My Journey….

The past two years I have been on my own as an Independent Consultant. Here are a few reflections of my journey

 Be Clear of your Life Purpose

As an executive Coach, it was important for me to confirm my own personal purpose: ‘Follow my own light, and support others follow theirs’. It was time for me to make the transition from being an ‘EBITDA’ partner to a Trusted Advisor. I must admit that I also had enough of the operating world of HR: 30 plus years was like stretching things and I was not sure I was learning anything new. Also, I needed to move out rather than linger and discover that someone had moved my cheese. Once I left I missed two things initially: the monthly pay-check and the ‘title’. Nothing else. With time, I realised the ‘burden’ of what it meant to be under ‘Authority’ of the other. The greatest joy today is not having a Boss! I wake up each morning, committed to be accountable to self, and set goals that would make me happy.

Professional Model

I spoke to many independent consultants and their operating model varied. Some focussed on 1 -2 specific areas, while others were happy to support more generally across clients needs. Some worked in a partnership with a few link minded colleagues and created a partnership, while others decided to hire a team of a few people and set up an office. My own choice was to be a single contributor, operate from home and have no operating expenses except my mobile bills. Some choose names for their firms. I simply decided on ‘Steve Correa & Associates’ – (remembering two names for one service is difficult). I decided what is the quality and quantum of work that would make me happy. I learnt quickly that your professional networks don’t mean a thing – if that’s what you are depending on to get professional work. Help has come to me from unexpected sources. I feel very grateful to many for kind acts of generosity.

The pay-offs

I continue to feel the same energy within, work just as hard, but the benefits are huge: freedom, quantum leap in learning, deeper relationships and the freedom to make choices. More importantly, to find time to relax and think! Soon I found that the things that I thought would be difficulty turned out to be easy and vice versa. I put myself out to embrace new opportunities and I am delighted with the choice of newer kinds of work. A muse visited and dropped the idea of a book. That was a long love affair that took over 18 months.

Innovation can be simple.

I found resources everywhere!

·     I stated using Dunzo for pick up and drops of packages

·     A small courier firm agreed to pick up packages from me at home

·     I bought a kindle account and immediately fixed storage space while I continued to read even more widely.

·     I used drop box and google drive to interact with my clients for storage of material.

·     I bought apple music monthly subscription / Netflix / Prime movies – downloaded music / movies to watch during travel.

·     I enrolled in several MOOC classes – Coursera, EDx, etc

·     A trusted CA, helps me with all my financial accounting.

·     I build out regular goals (adventures) for myself.

·     I track my own activities into a weekly plan

In short, I manage everything – a jack of all trades!

reflections.

More than hard work it’s been hard work learning ‘new stuff’, doing mundane but critical things – filling forms, managing accounts, etc. Broaden one’s experience and knowledge widely. Keep Learning. I put up a website, and recently added a landing page to host my forthcoming book. Have you visited yet? https://stevecorrea.co/the-indian-boss-at-work/

Stay obsessed with client’s need, and that should be enough. Celebrate often especially with family and friends.

 I would love to hear from you. Do comment and I really enjoy the conversations that follow the post.

Consciousness – what is it really?

Let me begin with the Mandukya Upanishad. I find it useful at times to start with the end, to grasp the middle, and then the whole. So for this piece I begin with the last sutra. It is said, that the essence of Vedanta is contained in the Mandukya Upanishad, which has in all just 12 verses. If this understood, all spiritual texts are understood. Hopefully, this would be worth grasping. 🙂

Verse 12. The fourth is soundless: unutterable, a quieting down of all relative manifestations, blissful, peaceful, non-dual. Thus, OM is the Ātman, verily. He who knows thus, merges his self in the Self – yea, he who knows thus. – Mandukya Upanishad

Consciousness is the Absolute One. The One that has no second. (Advitiya or ekmevaadvitiiyn). Everything IS Consciousness (Brahman). Everything (if there is such a thing) does not exist in Consciousness: It is consciousness. It is Fullness of everything. Yet it has no ‘thing’, so it can be said to be No-thing. It is pure awareness – here now. Ever Present. Brahman is the figurative Upadana – both the principle and the cause.

Consciousness is present to all of us: we are conscious to our thoughts, we are conscious to our sensations, we are conscious to our perceptions. Yet, even more importantly we are conscious to our own Consciousness. That’s why we can say, I am aware of my thoughts, and yes I am aware of You sitting on the chair, and yes I am aware of my back resting on the seat. But what’s really incredible we can also say, I am Conscious! Consciousness is real, and for Scientist it continues to be the ‘hard problem’ – what causes its’ physiology, its’ phenomenon?

Consciousness is who we are! It is us every moment, if only we can see it. Verily, no experience can take place, either of thought, perception or sensation unless Consciousness is present. What is thought, perceived or sensed requires awareness. For without the awareness there would be no experience – no object, no scenery, no sensation. Again, when we say ‘seer’, the ‘seeing’ and the ‘scenery’: all of this is a substance of Consciousness. The observed is the observer itself. It is awareness being aware of itself. There is no witness and a doer: both are substance of the same Consciousness, from which all manifestations belong.

Yet, it is all that is containable, yet it is not a container. All sounds are modifications of it, but it’s true nature is soundless; all forms are awakened, yet itself it is formless. All elements are perceived of its form, yet it is not perceiving; it is in the nature of the perception itself. It has no beginning (was never created) nor will ever cease. It has no time nor space. These are illusions of the mind, which itself is an illusion, when the phenomenon is divided off from itself. Consciousness is not an entity, located in space and time. It is absent of time or space.

