Sunday, July 31, 2016

Interpersonal Relationship Skills

Usage of proper "Interpersonal Relationship Skills" is emerging as a powerful tool in management of entities. We have frequent references to interpersonal skills in soft skills and management training programs all over the world. It is often said that practice of good interpersonal skills is the key to success in any type of organizations. There are exclusive training programs for development of these skills. Other management development programs also devote considerable time for discussing the importance of these skills as well as methods for imbibing such abilities for achieving success by managers at different levels. 

Harry Stack Sullivan is often quoted by soft skill trainers as the father of the study of interpersonal skills. Sullivan was the son of Irish parents who migrated to America and is said to have spent his early years in a somewhat isolated living in the New York province of USA. He studied the works of Sigmund Freud, Adolf Meyer, William White and other psychologists before him and became a leading Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst. His extensive study of relationships in human lives led to his belief that life is a web of interpersonal relationships. He is remembered as the father of "Interpersonal Psychoanalysis" and its use in treatment of patients by studying their interpersonal relationships with others.

What is the Indian thinking about interpersonal relationships? Did anyone think of the importance of interpersonal relationships and their finer aspects? Is it a modren westren idea or is there any reference to such views in Indian literature? These are some questions that beg for an answer. There are abundant references to interpersonal relationships in the various literary works of yesteryears. A detailed study on this subject can bring out a thesis fit for awarding a PhD. These references go back to several centuries and as much as over two thousand years in the least.

Indian saint-philosopher Bhartruhari has defined a nine dimensional grid for interpersonal relationship skills. Bhartruhari's period is not definite and there are many versions dating him between 6th century BC to 1st century AD. By any account, he lived at least two thousand years ago. He is believed by some to be the King of Ujjain and elder brother of King Vikramaditya of Vikram-Betaal fame.

What are the segments of people with whom a person can have interpersonal relationships during his lifetime? It can be a group of one's close relatives and friends (Swajana - स्वजन). It may be those subordinate to him in official or personal capacities (Parijana - परिजन). It may be with a group of people who are inimical to his own interests or those who are having adverse or hostile behavior to him and society (Durjana - दुर्जन). There may be others who are saintly or benevolent in nature (Sadhujana - साधुजन). There could be others who are occupying positions of authority (Nrupajana - नृपजन). Then there are always a set of people who are scholars and erudite persons with whom he would deal at different times (Vidvajjana - विद्वज्जन). There can be a group of people who are his enemies (Shatrujana - शत्रुजन).  There would be some who are considered as his elders and guides in life (Gurujana - गुरुजन). A man is also required to deal with groups of women. Some of them may belong to the above eight groups. Other women would be a distinct group (Kaantajana - कान्तजन). Dealings with these segments of people has to be on different footings and cannot be the same. Bhartruhari has made clear demarkation for dealing with these nine groups.

Once the persons are classified into segments as above, there can be a firm basis for interaction that can be arrived at thereafter. The foundations for dealing with them are given as under:

  1. Dealing with Swajana is to be with generosity and not curt or cut-and-dried approach. We frequently hear people saying that they do not give a damn about others and deal with people in their own harsh methods. "I tell them on their face. What do I care?", they often say. This is not the method to be used with one's own people. It should with finesse and delicate touch. These are people with whom one needs to have lifelong relationships. 
  2. Interaction with Parijana would be founded on the values of compassion and kindness. They may not be able to reply back harshly due to their relatively weaker positions, but would nevertheless feel hurt and discouraged. Their future support in one's endeavors would not be spontaneous thereafter.
  3. Handling Durjana is to be with sharpness and harshness. Any other method used would be interpreted by them as a sign of weakness. But one should be careful before using these methods and classification should be done after proper assessment and verification, and not on hearsay. 
  4. Sadhujana group of persons are to be treated with reverence and devotion. These are people who do not aspire anything for themselves and live for the welfare of others. Care should be exercised before accepting persons in this group.
  5. Due diplomacy and obedience should mark interactions with Nrupajana or people in authority. Other methods of dealing with them will not be appreciated and could turn out to be counterproductive. Authority is to be respected for maintaining order in society.
  6. Vidvajjana deserve to be treated with deference and respect. This is not any concession given to them, but their due on account of their superior knowledge and wisdom. These are the people who command respect wherever they go; there is no better way to interact with them.
  7. Shatrujana or enemies are to be faced with valour and courage. Dealings have to be on equal footing and without compromising self respect. There ought to be determination and boldness in dealing with one's enemies, but one should be always be watchful and prepared for any eventuality.
  8. Patience would be the hallmark in dealing with Gurujana or elders. Those with experience in life would very well understand the requirement of patience while living with elders, who may often be dependent now, and yet have led a self-sufficient life when they were young. Any deviation from the path of patience would hurt them and bring unnecessary strains in the relationship.
  9. Kaantajana are to be treated with tactfulness. Tact is a keen sense of what is appropriate, tasteful and dealing issues with delicate demeanor. This approach is consistent with the general nature that differentiates women from men. The interactions of women with men is also to be with a sense of appropriateness and tasteful as well.

