values

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Being Indian – 1 : Cultural Invasion

Published July 3, 2015 by vishalvkale



One of the common themes in these times is the oft-heard erosion of values in India and the threat to our way of life; that Indian values are under threat… What does Being Indian mean, devoid of any religious connotations? In the following mini-series, I have tried to place what is essentially my opinion on Being Indian, and what are its ramifications… and present my views on Indian Culture’s well known inclusiveness – which is as per me the defining characteristic of being Indian –  as well as try and meet allegations of the spectre of cultural invasion, or the erosion of Indian Values

To me, Being Indian :
v Gives me an ability to think, read and write in 3 Languages with consummate ease and complete confidence…
v Gives me an edge as I can live my life in a truly free democracy, where the colour of skin doesnt matter, where my name doesnt matter
v Gives me an edge {form 1 above} because I can access the best of Western Literature as well as Eastern Literature, in addition to Indian Literature without having to go the additional mile to learn new languages or cultures
v Gives me an edge because I can communicate with someone in South Korea or Singapore or Philippines or Indonesia or USA or Germany or anywhere else; I can do business with them while not having to go the additional mile to learn a new language; at the same time, it allows me to stay very close and combined with my culture, as I converse in 3 languages with total ease
v Gives the confidence of the backing of an inclusive and open culture that has survived severe onslaughts, more than any other culture almost, and has not only flourished – but has taken the best from every culture to come into contact with it – the uniquely Indian power of assimilation
v Gives me an edge as I have to deal with stunning diversity on a daily basis – I interact daily with Muslims, Christians, Sanaatan Dharmis, SIkhs or North Indians, South Indians, East Indians, and so on including all types of skin colours; and it allows me to deal with them, befriend them and do business with them without any cultural connotations or limitations or biases…
Openness and Inclusiveness means that you are welcome to trade with India, tour India, have mutually – underline that – beneficial relations with India. That is it; dont interfere, and stay the hell out of our affairs. Intermix with us, associate with us, – but do not interfere. The fact of the matter is that the West does interfere and poke their unwanted nose everywhere; that is where we Indians draw the line.


One can be open and inclusive while simultaneously drawing the line; it is eminently feasible to do so. Openness and Inclusiveness are typically internal terms, internal realities referring to the internal cultural reaction and their socio-political effects; external interactions are governed by a different set of factors, which do not include openness and inclusiveness in the cultural context.
In the external context, being open and inclusive means not having territorial designs, not being judgemental of other cultural or having a supermacist self-image, being accepting of other realities and cultural contexts {as different from political realities and context}, accepting those differences and working around those differences without offending the other party / culture, and without being judgemental , holier-than-thou and moralistic.


Morals, while absolute, have widely divergent yardstick and norms in other cultures; ditto social norms. We cannot and should not dictate our cultural view to other cultures – it is their culture, their problems are theirs to solve, not ours. We have no conceptualisation of their internal realities and factors, and our opinion or interference is thus not required.


We can easily see that externally we have been very careful, as a nation, to be non-judgemental and inclusive, accepting of other nations and cultures. Unlike The Great West, we dont chastise USA on their racism problems, or dictate to other cultures {as a small example}. We dont bring out insulting reports on internal factors of other nations – unlike the holier-than-thou USA which does it all the time, as an example. We are very internally focused as a nation and as a people, with the only exception being our penchant for following Sanaatan Dharm and its followers everywhere. But point to be noted : even there, we have never intervened or interfered to the best of my knowledge; which is more than can be said of the developed world, with its myriad cultural and political means of subvention as well as intervention


That is why we cannot drop our guard : their problems are theirs only so far as they dont impact us or our nation’s internal security paradigms. You may have business relations in India, you may have business contacts, you may have the same roots & origins – like PIOs, or the same religion; you may be our security or strategic partner and/or well-wisher – that does not give you the right to pontificate. We can manage our own problems; we don’t pontificate to you; and the least we expect is that you reciprocate…


That is truly walking the talk; that is truly inclusive and mature…


I live my way, you live yours. I accept your way – and the least I expect is that you accept my path. If you dont, then there is going to be a clash. Openness and Inclusiveness between cultures works only when both are the same; when only one is Open and Inclusive, you cannot have Openness and Inclusiveness without clashes, which is what we see in the international context as cultures collide. And when the collision is in both the cultural as well as the political sphere, problems get intertwined and exacerbated.
Politically, one can easily see a myriad attempts at interference : crass and in-your-face – like building up Pakistan; Trade and Economic Issues – Solar Power, AMS, Climate Change, Tech Transfer, UNO; Myriad targeted reports on various internal issues, and so on and so forth. These are real problems, and cannot be wished away. Neither can the reality of the connected world : I refer you to the seminal book by Dr Raghuram Rajan {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/04/book-review-fault-lines-by-raghuram-g.html} , as well as the book by Michael W Hudson {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/05/book-review-monster.html} ; the impact of the globally connected economy on unrelated markets is now a fundamental truth and cannot be wished away.

