Men and Ideas that changed my Life – Gehrayee

In the early 80’s DD used to air award winning feature films from different languages in a particular slot. There was a film that was produced in 1980 and aired probably in 1983 / 84 when I was around 14 that has been on mind and shaped my reactions all my life.

It is the film Gehrayee. Anant Nag, Dr. Shreeram Lagoo, Amrish Puri… The film had a cast of good and steady actors. But it became famous for the wrong reasons.

The short story line is – There is a middle class family in the town – Father, Mother, elder brother and sister in early teens. Suddenly the girl starts acting weird. They try out all kinds of solutions including God Men. One of them, Amrish Puri tries to sexually exploit the girl. The scenes were normal by today’s standards but to an India in Victorian era, they became the most important feature of the film.

May be that was why I too saw the film. But at the end what stood in my mind was the “moral” of the story – A tenant farmer in the plantation owned by the family is agitated because the land was to be sold off. He resorts to black magic.  The family solves the issue with the help of a good “exorcist”. But then the son feels his sister was targeted unfairly. He tries to find out why the tenant targeted his innocent sister.

His actions get him into a situation where he becomes the victim of the black magic. The movie ends here. You can see it on YouTube here.

Normally we expect the world to be fair to us. That is one of the most impossible expectation. But in our innocence (charitable view) or self centeredness (brutal honesty) we expect “fairness” and in the absence of that “Retribution”.

When ever I get into such a situation – I keep reminding myself of this movie – If necessary I go to wikipedia and read the synopsis.

If Life throws lemons at you learn to make lemonade from the. Don’t try to hit back.


Men and Ideas that changed my Life – Honourable Exit

When I did my Articles (Practical training for CA) I worked in a firm that was run by 2 brothers. The eldest was technically much more knowledgeable and competent but the younger was more humane.

I practically did all my work with the elder and it has helped me to this date. It has been 23 years since I completed the training but I can relate every positive aspect of my ability to those 3 short years I worked there.

But it is about the younger brother with whom I had very little interaction that I want to write about – his favourite term “give others an honourable exit”. Something I keep telling my colleagues in different words. We generally have an habit of pushing people to a corner in arguments. If only we had the ability to give our “opponents” the space to wriggle out and agree with us without offending their egos.

The past week I must have repeated this a few times, like I have done it many more times over my career to my Juniors – If i am wrong, I say, 2 + 2 is 5, don’t tell me immediately “You fool, 2 + 2 is 4”. Give me some time, the say, “Sir, May be when you studied 2 + 2 was 5, but with inflation now it has come down to 4”.

Jokes apart, what I mean is when a team member with whom you are working makes a mistake, the immediate reaction is to point it out. But this hurts his ego. He waits for an opportunity to get back. But on the other hand if this is gently broken, he would gladly accept his mistake and move on.

If this is true for smaller things, imagine how relevant it would be for major things. It is this attitude of mutual accommodation that creates “Win – Win” situations when major entities seemingly like cheese and chalk coming together and pulling off a successful partnership.

Men & Ideas that changed my life – Dedication

I have a maternal uncle who used to work for P & T – Posts and Telegraphs. Not many in the current generation would have even heard of this department. There was a time when Posts and telecommunications were together. My uncle was an engineer who joined this department in early sixties. He used to work mostly in sites hundreds of miles away from his family. He was not a very well off man and had a reasonably large family. So he would be worried whether his salary was credited to his account by the due date. He would call the office from the god forsaken sites he was working in and would invariably find that the relevant clerk had gone out to have chai or had gone home early or was yet to come into office. But his saviour would be an unconnected man who was not even dealing with salaries. But he would immediately respond – “Varadharajan? Employee no:…. Your salary has been credited on …….”. My uncle would say every office has one *Fool* like this. All office run because of such fools who dedicate their lives to the organisation and the people who work with them.

My uncle is not the only person who has mentioned this. I have a schoolmate who is a successful auditor. He comes from a family of auditors but his father was not one. So he was denied an entry into this old firm. He worked his way up from nothing to a very successful career. He used to quote one of his uncles – behind every successful turn around story there is one man who has spent his entire life. You look at any successful organisation, you will find one man silently slogging and ensuring the success of that organisation. When an organisation does well and has become successful it will attract lot of talent but it is those dedicated individuals who may not be very flashy who build a successful organisation from scratch.

Getting back to my uncle and his stories, the instant experts on social media especially Twitter always remind me of this story of his – In one of his earliest projects, he had to make an estimate of various requirements. One of those was of cotton waste for wiping hands equipments of oil and grease while erecting. One helpful assistant told him to estimate it at 1/2 a % of the project cost, a reasonable estimate in his view.

Few days later my uncle found scores of lorries with huge loads in their back standing outside the site. What my uncle found out about them stunned him. The purchase department thought it wise to buy all the requirements at one go. The entire cotton waste overestimated may be few hundred times was bought at one go and delivered. He had a very tough time storing and safeguarding the highly inflammable material over the next couple of years of that project.

On a serious note, look around your organisation. You will find a person who is not flashy, not the most successful but holds the team together. Acknowledge his contribution. (S)He does not care for the money. It is this acknowledgement that they long for.