The atman (is but an immutable, indivisible part of the Brahman (aka consciousness). It is the substance of the Brahman. It is not born of it, it is it. I am that, is the oft repeated clarity provided in the multitudes of the Upanishad.

Again it is incorrect to say, that once this is realised, that it merges ‘self into Self’ – that is a notion of dualistic. There are no two entities. Recognising this is awakening to one’s self, sometimes referred to as Enlightenment. When you say Steve realise that you are playing the role of an ‘actor’- when you awaken to this fact, the ‘actor’ dissolves, only Steve remains. You have always been Steve, yet awareness that has always been present, has been veiled to the true nature of your being.

The actor is very much existent, but is an illusion. It is the mind that creates the ‘actor’, the perception of objects, sensations and it is the actor that has thoughts.The thinking mind is pointed, it always comes up referring to ‘something’. The thinking thought creates a ‘person’ while awareness brings awareness to presence. People when relating to a pet feels its presence, and without judgement.

So what prevents us from knowing our true self?

In yogic teaching, it is said that when there is Ignorance (Avidya) of our true nature then there are hindrances which cause us to create a divided ‘ego sense’ that is identified, attached to or has aversions to objects, sensations and perceptions, that wishes to cling to life failing to realise that the true self is immortal. It is in this, that desire is born, and with it affliction and suffering. Abiding in one’s true nature of Sat Chit Ananda, all suffering drops.

Mandukya – the balance verses

Working backwards, to the all the remaining 11 Slohkas, it can now be understood that:

Awareness exists – once (awakened state) in the world of thought, perception, and sensations, with opportunities for action.

Again, it exists in dream stage, with thought, perception and sensation, without the faculty for action, but access to the unconscious wisdom, inaccessible to us otherwise, and include memories from past lives as well.

When in deep sleep, it is pure awareness, but absence of thoughts, perceptions and sensations. It is Consciousness or awareness of absence of ‘things or matter or mental stuff’.

Each of us, has awareness of the first two, and the outcomes of the third. That’s why we say we feel refreshed after a good sleep.

The fourth stage of Turiya, is when Self realises itself.

All religions in some form or the other share the non-dualistic nature of man.

How does one live in that space?

Be grateful for the glimpses. Also to bring more present awareness to routine activities as opposed to thinking. To bring ‘spaces’ in your life. What matters most in each one’s life is Now. Time dominates the surface level of reality and includes past and future. Getting what you want, and not getting what you want – both can lead to being unsatiated.

When we identify with ‘problems’ we are bound up with the phenomena. At this moment, I may have a challenge (if a wild animal creeps up suddenly). They may be pain, even an emotion. But what is the problem now? Be always in a state of surrender.

The human ego acts as a block to realising consciousness. It goes beyond selfishness and arrogance. Ego is an identification with the streams of thinking. It is the arising of thinking, and discriminating good with bad (when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple). There is a ‘mind made’ entity which is made up of memories and past conditioning from which we derive our sense of who we are – a split between Me (ego) and I. It is an identification with thought forms, emotional forms, which makes us ignorant to our bigger self. As also with the other, we objectify the other and fail to become aware of the aliveness of the other, and ourselves. We project, label, judge others and ourselves, using thought forms.

Am I my story? If not, then who are you? It’s fine to recall, but one should immerse but not be immersed in the past. You ought not to be trapped in your past history. Marketers offer us ‘exclusive labels’. We are also competing for negative moods –“ you say you are having a headache, I have even worse.’ Ego wishes to be right all the time. It loves conflict with others. Its needs to emphasise self and the other.

Consciousness exists at many levels – outwardly and inwardly. As one draws inwards one gets closer to the source of light. Let me end with the Mundukya Upanishad 1.1.7: “ As a spider projects forth and draws back (its threads), as plants grow on earth, as hairs grow on the body, so does the universe emerge from the Imperishable Being.“

What does this article evoke in you? Do share your comments.

School days

Those were the days, my friend

We thought they’d never end

We’d sing and dance forever and a day

We’d live the life we choose

We’d fight and never lose

For we were young and sure to have our way

La la la la… (Lyrics my Mary Hopkins)

I loved days spent in school. They were so carefree. I had an indifferent academic record through school, with Hindi being my Achilles heel. I experienced no pressure from home to improve my marks or get a rank. My parents were quite chilled in that respect. It’s only when I got to plus 2, that I started to feel the stirrings to do well in academics and then there was no looking back.

So what do you do when there are no academic pressures. What else would a carefree child do – Just have fun! I recall most of my time was spent cycling to several of my friends place. There we would play cricket, with all the neighbourhood children and time would just fly. Occasionally a kind parent would send down evenings snacks which were hurriedly gobbled.

Once I landed at a friend’s place. He was a young Sikh. I knocked on the door and waited. His sister opened the door. Her hair all wet and flowing down her shoulder. She looked at me and smiled cheerfully. I felt very awkward and muttered that I had come to see Raja her brother. She burst out in laughter and I felt myself getting even more ruffled every second. Then from behind Raja’s mother came to the door, and she said to her mom, that I had come to see Raja. They now both laughed uncontrollably. It was only then that I realised that this ‘girl’ was actually Raja himself. We still often meet and recall this incident. How hilarious it all seems now.

