Saturday, November 27, 2010

Once upon a time

Once upon a time, there existed a prosperous animal kingdom which was poised to be a superpower in near future. The government used to tell all animals that it was a true socialist kingdom, dedicated to the welfare of animals. The government was run by pigs. The general population in kingdom always used to work collectively because they were taught by pigs that each animal exists only for fellow animal. Almost all animals used to hate pigs, but they thought they were helpless. Pigs had also taught other animals that tigers, lions and elephants were very greedy species and have no morality. Tigers and Lions were owners of big businesses. Pigs however, had jackals on their payroll, specifically assigned the task to appease tigers and make sure that they pay taxes. The jackals and pigs had a nexus with wolves who used to run news channels in the kingdom. There were suddenly too many wolves in the kingdom all around, creating utter chaos. Monkeys were the most sought after specie to work in news channels.

Amidst all these, towards eastern corner of the kingdom existed a highly rated management institute. All animals wanted to study there, but only rats were admitted. Rats were supposed to be very talented individuals but they always professed the importance of collective. All rats used to race to get bigger pie of cheese. All the naive animals outside the institutes used to envy rats. Rats had a very peculiar way of going about their professional life. They had never identified what exactly is ‘life’ but they loved ‘segmentation’ and classified it as professional, personal, social etc, each segment supposed to have different codes of ethics. It never occurred to them that ethics ought to be objective, purely based on logic and reason. They had only one passion, networking. All codes were defined as per this passion. They had learnt early in a totally useless course that “only those rats who do networking succeed in organizations. “ Most of them considered learnings from important and core subjects as redundant and spend most of the time getting ‘contacts’ and more ‘contacts’. The rat which knew more number of rats was considered to be ‘made for the future’. When in doubt about the ‘need of networking’, they used to console each other by telling, ‘but there is no other way to succeed!!”. Eagle was the animal which rats hated the most. Eagle used to fly alone at high altitudes. Rats, coming out of their rat hole, used to bare their teeth at eagle. Eagle, oblivious to what is happening on the ground, used to fly alone hoping that at least someone will reach the heights he has reached, as it was lonely up there. Rats’ philosophy on the other hand was about getting everyone down to their level, so everyone has ‘level playing field’.

In the outer world, a scandal involving some modern technology was exposed. Tapes were released showing the ugly nature of the nexus between pigs, wolves and jackals. The general animal kingdom talked about it for few days and forgot because they were buoyed by a huge landslide victory of a pig in backward area of the kingdom. This pig was thought to be less corrupt and every animal hoped that he will bring that area back to glory. Animals were hysterically telling other animals, “See, not everything is bad. There is some good left somewhere. God is there.” Nobody for sure knew what this meant and for that matter what would happen next day, but it became fashion to forecast that this pig would transform the kingdom. It was not a belief formed from any study or information, but somewhere inside, they had this fear, “I hope it doesn’t turn out the other way, we can only hope.”

Rats too had joined the hysterical feel good fever, but they were more concerned about the scandal. “How can pigs, jackals and wolves form such nexus?” “How can they lobby?” Somewhere, it sounded similar to networking concept, but every rat hastily put that thought out of its mind. They convinced themselves, “these animals are public servants, whereas networking is the necessity of private life of uncommon animals like us.” Call it irony, but a scandal broke out at the same time in this famed institute. This institute, which was famous for branding anything and everything done in institute as ‘culture’, didn’t quite know what to do about the scandal. There was a ‘rat affairs council’ (RAC), in the institute dealing with all the rats related activities. RAC was (in)famous for tweaking the rules as per its whims, precisely because nobody cared to remember what were the rules last time. The rat involved in scandal was summoned to face an audit. All rats had gathered to witness the drama. Rats were used to having useless discussions for hours but sounding as if they were discussing something gravely important. So this being an issue of grave importance and consequence was discussed for 2-3 hours. All kind of words such as ethics, moral right, moral obligation, conscience etc were thrown into discussion though no one actually cared about them. Rat which did the scandal was trying to save itself while those on the other side were trying to get this rat ousted. They didn’t give a damn about ethics. Their basic problem was, “How can this rat try to get bigger pie at our expense?” Nobody cared to admit, but other rats were actually ‘disappointed’ that they were not the benefiting party of scandal. In rat and pig world, committing sin was not a crime, getting caught was.

Eagle, for once decided to stop and think, “What it is that keeps this mess going?” Eagle had studied history of human race which was extinct few centuries ago. It recalled how it became extinct and saw parallels between current animal world and extinct human world. It recalled the premise on which pigs, rats and jackals survive. A teaching learnt from a philosopher who was truly ‘human’. As long as no one names the exact nature of what is going on, anything and everything works.
Eagle pronounced the judgment and named the exact nature. Those who had the capacity to understand, but were often cursed for that very reason, withdrew support and left the kingdom for a place where only eagles had dared previously. Those who continued to evade reality perished fighting among themselves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The dream I was waiting for

It was late in the night. After long time, I was reading Atlas shrugged again, the epic novel of Ayn Rand, a book claimed to be 2nd only to bible both in sales and influence. Not sure if the kind of influence is same, that is not what I intend to judge here. While reading I felt, how wonderful it would have been had I met Ayn Rand. This feeling was not unusual though, more so because it is not usual or ‘normal’ to be crazily in love with someone who died 3 years before you were born and if that is the case, longing to meet is natural. I had felt it before as well, but that night I had too many questions in mind, questions which probably no one else can answer. I fell asleep, thinking.

