Monday, August 24, 2015

How objective is objective

Do personal beliefs influence your professional work? Example: A Court judge believes in superstition. Would his belief affect his judgement on a god-man or god-woman accused of some wrongdoing? Or if a celebrity is accused of some wrongdoing. Would the celebrity's track record in public life bear an influence on decision-making of the judge. How much role does prejudice play in delivering a judgement.

Imagine your Boss is a god-fearing person, and a faithful believer in god. You on the other hand, aren’t an atheist but sort of an agnostic. Would your difference in belief be a criterion to be judged by your Boss?

Imagine your leader is okay with finding the gap between legality and ethics. Like, using a loophole in the rules to gain- personally or professionally. You on the other hand, have unwavering belief in ethics. You have shown your displeasure about it. Would you be considered a threat? As someone who might rock the boat in future or be a whistle-blower? Would you be able to be your leader’s confidant? Or would you be respected for your belief in ethics? Or would you be sidelined from important decision-making and be given mundane tasks. Consider the situation vice versa. Your leader is ethical whereas you don’t mind finding that gap between legality and ethics. The above questions still apply.

This begs the question, how objective is objective. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What the Director wanted us to see: Manjhi- The Mountain Man

The central theme of the story asks us to take matters in your own hand. Not to depend on others. This is summed up well at the end of the movie. When asked how he feels about finally walking down the road through the Mountain, he replies “Don’t depend on god. Who knows, god might be depending on you”.

The movie shows people celebrating the abolition of untouchability, around 8 years after independence. I think the Director wished to draw attention to the fact that 68 years after independence, some of our villages still struggle for water and electricity. Untouchability isn’t an issue in the movie. It is used as a metaphor to talk about the current environment.

Manjhi’s quest to make a road for his villagers and believing in his task irrespective of people calling him fool and an idiot shows the focus we need to have towards work. There will always be naysayers. Single-minded approach always bears fruit. More important is the process rather than the end result. Because process makes fundamental changes in thinking or perspective. End result can be different from what one visualizes when set out towards achieving it.

Two issues the director touches upon though subtly. One, dwindling reserves of water and the Naxalite issue. Drought was a concern in 1960s and is a concern in 2015 as well. We have failed to provide this basic necessity to our people. Technology has improved healthcare and education and overall standard of living but hasn’t been able to address effective utilisation of our water resources. Unfortunately, companies providing water facilities will not get high valuation on stock exchanges. Same applied for the Naxalite issue. A concern in 1960s and in 2015 too. Capitalism has failed to uplift the masses especially in far-flung areas of India. Naxalites will not come into the mainstream unless they see an opportunity that this is addressed.

There is a disclaimer at the start of the movie which says that even thought the story is based on a real event, some creative liberties have been taken. A snake biting Manjhi, and him having to cut off his toe so that the poison doesn’t spread could be one of the fictionalised account. The director must have wanted to show that in a single-minded pursuit of a task, tough decisions should be taken. And if it means physical pain, so be it.

The movie, I suppose, takes a jibe at our democracy. When a make-shift stage during a political rally crumbles under its weight, a few people rush and hold it aloft with their shoulder. And the politician nonchalantly continues with her speech. A police inspector releases Manjhi because people outside the police station shout slogans for his release. And he is released under public pressure. I don’t mean that Manjhi was a criminal and should not be released, it shows that our laws have so many perforations, that arresting someone and releasing them is a subjective issue than objective.

The movie end with the road being built bearing Manjhi’s name. As the end credits roll, you feel sad that the government could only help Manjhi by naming the road after him. Countless un-named people are toiling in India and hope the government reaches them before they give up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What the Director wanted the audience to see- Double Seat

The central theme of the story is to make one believe in himself/herself. To take that leap of faith into the unknown. A new house is that metaphor. How a young, newly wed couple along with their family takes that leap of faith.