How to remember all these different segmentation of people and basic structure of interacting with them? Is it not too eloberate and cumbersome to remember and practice? No, not at all. Bhartruhari has given a simple formula that can be easily remembered:

दाक्षिण्यं स्वजने दया परिजने शाठ्यं सदा दुर्जने |
प्रीतिः साधुजने नयो नृपजने विद्वज्जनेश्वार्जवम्  ||
शौर्यं शत्रुजने क्षमा गुरुजने कान्ताजने धृष्टता |
येचैवं पुरुषाः कलासु कुशलाः तेष्वेव लोकस्थितिः || 

Daakshinyam swajane daya parijane shaatyam sada durjane,
Preetih saadhujane nayo nrupajane vidvajjanescharjavam;
Showrym shatrujane kshamaa gurujane kaantajane dhrushtataa
Yechaivam purushah kalaasu kushalah teshveva lokastitihi. 

Is interpersonal relationship an art or a craft? This can be answered only when we are able to differentiate between art and craft. The difference between the two is subtle and too thin to explain in words. An art is a form of work that is linked to and is an expression of emotions. A craft is dedicated work that brings out a tangible object as output. Bhartruhari says that interpersonal relationship is an artful craft! कलासु कुशलाः (kalasu kushalaah) is the phrase he uses which denotes this expression.

Is this not a wonderful analysis of interpersonal relationship? There are many such hidden gems in our vast literature treasure!

E A S Prasanna and S Venkataraghavan were both gifted cricketers and represented the Indian team with distinction in the 1960s and 70s. Both were off-spinners and had to lose their place in the team to each other on many occasions. Though both were off-spinners, their bowling style was entirely different and both were excellent bowlers. Prasanna was the master of flight and beat the batsman in the air. Venkataraghavan was relying more on accuracy and persistence. An expert commentator once wrote in a magazine - Prasanna is an artiste whereas Venkat is a skilled craftsman. Does it explain the difference between art and craft? Of course, those who have seen both in action on the cricket fields will have an endless argument on this statement.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Loan Melas, Loan Waivers and TBTF

These are the days of "Acronyms" and SMS language. The extensive use of acronyms that was monopolized by Advertising and Marketing industries has now firmly engulfed Banking as well. Acronyms used to have only letters earlier, but now numerals are also added up. There was "Brexit" as a subject of worldwide debate and we had our own "Rexit" following it strongly. The press endlessly debated half a dozen names as the most likely next Governor of RBI. Then suddenly another two names have surfaced and there were articles in the pink press approving one of them as a perfect substitute. Final word has not been heard yet. Everyone is appointing their own choice as Governor except the one with real authority to do so. Reserve Bank of India has come out with S4A scheme which is acronym for "Scheme for Sustainable structuring of Stressed Assets". It is a clear admission that the structuring or restructuring of stressed assets attempted earlier were often found to be unsustainable! Hence there is a need for a scheme of sustainable structuring of such assets now. We believe in learning from our mistakes. Not committing mistakes means blocking chances of new learning. Hence we continue to commit mistakes, even if they are the same ones, again and again. 