Culturally too, one can easily spot a variety of attempts at intervention through various quasi-cultural methods, as well as outright political methods; but these pale into insignificance in the light of the other challenge to the culture,  it is also true that it is culture that is at the foreground in the connected world with its exposure to other cultural ideas, mores, norms, modes, practices and realities through the increasingly aggressive media and its exposure to people

In such an atmosphere, while it is absolutely vital that a defensive mechanism be in place in every way in the political sphere, I am not too concerned about the impact on culture; which is why I am not at all defensive on both the overt cultural aspects like Movies and Music, as well as the less apparent cultural aspects like tolerance, respect of elders, open world view, inclusiveness, When it comes to realpolitic, it is important that we build strong defenses; that is where the focus needs to be – not on building defences and angry reactions to an imagined cultural invasion which may not be as serious as we think it to be!
Nothing stated above means we forget the past; which is the single biggest reason for some people to mount a defend Indian Culture action sequence. These reactions we shall look at later; As regards bitterness and history, when a people have bled as much as we have, it will take a long time, a very, very long time to forget. But what past to remember – only a partial recollection, or the full story? Why not remember the full story, especially since the developed world is developed only on the stolen wealth from the colonies? Why only a partial recollection of history? Further, contemporary history has proven that it would be naive to forget the relevant past, which we do tend to ignore : witness the US-Pakistan duo, and how it is consistently supporting Pakistan to our detriment. Witness the Economic and Trade negotiations in everything from Agriculture to Climate, and witness the western onesided selfishness.

Let us look at what happened in 1947, which was enough to tear apart the core, the base, the bedrock and the entire edifice of Aryavarta, the Golden Land {of which India is a larger version, having expanded in some regions, while contracting elsewhere}; it was enough to rip out its entails. It was a brutal jolt, a shock to the core of our being, our raison-de-etre. A land where everyone was at home was no longer home to some people… and yet…
In the midst of this disaster, from the ashes of ruin, rose Modern India – the living image of Ancient Aryavarta, a land where everyone is welcome regardless of anything, so long as you are an Indian Citizen. Yet again, all religions, colours and cultural realities found a means of peaceful co-existence. Sure, problems remain – but how many of those problems are due to the colonial experience? Have we had enough time to eradicate that memory and that damage?
This is a theme we will examine in later articles, for now, the learning from the above example for us is that if such  a brutal jolt could not destroy the core of our ethos as a civilization, it is being pessimistic in the extreme to believe minor cultural factors will succeed in overcoming us; this is a time for us Indians to look at the entire past, and draw confidence from it; and look at our contemporary approach  and culture, and draw pride for it – not defensiveness.



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Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and We The People : A Question of Values

Published June 24, 2015 by vishalvkale



Clean India : Swachhtaa Abhiyaan; at long last, we have a Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, a leader, interested in setting an example, becoming an exemplar to the people by focusing on all the right values : cleanliness, closeness to our culture {Yoga as an example}; he has faults – but let us praise where praise is manifestly due in all fairness. But, that does not mean that this attitude, while setting an exemplar, an example before us, will automatically solve our cleanliness issues, even without the systemic flaws I pointed out in my previous article on this issue: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Or Clean India – Does It Meet The Problem?


As I wrote earler, do you really require the Prime Minister of your country to tell you keep your nation clean? Do you really require to be told to throw things in dustbins? Do you really require to be told to keep your city clean, not throw waste outside your home? Do you really need to be told to throw the waste inside the dustbin, not in its general direction? You dont clutter your home – then, in that case, if you throw garbage on the road, what does this behaviour say about you as a person


We are a nation of 1.28 Billion; setting the example wont do much good. Akela Chanaa etc etc… We have to get to the core reason behind such behaviour. Why do people behave the way they do? Why do people take care to keep their home clean, their office clean, the posh hotels etc clean, but display such crass behaviour elsewhere? ? What internal value systems are you displaying? What does it say about your true priorities?

At the office, it is peer pressure + HR / Disciplinary Action + Boss fear; at home it is family fear + selfishness + long exposure / stay; at the posh market it is peer pressure + image etc. What are the core values a person is displaying? It is certainly not cleanliness, or love for cleanliness, or even ethics. The values being displayed are Power, Hunger, Image, Presentation, Projection, Self etc…

A truly clean person displays the same – precise same – behaviour across all aspects of life, not a differential behaviour. Values {at least the core values} dont change as per the situation : if it does, it isnt a value or a core value of that person. Values are typically rock-steady, and remain virtually almost unassailable unless challenged by deep philosphical thought, or disaster etc – or a long sustained period of change : positive or negative. We dont try and make them decent human being; we dont teach values. It starts at home. What you see around you is a reflection of your own deeds, and attitudes.


No point pointing fingers. People are unclean because parents like you and me have not taught them this basic human behaviour. That can only mean that our minds are tainted and unclean. A clean mind, a truly clean mind, sees ethics, values and cleanliness in every endeavour. If there is duality, as in spoken ethics {or even provable ethics} combined with a habit of uncleanliness… Change your attitude towards India, be selfless, view it as your home, and internalise cleanliness.


Sorry to be harsh, but the fault is of the parents. Parents should scold or punish their children for such behaviour; that we dont is a manifest fact. We try and make them street-smart, we try and make them come first…


What is happening in these instances? A person is being influenced by external stimuli which is transient in nature; the moment this stimulus is removed. the behaviour goes back to the normal. Behaviour is controlled by your value system; and external stimuli that are transient and short-term have zero impact on the value system.


Thus, any recommended solution will perforce have to cater to the problem. The nature of the positive influencers like the exemplars others looked at above are such that these are transient temporary influences which lack a long-term impact in the absence of strong emotive rewards for the desired behaviour; that is why the impact wanes over time. And that is also why, despite the fact that Values can change in a sustained exposure, exemplars generally fail to make an impact all by themselves

By contrast, fear of punishment, image consciousness, etc negative influences retain their power for a much longer time after the removal of the stimulus. That is why the only way is to initiate a strong disincentive towards tardy behaviour {littering and filth in this case}, driving the subject towards the desired behaviour : cleanliness.