Straddling through fear and an ambitious dream, the young couple take that leap of faith only to be pulled back by an insolvency of a local pathpedhi (a Non-banking financial corporation- like a credit society) in the process losing all their savings. The director wishes to draw attention towards these sorts of institutions. Though they are under the RBI rules, lack of desirable financial reporting make them vulnerable to non-transparency and frauds. A case in point being the CKP Co-operative bank in Mumbai & Thane or the Pen Co-operative bank in Khopoli (Maharashtra).

When the head of the house, their father comes to know about the intent of the couple to buy a house, he feels intimidated by the magnanimous thought leading him to not believe in the leap of faith of his children. Relationships these days are based on material possession and the director makes his point when the character Amit says that he was rejected by 7 prospective girls after seeing his dilapidated house whereas Manjiri, who is his wife now, saw the person in him.

Manjiri’s character is well-etched out. Rooted in traditional upbringing, she adjusts to the city life like a fish takes to water. Turning a snide remark by a neighbour (I don’t want insurance policy) into an opportunity to make her sales pitch (as an insurance agent), she shows perfect presence of mind. When they see their dream coming apart, she takes the lead to pacify her husband and in-laws and gives them confidence to try again. And that he should hold his head high for the efforts. She sums it well when she says that if we have been forced to take two steps back, it will help more in our efforts to catapult (like a high-jumper) into our dream.

The director wishes to show the life of an honest police-hawaldar (lowest in the police hierarchy) to manage in Rs. 12000 (USD 200) monthly salary. When asked whether he indeed does not take bribe, he feels pain to say that he has to justify that he is honest. This rubs off on Amit who rejects a proposal to buy a shanty (hut) in an area which is proposed for re-development by a builder. These two are much nuanced moments showing the society a mirror.

Amit’s mother is a balanced lady who understands her duties as a mother, wife and a mother-in-law. She gives the young couple privacy, stands by her husband and shows confidence in his son’s and daughter-in-law’s ability. Amit’s father acknowledges towards the end of the movie that he did not change his perspective with time. A lesson to all of us to find that balance between needs and wants.

Lastly, in this day and age of nuclear families, having your father and mother together can be so much helpful to take a leap of faith. Double-seat shows this well. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Boeing and Airbus print ads in today's newspaper.. Both using birds.. similar beige background.. complete lack of creativity!!

Saturday, August 1, 2015


Overlooking the Ganga, Arjuna asked Krishna “Who is the biggest giver”? Krishna answered “Karna”. Arjuna seemed offended. And gave a list of selfless acts done by him. Krishna patiently heard him and thought it is better to let Arjuna judge for himself. He took Arjuna to a far-off village. He produced a mountain of gold and asked Arjuna to donate it among the villagers. Accordingly, Arjuna called all villagers and asked them to form a queue so that Arjuna can give each one of them a bag full of gold. The day ended without even an ounce of gold being reduced despite all villagers getting the gold. Similar story occurred the next day. Finally Arjuna gave up. Krishna then called Karna and told him to do the same. Karna called all villagers and told them that this mountain belongs to the village and that they can have it as they want. Moral of the story: If you want something, even blessings, in return for a favour, it isn’t a selfless act.

In the corporate world, largely driven by capitalist philosophy, where we talk of competitive blood bath, guerrilla marketing, carpet bombing, pink-slips, cut-throat competition among others, how difficult it is to maintain altruistic nature. The answer squarely rests on your thought-process. Going beyond the superficial nature of physical things we see in this world, it is about your control over your senses. The need to go into the depth of the whys, whats, hows, whens, wheres is essential. Newton’s third law states “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Same hold true in physics or philosophy. The difference is that, in physics, the opposite reaction is logical. In philosophy, the opposite reaction is not necessarily to oppose. All decisions taken by you have a reason and thus always ask the why of it. This decision will have an impact or effect. Whether the timing of the decision is correct. Once all the answers to these questions are in sync with your though-process, you will not need to the worry about the fruits of your labour.

There will always be a dichotomy between the goal and the process. Each will have its place under the sun at different times. The challenge is to be able to understand the difference. You will have reached the stage of self-actualisation when this challenge ceases to exist because fruit of labour isn’t your source of inspiration.