Then there was that awkward moment when three friends went across to a friend’s birthday party. He had asked us to bring along some music to play at the party, so I carried my brother LP’s (Vinyl Records) to the party. Everyone thought we had brought this as a birthday present for him (can you believe we had not brought along a gift) and it was so embarrassing at the end of the party to ask for the records to carry back home. Today, I would never go anywhere without carrying a gift!

Or this horrible moment, when I was asked to place a chit inside a text book of a girl at school, whom my friend secretly doted, and we watched with horror when the text book was borrowed by her friend for the day. I remember that long evening both of us pacing the terrace of my house on Park Street imagining multiple scenarios that would play out the next day at school. I never saw a young man in so much agony, and never could there be a more loyal friend (me) in that momentous crisis, repeating stupidly, ‘Everything is going to be alright’. We invoked existence to come to his rescue, hoping the text book would come back unread, (the chit unseen), and then we grappled with the question how would we extricate the note.

Or the time I was acting in a lead role in a school play, and my ‘spouse’ in the play happened to be the girlfriend of Altash, with whom I did not have a good relationship. In the play, our ‘son’ comes back from the grave (upon a wish made by his mother) after 14 days. He is heard knocking on the door, and the sound grows stronger and more chilling. As part of the play, I am supposed to grab my ‘spouse’ wrist and hold her back from rushing to the door, as I fear the worst. The thing is, I was so into my role, so fully into it, that it seemed impossible for me to lightly hold her wrist. My own intensity caused me to tighten my hold on her wrist each time we practiced, and she howled in pain. Altash who was a regular bystander in our rehearsals was all to ready to land a few blows to my face. He assumed I was doing this on purpose, and saw no excuse for my continuing to hurt her, despite several warnings. Even today I enjoy acting and I really don’t need much stimuli for actual tears to start rolling down my cheeks.

Then there was a time when a few of the girls going back home from school were regularly teased by a few boys on bikes. Without letting the school know a few of us boys (in misplaced bravery) decided to carry our hockey sticks to school the next day and wait for the girls to be teased again on the road. The cyclists never showed up, but our headmistress got to hear about us armed with hockey sticks and came out to see what was happening and caught us red-handed, all armed to the teeth. We were all trooped in the next day to her room and given a dressing down. Did we realise what we were trying to do? Months later during the annual school function, I was awarded a ‘loyalty’ medal for that foolish act of bravery.

Ah, I could go on, but I recognise I could be embarrassing many of my school friends, so I will stop here. I will end with a lovely song Lulu sang titled, ‘To Sir, with Love’ to help us acknowledge a mentor who deeply influenced our lives when we were young.

Those schoolgirl days of telling tales and biting nails are gone

But in my mind I know they will still live on and on

But how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?

It isn’t easy, but I’ll try

If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters

That would soar a thousand feet high ‘To Sir, With Love’

The time has come for closing books and long last looks must end

And as I leave I know that I am leaving my best friend

A friend who taught me right from wrong and weak from strong

That’s a lot to learn, but what can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start

But I would rather you let me give my heart ‘To Sir, With Love’

Do share what childhood memory this narrative has evoked in you? Do you have a story to share. Would you let us walk with you down memory lane?

My reading habits have changed, has yours?

Yoga Sutra I.33 from Patanjali says:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”

A recent observation

A few gradual and seminal changes are taking place within me past several months and this article relates to my relationship with how I consume news.

Firstly, I have stopped watching television as much as I used to, now confined to a scheduled event or something I wish to catch. I am averse to the idea of watching TV just for its own sake to keep me informed. Digital news allows me to ‘select’ what interests me. Most of my news apps are now on my iPhone.

Also, in the past I would look forward to the crisp morning newspapers. I subscribe to a financial newspaper as well. However, while my mother-in-law pours through every page devoting close to two hours reading, I find myself flicking through it, more out of ‘fear of missing out’ on something I should be updated on. I am left bemused with my own withdrawal. My son is always on his app, for most of his news, and I feel more reassured that its fine, to stray away from the conventional modes of reading and watching Television.

I want to stay updated with what’s happening in the world at large: local, national and global. Yet inside me a part of me is very disinterested. It has for now become a chore rather than an enjoyable past time. A few of my Zoom groups I interact on have shared something similar happening with them. Is it with you too?

I am a part of many HR WhatsApp Groups, but everyone seems to be updating ‘more news’ and ‘webinars’ on it or welcoming a ‘new member’. Hardly, do I find dialogue, and I wonder what is the point of sharing something unless it is deliberated. I have also watched with horror how digital presence has given licence to many to troll, spew and enhance hate. Just about anyone can say anything, almost like my rights without responsibility.

I yearn for a deeper more meaningful relationship and also one reason why I have started writing on linkedin in the volumes I do. I wish for all readers who read my articles to comment, express, join in, with their thoughts, feelings and which would include their vulnerabilities. I do enjoy the ‘Likes’, respect each one who wishes not to comment, but I would rather we all take a risk to stretch out and say, “Steve, I feel the same. Or I don’t agree, I have a different take”. I yearn for a deeper meaningful connect, than the transactional. Will you join me?

Let me be clear, I continue to consume content, but now in shorter packages, of my selection, and through sources I trust. I long to read humour, interesting stories, scientific facts, but am restless reading about politics or catching up on the tinsel lives of others. I have started to enjoy my ‘aloneness’ which has become a joyful space, without ever once feeling ‘lonely’.