In a way, it is not proper to say that numerals have made entry in acronyms only now. The earlier generation knows that there was one Y2K, which was "Year 2000". Y2K was used to signify the trouble brewing when all computer programs and systems were expected to crash as the dates shifted from year 1999 to 2000, on 1st January 2000. Many steps were taken to prevent the problem. Those were the days when computerization had not reached today's levels; yet it created a huge scare. It was like the "Skylab" falling on our heads from up above the sky. For those who do not know about "Skylab", it was a Space Station launched by USA that orbited the earth from 1973 to 1979. It finally fell in the areas of Westren Australia, southeast of the city of Perth, with almost no damage and resulting in a fine of an amount of 400 Australian Dollars (!) on NASA for throwing debris in the area.

There are new acronyms in banking now. The one that attracts immediate attention is TBTF.  TBTF simply means "Too Big To Fail". It was originally considered as an economic theory which underlined the systemic risks that followed the failure of large corporations. After the meltdown of markets in 2007-08, economies world over are worried over the risks to the financial system that may arise due to failure of large banks and financial institutions. As it happens with any other theory, this theory has its proponents and opponents. Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2008, led the proponents whereas the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan led the opponents of the theory. It may be noted that Alan Greenspan was chairman of the FED for 20 years continuously from 1987 to 2006 without any Grexit problem! Proponents of TBTF theory are of the view that large institutions are to be protected against their failure by giving all support to them. Not doing so would result in chain reaction and the damage does not confine to their exit alone. It would damage the entire system. Opponents of TBTF theory like Greenspan have held that any support to the too big to fail institutions will only result in their deliberately taking high-risk-high-return positions, safe in their status as TBTF. Support is definitely going to come, they would assume. Opponents of the theory strongly advocate that it is advisable to deliberately break down such too big to fail institutions into smaller ones.  

On 31st August last year, RBI identified two Indian Banks as "Systemically important" in our own version of TBTF. SBI and ICICI bank have been marked for closer supervision and higher Capital Adequacy requirements on this account. The recent steps initiated for absorbing the subsidiaries of SBI with the parent is to be viewed in this background. In the urge to create big universal banks in the country to compete with the bigger ones in the globe, we are creating a bigger TBTF bank. This is happening when a considerable section of economists are advising deliberately splitting large banks into smaller ones to prevent systemic risks their failure may bring in. Once this is done, there is going to be a further disappearance of many banks in the country which have their own history, culture, importance and identity.

RBI's revised guidelines for classification of NPAs and cleaning of balance sheets of banks brought in a plethora of loss making banks. It was as if there was a competition about declaring losses. Banks with unblemished profitability records too showed record losses, shaking the confidence of the general public. Though one more year was available for cleaning, at the end of the financial year 2015-16, we were assured that many balance sheets have been fully cleaned and things will only look up now. Bank shares reached record lows. Their prices have recovered by 30 to 50 percent within the last three to four months, even when there are indications that cleaning is to go a long way. There is no logic in either these valuations going down or going up. At least in their going up sharply when cleaning process is still far away.

What is the root cause for this NPA problem? Many factors are blamed for the present mess. It is not that the malady has set in overnight. What we are reaping now it is not a short term crop, but a plantation crop. Lending and soundness of the banks revolve on two basic tenets; following lending discipline and honoring the repayment requirement. The seeds were sown when these two basic pillars were damaged systematically. Principles of commercial lending have been continuously sacrificed at the altar of political expediency and popular appeal. Loan melas brought in extraneous considerations while lending. Loan waivers brought in dilution of honoring repayment obligations. It is always true that there has to be some consideration while lending to desired groups to bring social equality. But that cannot be at the cost of lending discipline. Similarly, there have to be cases of relief to the debt ridden sections of the society. But that cannot also be a wholesale let-off and has be to be on case to case basis. Relief is to be given to the identified needy ones and funds for that should go directly to them for discharging debt obligations. Blanket loan waiver schemes have ensured that borrowers always look for the next loan waiver scheme. We are now reaping the fruits of these twin plantation crops. These trees are going to be around for long. Their roots have gone deep inside the banking grounds. 