And that is why I recommend strong punishments for tardy behavior, as in Singapore. This can be combined with school {nursery level, KG-1&2 level children and parent interactions with trainers. And fail the children – even at these starting levels – if both parents dont turn up for these training sessions regularly. Disincentives all along the line for adults, and incentives and freebies and other reinforcers for the children. If you are not clean, there is no place in society for you is the message that should go across to the people.


Adults dont need to be reminded or reinforced of the need for cleanliness; that is a very basic and expected societal norm. Besides, with their value systems being fully formed, the chances of positive re-inforcers, exemplars etc changing the core behaviour is precious little. In order that action is initiated from such recalcitrant people, we need to take a leaf from the errant behaviour : negative influencers : peer pressure, fear etc which we saw above. These will be the drivers than will drive the adults to the sessions, namely the certainly that their child will be failed, for their fault.

Thereafter, you can use any number of positive influencers that you like, your exemplars etc. In my opinion, nothing else will work. We have seen exemplars showing people – I myself have for years being setting examples, with little to show for it. In my colony, for the past year, some adults have been voluntarily cleaning the garden, with zero impact. It is still as dirty as it used to be before the great swachhtaa tamaashaa!

That is why setting an example will not work; and that is why it hasnt worked till now. Remember the Aamir Khan Ad? Or recall all those people who do the cleaning up, and who carry things to the dustbin etc? It hasnt worked because it wont; not now, not ever.
These are influencers, and influence behaviour only for the duration of the experience. Thus, no amount of setting examples is the solution. Values change only when a person is put through a deep, positive or negative influence that has the capacity to jar a person from stem to stern. Or they can be formed during the early years; that is it. The only solution is parent and children education, and a slow change for the better. Fact of the matter is that the moral compass of our society is seriously skewed, and that is a fact.


Rest assured; if a person acts clean in office, malls – but is careless in public places, that person is almost a charlatan, a con and a put-on. He or she is wearing a fake garb of ethics. The truly ethical person is ethical in each and every walk of life, is uncompromising on this basic human value.


Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Published March 14, 2015 by vishalvkale

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Yet another accident… yet another victim… and yet again, our lack of decency, humanity, empathy and caring lie exposed. Yet again, we lie exposed for what we have become as a people – uncaring, depraved and self-centered people who care nothing for anyone not related to us, who feel no empathy and no pity for any person not directly emotionally connected with us. My head hangs in shame… what have we become as a people? How did we become so heartless, so cruel?

“”
She lay bleeding on the road in front of St John’s Church at AJC Bose Road-Ripon Street crossing for about 25 minutes in rush hour. What makes it even more shocking is, people went about normally all around her. One flank of AJC Road was then packed with vehicles bringing students to two of Kolkata’s most reputable schools. On the other flank, buses carrying passengers to Sealdah and the IT hub of Salt Lake jostled for space.
Yet, no one stopped to help an injured woman.

If anyone thinks this is an isolated incident, think again… remember Nirbhay, and how no one came to help her? Or you can also do a simple google search – or go and read at least one more article on my blog itself. This is the fourth case I have documented of such brutal and heartless behavior of Indians towards their fellow citizens, fellow humans in dire need. This is what we have become – morally defunct, without any sense of humanity, decency, honesty…


I would like to ask all India – what would you feel like if someone you know and love {God Forbid} goes through a similar experience – and you chance upon him or her lying on the road, bleeding – and in need of help? What would you do? Take a snap, or just look, and walk away? No? If not, why not? And what would you feel like if you ran to people for help – and they just looked away, walked away? Shame on you, shame – all of you who walked away, or looked away in all such cases. If you are reading this, let me tell you – you are a disgusting and brutal excuse for a human. Even an animal tries and helps its own species in distress!

The mere thought of it makes my blood run cold… my mind freeze in shock at the sheer uncaring, inhuman and cold-blooded brutality displayed by everyone.  Are we so depraved, bled dry of all that our resplendent culture has taught us, devoid of all humanity and morality that we will let people die? This despite there being a series of commendable decisions by the courts supporting the helpers? How can such people go in front of their families, and face them? How do they manage to look their loved ones in the eyes? And what do they think that God is not watching? I am shocked… just plained stunned at this shocking display of selfish brutality by the average Indian! Chhi! Shame! Shame on us, all of us!

WHAT LIES AT THE CORE OF THIS BEHAVIOUR
What lies at the core of this inexplicable display of moral turpitude, this display of depraved or wicked behaviour or character? Is it that the average Indian’s character has gone bad? Have we become the demons of our age, the Raavan or the Duryodhan of the modern age? The evidence would certainly support such an indictment; there can be no doubt of that. Walking away from a wounded and dying man certainly qualifies for a wicked character. That is certain. Except for one thing : Both the above were very learned and able men. We certainly aren’t either; we are worse, if anything – judging from the above.

The only other explanation – fear. Fear of hurt or loss to self due to a lack of trust in the systems that govern us. As I observed – this fear persists in the face of repeated court interventions and decisions telling people, exhorting people to help victims without fear. Yet, such horrifying displays of crass inhumanity persist, pointing to a large and yawning gap between the people and the system.