So here is my ask, have you experienced a similar trend with yourself: have your reading habits changed?

Why I have started avoiding TV

I feel it is necessary to share a bit more about my avoidance with TV Channels.

Watching TV leaves me feeling very passive and after a while I experience my anxiety growing. I have tried not to react to news each day hoping I manage my day with sanguine composure. 

I find news disturbing and energy sapping. It keeps people constantly scared and anxious: building unconscious fears and seeding prejudice. News as it seems to me is served out with one objective: sensationalism, and with it commercialism. To gain eyeball for the channel and deliver the commercial goals for prime time advertising. TV channels compete for. By ratcheting the decibel levels to steal the march from its’ near rival, it is in constant clamour to gain attention. As we have so little time to reflect on the news or to ascertain the veracity of what is being shared, we are in danger of taking the news at face value and falling prey to colluding with the editorial slant that it so vociferously espoused. 

You can see this out through screaming headlines in the dailies, live news streaming, channels with news anchor, who invite panels not for objective dialogue but to stimulate argumentative views, where emotions are exploited and manipulated and all of us become live spectators to an unfolding drama. Everyone who watches has vested interests and all are gratified perversely. Panel members, who get an hour’s slot to fame to either celebrity status or notoriety. I often wonder why panel members even bother to come when they know it could only be reputation damaging, but I guess they do not care. Unashamed, unabashed, and unrepentant they confirm to us all the sadness of our times: Crime and evil pays, justice and fairness continue to be violated. The anchor enjoys his potency to grandstand each news hour: interrogating and attacking, and making insinuations all the time, even while wishing to appear to be asking a question. Your silence confirms your guilt, your responses are taken as an excuse. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. The audience these days is also invited to engage with the gory drama, through live text streaming of messages right through the telecast. News today is perverse entertainment, not objective reporting of facts, even a permissible allowance for offering a perspective. For one, I do not wish to be part of such a circus!I do not want to stay hypnotised to watching moving visuals without my active cognition. I long for deeper reflection, as espoused in our tradition: Shravana (listening), Manana (understanding) and Nididhyasana (contemplation). I worry about my nine seconds attention span, and wonder what would happen if it dropped to 1 second.

News today is speculative, sensational, gory, emotion rousing, and devoid of facts and accurate confirmation by authorities. Through archived images, manipulated clips set to multiple loop, and subtle innuendoes, the media whip up a kangaroo trial: a media trial that allows them to be prosecutor, judge and jury. Through all this we remain hypnotised, our mental abilities suspended, our thinking ability restricted, as we consume large portions of adulterated poison. This toxicity plays itself out in so many other ways: and anger is often deployed where it does not belong.  I wrote an article some time back about an encounter with a journalist who felt he had to ‘pep’ up a story to make it interesting. That incident has in fact even further demoralised me and has put news for me in a bad light.

Who is to blame? To answer that question respond to the riddle below:

Queen, ignored by the King, decide to elope with a Knight, who seduced her and galloped off through the forest, where they were confronted by a Ogre who attacked the horse. The Knight, pushed the queen to the ground and certain death. The ogre’s soul was possessed by a wicked Witch who lived in the mountains. Who is responsible for the death of the queen?

I would love to hear from you about your reflections on this article. Has your relationship with how you consume news changed? If that’s difficult respond to the riddle above – Who is responsible for the death of the queen?

Would you kindly join me and share your experience?

Have you ever been dishonest? I have..

Billy Joel, in his song, Honesty sings:

If you search for tenderness, It isn’t hard to find

You can have the love you need to live

But if you look for truthfulness

You might just as well be blind

It always seems to be so hard to give

Have you ever been dishonest? I have. 40 Years ago. I must admit ashamedly that one day at school, a classmate and I were asked by Mr Zia, our Biology Teacher to buys flowers and frogs for a biology practical class to help us study dissection. We went to the market together the previous evening and purchased sufficient quantities of both these items. We then requested the vendor inflate the bill by 10 rupees which we pocketed. We handed over the items to Mr. Zia the next day and with much trepidation handed over the false receipt (my heart beat so hard I was sure it could be heard), and the balance of the advance given to us. Mr. Zia suspected nothing and instead he pulled out a ten rupee note and handed it to us and asked us to share it between us for our efforts.

Even today, I feel so bad with this act of dishonesty. I swore then, that nothing was ever worth being dishonest: the price to pay within oneself was too high. One loses one’s own self-worth within oneself. It is just not worth it. I am proud to say that I have lived a life of honesty, never ever succumbing to any temptation or abuse, and have lived my life with my head held high. Being truthful to oneself and being honest at all times is the highest of all virtues. When one is truthful, you never need to remember what you said earlier: it was truth then, and it is truth now. The bible says most eloquently, ‘and the truth shall set you free.’ I have always remembered this in my career: that eventually truth will emerge. And it has. Many would have disagreed with me, ignored me but with time, truth emerges as it does and I would stand vindicated.

Have you ever been dishonest? Join me and comment.

Few of My Favourite Things

Julia Andrews sings in the movie, The Sound of Music:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

These are a few of my favourite things.

Cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels;

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles;

Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings;

These are a few of my favourite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Silver-white winters that melt into springs

These are a few of my favourite things

When the dog bites,

When the bee stings,

When I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember my favourite things,

And then I don’t feel so bad.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens

Brown paper…

With Covid amidst us, and a pall of gloom, I thought today we would celebrate great memories together (rather than just things but that is welcome as well).  I am sure we all have some favourite memories while growing up. I will share a few:

As both my parents were busy at work, I remember the time spent with the household help (Ayah’s – stay home nannies) at home, post returning from school. She and the neighbour would tell me a lot of stories and my interest grew that there was such a world where so much could happen. That inspired my love for books, a steady companion and friend.