An article by Shri J Mulraj in Business Line two days ago has coined two more acronyms - TBTR and TFTE. TBTR is for Too Big to Rein-in and TFTE for Too Foolish To Explain to Central Banks. It refers to the various efforts made by Central Banks all over the world to boost consumption and investment. The article points out that investment banks which are too big to fail have devised increasingly complex and deadly derivative products which are growing every day. The fact that 2008 crisis was basically due to securitized mortgage loans and collaterized debt obligations, which too were derivative products, appears to have been forgotten. Central Banks are printing more money to bring in feel good factor and make stock markets and other markets start looking up. The idea is to induce higher spending. It mentions that Bank of Japan is now among the top 10 shareholders of 90% of Japan's largest companies. Investors are buying bonds from market using borrowed money and making a profit by selling it to the central bank, which continues to buy these bonds. A large European bank alone has an exposure of 49 trillion dollars of derivative trades. The opinion is that these policies of central banks will cause the next crisis. These are too complex issues for many of us to understand. But the time bomb appears to be ticking.

It is not that we should keep looking for the next crisis and feel depressed now itself. Financial world has seen many crisis in the past and come out of them after a new equilibrium has been reached. It is to be remembered that there is a limit to getting returns on investments. Fantastic returns for some always means that there are fanatical loss for some others. Greed often overtakes wiser counsel. A control on such greed is what is required today.

Historians say that the easiest way to destabilize a country is to corrupt its language. Once the language is spoilt, hurting the land's identity and culture becomes easy. In the same vein, destroying the financial system is easy if its lending systems and repayment integrity is damaged. What is required now is neither consolidation of banks nor their fragmentation. Restoring the integrity of lending process and bringing back the culture of encouraging prompt repayment is the need of the hour in our country. Exemptions can be there, but these must be the basic rule. These are the pillars on which the future of the financial system are to be restored.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Not a word has been changed

Any communication sent from an establishment ought to reflect the thoughts and ideas of its author. The person signing such a letter or releasing the communication is to own the responsibility for it and as such he would be the final authority to approve its language and content. Quite often, such letters or messages given out by very senior functionaries in an organization are actually prepared by others reporting to them. There are different levels of people who prepare such written or spoken material as also approved by authorities at different levels. The knowledge and skill level of both the ones who prepare as well as approve differs from case to case. Pressure of work and deadlines add to the problem. An awareness that such material reflects the dignity and standing of the office enhances the quality of communication.

There are many interesting situations that would develop in this field. Communications were very formal and direct in the decades bygone. There was a system of preparing a "DFA" note (Draft for Approval) and placing it before the signing authority. The authority would go through the note, make suitable changes and then approve the draft. The final letter would be prepared thereafter, signed and released. This inevitably led to delays and double work. But many people in authority insisted that such should be the system in their offices. There were others who were more moderate and advised placing final letters directly and make some changes in a few of them. This would save time and speed up the proceedings. There were yet others who signed whatever was placed before them without worrying much about the language, tone and tenor of the letters. Of course, there were a fourth breed; they did not even understand what they were signing.

Senior officers in organizations had the support of a person designated as stenographer or steno-typist. Such persons had the skills to take down the contents of letters dictated by the boss in shorthand and prepare the final typed letter very quickly. Very senior officers had (and still have) an assistant designated as "Personal Secretary". Experienced stenos and secretaries had the capacity to understand the boss's mind while taking dictation. There was no need to tell them the entire thing. Just giving an idea was enough; they could add all other ingredients and make a fine letter ready for signing and despatch. Such people were in great demand as they were reliable and trustworthy. Trustworthy mainly because they could keep their mouths shut despite being privy to many confidential developments and issues.

Two anecdotes that come to mind sum up the above situations. The first was an instance wherein a senior officer placed a lot of importance to each letter signed by him. Any letter prepared by his subordinate would always come back with some correction or the other. At times the final output would be something totally different from what was placed before him. In the initial days the subordinate officer appreciated it and felt he was learning a lot. At one stage later on he told the boss: "Sir, I am learning a lot each time you correct or modify letters put up by me. But nowadays I have started losing confidence in my own abilities!". The senior officer realized the truth and moderated his interventions later on.