The need of the hour then becomes planning and executing steps that can be taken to bridge this gap; to lessen the fear in the minds of the people. This would involve educating and reforming the interface between the people and the system – the front-facing Government staff like the police and civil servants, and ensure that they are more receptive to the genuine needs of humanity.

However, having said that, these representatives also come from within our society. And if these people are still harassing the helpers {I don’t know that, to be honest- that is why the qualification “if”} it calls for deep seated reform within the system. But more pertinently, this also goes to prove that there is an additional factor beyond “fear”; that fear cannot explain everything. Had fear been the sole causative factor, then at least the interface would have been more friendly, and more caring.

And if they aren’t harassing the helpers, which is a distinct possibility given the many decisions, and the absence of media hue and cry on this – such cases goes to show that we as a people are unthinking and self-centered, and morally defunct and depraved. We just don’t care. Not even when there are such blood-curling cases happening. That is a simple conclusion that can be drawn. We all of us need a deep relook at our priorities, our morality and our lives.

If we assume that there is some fear factor that lies at the core, along with other problems, then the solution could be canvassing door-to-door or otherwise reaching out to the people – not impersonally through media  – but with the personal touch and assuring people that they wont be harassed in case they have to help. This requires deep and systemic reform within the police system and other administrative reforms, which will enable the police to be a bit freer to execute such tasks; but it is doable, and very practical. This will also go a long way in building trust within communities and rebuilding some character in the people.

But how can that happen, when we the people are ourselves  not wanting such reforms? Even the courts want them, the police themselves want these reforms, but no. Not we the people. We all go excited over nonsense and / or relatively unimportant aspects, but are not concerned about this very vital set of reforms that can redefine the way we live. We are too self centered in our ways, too idiotic in our approach to see how we are harming ourselves by such activities…

Skill Gap – 3 : Doing Something Practical About It

Published February 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

The MBA is considered among those courses that are a ticket to a good life and earnings, it is considered among the most-sought after qualifications a person can have – if done from the right institution. To some, it is one of the most hyped courses, while to others, it is the only target and the only qualification. And yet, this course and its degree holders are the one that are among the most challenged. Similar is the situation with other professional courses at the Graduate and Post Graduate Level, in particular Engineering. 
And yet, surprisingly, it is the students of these courses that are finding getting a job to be a tough ask. Outside the top few colleges, placements are a real challenge. Even in cases where placements are done, the right job or a lucrative job is rare, to say the least. Placements usually require a compromise on the part of the student, who is understandably keen to land any job in this tough market. And even then, a good number have to remain jobless
Further, we are seeing a stunning spectacle of seats going unfilled in MBA colleges, and the closure of institutions. For example, as this article clarifies, 147 schools closed down last year. For a nation which is supposed to be going through a skill shortage, this is both sad as well as surprising. On one side, companies are crying skill shortage, bemoaning the lack of quality trained manpower, and on another – the institutions which can provide the manpower to companies- MBA, Engineering and other colleges are going through strain – either closing, or unable to attract students, or are going jobless, in a classic case of the supreme irony! This would even be a laughable joke, if it werent so tragic at so many levels…
This points to a deep seated problem at two levels – firstly on the part of hiring managers and organisations, as I delved into some detail in previous articles on my blog : Skill Gap and Skill Gap 2. In these articles, I noted the sad and pitiable status of training cutting across functions in companies; as well as the reluctance of companies to get into the situation, roll up their sleeves and craft a solution to the problem. 
Given the reluctance of the organisations to do anything about it, I can only conclude that these organisations lack the skill sets required to craft a solution to this vexing issue, something I shall go into greater detail in my next article on this matter. We then have no choice but to look at the other side of the equation, given that the people actually facing the problem have no intention of either solving it, or lend a helping hand in solving it. 
The second level of the problem is within the MBA courses and colleges itself, who in my experience have both the willingness as well as the ability to craft a solution. As a matter of fact, much of what I state will already have been thought of in colleges across the nation, of that I am certain. The key question here should be, what can these institutions do that is doable as well as logical?
Here again, there are two levels : one relatively easy, requiring little specialised knowledge and readily doable over a short time-frame; and the other exceptionally hard and time-consuming, requiring deep specialised knowledge and conceptual clarity of a high degree. The first is increasing industry-college linkages, and the other refurbishing the design of the MBA {or the core curriculum in degree courses} course itself. This article dwells on the first aspect only, given that the second is rather a tall order, especially for a blog post. 
The moot point in this is that the industry has shown itself to be completely unwilling to engage itself with colleges and institutes outside the top few in a meaningful manner, restricting their interaction to giving pointless and empty feedback regarding what students lack : in effect, brushing their hands off the problem and walking away! This leaves the colleges and the students both up a creek, so to speak : hunting for vague meaningless terms like “soft skills”!
The net result is that the people facing the problem in full : the students, the colleges {in particular the placement and administrative cells} – have little precise knowledge of exactly what the industry requires, for the perfectly simple reason that no one in the industry has ever taken the trouble of telling them in function and role-specific terms as to what is required. The reason for that, as we shall subsequently see in the follow-up to this article, is that companies themselves haven’t even a farthing’s idea as to what exactly this ethereal and by now almost legendary skill gap is in practical terms. 
Thus, the people who should know, dont; and the people who are the interface, the people who can link to the students and sort out this mess – the professors and teachers – cannot help in the absence of information. This leaves the gap open for vocational training services, which come at a cost, and, while effective no doubt, can with a little thought be made far more effective and pertinent. 
The solution is simple : catch onto professionals who would like to make a difference. Please note my usage of words, carefully : I did not state hire professionals as teachers and professors. I stated clearly, catch the professionals who want to make a difference. Trust me, if colleges across the nation make a determined effort, they will find ready talent across functions and levels – Engineers, Doctors, Managers, Marketers, Finance Specialists : the whole lot of professions – who would want to make a difference. All they require is an alternative, one which offers them a career option. 
I also did not state increase salaries to the level of the industry; the reason is straightforward. The industry can always pay more, there is zero chance of all institutions matching industry packages. Some might, but certainly not all. Second, there is the hope factor: so long as you are in the rat race, there is always a hope that you will get the promotion or the new job. Third, matching packages will run the risk of attracting people who are in it for the money, not for the love of the profession. What is required is giving entry to professionals, and a decent package that can ensure a decent life. That is it. 
Next, set up expectations from these professionals, in a defined framework; a framework that asks them to give some value addition from their industry experience. These cross-over professionals should be clear in their mind that their task involves both covering the syllabus as well as grooming students for corporate life. Interaction with such professionals in a classroom over a sustained period of 2-3 years is bound to have a powerful impact. This will of course require tweaking in the class allocations, with additional time being given to such professionals, alongwith some performance measurement criteria in terms of deliverables. Critically, for this to succeed, this has to be taken up with an almost missionary zeal. The make or break will be the professionals you hire, who should share this zeal and passion. 
The start will perforce be slow; but it has to be done. For in my considered opinion, as I shall cover in the next article, the industry cannot be relied upon to sort out this mess; it just does not have the requisite skill sets for this. Neither is the training institutes route a permanent solution; these are excellent; no doubt : but are hamstrung on two parameters : firstly, low acceptance in the industry, and second, high resistance to external intervention by industry as well as colleges, which is completely understandable. This will have to go hand in hand with a solution to another problem that is also a core issue : the availability of the proper study material at the right price and in the right language : which is a massive, massive issue… but that is an entirely different story, to be taken up in the concluding article in this series…