Once in 1971, in the midst of the Indo Pak war, I remember my father had to put newspapers covering all the windows, and cars in those days had the blank off the top of the headlight by black paint. These were war time instructions we were required to follow. All the houses too had that bleak look – it seemed all so strange. Then ever so often, there was the wail of sirens that rent the air, and with that signal, all house lights had to be switched off, and I imagined enemy planes flying overhead. I was both scary and thrilling.

I remember during the summer vacation, we had gone to our Aunt’s house in Aldona, Goa. There, I learnt to play chess for the first time. We had no board or chess pieces, but just wooden props and stones to represent the chess pieces. Several months later, I was pleased to win a game between my brother and I, and who was the school champion at that time!. He asked me to keep this a secret!  My dormitory matron, Mrs Malini (name changed) would often call me to her room to play chess with her, just before she retired to sleep. There, in her room, I was served with Bournvita or Horlicks and i felt very special and ‘grown up’. This became quite a regular schedule except during days of exams.

I am sure each of you have a cherished memory growing up. Would you like to join me and share what memory came up for you while growing up. Do comment.

Boldness can be Reckless

In this article I offer a personal incident. There is a part of me, which in Hogan language would be described as ‘Bold’. Incidentally, it is a derailer, and often reveals itself under boredom or stress. Its sub components are entitled, over-confidence and fantasized talent.

An incident of Bold…

Jacob Joseph (name changed) met me first who headed recruitment. He smoked while interviewing me and on an impulse I asked if I could ‘bum a cigarette too’. Later, many years later JJ confessed he was quite stuck with my boldness. Never had a candidate ever smoked at the interview let alone asking for a cigarette.

Later that afternoon, I was asked to appear before a three members of the Executive Board. They grilled me on many things and finally the conversation veered off to Industrial Relations. I remember one of them asking me, about an explosive IR situation developing and what section of which Industrial Labour Act was being violated. I shared that I was unsure of which section but would I be in such a situation I would check it out by consulting a well-known book, on the subject. To this response, someone challenged me, ‘does that mean you don’t know the section that will help resolve this problem?”. ‘Sir, I replied, I don’t know the section for sure, but I am quite sure, that knowing the section itself while I have this emerging crisis will not defuse the matter”. Someone said, ‘You don’t know Hindi, and I replied, “I understand it well, speak it hesitantly. I am sure I will get along fine”. I did get the job though, even though I had no Industrial Relations experience before. When I got back to Delhi, I shared with my spouse that we would be moving to Chhindwara. We had no idea where it was, and I had to find it on a map to show her the place.

My stint at the Factory – Chhindwara

I remember the flight to Nagpur and then the onward journey to Chhindwara entering the state of MP. As the car drove deeper along the three hour drive the road got narrower, as it entered into the woody regions. Each kilometre took me into more unfamiliar terrain, to a district life as I reconciled to leaving the hustle of a city life. I remember showing up at work in a blazer to the surprise of all. Mr. Dave (name changed) was the factory manager and he took pains to show me around. He spent the maximum time explaining to me the garden and different type of grass. I was brand new to Industrial Relations and wondered how I would handle the union. Then one day we had a union meeting and I saw Mr. Dave being very firm and forthright with the union: he stated clearly what he would do and what he would not do. I loved his courage and his outright authenticity.

Once a few union leaders came to see me in my office. Uncharacteristically, and unusually for them, I offered them tea and chatted with them, and passionately committed to ‘doing the right thing by them and for the company’. In my tone, they must have sensed my that I was a green horn, through and through. I was soon to realise the test they put me through.

The next day, I heard a commotion in the administrative block: a group of men were arguing with the Canteen Supervisor about the samosas served in the canteen. When they saw me they came to my cabin and showed me the samosa in which they had discovered a cockroach inside. I admit I was shocked and stated so. I heard some of them giggle (and I thought then that that was an unusual response). I managed to placate them, especially the Union Leader, who seemed to be the one most dramatic and affected. He seemed to be enjoying the spectacle he was creating and the response of being placated by me. I must admit that I appeared very defensive and was clearly at a loss of how to deal with this sudden crisis. The crowd vanished after a while, satisfied with the furore they had created. Many observers in the administrative block saw me flummoxed and clearly out of my depth. Honestly, I felt so stupid and I wondered if I would ever be able to control and influence this union and their leaders. When the crowd vanished I sat back in my cabin and summoned the canteen contractor to investigate. He then explained to me that this was a usual ploy with the union leaders and they often did this mischief especially with new managers who came to work here. I weakly protested that I had indeed seen a cockroach. He squeezed out the alleged cockroach and pressed its belly. Mushy white liquid flowed out easily and he explained to me that the cockroach was ‘inserted into the samosa’ and not cooked with it. Had it been cooked, it would have been crisp and fried. It then began to dawn on me that this was a show of strength. My moment to exert myself or lose the plot right away. Something needed to be done, and quick. I was so angry, upset and felt cuckolded by the union leader.