There was another situation wherein a subordinate sent a copy of the draft of a very important letter, to be sent to the Head Office, to the boss but forgot to write the three golden letters, DFA. The draft did not come back from the boss's chambers even after three days. He went to the boss and asked him about approval of the draft. The boss handed over the reply received from the Head Office for that letter! "I had signed and sent it over on the same day. Your letters are always perfect and reflect the content and language I want to convey. Henceforth, do not send any draft for approval. Send final letters with office copies. In case any change is required, which will be few and far between, I will let you know.", he said. The confidence the superior had in his subordinate was another end of the pendulum. Working would be a pleasure when such a level is reached in an office unit. 
Mass leaders and people occupying highest positions in political fields have their own speech writers and communication drafters. Some of these leaders are themselves good writers with literary bent of mind, but still require support for drafting speeches and communications due to paucity of time. They also have the remarkable ability to spot a mistake in spelling and grammar as well as pick lacunae in them that touch a raw nerve in public sentiment or create controversies. Some of these leaders have the gift of deviating from the prepared text effortlessly and bring in their own golden touch on the spot. A few of them are brilliant extempore speakers; they can create and deliver masterpieces in accordance with what the situation demands. Even their rivals have to perforce admire such remarkable quality. Our former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one such speakers. Of course, there are many of those who cannot even read a prepared text properly and often come out with foot-in-the-mouth stuff.

Former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was known for speeches which would pass for a literary masterpiece as well. His speeches at the Constituent Assembly on the night of 14th August, 1947 ("Tryst with Destiny" speech) and address to the Nation on the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated ("Light has gone out" speech) were part of text books when we were students. The words "At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom" is still remembered. While there was ample time to write and prepare the first speech, the second was urgent and immediate. It is not known whether a draft for approval was prepared and how many times it was changed. The second is believed to have been delivered extempore as there was no time for approving any draft speech.

Advent of computers have changed everything. There is no more need to have a draft for approval. A document can be prepared in any corner of the world and mailed to another part of the world for correction, modification and finalization. Steno-typists and stenographers have disappeared. It might even be proper to say that everyone has become a reincarnation of stenographers. Language can be changed, pictures and graphs can be added and fonts can be modified. More importantly, language, spelling and grammar have lost relevance and importance. Some of us from the old school may still worry about them, but this generation too will pass in one or two decades. SMS language and abbreviation have removed the sanctity attached to the three words mentioned above. 

SMS language was being used by the younger generation in their private conversations while sending SMS messages. Now it has become official and accepted as such everywhere. Last month (on 13th June, 2016) RBI came out with guidelines on S4A scheme. S4A is the short form for Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Asset.  A friend extended an invitation for lunch at a new restaurant opened in their locality. We were told that it is named as A2B.  There is also a chain of restaurant known as 1947. We thought it was something like that and on the lines of B2B. It was known only after going there that it was our good old "Adyar Ananda Bhavan", a place from which we were buying sweets for the last three decades in Chennai! The language used today is shorter than even the shorthand our stenos were using decades ago!

There is no method to know whether any document or letter was finalized after changing a few drafts or mere words. But what was the position several hundred years ago when writing the first version on palm leaves was in itself a big task? One never knows. We know many poets of recent times who did not need a pen and paper to write their poems. Whatever they said was poetry! They indeed breathed poetry. Da Ra Bendre was one such poet. Gopaldas Neeraj is another poet that comes readily to the mind. His songs used in Hindi films bear a testimony to this.