A Hard Look At We, The People

Published January 11, 2015 by vishalvkale

In the previous article, we took a look at the concept of values from a psychological perspective : Life’s Challenges : Are You Rough, Or Are You Tough?. Let us take a small peek at the definition and concept of the term Values from the perspective of Psychology, taken from the website “psychologytoday” : 



One important concept in psychology is values.  Thus, it is important to define values.  What are values?  Values are judgements about how important something is to us. There may be three basic attributes of values.  First, values are subjective judgments.   Second, we may make a judgement of how important something is relative to something else.  For example, one may judge that helping others is more important that becoming famous.   Third, values may be principles that help us make important personal decisions. 




Values are beliefs, and refer to desirable goals that motivate action. Values serve as standards or criteria and guide the selection or evaluation of actions, policies, people, and events. People decide what is good or bad, justified or illegitimate, worth doing or avoiding, based on possible consequences for their cherished values. Any attitude or behavior typically has implications for more than one value.  The tradeoff among relevant, competing values guides attitudes and behaviors (Schwartz, 1992, 1996). Values influence action when they are relevant in the context (hence likely to be activated) and important to the actor. {Reference here}




Values are of many types – for example Power, Tradition, Security, Conformity, Benevolence, Achievement, Stimulation, Hedonism etc; but that is not what concerns us directly. What is more important is the clarity that our actions are defined by an underlying set of criteria, which determine our actions and behaviour. This is critical : for this lays bare some rather uncomfortable questions for us Indians in general. 




What are the values that we, as a people, hold important? Keep in mind that Values are graded in terms of relative importance to us at a subconscious level. Thus, when we ask for or pay a bribe, what are we displaying about ourselves?  That for us, as individuals, the person or the self is more important than the society, the laws and the nation. And that is only for starters. 




The conscious decision to pay a bribe, or ask for one clearly means that morals mean nothing to us. And, viewed from the Value perspective, we can see that giving a bribe is as bad as taking a bribe. For, in both cases, you have made a clear choice : to you, as a person, the nation as well as the society is not as important as yourself. You grade yourself and your own convenience to be of a higher level of importance than the well-being of society and the nation.




Bribery is not at all a totally harmless activity; its damaging effects range from financial impact on the society to issues of national security. It is the same in several other aspects of behaviour. Consider unethical conduct in the job, that is condoned as routine in the modern workplace. The moment you make a choice to ignore the fake document, you are actively choosing to place the self above the law, the morality, society as well as the nation. To you, Power and Achievement are far more important than societal norms and national interests. Worse is the case of actively procreating false documents, or not doing due vigilance, or suggesting creative accounting and procedures in high value investments and transactions. You are yet again saying that you, as a person, value the self above everything else. 



This attitude and these set of values manifest themselves in any number of activities, and clearly spell out what you and I as Indians hold important in our lives, and lay bare the hypocrisy of the statements of our placing India first. The same case is in civic sense – by littering your surroundings, but keeping your house clean, you are clearly showing a definable value choice : that you place a much greater emphasis on the self than on the community. 

Every choice we make, every decision we take, exposes us for what we are, what we hold dear and what relative importance we attach to various choices and objectives in life. Our indulgence in unethical behaviour exposes us for what we are intrinsically; the famous chalta hai attitude, when observed from this POV, shows up not as chalta hai but as a clear choice for valuing self, and placing a comparably lesser emphasis on the society and the nation, even in situations where there is no chance of danger to our own lives, or any great material damage. 