A scene from a movie, Zanjeer, flashed in my mind. I saw myself like Amitabh insulted and humiliated by Pran at the police station. Then Amitabh goes to Pran’s locality in plainclothes to settle the score. In a flash I realised that the issue was just between me and the union leader; it would make matters worse for us both if I was to enlarge the issue to the union.

That evening at 5 pm, almost at the end of the day for me, I walked across to the shop floor, and at the packing machine was Amar Singh (name changed) and he saw me and wickedly smiled. I asked him to meet me alone at the Supervisor’s Cabin a few meters away.

I remember us standing facing each other as I asked him to explain the incident earlier, my suspicion that the whole incident was fabricated and with just one intention: to have fun at my expense. He protested at first, but then as he saw me staring down at him, he thought otherwise, and just smiled. That’s it, I thought, he finally admitted it. I wanted to be doubly sure. I said he had done this before too. He smiled again and said nonchalantly, ‘It is just a joke, forget it’.

Then I gave a speech of my life, which even surprised me. I told him that I had come to do a job, and I was not going to be insulted as a person. We both needed each other: A union leader to act on behalf of his team, and a company representative to act on behalf of management. In this, we both needed to be professional. Without thinking, I personalised it: I warned him, that he got attention only because I gave him attention, and if he misbehaved I would deny attention to him. Somebody else, would get the attention to act as leader. Finally, I warned him that the young hot blood that was coursing through his vein also ran strongly in mine. I would not tolerate personal attacks. He needs to remember that. Then I walked out of the cabin. Huffing and all, frightened and relieved at the same time.

Once I got out of the factory gate, I experienced myself breaking out into a cold sweat, legs trembling incessantly. I could not imagine I could muster the courage to say what I said. I was lead to believe that union leaders are to be feared, and handled diplomatically, and one must never lose one’s cool. But today, I had abandoned all caution to the wind, and had let fly. And I felt so elated. I finally showed up with courage though I quaked inside. Things got so much better after that. The union leader was careful whenever he approached me. That moment for me, was a personal break through, cutting my teeth as a green horn.

I am sure each of you may have had moments of ‘boldness’. Would you like to share what this story has triggered in you?

Exploring Self and Systems Simultaneity

This article explores the nature of Self (which is an independent autonomous and open systems in itself) with another System (say the organisation we work with). The other system can be many others as well: family, social, religious community, an affiliation, etc.

The nature of Systems

 All systems have some common facets:

1.    Each is whole and part of the other

2.    Each impact the other

3.    Each carries a ‘picture of relatedness’ of the other

4.    Both have ‘experiences’ of each other – which either resonate or held in dissonance.

What sets us Humans apart is our ability to express, relate, envision and reflect. When two systems interact there is a simultaneous result of ‘thinking, feeling and acting’. Systems are dynamic (a continuous verb) not a noun (static). At any point there is a configuration, and at the point of singularity (observation) not unlike a Kaleidoscope, one sees a picture, of a picture and possibilities of many potential pictures. The Self carries a picture of itself (SI) and sees itself similar or distinctive to other human systems (OP), as it also carries a picture of its idealised self (SI).

Role Taking and Role making

 At all points of time, the human system carries a ‘picture of system in the mind’ and its’ membership, as also a picture of Self – it multiplicities of identity and a propensity for role taking stances. Remember, both of these pictures are ‘in the mind’ and are subjective realities. The Self system is in continuous ‘role making’. It carries notions of role making, idealised systems, projections, and how it manages leadership, followership, change and conflict. The Organisation system also exerts its influence on the individual psyche: how does it allow for socialisation, role taking, introjections, managing demands, duties and responsibilities, inclusion, exclusion and processes of empowering and self-authorising.

Clash of the Titans

Within us as human systems lies the challenge in ‘co-holding’ the two pictures of relatedness. There may arise polarities, contradictions, dilemmas and paradoxes. The response to these two pictures may lead to ‘either-or’ seeing both as mutually exclusive and with defined and rigid boundaries and preoccupation with managing boundaries. The difficulty is coped through the triangle of ‘Fight-Flight-Freeze’. In fight, all tension rather than being seen as an inevitable imperative is viewed as a conflict, Flight, when the phenomena is distorted, denied, or only glimpsed only at surface level, or the process of ‘othering’ and holding the other system with suspicion and vigilance. Often, one may freeze, leading to stalemates, entrenchments and indecisiveness, and lament Macbeth’s ‘to be or not to be’.

My Specific Organisational System

As a human system we carry a generic picture of ‘Organisations’ – ‘Most Other Organisation’ (MOO) as a collective entity, but we also have a picture of the Specific Organisation (that we work for), that is both similar and distinctive to other organisations (OC), as well as an idealised picture, (OI). These are the specific ‘specialness’ features of our working organisation.

Glues and Repellents

 Our human systems constellation has many universes/multiplicities an its inter-alia dynamics as also an intra alia perspective: its own engagement, over-engagement, denial or shadow create Glues (attractiveness) or act as Repellents (aversions) with other Systems. So, for instance, if our own Organisation Concept is closer to Idealised Organisation, and further away from Most other organisations then it acts as a Glue (low or high) and on the other hand if the OI is closer to MOO than it is to OI, it acts as a repellent. Glues would enable comfort, ownership, preservation focus and also a reluctance to see the downsides. Repellents on the other hand, would create restlessness, low ownership, and a propensity to transform. This sets up the elements for our systemic membership and relatedness to the organisation.

