Archive for December, 2014

Naming a tree

It was drizzling, and the sky was bleak all over, just like a perfect gray uniform. It’s one of those early February rains… that mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. We were both out on a ‘solitary’ walk.

“What are you up to?” I asked my little friend.

She tilted her umbrella and glanced skyward.

“I’m trying to name the trees,” she said.

My walking partner

My walking partner

The trees along the sidewalk, next to a park, were lined up perfectly, their bark looked a shade darker with rain. I’d passed by those trees thousands of times, without bothering to wonder until that moment what they were called.

I thought of my school days, making EVS projects, trying to learn the names of trees. Those were some days really! But simple enough. How my college trips and excursions and those camping exercises unknowingly brought me closer to nature – taught me to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the wild and be lost in it.

The one tree she could confidently name, she exclaimed, “Tis a Peepal tree!”

I nodded in approval. It’s an old Peepal tree – the symbol of enlightenment and peace. “Lord Buddha attained enlightenment meditating under the Peepal tree,” I told her.

She likes to draw I know, and her drawing book is full of gulmohar, the banyan and the peepal, which she paints and decorates in her own style.

It stopped drizzling, and we closed our umbrellas. Pointing at one of the big trees, she asked me, “What are these trees?”

I couldn’t recall the name. I cursed my memory. “Not sure… come let’s go, will find out later. I need to rush back home and drop you on the way,” I said in a huff.

It’s another working day. Another day when the world is brimming with news of the terrible things people do to each other.

I looked at her and smiled. She smiled back innocently. What better day to stand in the open air and calmly discuss trees?

The older I get, the more I realize how many details of the natural world I’ve ignored in my rush to get from here to there, and how wonderful things are when I do see them.

Names of the trees, sounds of the drizzle, colour of the sky… huh, who has time for such questions in the rush of daily life. After all there’s so much to do: the shopping, the spending, the partying, the parking… and above all, racing in a world that loves to rush.

As we moved along, I looked up in the sky. The Sun was still hiding behind several shades of gray, too lazy to wake up this morning. The birds have begun to chirp signaling a brighter day ahead. In college, how I fought for nature, against its degradation, and for its protection. As I thought of how my eco-friendly activism vanished over the years, a sense of guilt surrounded me. I was lost in some thoughts…

She shook me from my trance. We’ve reached her home.

“Bye, see you tomorrow, same time,” said my little friend – my walking partner as she waved at me and moved inside.

I felt numb as I walked – all alone. I could see a bed of yellow flowers blooming in the neighbouring garden. Not sure of their names but I realized spring is not far away. I tried to recall William Wordsworth’s Daffodils. Oh how I loved the poem in school! It’s not just a beautiful picture of nature, but the power of nature in healing mankind. I remembered the verses without much effort.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

I stood blank for a while…and all of a sudden, remembered the final verse.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Daffodils not only mark winter’s end but denotes prosperity, they say in England. Those yellow flowers also filled my heart with joy and abundance.

My little friend refreshed my childhood memories… I felt blessed. With winter on my ‘head’ and spring in my ‘heart,’ I moved ahead in a new vigour!



What we do today is what matters the most

Business Through The Lens Of Mythology

The world of business and the world of our mythological tales are not too different. Speaking at the recent Infocom Kolkata 2014 event, well-known mythologist, author and Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group Devdutt Pattanaik throws light on the various aspects of business through the lens of mythology.

 Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik

Pattanaik, who graduated in medical science and boasts of his highly acclaimed book ‘Business Sutra’ and various other books in mythology, believes that while the various characters in mythologies are different, situations that arise in today’s business world are often similar. According to him, institutions aren’t based only on rule of law and regulatory policy, but also on the social, historical and cultural context.

While trying to apply the meanings of terms from Indian mythology to modern corporate management, Pattanaik explains the context of Swarga or heaven and relates it to business. He says, “Swarga has the Kalpataru tree which gives you what you ask for. There is infinite return without investment.” This is something many managers look for. However, Swarga is nothing but a comfort zone, it is temporary, it is illusionary and it is under attack. “Those managers, like Indra or king of Swarga are always worried.”

In contrast, he explains Vaikuntha, where Vishnu prevails, is the place where business prosperity can be achieved through peace. Today’s CEOs and C-suites have to be driven towards “Vishnu-hood”, a more idealistic way of doing. “Vishnu engages with others – he is participative,” Pattanaik adds. So is today’s business that requires collaboration with shareholders, customers, employees, vendors, regulators or even the society.   He also throws light on talent management –  especially in an industry such as IT which is seeing a high attrition. Pattanaik believes the ashrama system of Vedic times was an attempt to ensure smooth transition to the next generation of kings while the old king was alive.

“Retirement was a critical step, a quarter of one’s lifetime, when one stepped away from actively running the business to enabling the future generation to take over the reins. The point was to render oneself useless over a period of time so that when it is time to renounce the world, the next generation is already running the show responsibly. Thus a vast proportion of time was invested on the next generation, so that a new world order can finally be established, he explains.

This is a big lesson in modern management when it comes to succession, people management and nurturing talent.

Pattanaik believes that the western model of doing business may not serve well in India because it operates in a different context, socially, economically, politically and psychologically. The Indian way of business is highly individualistic, emotional and relationship-driven.

Finally, one can see the relationship between the rishi and the rajas as one between a consultant and a CEO of an organization. The stories reveal how the relationship can benefit both rishi and raja. The rishi and the raja belong to two different worlds, just like the outsourcing partner or a consultant and a king and what matters is how they can work in coordination for organizational benefits.

Pattanaik concludes that management is not anything new to this land, which has a long history of culture, tradition, and ethos. Ancient India led in overseas trade and commerce. Considering that it has now become imperative in the current scenario to identify innovative and creative tools and technologies to beat the competition, it is worthwhile to delve deep into the Indian mythology for a fresh framework in management.

[The article has been published in]