Monday, January 11, 2010

Did the killers survive ?

On the 30th of December 2009, the Economist carried an article on the displaced Tamils in Srilanka titled ' Eking a living from handouts'. It talks about how the displaced Tamils in Vavuniya sell their rations - donated by the EU and UN - to make a living. What an injustice ? Is this the way a Government treats its citizens ?

Forget them being in a neighbouring country , forget them being Tamils , forget them being human beings - is this the way to treat fellow living creatures ?

And between the former King and his former General, now the country's citizens will need to elect a new 'King'. The Tamil vote matters for both ... The Tamil diaspora wants the Tamils to abstain, the TNA favours the former General ....

The sacrificial lamb brought for the festival
ate up the green leaf brought for the decorations
Not knowing a thing about the kill,
it wants only to fill its belly:
born that day, to die that day.

But tell me:
did the killers survive,
O lord of the meeting rivers?
- Basavanna

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Management Education

A recent discussion in the Wharton School of Business, on the financial crisis threw up some very interesting points. Two of these have a great bearing on Management Education.

a) That we seem to be fixated with free markets . Until it fails, we are content believing that markets control businesses better than the Government does. And it is probably important to revisit this. Regulation is one area that management schools focus little on. Probably it is time that we give it the coverage it deserves.

b) that it is increasingly clear that market models that we use do not accurately represent the actions of Individuals. In our need to simplify what is essentially complex and in our need to structure thought processes and have predictable results, we build models that work within very small limits. A lot of current thinking seems to be on understanding human psychology. Hope - Greed and Fear are probably the most important reasons for this crisis and all other crises. Human behavioral traits - greed, envy, herding, fear, loss aversion, fairness etc must be moved from the shadows of electives, final weeks of courses and final minutes of classes to the forefront of managerial education and research.

Living , thriving and leading with Uncertainty are probably the most important things that we need managers to have.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I just read that some (in)human beings had attacked a set of 'Dalits' near Madurai as one of the boys had touched the parasol ( Kudai) of a Diety. Among the injured was a pregnant women who has now been hospitalized. The people who attacked consider themselves 'Caste Hindus'.

You may ask - why did this Dalit boy go and touch the parasol ?
I wonder if there is a high caste God and a Dalit God... but , in this case atleast , he did not go after the parasol. He was asked to hold it. What had happened is that one of the persons who was carrying the parasol had to tie his Dothi and had passed on the parasol to a boy standing nearby till he got ready to handle it and that boy happened to be a Dalit.

What kind of living creatures are we ? What superiority can we attribute to ourselves when we dont behave like human beings ? Who ever gave the authority that only some persons can even touch the parasol ?
And in yet another instance , I read that Dalits are not being employed for labour, because they entered a temple. In what inhuman civilization do we live ? Cant we be more magnanimous ? When ants, spiders, elephants , piglets, fishes , cranes - all these creatures can worship the Lord and attain salvation - why not these human beings ? What right do we have to stop them ? Who are we ? In what way are we superior to them ?

Let us get to the basic question : Does birth in a particular caste alone entail one for worship and salvation ?

This whole thing of attributing superiority to birth is a fabrication of Sankara' . In his Vivekachoodamani , second song , he states

'' For all beings a human birth is difficult to obtain, more so is a male body; rarer than
that is Brahmanahood; rarer still is the attachment to the path of Vedic religion; higher
than this is erudition in the scriptures; discrimination between the Self and not-Self,
Realisation, and continuing in a state of identity with Brahman – these come next in
order. Mukthi (Liberation) is not to be attained except through the well earned
merits of a hundred crore of births''

Sankara' did not have the benefit of knowing about or reading The Thiruvilaiyaadalpuranam or the Thiruthondarpuraman which speak volumes of the Grace of the Lord - whose criteria for salvation is certainly not birth -not the body- nor the gender - nor the caste.

And we seem to have been so strongly influenced by his very very very flawed thinking. In the first place, I am surprised that he has managed to get away with this , when this single song itself contradicts his ekanmavada theory ( more on that later)....

In any case, I dont see a reason why we stoop to such low and inhuman levels and attribute superiority and inferiority to birth.

As a poet said ...inside my bones , my marrow stirred.


Not long back we had this fine art ...called conversation. Many a time long , insightful and very very enriching. Long enough for thoughts to flow freely ...without too much of prior preparation. ( a good friend of mine - now with the Administrative services would remove all watches and push into the cupboard when we talked .... we did not want time to intervene )...

And it was not that we were not busy those days. It is just that we found time for people - time to think aloud, share and grow.

It is communication these days - not conversations. We are content assimilating information from inanimate sources and processing it and save ourselves the trouble of thinking. We are content with messaging and save ourselves the trouble of pondering over how it is taken and responded to.

Communication devices seem to determine what and how much we communicate - or shall I say message ? And if folks are in front of the TV, the only time they can spare to communicate not converse is when there is a commercial break ( wonder if the marketing guys ever understand this - but that is besides the point ) ....and cant help feeling that we seem to value phone calls and short messages more than physical presence.

Wonder if we are losing this fine art of conversation.