Social Character

Let me start with explaining Social Character

Erich Fromm first used the term ‘social character’ in his book, Escape from Freedom in the 1930s. He explains how a society influences its individuals and vice versa, and how ideologies form and absorb. People regard beliefs, as ‘self-evident truths’ within the ‘social arrangement’ of the prevalent times.1 For example, a belief ‘One can make oneself happy’. We tend to take them as given. It lies in the background, at most times beyond access of our consciousness. The popular notions of our times (aka imagined ideas) is taken for granted, as if it is a truism – ‘This is it, this is the reality, the truth, where is the doubt?’. So, we think. So, we believe. So, we act. Each in accordance to our imagined ideas. Now, Social Character is different to Cultural identity, the latter is more a function of what is inherited, Desh (country) say race, religion, etc while social character is more about the Kaal (times) we live in. Some of the prevalent ideas (beliefs and assumptions existing around us) may include: Each person is responsible for her/his choice of actions, ‘self-interest’ govern human beings and altruism is essentially a reciprocal arrangement, striving for continuous improvement is better than contentment.

We find these truths obvious and we take this for granted. As long as these truths are unquestioned, there will be no change. How does it impact our response to this social arrangement? In a society where we believe all human beings are equal, we tend to brush away feelings of inequality that exists. Where personal individuation is paramount, then we deliberately ignore ‘dependence’ on the other. If for instance we believe an individual is responsible for her own learning, then even if she is in a ‘recipient mode’ it is difficult to accept this. There is a dissonance between what she feels, versus what she is expected to feel. This brings up the inner tension within, the shadows which stay repressed, the invisible and disowned, which is withheld and inarticulate.

Let us explore further with respect to Self and Systems: As a result of the cathexis between the two pictures of relatedness (Self and System) there would be a quadrant of Y – axis of high or low identification and an X-axis of Valuing of the System, either high or low.

In quadrant 1(top right) of (high identification and high valuing) one would wish to be the role model, the solid citizen. In quadrant 2, (low identification, high valuation) the follower, the learner, who wishes to adapt, but holds self-doubts and inadequacies. In quadrant 3, (the zone of high identification and low valuing, top left) one would see the oscillation between preserving and influencing change. Finally, in quadrant 4, the zone of low identification and low valuing, one who sees himself as the ‘odd ball’ – a misfit, the disrupter and rebel, or those carrying marginalised roles.

A pattern emerges around the preferred ‘role-taking’ and ‘role-making’ styles of the individual and his/her interface with the system, with the resultant intended and unintended consequences. It sets up the thinking, feeling and ways of acting with systems and to role taking, meaning making, choice taking, and action taking.

Ashok Malhotra, a mentor and friend has pioneered three decades of thinking and research to offer a structural basis to explore these aspects, which he calls the lens of Existential Universal Mapper. For those who work with Systems (in roles of leaders, change makers, facilitators, etc) the exploration of Self and Systems (one’s own subjective reality) and its implications in Client Organisation (Collective subjective lens) this is an essential tool kit to understanding the human condition and the simultaneity of Self and Systems

  1. Ashok Malhotra, Social Character, Sumedhas.og Website

Decoding Omar Khayyam: the truth behind the obvious

Pause for a few seconds: When you think of Omar Khayyam, what comes up in your mind? Suggest a few adjectives……

How it appears

At a literal surface level, the poems of Khayyam can be understood as a dalliance – of bread, wine, love and poetry. Luxury and hedonism appears apparent, with sights of roses, sounds of nightingales streaming across his stanzas. The poems bring visuals of wine and cups and vessels and taverns and the bright eyes of women. As such, he is mistakenly labelled as a romantic and an alcoholic. He wrote in Farsi, but his work was translated by Fitzgerald (1809) who found the manuscript in Kolkata, who made his work well known globally. However, his work does not reflect the authenticity, or even a literal translation, but a ‘construction’ identifying him as a ‘material Epicurean’.

What it is

The fact is that Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1131) was a Sufi mystic, a celibate and a who never drank wine and a famous mathematician, astronomer and poet. Scott Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat (reference to the four line quatrains) misses the point completely, totally opposite to what he wished to convey:  it is about divine ‘wine’ and ‘beauty’ and not about women (to Sufis God is a women). The cup which is laced throughout the book is the symbol for life and the act of living. His poems are about the alchemy of between the lover and the beloved, between the seeker and the sought, between man and divinity. The picture you see is an abstract painting, but when you turn it upside down becomes something wholly different.

Let’s examine Stanza 11 as an example.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness —

And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

The challenge of reading Khayyam lies in the deciphering of the heavy coded symbolism and not so obvious theme (at least for the uninitiated). The fact is that ‘Thou’ is the beloved God, the food symbolises communion, and wine the divine ecstasy in the union, while the wilderness refers to the heart. The meanings become clear when you develop a Sufi like orientation.

Let’s take another verse: “Drink! For you know not whence you came, nor why;/ Drink! For you know not why you go, nor where.” In this one can fall into assuming that the poet is saying life is finite and ends soon. So we can seize the day and get drunk. However, if wine is seen as living life then the message is to forget about tomorrow and living for today.

Khayyam was just not just misunderstood by Fitzgerald, but by his own society as well. His books were burned and his ideas thought to be too dangerous by the priests. Does that remind you of anyone else?

If you enjoyed reading this, you may enjoy another article on Rumi I had written on earlier.

Do comment on this post. Do you think we need a deeper lens in studying literature of the East?

