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.


  1. What I like about this post is that it made me think :)
    It is very well written.

    As far as microfinance is concerned, you worked for an NGO. There are many MFIs working on a for-profit basis. Things are perhaps different there and focus is on 'volumes' rather than 'need'.

    Why did you choose Francisco over John Galt? (just curious)

  2. Quite thought provoking...!!The writing style really guides through to the essence..but I don't agree to the concept that compulsion can't guide behavior...strict monitoring & regulation induce change in behavior...and its something that has been employed through the ages to change social behavior and develop societies.
    Moreover...both the means & the end have to be correlated..coz either one of them have to act as a stimulant for the other. With no inducement and motivation for either, Earth would be a perfect world, where only Gods can live...and we all are nothing but mortal selfish humans!
    But overall...a nice concept..& an enjoyable read..!! good job :)

  3. @Ankit

    Thanks. Well, I think it is Francisco who 'drives' the story. When I read first time, I was more interested to know how story of Francisco unfolds than knowing 'who is John Galt?' Even for Ayn Rand, initially I think Francisco was the central character. Remember the deleted sequence of Francisco and Dagny? :)

    Well, you are free to express your views, but I don't agree. Will explain you the reasons offline :)

  4. i m not very good at the philosophy part of this...but as always, bhell written!!

  5. nicely written.... I never read ayn rand but i very compelled to do so now..... n relation with career defining process was gr8 :)

  6. @Meet

    yeah, do read... I am sure you will enjoy :)

  7. @DA
    Thanks.... sorry but couldn't identify you :)

  8. As always, a treat to read though I had my reservation against some parts. (:

  9. @MangoMan

    Thanks. Which part(s) exactly you had reservation against?

  10. Loved it truly, however felt like you are trying to combine 2 ideas into one...
    Dream part and the Microfinance/Financial Inclusion/Morality...
    Actually, dream part s very well written.. could hv included the Microfinance related thoughts/perspective in separate Thread...(My opinion)

  11. @Mandy
    thanks. The dream part is only a prelude or overture to the main topic. Main topic is all about the later part.

  12. Arre if u read ur blog again.. I think ur discussion with Ayn on personal topics like happiness,dichotomy,moral grounds etc etc could have been a better read..
    Microfinance and Business Ethics are different issues if you ask me..(Social issue rather than Personal topic)


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