Saturday, December 8, 2012


It was a sad day at the old mansion which was decrepit but inhabited by a large undivided family at Rampur. The crops had failed and the passion for living off the tilling done by the few in their lands had ensured that the currency chest dwindled. The male members were grappling around to find a solution whilst the females were trying to rattle up a cuisine which would present the undiminished status to a new entrant who was returning from a long sojourn abroad. The need to protect the family honour reminded one of the epochal Shatranj ke Khiladi. Soon one of the male members came up with the idea of pawning some of the gold to ensure that the feast proposed for the grand old man went on without any hitches. The gold was pawned making it the news of the day. 

The railway station of Rampur saw festoons being hoisted. A band was put in place. The steam engine driven train hauled the passengers in. The only passenger who descended at Rampur was a bearded old man who was immediately escorted with fanfare as the privilege for carrying his small luggage was subjected to competition. The man glowed with wisdom and stroked his beard. He was taken on a tonga to the old mansion where another grandiose welcome with the traditional arathi awaited him. After a shower, he was led to the  palatial dining hall and served the traditional cuisine. The man, looked at the whole feast and mumbled, " Why do you wish to waste so much in the name of tradition?" Then he added, " I will not be able to do justice to this whole fare. But  please accept my grateful thanks for making me feel so honoured."  After the meal was through, the males gathered around a paan table and the visitor was offered the digestive paan.

Soon, the younger folk were dispensed with and the patriarch of the family chatted up the visitor. The visitor nonchalantly said, " Uncle, I must now confess to you that I have come here with an intention to stay my rest of the life with you." The uncle was obviously not pleased as the family costs were in itself too heavy to bear and the need to maintain the high standard of living for the rest of the life was not possible. As his mind roved over these areas, the visitor said, " I am aware that you have run out of funds and the income is also meagre. Supporting a large family on this would be a difficult task. I have come to help you. But would you listen to some plans that would actually save your ship?"
The patriarch after discussing elaborately told him that he was free to go ahead with his agenda of saving the family and he would ensure that his family sticks to his words.

The visitor soon laid out the expenses budget for the family and pruned all extravagance. He sold a small portion of the land and then built a few small shops on the land abutting the main road. These he rented out and ensured that a steady income flow was maintained. The family was also able to retrieve the family jewels from the pawn broker. The denizens of Rampur renewed their affection for this patriarch. His word became law even in petty family disputes to major land disputes. Soon further pieces of lands were sold and a complex of houses and shops were built. People were amazed with the growth of this family's assets which was being built out of sale of its landed assets.

The rentals grew and the family returned to its extravagant ways. The family members stopped doing any work and instead started living of the rental incomes. The family was also growing in size as marriages and births in the families far exceeded the odd demise of a person or two. Within a span of a decade the growth turned into a decline. People in Rampur started migrating to the neighbouring towns as the quantum of arable land had come down. The large landholding of the principal family had now become next to nothing. The tillers had no jobs and had to migrate to fresh pastures. Some tillers had become shopkeepers but the rest had to give way. Rampur resembled a small town and was now a spot for a regular halt on the highway. The business of shopkeepers boomed as did the prices of the edibles as they had to be fetched from other villages.

The coffers had dwindled and the panic button was pressed. The grand old man was praised as the Bhishma Pitamaha and was requested to give his sage counsel for retrieval. He looked around and started selling the shops first. With the sale of each shop a huge amount came in but the regular income in the form of rentals started dwindling. Some of the houses had fallen vacant and there were no takers for these houses. The family members extended their inhabiting space to these houses in the garb of seeking some privacy. The patriarch passed away. The word of the grand old man was now questioned. The new generation asked him, " What will you sell next?" The man replied, " You only wanted me to get you some money which I am doing from the available resources. You should understand that the last time around I saved you and you prospered. This time is no different." A young man stood up and asked " But it did not save us forever. It was only for five to ten years. What would happen after another ten years?" The old man stroked his beard and thought, " I am already too old. God may not permit me live that long. Even if I am there, it would then be your turn to take care of me " but smiled and said, " Who has seen tomorrow? We will go by our experience. Is there anyone who doubts my ability?" The other members of the family shouted the young man down and the fundamental question was drowned.

Another day passed. The old man smiled at the young man and said, " You are too wise to remain in this family. Fly out of the nest before it is too late."

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Men may come and men may go but the system goes on forever is oft repeated statement in many organisations. The question is whether the man makes the system or the system makes the man. Undoubtedly, no person is indispensable but is it the chair that makes the man or the man who graces the seat who lends it credibility is a question which needs to be deliberated upon with more seriousness than it has been conferred upon.

The recent demise of Shri I K Gujral sent me back to my childhood days. A person born in the Indira era, I distinctly remember that the term "PM" on the pages of the newspaper meant nothing more than Indira Gandhi at least to me. The emergency and its aftermath held us in her awe with little realisation of what was going around. On the backlash in 1977, it took us sometime to reconcile that PM could mean someone else. Evidently, the Government was more preoccupied in managing its diversities and overcoming its penchant for opposition that it collapsed. The authority of a PM was personified by Indira which she herself lost in her tenure in the eighties. Same was the case of Thatcher who captured the imagination of the public with her Falkland war. Touted to be a grocer's daughter, her firm action enthralled our young minds.

During our college days, the terms of Rajiv, Benazir and Gorbachev were critically analysed. This was followed by the practical Chandrashekhar, the Chanakya of Indian politics, Narasimha Rao who etched a place in history. The imprints left by leaders such as George Fernandes and I K Gujral were no less though they were contrasting personalities. The balancing act and the oratorial skills of Vajpayee left us spellbound. Soon it became clear that each person brought something to the post. The case would be well driven on citing the example of T N Seshan, the man who made the Election Commission an institution to reckon with.

Evidently, they occupied the post with grace and discharged their duties in the manner which is distinct to only themselves. It is for this reason the British held that the post was occupied by a person and did not allow the person to manipulate his office. Today, we have misconceived notions amongst the public in general and the persons holding office in particular. They believe that they are the posts. For example if X is holding the post of a Collector, it is stated that the X is the Collector which is incorrect. Instead of this if one were to accept that X was discharging his duty as a Collector and would move on then it would make him more objective in his subjective approach. He would only lend his elegant touch rather than believe he is law. Corruption could be battled and there would be a reprieve for the common man.

Let us therefore begin in small measure by stating that X is elected to the post of CM or PM rather than state that X is CM or PM. A small step by the media will go a long way in imprinting this fact in the psyche of the people leading to a major revolution in the thought process. In short let us separate the post and the individual. We may honour an individual for his diligent discharge of duties of a particular post but do not deem him to be the post. Will this happen?