Our attitude, made famous by many articles and commentors as Chalta Hai is actually nothing even close to a Chalta Hai type of attitude, which is typically indicative of a laidback and lackadaisical approach; it is actually a clear, conscious choice of placing higher value on personal convenience and benefit, placing the nation and the society at a secondary level. The only extenuating circumstance is the risk to personal or family lives; and this is a danger in very select cases. In the large majority of cases, this argument of Values holds true. 

Your choices are driven in your subconscious by what you value, as we have seen above. And the numerous unethical and at times downright illegal behaviour we display,  in both small and large cases, {like jumping red lights, saving time for us, but inconveniencing others}  clearly spell out that we dont value the nation and the society as much as we do. Had that been the case, incidences of people paying a bribe would have been lesser, unethical conduct would not have been such a serious issue and so on and so forth!

In simple terms, we place Achievement, Esteem and Power on a greater level in our own personal value sets over and above Security, Tradition, Conformity, Morality, Universalism and Benevolence. All three choices that we have made are undoubtedly important; but it is a manifest truth that they cannot be above the nation, the society and the law, or in other words – Security, Tradition, Morality. This is a clear indication that our Value Systems and Morality is in dire need of correction. 

For, it is a known fact that one can achieve Esteem, Power and Achievement Satisfaction even without the compromises made in the examples above. Thus, if a large number of people feel that in our society we cannot survive without placing self first, we are in effect stating that we as a nation, and as a society, have a Value System and a Moral Compass that is badly skewed towards the self over the nation and the society, and are thus stating that our society is in a state of decay! 

That would have been a dire indictment of us as a people, were it not for some heartening trends that are currently in a minority, but are growing in strength from day to day; giving our society a beacon of hope in the morass of decay that surrounds us in contemporary India – the growing intolerance for unethical behaviour and the rising tide of people speaking up, and calling it like it is, while also acting true to their words. Let us do all we can to strengthen this new tide… Jai Hind!

Life’s Challenges : Are You Rough, Or Are You Tough?

Published January 9, 2015 by vishalvkale

LIFE’S CHALLENGES 


This is a statement that is commonly stated, and is almost a truism nowadays… “Everyone Faces Challenges”. While it is true that everyone faces challenges, the fact remains that some people face a far higher degree of challenges that others. Further, there are challenges, and then there are challenges… meaning, not all challenges can be stated to be of the same level of severity. 

How can you compare a person who has studied in street lights with one who has had a comfortable privileged upbringing? How do you compare a person who has brought up an entire family of 10+ people alone? I know 2 such people personally. How do you compare a person who has every benefit with one hasnt had that pleasure? How can you compare a person who has not had luck going his or her way with others? {It happens- howsoever much may you deny it. Some people are luckier than others, fact} How can you compare a person who is not as intelligent with one who is? How can you compare a person who is not ready to sacrifice on values with one who is? How can you compare a person who has to fight through every single day all alone {I know of 3 such people} with others? 

How can anyone say that the child of a labourer, studied at night, worked in dirty places at daytime, getting beaten, sweared at {nice sweet words like MC, BC, B-DIke, K***e, etc}, who faces a drunk father, an uneducated mother and these problems to graduate and postgraduate has faced the same challenges as the child of an upper middle class executive who has a room, a bike or car to himself or herself, all the books desired, education in an exclusive top notch school whos fees can feed the entire family of the labourer for months? Who is assured a job due to societies perceptive idiosyncracies and biases as well as family contacts? 

Fact of the matter is that some people face challenges that are far in excess of other people, who tend to extrapolate their experience and make statements on all. Some people face a degree of challenge that most other people cannot even dream about. Please dont belittle their struggles in life by saying that everyone faces challenges… What most people call challenges are in reality only slight ripples; these people have no conceptualisation as to what a challenge really is. As a people, we should grow and learn to appreciate these differences in severity, and thank the Lord for the Luck we have been blessed with.



A QUESTION OF VALUES


Moving on, people react differently to challenges life poses to them. To use popular phraseology, some people face them head-on with the right attitude, while others buckle under. We commonly state that some people have fire in the belly, that they overcome the negatives life poses to them.  But this general statement hides some good, some ugly truths, which manifest themselves upon closer examination. 

It is a core psychological concept that attitudes are active, in that they are the external manifestations of your core values. This, I am afraid, is an established psychological fact.  The human’s external behaviour is a core function of these deep seated values- and that includes attitude, which is determined by the deep seated features. These values are what that determine the output that occurs. Attitudes are an evaluation and action – based; the base of these evaluations are the values that you hold dear. 

Values relate to Esteem, Power, Social Status, Security, Morality, Conformity, Tradition – and relate to what each individual holds dear – Self & Power, Change, Security etc. If a person holds Power and Esteem above all else, such a person is more likely to cut corners – a small generalisation as an example. 

It goes much deeper, but I hope I make my point. Attitude is just an expression, an action – the core is the value set of the individual. Attitude is not what we understand it to be; that is just a manifestation, and is in reality controlled by something else. The response to external stimuli is determined by internal personality parameters; the never-say-die or killer attitude etc is just a fashion statement, and has no precise basis in science.  It is just a mere expression based on external stimuli, determined by circumstances and personality, both being equally important.

On being faced with a challenge, small or large – it is your values that determine how you respond, not your attitude or your faith or anything else. Attitude is a function of your value system. A person with strong values will respond in a completely different manner as compared to a person with a weak internal constitution. A strong person will keep faith in his values and not take shortcuts, whereas the weak person will partake in shortcuts. 

