Stories people tell

Every organisation and industry I have worked in had stories to tell employees. Some told them upfront – during the honeymoon (“induction”) period. Some later. Some never – but the stories were there, they are still there. 

Some examples:

1. Cigarettes. It is important for us to produce and sell cigarattes because otherwise there would be contraband plus more unhealthy forms of cigarettes. Prohibition never addresses the real issues – it only makes the issue illicit to discuss. We provide direct employment to thousands of employees, and indirect livelihood to millions others through our CSR initiatives. Our CSR initiatives are regular course material at Harvard.

2. Audit. Is not about being the “bloodhound” but the “watchdog”. It is very difficult to detect wilfully perpetrated fraud – that too done with active collusion. We can do justice to our profession by being up to date, exercising due diligence and care and maintaining professional integrity.

3. FMCG. Is ALL about distribution. Once you build this intricate pipeline, all you need is to ride on it, and allow other products and services to ride on it too while making a free profit. Scale pays. You don’t even need to produce your own goods. Our core business strength is marketing and distribution.

4. Education is business. Archaic laws and government perceptions are unable to change with times. If private players don’t enter education sector, the country will remain largely uneducated. Private players provide incentive based services which will surely be better than poorly incentivised Public education. We do make profits to sustain. Like EVERY other business our way of doing good to society is through our products and services.

As you must have guessed by now, these and many more stories not listed here are neither right nor wrong. We need stories to make sense of our complex environment. Less time taken to understand the environment means more time for action in preset direction. Some stories we outgrow with enhanced perception. Some we grow with without realising how it attached itself – through own thinking or otherwise. Maybe I am growing older in mind and increasingly skeptical. But more stories are clearer today as stories than they were than 10 years ago.


Our times

Our generation (those significantly younger, can read this as “my generation”) would have stories of tell of “those times” when we were growing up.  Imagining a conversation between the next generation and mine (one need not even fast forward to the future, these are true even now).

Q: How old are you?

A: So old that the internet and email were first used in India when I was in high school.

Q: What ? You did not have internet until high school ? Then how did u do your homework?

A: We read books, and “wrote” by hand

Q: That MUST have taken time! If you did’nt have internet, how did you meet friends on facebook?

A: Oh facebook came much later – after I post graduated and was into my 3rd job. We had something called “orkut” during the college phase, and nothing before that.

Q: Oh so I assume you would talk/ text your friends till such time?

A: Hmmm…yes we did have a landline phone at which school friends would call. I bought my 1st personal mobile phone a few months after my 1st job.

Q: Then how would your family reach you whenever you were away?

A: At other PP landline phones

Q: But landlines cannot store phone numbers !!

A: Yes, I would remember the phone numbers of my close friends and family, and note down the rest in hand-made phone diaries. Some of us had digital diaries.

Q: So you would talk to your friends on the land line in front of FAMILY?

A: Well, it could be avoided at times, but mostly – yes.

Q: Ok tell me, how did you pass time when you DID NOT have any internet?

A: Till the internet came…well, I guess that was in school days, we would read, listen to music on the tape recorder, play “Lock and Key”, “Crocodile”, Carrom, Paandi, Ludo, Pallankuzhil or watch TV. Some others would play Cricket, football etc.

Q: You did not have Ipod or the X Box too?

A: Nope. Those came later too.

Q: Thank God, you atleast had the TV !!! Was it a black and white?

A: No, black and white TV was in olden times, my generation grew up watching colour TV

(pack and run before questions on LCD, Plasma and  3D TV enter the conversation…..)

Nuggets (2)

As I was reviewing my own past writings, mostly I found them amusing. (Sometimes I cringed). But there was one post called “Nuggets” that I still found to be  as relevant today. It seemed to have endured some time, and the changes in my life as well. It did attract criticism as having an “idealistic” tone, but it is still as true (and not idealistic) for me as other values can be for others.

Some Nuggets again:- (lets see how long or well these last – at least for me)

1)  Taking a tough decision is not easy. But to live the consequences of the decision everyday is tough. To fight self-doubt (or to give in without fighting it),  to fight all the “What Ifs” that suddenly spring on the mind (or to give in to them), to fight the negativity, despair and lack of hope (or to give in to them), during the phase of living the decision, is tough.

An IIMB Prof once said – the real test for sticking to a value, is – when you pay a huge price for it. Do you want to win the real test, and pay the  huge price?  Or lose the test, and save the price for something else that you may find worthy later?  Truth is, one never knows without taking the plunge.  And still, one might not know 🙂

2) There are no fool-proof decisions. Ever. Ever. Ever.  The unexpected always pops its head out, as a variable that we did not consider.  Then we factor that in future decisions, and something else pops up.  And then we factor on and on.  The plus side is, there are unexpected variables popping out, that have nice outcomes too.

3) It is very important to have lesser time in our hands, than the things one can manage with that time – because then only we will prioritize and end up doing the things that are important. Freedom with time, quite paradoxically makes one lose the value of both time, and the things that can be done with it.

4) Never lose sight of your basic beliefs of life.  Recall them when you are fine, and positive NOW. The beliefs themselves can be simple, complex, experiential, moralistic or anything. But having them is what makes you, you. Knowing that you have some basic things that external factors cannot destroy can itself be a superb guiding force.

When you are low, and the beliefs forgotten at the conscious level, they will come back at another level to help.

Like they have now, to me.

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