One poet whose exact period is still disputed and dragged between 13th and 15th century has categorically declared that there was no such issue as Draft for Approval in his case. Gadugina Naranappa, popularly known as KumaraVyasa, has written an epic titled Karnata Bharata Katha Manjari. It is the Kannada version of entire Mahabharata. He has taken the story from Vyasa's epic, but traced his own path in weaving and narrating the Mahabharata story in Bhamini Shatpadi, a meter consisting poems of six lines each. This full scale epic work is highly respected and used even today. He declares in the beginning of the book itself thus:
ಹಲಗೆ ಬಳಪವ ಪಿಡಿಯದೊಂದಗ್ಗಳಿಕೆ 
ಪರರೊಡ್ಡವದರೀತಿಯ ಕೊಳ್ಳದಗ್ಗಳಿಕೆ...... 

A slate and chalk piece has not been used
Not a word has been changed once written down
Not followed the path traced by another poet...

KumaraVyasa belonged to a period when paper and pencil, printing press or computers were not known. His work was not a creation in prose. It had the challenging meter where only a specified number of letters could be used in each line. Yet, he had the guts to declare that "Not a word was changed" in his creation. Once written, that was final. Blessed are those who have such a legacy with them.....

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yudhishtira and Serena Williams

It was the saddest chapter in the annals of the Kuruvamsha, an event on which the entire clan was to be ashamed for ever. What started as a game of dice turned out to be the ultimate in gambling due to the evil designs of Shakuni, to satisfy the desires of Duryodhana. Yudhishtira went on placing bets despite repeated warnings from his brothers and duly lost everything he had. The game continued. He lost his brothers as well one by one. As a last resort he placed Draupadi as a bet as well and lost her too. Draupadi was not aware of the happenings at the event and was not a party to the goings on at the royal court. She did not consent to the events nor approved it. Yet she was drawn by fate to the hall and Dushasana, on the orders of his brother Duryodhana, dragged her by her hair as she was declared now to be the slave of the hundred brothers. The crowned Queen of the Pandavas was shamelessly brought before the gathering of gamblers despite her repeated commands, requests and appeals. None in the court except Vidura had the courage to protest. She stood there asking questions for which nobody had either the answers or the courage to reply, even if they had one.

The matter did not end there. The evil ones went a step further, a step which should have never been taken. They used abusive language and used filthy words questioning Draupadi's righteousness as she lived with five husbands. Duryodhana ordered his brother Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi. Draupadi appealed to her husbands, others and each one present in the royal court. The King Dhritarashtra was physically blind as well as to her pleadings. Other elders did not have the courage to speak out. Some wept silently as Draupadi cried loudly and repeatedly. Dushasana attempted to disrobe her, but some miracle saved her from further embarrassment. She came out unscathed and now the old King was afraid about the further wellbeing of his sons. He was forced to release the Pandavas. But they were consigned to the forests for twelve years and further one year of living incognito. If their identities were detected during the last one year, they had repeat the cycle. Ultimate aim was to deny them their rightful share of kingdom for ever. The Pandavas left with Draupadi and moved into the forests. 

Duryodhana was not content with the fruits of deceit. He was not satisfied with mere banishing Pandavas to the forests. He wanted to further add injury to the insults heaped on them. He planned to make a show of his great wealth and riches and make the Pandavas jealous of his position and enjoyment. He led his entire entourage to the forest. The group camped close to the Pandavas huts and made a lot of noise disturbing the peace in the forests. Pandavas kept quiet at the biding of Yudhishtira, but others had no such compulsions. Chitraratha, Gandharva King, commander and friend of Indra, was disturbed by the group and advised Duryodhana and his associates to leave the area and go away. Power having removed all sanity from their brains, Kauravas and their associates not only refused to do so but also got engaged in a war with Chitraratha's group. They were beaten black and blue by the Gandharva army and all of Duryodhana's heroes including Karna and Shakuni ran away. Chitraratha made a big bundle of Duryodhana by using "Varuna Pasha". The bundle was put in Chitraratha's chariot and driven away to their abode. 

The servants and the womenfolk of the Kauravas entourage now ran towards the Pandavas huts. They begged Yudhishtira to get the bundled Duryodhana released from Chitraratha's custody. Yudhishtira advised his brothers, Bheema and Arjuna, to fight with Chitraratha and get Duryodhana released. The two brothers were reluctant and felt that what Chitraratha did was to their own advantage. What should have been done by us is done by him, they said. Yudhishtira now commanded them to proceed. Chitraratha now had no alternative but to surrender Duryodhana. He brought the bundled Duryodhana and threw him at the foot of Yudhishtira.