This manifests itself in the world around us. A person with a weak value system will take the easy shortcut, and not struggle on the extremely suspect “bahaanaa” that the world does it {sound familiar?}, whereas the person with a real functioning value system will consciously opt for the optimal right path {both words operational and important – rare is the situation that has only one right answer} 

And it is this behavioural pattern that determines how tough you become due to the challenges you face, or how rough you become. The weak, the cowards become rough, whereas the strong become tough. Therein lies the difference.

Fire poses hard questions to a person’s conscience, and to a person’s base value system. The answers chosen by the individual determines roughness or toughness. Tough people are the real success – whereas the rough people are the failures. The world, however, regards roughness as toughness, showing its perceptive errors and ignorance. Roughness can never be toughness; Rough is external and skin deep – whereas tough is internal, and deep-seated. 

The core issue is, if you are being true to your value system, your conscience and the path of right, you are tough regardless of whether you are a material success in life. Material success is pointless, and a complete waste of time. Tumhaare mehel yeh saare, yahin reh jaayenge pyaare, fikar kis baat ki pyaare – wahaan paidal hi jaanaa hai! My parents wealth- whatever it was – still lies on this planet. They could not take it away with them! 

Material success is a means to an end : and the people who compromise on the path of right, on values for material luxuries are the real failures. Material wealth is important – you have to live, after all. The needs of the body are as genuine as the needs of the spirit. But that does not mean you compromise on the good, and the right. What difference is their between you and an Asura in that case? Straight, Frank and Blunt. 

Another word – small- that does not occur to people is “decisions”. Fire is all about decisions, which arise from your value system mentioned above. And it is these decisions that lead to further experiences; the good and value-based decisions lead to situations that are not easy to handle, requiring truthfulness, toughness, and commitment; you are constantly questioned on these, constantly challenged along the path. The one who remains true, passes all, other circumstances being equal. 

And it is because of the constant stream of difficult situations posed by challenges that allows a person to develop decision making skills. And that is how fire brings about toughness. That also defines and differentiates rough and tough. Toughness means facing problems in a calm manner, without panic, taking the right value-based decisions – even if it means pain over the short-term. And, in my opinion, very, very few people are tough by that description; managers, fathers, husbands, wives, friends – everyone chooses the short term. That isnt being tough; that is being rough. And Brash. Straight, Frank and Blunt, sorry. 



What drives a person, and gives the strength to be able to return from a setback? 


Primarily, need drives a person to bounce back everytime. Sorry to be so abrasive {it is unintentional} – this is a classic word used by people who may not have faced the same level or regularity of problems in life. “I admire his or her resilience”. 

What choice does a modern person have? Food doesnt grow on trees; it costs money to live. You have to be resilient today – that is a simple truism. And even a coward can be resilient. That is not hardening, it isnt being tough. That is pure need, nothing else. Any number of people are and can be resilient! 

What is more important is whether, in the process of bouncing back, some compromises on values or conscience have been made. Say a person loses his or her job because he or she is unable to come to terms with playing ball with unethical activities. If this person then starts doing unethical acts just to save the new job and grow, then this isn’t toughness; it may be resilient, since the person has come back and made it. But, in the process this person has made a pact with the devil, and sold his or her conscience, and base values, showing cowardice and weakness. 

Resilience has, thus, nothing to do with being tough, or being hardened. Tough means staying in the fight, struggling while remaining true to the values of honesty, integrity, courage, law, ethics. That is real toughness; not compromising on any value, not giving bribes, not doing anything unethical, being completely honest. The tough man or woman may not necessarily be rich, or in power; riches and power dont define toughness in a human being. Neither does brash abrasive behaviour, aggression, breaking rules and laws, cutting corners, “adjusting” to the ways of the world define toughness; that is being rough. 

As I stated above, tough means being true to your core values, being honest, showing integrity, and having the courage to walk the path of life despite the problems and difficulties you encounter – all the time, never even thinking of wavering from your chosen path of value-based and driven decisions. That is real tougness. 

Are you tough – or are you rough? 

The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary Indian Society

Published January 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

The Axis Of Evil is a term of World War 2 vintage, used to denote the Axis Powers led by Germany. At the outset of this post, let me proffer my apologies for using this term for the present article; if any feelings are hurt, please accept my apologies. This article has no reference to the World War 2 or its ugly memories, or even Colonialism. This is a article on Modern India, and social issues within Modern India. 

The word Evil, going by the dictionary term, means wicked; more pertinently, if we look at the secondary meanings of the word, we get the terms bad, infamous, bad or blameworthy, unpleasant, causing ruin or pain, indicating future misfortune… and my article is concerned with the secondary meaning of the word Evil, not the primary meaning. 

A discerning observer can easily spot three or four behaviours of the people in contemporary India that are coming together to form what I call The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary India, as I mention in the article. Let me get straight to the point : these behaviours are :

  • Corruption
  • Incompetence
  • Attitude
  • Lack Of Community Feeling

These above four are together conjoining into one unfortunate whole, and creating the scenes of disrepair that we see today all around us. They are the Axis Of Evil – and these have permeated most aspects of our society – be it our civil institutions, business, day-to-day life etc, with only a few notable exceptions – exceptions that prove that we, as a society, have it in us to come out of this problem. 

