial and social differences that may or may not have existed.

Is it not absurd that we spend our lifetime chasing mirages and in the process lose out on the true essence of life. That life is to be led for a purpose that cannot be service of self is a thought that remains as distant to most of us as the planet mars is to earth. That the great leveler is the fact that all of us are human beings and mere differences in materialistic wealth and sphere of influence do not ultimately matter in the long run is a thought that we need to dwell upon!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Courtesies Vs Respect

It foxes me when people occupying high chairs lay a higher premium on the common courtesies displayed towards them by their subordinates than on the deliverance exhibited on the work front by the same subordinate. That this is a common trait displayed by the majority of the officialdom that invariably exists for its own sake is beyond doubt.
Why is it so that massaging the ego of superiors has in recent years emerged as a matter of higher concern than excellence on the work front? Is it because of the reign of the mediocrity, or because the focus has shifted away from deliverance, towards issues that are more personal in nature? Or is it because of a rotten and perverted system of assessment that we in the sarkari system tend to follow? And therefore we have a thriving sycophantic system that finds appreciation and acceptance from even the mightiest and highest in the land. No wonder our nation continues to be “developing” forever.
The definitions therefore need revision. What constitutes respect and what does not, needs to be better defined and appreciated. That the measure of respect that an individual has for his peers, superiors, system, organization and the nation should be defined only by his dedication and commitment to the job at hand, not by how much he kowtows to the powers that be.