Chitraratha had a question for Yudhishtira. Why do you interfere with the capturing of your worst enemy?, he asked. The reply given by Yudhishtira is legendary and gives an insight into his wonderful personality. He had his own arithmetic as the answer to Chitraratha's question. He said:

परैः परिभवे प्राप्ते वयं पन्चोत्तरं शतं|
परस्पर विरोधेतु वयं पञ्चैव ते शतं|| 

Paraih paribhave prapte vayam panchotaram shatam,
Paraspara virodhetu vayam panchaiva, te shatam!   

"In a dispute with outsiders, we are hundred and five. In a dispute between us, we are five. They are hundred." (Our dispute is purely between us. When an outsider confronts us, we are hundred five brothers. We will settle our dispute among ourselves. We do not allow others to take advantage of our differences. We are united when an external force attacks our clan).

Duryodhana had come to harass the Pandavas. He was now lying as a bundle at the feet of Yudhishtira. Yudhishtira asked Chitraratha to release Duryodhana from the pasha. Chitraratha said that it can be released only by the touch of a righteous woman who led a truthful life. All womenfolk tried to release Duryodhana, one by one. None succeeded. Now Yudhishtira looked at Draupadi. The one who was humiliated and insulted by the person lying as a bundle looked at Duryodhana with utter disregard. Draupadi kicked the bundle and Duryodhana was released! Duryodhana's questions and filthy words were duly answered in the most unexpected and emphatic manner. Duryodhana was now forced to live under the shame of Draupadi's kick for the rest of his life. It was poetic justice at its best.

Serena Williams has won her 7th Wimbledon Championship and 22nd title at Majors, popularly called as Grand Slam events, at the age of 34 years. She also won her 6th Wimbledon doubles title today (It was Sunday in India when the match ended in London) with sister Venus Williams. She had only enough time to get her ankles re-taped in between her grueling Singles Final and Doubles Final. Each time the sisters won the doubles crown, one of them also won the singles championship. The sisters have 14 doubles titles at Majors in all. With 7 crowns in Wimbledon, 6 each at Australian Open and US Open, and three at French Open, she has a fair distribution of wins in all types of surfaces. She won her first major title at the age of 18 and now at 34 continues to chug on. She is the only one to win 10 titles in two separate decades. She is ranked at number 1 for over ten years. Injuries and family troubles have not deterred her quest for achievements.

She acknowledges that in Doubles games her sister Venus is the boss. They are two together against any other opponents. But when it comes to fighting in Singles matches, there is no unity. She fights tooth and nail despite her own elder sister at the other side of the net. At the peak of their intense rivalry, there were some who suggested that their father decided who would win the singles match between them. They were insulting their determination as well as did not understand their professional pride. 

In a fight with others during a doubles match, the sisters are one group of two. In a singles match between them, they are two fierce opponents. No quarter given and none asked. Just as Yudhishtira said: Five and 105. No outsider can take advantage.

Yudhishtira's reply to Chitraratha mentioned above is an excellent lesson in management of Organizations. When confronted by outsiders, the entire workforce has to rise as one united bunch, despite any internal differences. Internal issues can be resolved internally; outsiders should not be allowed to take advantage of internal bickering.   

The sloka mentioned above is also a piece of wonderful poetry. The choice of words is indeed excellent. It conveys the true meaning with punch. Simple words are woven with intricate skills. It thrills the lovers of good poetry. It makes one to think of the principle it enunciates again and again as well. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The "GOLD"en Medicine

"One should always have some gold item on the body. It is good for health.", grandmothers used to say when we were young. Gold was one way of keeping savings handy, when other savings instruments were not available in plenty. That was a time when all could not afford gold jewelry. Many households did not even have silverware with them. A gold ring or a gold chain presented to the bride or groom at the time of a marriage would be a showpiece and passed around carefully under strict supervision, for the guess to see. There were some affluent families who did have some gold jewelry and they were looked upon with awe by others. Diamonds were not seen but only heard. Bank accounts were believed to be only for the rich. 

