Thursday, September 29, 2011

Elder or Younger?

Once I attended an interview for promotion from Manager to Senior Manager level. The four member interview committee was headed by a General Manager of the Bank. A highly respected man, he was known for his sharp reactions and witty repartee. Any answer to his question would result in a further question, a question drawn from the previous answer. Either way he would catch you.  A good person at heart, but he would enjoy cat and mouse game during discussions.

After all other members of the interview board were done with me General Manager looked at me and smiled. Calm before the storm. I was ready for the attack. Questions and answers went like this:

"Mr Murthy, Tell me why I should promote you?"
"I will work well and strive to achieve Organisational goals"
"That in any case you are already doing"
"Then it will be a reward for earlier hard work"

"Can you lead a team?
"Yes Sir, I can certainly lead a team"
"How do we know?"
"I am a Manager. I am already leading a team. My record shows it"
"Are you a good leader or good follower?"

The attack had shifted. He knew I was a Trade Union leader. I had to be careful in my answer.

"I am a good leader of my followers and a good follower of my leaders"
"I will ask your leader when I go to Delhi" He was referring to our big leader in Delhi.
"Please do ask him, sir. He will confirm this"

He smiled broadly. My interview was over. For the record, I was promoted.

I had another person at home who asked lot of questions.  My little daughter. Many questions on many things. Like all children. She would fire a question drawn from the previous answer. Like the General Manager. He had a question about Leaders and Followers. She had a similar question.  About elders and youngsters.

Once she told something impolite to my younger brother, her uncle. I admonished her and told her that she should not talk to elders like that. She asked me: "Is chikkappa an elder?".  I replied yes, not realising the implications. A few days later my younger brother said something impolite to our uncle.  I admonished him and told him that an youngster should not speak to elders like that. Little one was watching us. She had a question for me: "Other day you told me Chikkappa was elder. Today you said he is younger. Which is correct?  Is he elder or younger?".  I was stumped.  It took me a long while to explain to her that young and old is a relative term.  There is a maxim taught to trainers and teachers. If you cannot convince a trainee or a student, confuse him.  Probably she was confused at that age and kept quiet.

But not for long. She kept on asking "When I will become elder?".  Probably she was tired of being young. Probably she felt that we were keeping many things from her on the pretext that she was young. In those days, during functions, especially marriages, there was a practice of giving Taamboola to elders and plantain to youngsters after the main event. Tamboola packet generally used to contain a coconut. During the transition years, a girl would get  a coconut packet when she went in a Saree or a plantain if she went in a frock. A boy would get coconut packet if he was wearing a pant and plantain when wearing a half pant. Whether they were elder or younger was decided by the judgement of the person distributing the tamboola. I told her, in answer to her question, that she can consider herself as an elder when she gets a coconut tamboola in a marriage function. I hoped that the question will be postponed for a long time.

After some years, one day when I returned from the Bank, I saw her very excited and waiting for me. She had been to a marriage function and she was given a coconut tamboola! Well, now she was to be considered  an  elder by tamboola yardstick.

Yes, like I was a good leader of my followers and a good follower of my leaders, she was elder to all those younger to her and younger than all those who were elder to her.

As with every other rule there is an exception to this rule as well. In a conference of all Rishis one elderly Rishi was sitting with his young disciple. Another Rishi entered the place. All Rishis younger to him got up and paid their respects. Guru of this shishya continued to sit as he was elder than the incoming Rishi. After sometime sage Markandeya entered the place. Though Markandeya was only 16 year old and still a boy, everyone including this guru got up and paid their respects. The shishya was surprised and asked the guru why it was so. Guru replied: "Age alone is not an indication of seniority. The measure of Rishis is the amount of time spent in meditation and penance about the Lord. Sage Markandeya has spent all his years for the Lord and with the Lord. None of us can match him in this though all of us were born many years before him. Hence all of us stood up and paid our respects. We may be elder to him by age but are actually much junior to him in Saadhana".

Is the same not true of us? Should not our being elder or younger decided based on the utility and usefulness of the years lived by us?


  1. The beauty of this story is in its simplicity. :)

  2. A great lesson. Yes it is very true that respect is commanded by experience, Knlowledge and utilisation of both for well being of others. The Sadhana should not be one year of sadhana X No.of years but it should be cummulative enhancmeent of experience of number of years of penance/practice.

  3. Nice interpretation .

  4. Sir wonderful sentence formation.