Brave Warriors of India – King Porus

A wealthy and influential State Invaded for her wealth

Yet, despite massive attack, by intrepid invaders, India has never invaded any country in her last 10000 years of history. India has been invaded by foreigners on several occasions. The Great Himalayas, with its parallel ranges (in the North) and 2500 kms length has acted as a natural war of defence, keeping invaders away, and protecting it from the cold and dry north winds of Central Asia. 

The 22 Janapadas and later 16 Mahajanapadas (great country) were the main kingdoms during Vedic India who ruled between 600 BC to 325 BC. Some of the more prominent kingdoms include Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa, Malwa, Avadh. It is from Ayodhya (Saketa) that the mythical epic hero Rama sets out on exile.

Alexander, from Macedonia, in 326 BC rallied his battle-worn army already exhausted with years of fighting, to make the final journey to India crossing the Indus near Attock. He was much excited with what lay there, and defeated King Porus in battle of Hydaspes. When Porus was taken prisoner; and Alexander asked him how he expected to be treated, he answered, “As a king.” He was made the king of the conquered western part of India. Later, on finding his army adamant to continue fighting in India, given their experience of fighting with King Porus, that Alexander turned back to Macedonia, sailing down the Indus, and marching across the Gedrosian desert. With Alexander’s departure, his satraps began to depart, paving the way for the Maurya empire which was to last 140 years. Under the guidance of Chanakya, Chandragupta was groomed.

The only way to pay tribute to King Porus is by sharing an outstanding poem from one of Bengal’s lesser known Poets, who had an outstanding style and flair!

Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s Tribute to Porus

I

Loudly the midnight tempest sang,

Ah! it was thy dirge, fair Liberty!

And clouds in thundering accents roar’d

Unheeded warning from on high;

The rain in darksome torrents fell,

Hydaspes’ waves did onward sweep,

Like fiery passio’s heandlong flow,

To meet th’ awaken’d calling deep;

The lighting flashed bright- dazzling, like

Fair women’s glance from ‘neath her veil;’

And on the heaving, troubled air,

There was a moaning sound of wail

But, Ind! thy unsuspecting sons

Did heedless slumber,- while the foe

Came in stealthy step of death,-

Came as the tiger, noiseless, slow,

To close at once its victim’s breath!

Alas! they knew not ‘midst this gloom’

This war of elements was burst,-

Like to an earthquake in the womb

Of a volcano,- deep and low-

A deadlier storm-on them to burst!

II

‘I was morn’ the Lord of Day

From gold Sumero’s palace bright,

Look’d his own sweet clime,

But lo! the glorious flag,

To which the world in awe once bow’d,

There in defiance waved

On India’s gales- triumphant-proud!-

Then, rose the dreadful yell,-

Then lion-king, each warrior brave

Rushed on the coming foe,

To strike for freedom-or the grave!

Oh Death! upon thy gory altar

What blood-libations freely flow’d!

Oh Earth! on that bright morn, what , thousands

Rendered to thee the dust they ow’d!

But ‘fore the Macedonians driven’

Fell India’s hardy sons,-

Proud mountain oaks by thunders riven,-

That for their country’s freedom bled-

And made on gore their glorious bed!

III

But dauntlessly there stood

King Porus, towering ‘midst the foe’

Like a Himala-peak

With its eternal crown of snow:

And on his brow did shine

The jewell’d regal diadem.

His milk-white elephant

Was deck’d with many a brilliant gem.

He reck’d not of the phalanx

That ‘round him closed-but nobly fought’

And like the angry winds that blow

And lofty mountain pines lay low,

Amidst them dreadful havoc wrought,

And thinn’d his crown and country’s foe!

The hardiest warriors, at his deeds,

Awe-struck quail’d like wind-shaken reeds:

They dared not look upon his face,

They shrank before his burning gaze,

For in his eye the hero shone

That feared not death;-but high-alone

A being as if of lightning made,

That scorch’d all that is gazed upon-

Trampling the living with the dead.

IV

Th’ immortal Thund’rer’s son,

Astonish’d eyed the heroic king;

He saw him bravely charge

Like his dread father,- fulmining:-

Tho’ thousands’ round him closed,

He stood-as stand the ocean rock

Amdist the lashing billows

Unmoved at their fierce thoundering shock.

But when th’ Emathian conqueror

Saw that with gaping wounds he bled,

‘Desist-desist!’-he cried-

‘Such nobel blood should not be shed!’

Then a herald was sent

Where bleeding and faint,

Stood, ‘midst the dying’ and the dead,

King Porus,- boldly, undismayed:

‘Hail, brave and warlike prince!’

Thy generous rival bids thee cease-

Behold! there flies the flag,

That lulls dread war, and wakens peace!’

V

Like to a lion chain’d,

That tho’ faint-bleeding-stands in pride-

With eyes, where unsubdued

Yet flash’d the fire-looks that defied;

King Porus boldly went

Where ‘midst the gay and flittering crowd’

Sat god-like Alexander;

While ‘round’ Earth’s mightiest monarchs bow’d.

King Porus was no slave;

he stooped not-bent not there his knee,-

But stood, as stands an oak,

In Himalayan majesty.

‘The mighty king of Macedon:’

‘Ev’n as a King,’ replied

In royal pride, Ind’s haughty son.

The conqu’ ror pleas’d,

Him forth releas’d:

Thus India’s crown was lost and won

Do let me know if you enjoyed the history or the poetry bit, and I will plan to share more in subsequent articles.