Times have changed. People have more disposable incomes now. Gold jewelry and bank accounts have become commonplace. Gold no longer evokes great emotions. Many people have started buying diamonds, small or big. Platinum has displaced Gold as the main jewelry metal. Bank accounts are for everybody. Those who do not have money to save have personal loans and consumer loans. Housing loans are available in all sizes and for all income groups. Then there are credit cards acting like the two edged swords. Great, if used carefully and agents of doom if used indiscreetly. Today, there are more people buying jewelry in posh storied shopping malls than fruits and vegetables at the nearby vegetable markets. Increase in vegetable and fruit prices is more concerning than movement in the price of gold. 

Gold is now available in every household and in good quantities as well. But law and order situation has improved so much that it is neither possible nor advisable to wear golden items on one's body and move around. Bank lockers are in great demand for storing all these jewelry items. Looking at the locker key is, of course, comforting to many. Ultimately, there is no gold jewelry on human bodies. It was paucity then; security and safety issues now!

Gold was (and is) not only an ornamental metal, but also a standard or scale for measuring quality. Literature abounds with reference to gold and anything good, precious or rare was compared to gold. Only few could ignore gold for something else! Lord Rama tells brother Lakshmana, standing on the shores of the mighty ocean and looking at Ravana's Lanka: Api swarnamayee Lanka, na mei Lakshmana rochate! Janani Janmabhoomischa swargadapi gareeyasi" (अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते, जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसि). The first part is not well known, but the second part is often quoted as a lofty ideal. Other poets and writers have extensively used reference to gold in their works. Gold standard was a monetary system followed for many years all over the world. Gold was and is easily accepted in lieu of money even today.

Medical practitioners have identified the many medicinal properties of gold for a long time and used it in preparation of various medicines. Ayurveda is a pioneer in use of other metals as well as gold as an ingredient in various medicinal preparations. Swarna Bhasma or Gold Ash is used in many Ayurvedic formulations. Recorded usage of Gold as medicine is at least three thousand years old. There is referece to use of gold as medicine in "Sushruta Samhita". Adiman, Chandrasena and Nagarjuna have made valuable contributions to use of metals in medicinal preparations. 

"Rasa Ratna Samuchhaya" is a sanskrit work credited to one "Vagbhatacharya" (different from other well known personalities with similar names of earlier periods) and said to have been written in the 13th century. The verses are well knit with literary qualities as well as provide valuable input for medical practitioners. The many medicinal qualities of gold have been enumerated in detail in this text and some of them are:

  • Gold enhances the life span and wealth and brings a sense of wellbeing.
  • It enhances body complexion.
  • It enhances intellect and memory.
  • It increases Grahana and Dhaarana shakti (grasping and retention powers).
  • It eradicates the spells of evil spirits and bad influences.
  • It is a brain tonic and provides nourishment to the body.
  • It eradicates the effects of poisoning.
  • It cures Yakshma (Tuberculosis), Unmada (mental disturbance) and many other diseases.
  • It improves digestive power and provides many other positive effects on the body.

Swarna Bindu Prashana has been practiced and administered to children for several centuries. Modren tools of advertisement and canvassing has made it even more familiar and enhanced its usage. In a way, it has become another "Akshaya Tritiya" type publicity that is connected with buying gold. Swarna Bindu Prashana is used for administering a gold formulation to children for increasing immunity, memory and strength in them. This is done once a month, on the day of "Pushya" nakshatra (star) day. Original reference to this type of Prashana is said to be in "Kashyapa Samhita". Providing for food and clothing for a number of children in the family was itself a challenge for parents decades ago. Family planning and increasing income levels have made Swarna Bindu Prashana more familiar and affordable nowadays. Parents, especially NRIs, look forward to Pushya Nakshtra day for "Swarna Bindu Prashana" in present times.

The next Swarna Bindu Prashana event is only three days away, on 6th July, 2016. Are you interested?