1. Corruption

Do we ever stop and think how the 10 Rs we give to the local policeman or the 1000 Rs we hand over to the local civil authority is harming the nation? How it is hitting India, and hitting it hard? In the article Corruption Can Kill we saw in graphic detail how corruption can also kill, either directly or indirectly – and kill by the scores. Example : “Customs Inspector Talawadekar and Phanse came into the room… Singh and Talawadekar, law enforcement officers, were Phanse’s co-conspirators…” Tiger received a call from a customs inspector…” Tiger refers to Tiger Memon, and this was the prelude to the Mumbai Bomb Attack. 

We saw in the Cobrapost expose how corruption has begun to eat into the core of our business institutions as well, with no one even caring to think that the money they are handling may have illicit sources. Can anyone of us normal citizens give a guarantee that the money we pay as bribes does not land up in the hands of the terrorists or criminals? That the money we are helping move around may be a conduit for serious illicit causes? That the silence we display may actually end up harming thousands of people, as has happened in the various scams in the stock market? In every case, the silent acquiescence of tens or perhaps hundreds of normal people has led to serious loss or worse to countless people!

This reprehensible and cowardly silence, and active or passive involvement in corrupt acts has a tremendous cost to innocent people, the organisations, our society, and the nation. Only the people involved are unaffected, they take home their salaries, their promotions, their house and their cars; without a care for the impact of their actions on the nation and the innocent people… 


2. Incompetence

This brings me to the second factor in this Axis : Incompetence. These people – who are termed “worldly-wise” by some sections of our so-called educated population, are themselves not aware of the serious impact of their behaviour. This is classic incompetence; despite being educated – some of them highly educated, these people are shockingly unaware of the damage they are causing to everyone, as we shall see later on in graphic detail

The factor of incompetence goes much, much deeper than this, and connects effortlessly with the third factor – Attitude. Take a careful look at any activity, and you can spot shocking lapses of performance and of incompetence in virtually any activity you care to observe. Let us take the example of a security guard at any mall. I have routinely been seeing every entrant to malls being searched, bags being searched; but the so-called search is a mere bagatelle, a formality. 

The shocking laxity in security searches in malls, that too in a nation hit hard by terrorism, points to deep-seated incompetence at all levels – from the security guards to the top people, who just don’t care enough about security, and are just not aware of the risks – which is crass incompetence. The same can be seen at Railway Stations, I have seen people just walking around the metal detectors, and authorities just looking on, or metal detectors kept to one side!

I could understand if this permeated only Governmental institutions, but a look at the corporate scenario only reconfirms my hypothesis of gross incompetence. How many corporate managers in telecom or finance wonder about the fake documentation with regard to KYC documents, for example? Did anyone stop to think of the risks to the nation and the organisation? How many sales professionals stop to think of the damage they are doing their company, the channel, the network by offloading needless stocks just to save their jobs, and of how many people’s careers are destroyed, and of the irreversible damage to the brand? Again, this is classic incompetence of the highest order! 


3. Attitude


Incompetence blends into attitude; not everyone is incompetent. There are any number of highly competent people who just compromise like cowards, with the manifest disorder all around, in some pretext or other. Call it the chalta hai attitude, or call it selfishness – call it what you will. These people are aware of the damage their actions are causing their organisation, the brand, the society, the nation – but make no overt or covert effort to make their surroundings a better place.

Attitude manifests itself anywhere you see it : people throwing dirt on the road, paying a bribe, taking a short-cut, walking around a metal detector and considering yourself smart for doing so as you have avoided the rush, allowing people to avoid metal detectors despite being aware of the risks involved. As we shall see in the next article, this is manifest in virtually every activity! 


4. Lack  Of A Community Feeling


This brings us to the fourth and by-now obvious pillar of this sorry state of affairs : the Lack Of A Community Feeling. Every action seen above places the self and the family above the nation, the people, the society, the neighbourhood, and the surroundings. We as a people love to go gaga on nice-sounding mantras by change agents – but lack the courage or the competence {or both} to be the change. 

And that is why we have a shameful sight of The Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi himself having to call for Swatch Bhaarat! And an Aamir Khan to do advertisements for cleanliness in India. Honestly, this is shameful in the extreme that we require such august personalities to learn behaviours that we ought to learn our mother’s laps! And the most shocking and shameful aspect of this is the pride we feel in having The Prime Minister Narendra Modi call for cleanliness! 

Tell me, are we so dirty a people that we cant keep ourselves clean? And if we can keep ourselves clean why cant we keep our nation clean? We require Narendra Modi for this? Shame on us! Cant we hold onto our urine for 15 minutes while we find a loo? Cant you take a day’s leave from your company to take out a driving licence the right way? I could go on and on! As I said, shame on us! 



In Conclusion


These four factors – Corruption, Incompetence, Attitude and Lack Of A Community Feeling are what I call The Axis Of Evil. It is painfully clear that these 4 habits are indeed Evil in the secondary meaning of the term. These are what have the potential to lead India to misfortune, give India an unpleasant name, are bad, are blameworthy, and make us infamous as a nation. Truly and verily, The Axis Of Evil. 

And, in at least one case, it is also Evil in the primary sense of the term : corruption, which can and does cause serious damage to the nation as a whole and to its people. Taking a bribe from a criminal is pure evil; ignoring money laundering is also evil; turning a blind eye to harmful deeds which lead to losses to millions of people is also pure Evil. Verily, The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary Indian Society – and these are the habits we need to change; and without the help of Mr Narendra Modi, who is frankly not there to help us tend to our bad habits! He is here to run the country, let him do that… let us focus on smashing this Axis Of Evil from all walks of our lives…