I was walking through the woods, alone. It was quite pleasant morning with forest birds chirping all around. A river was flowing through the forest, nonchalantly. At some distance sun rays had penetrated through the trees and the stream was glowing because of the rays. The warm rays had cause mist to rise in the forest. I suddenly saw a lady with fishing rod sitting at the bank. I walked towards her. It was Ayn Rand, with her dark black hair and big eyes. She looked at me and smiled. She looked amused. Probably she didn’t expect anyone to see there. I, on the other hand thought that it was inevitable that she was here, in this heaven like setting.

I said, “I have run away from the world, not because of cowardice, but there were too many questions bothering me.” I started talking without ‘Hi, Hello’ as if restarting a conversation stopped few days back.

“Hello, who are you?” she asked.

“I am Kunal Nichkawade, from India, a big fan of yours” I answered.

“Okay, what are the questions that are troubling you?”

"Ohhh, a great many. Probably I am too dumb to find the answers."

“That is for you to worry about. Figuring out if you are dumb or smart. I am more interested in knowing the questions.”

I told her about the supposedly ‘career defining process’ I had witnessed in my college few days back. The process which I think is a farce. I told her that probably I had no right to criticise or even to judge others, particularly when so many people work so hard to make the process a success.

“One should never fail to pronounce moral judgement” she said. I suddenly remembered an article of hers where she had explained this concept. “But judging someone doesn’t involve feelings or instincts. It is completely objective and rational process. One must always be prepared to answer “Why?” Tell me, why were you disturbed if everything went well?”

Because of the attitude of ‘All is well that ends well.’ This implies that end justifies the means, which I don’t agree to”, I replied.

“I hope someday people will learn that words have exact and literal meaning. Neither does end justifies the means nor do the means justify the end. There is no dichotomy. “ She said.

“Well, there is something which is troubling me more”, I continued. “ I was interested in the field of microfinance. Whatever labels of ‘selflessness’, ‘helping the poor’ etc people might put to the field, I had purely selfish reason of having a better society to live in, and somewhere helping people realise that independence is their basic right, but one’s ability is that one should trust and depend on and nothing else to realise that right. But for a short time when I worked in the field, I heard people say “need is greater than ability.” The person who said this was working tirelessly for years in small village for poor. I rarely fail in judging people and I knew that this person had no wrong intentions while working in this field. I can see the struggle he had put up over the years. I was wondering what made him utter the above sentence. “I pay my field worker more than my C.A. because field worker has 4 children while the C.A. is single” he explained. I never thought it was possible for anyone to say so. Is it the fault of the C.A. that he is more qualified and that the other person has 4 children? During dinner on the same day, I heard the field worker discuss with other field workers how the C.A was getting more influential in the organisation and that he should be stopped. He was speaking in local dialect of Marathi, forgetting that I am from same region and very well understood the dialect. The person running the organization will probably get baffled when he will see rift in the organization, but that would be the exact result of the philosophy of ‘need is greater than ability’. I have heard people say “financial inclusion is not a policy of choice but policy of compulsion.” The phrase is getting more popular nowadays. People hearing it are overwhelmed by the sentence and repeat it without understanding the proper meaning, thinking that it ought to help poor and punish rich. Compulsion? By whom? On whom? By what standards? Nobody will think. The mere fact that government is getting involved, but later clarifying that organisations must self regulate shows that regulation at later stage from government is inevitable. It is not too difficult to figure out who gains and who is punished when such philosophies are established. In the former case it were the field worker and the C.A respectively while in later case it will be ‘policy makers’ who will gain and banks who will be under compulsion to provide credit will lose. It doesn’t require an economics or banking expert to figure out the impact this compulsion will put on economy. The loans in microfinance can’t be compulsion. Those who want to provide loans can do so voluntarily.”

“Well, you are not as dumb as I thought” she said chuckling. “Tell me, isn’t interest in social sector for a student of my philosophy a contradiction?” she asked mockingly, like a teacher who knowingly commits a mistake.

“Contradictions don’t exist!” I replied instantaneously as if I had said something she didn’t know, quickly realising it was her and her teacher Aristotle’s philosophy which was in back of my mind. She was smiling. I thought, non-contradiction is the basis used to prove irrationality of an irrational number while learning surds in mathematics, yet the seeming contradictions are easily accepted in life.

“I don’t find happiness anywhere”, I said gravely. Neither in people who got ‘career-defining’ jobs for themselves nor in those who are working for others. That is why I ran away.

“Kunal, when were you most happy?”

I felt glad she addressed me by my first name. “While reading Atlas shrugged” I replied.


“Because Francisco d’Anconia was there, always.”

I saw a smile of satisfaction on her face. “Well, you have got your answer. The motive power of one’s happiness is within that person. It can’t be achieved by following random whimsical philosophies. What I wanted people to understand that it is not the supernatural talent of Francisco which is impossible but it is his spirit which is. It is not because that spirit is superhuman. It is because it is human in true sense as it is rational yet which is something the world has never seen. When that spirit is realised by everyone, no Francisco d’Anconia or John Galt will have to go in search of Atlantis”

I thanked her and waved good bye. I had found a new vigour to get back to work. Generally nice dreams are broken abruptly, this one didn’t.