Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Deadly Combination

A 21-year old boy landed two months ago in Kochi, Kerala, with 3 pairs of clothes and nothing else with him. He had arrived from far off Gujarat to find a job and make a living in Kerala. He was in Kochi without any acquaintance and not knowing a word of Malayalam, the local language. It was indeed difficult to manage in such environment. His needs were simple. Earning 40 rupees a day for food and another 250 rupees a day for paying rental to a lodge. He survived for a month by working in four establishments. Each job was different and required different skills and temperament. He worked in a bakery followed by a call centre, a shoe shop and as a waiter in a McDonald's outlet. He managed to spend a month by earning the required money and living hand to mouth.  

There is nothing special in the above story. There are thousands of such young boys and girls migrating far away from their towns or villages for securing some job and make a living. Then what was special about this young man? The family background of the person makes an interesting study. This is more so in an era when we regularly hear of young boys driving expensive luxury cars and killing people walking or sleeping on footpaths. And more than that, behaving indifferently about the victims and abusing the process of law to escape punishment and accountability.    

Dravya Dhalokia was pursuing his MBA in USA. He came to India on holidays. As per their family tradition, all children in the family have to undergo this type of self-living in their early days. While holidaying in India, his father sent him on such a mission to learn to live on his own. He was required to strictly follow three rules during his stay in Kerala. First one was that he was not to work in any one place for more than a week. Secondly, he was not permitted to use his father's or family's name and identity. The third and more stringent condition was not to use a mobile phone during his stay in Kerala. He was required to go to unfamiliar places, find a job and make a living. He managed to survive for one month by strictly following the three rules set by his father. He did have an emergency fund of seven thousand rupees in his pocket when he arrived. It was not to be used unless there was an extreme emergency. When he left Kerala after a month, the amount was intact in his pocket.

Dravya (The word "Dravya" itself means money!) Dhalokia's case is even more special considering his family background. His father Savji Dhalokia is the Chairman of Hari Krishna Diamond Exports Private Limited of Surat. It is a company that polishes and exports 5,00,000 carats of diamonds every year. The company has a turnover of 6,000 crore rupees a year and employs 6,000 people. It has business presence in over 70 countries. Savji Dhalokia made news in October 2014 by giving away 491 cars and 200 flats to his employees as Diwali gifts. Another 525 staff members were given gold and diamond jewelry as gifts on the occasion. The gifts were in recognition of the exemplary work done by the staff members and achieving the business targets allotted to them.  

The experimental mission for his son in Kerala was to make him understand the value of money.

Youth is a period in life when a person is strong physically and the mental growth has not yet reached the ideal level. Thinking follows action and not the other way around. Act first and then think is the natural process. Many attractions of life drive actions in this phase of life. The ability to balance actions with reasoning and understanding the possible results has not yet arrived. Youth is, on its own, a recipe for disaster if the abundant energy and vigor is not channelized properly. 

Wealth is another dangerous ingredient for disaster. A person who does not understand the value of money tends to spend it rather easily and unmindful of the consequences. Easy come easy go, as they say. Anyone working hard for earning money and building wealth would think twice before spending the hard earned rupee. It may not be called miserly behavior, but it is the wisdom of spending only when required. Being generous when wealthy is indeed a good quality. But being generous is effective only when coupled with useful spending.  

Power is the third component for bringing in trouble. This is all the more true when the power is derived without authority. Many youngsters enjoy the power of money or social and political influence of their parents and family members. They know how to use the levers of power without knowing the efforts for acquiring them and the results of its uninhibited usage. The effects of such misuse and abuse of power is felt by the gullible and the weak in society. The damage caused in the lives of others is often irreparable. 

The word "Aviveka" in Sanskrit has two near equivalent words in English; Indirection and Indiscretion.  Indirection is lack of direction or goal in life. When the basic necessities of life is available freely and there is no need to work for them, indirection sets in life. Indiscretion is acting without prudence. Prudence is being wise in practical affairs and care in management of resources. Life without defined goals and actions without prudence is certain to bring lamentable results. This is the fourth element that can lead to tragedy and undesirable effects on ones life as well as on the life of others.

This sloka from "Hitopadesha" sums up the effects of a combination of all these in one's life:
योव्वनं धनसंपत्तिः प्रभुत्वं अविवेकता | 
एकैकमपि अनर्थाय किमुयत्र चतुष्टयम् ||
Youth, Wealth, Power and Aviveka (Indiscretion and Indirection), any one of these is enough to usher in the undesirable (and destroy a person). What if they are all put together? They form a deadly combination! 

"Round the Clock Stories" is now five years old. This is the 250th blog post. It has reached readers in over 120 countries. I am immensely grateful to all the readers who have encouraged me by reading the posts and adding their valuable comments on them. I am beholden to friends and well-wishers who have provided support through e-mails and words of support in person. I am thankful to the young girl who advised me to pool all my articles in one place and helped me in finding a place for them in "Round The Clock stories". It has made me to read and think on different subjects and develop varied interests. 

The journey continues.......

Friday, August 19, 2016

Did he not know? Really?

Vibheeshana was standing beside Rama as Raavana approached the battlefield for the final war. He was enraged by the death of his brother Kumbhakarna, son Meghanaada and many other trusted warriors in the battle, till then. He was now left all alone to fend for himself. A mere look at Vibheeshana added fuel to the fire and Raavana could not control his fury. The setbacks so far he had in the war were directly or indirectly due to this brother. Having joined the rival camp, his own brother was leaking out the inner secrets and weaknesses of these warriors and helping the enemy to eliminate them one by one. That he had himself insulted and banished Vibheeshana from Lanka did not matter now. Whatever may be the reason and the differences between the brothers themselves, this betrayal by his own brother could not be overcome by Raavana. He thought it fit to kill Vibheeshana even before turning his attention to Rama. That Vibheeshana was not taking any direct part in the war did not really matter to him now.  He picked one of his most potent weapon and hurled it with all his might in the direction of Vibheeshana.

Lakshmana was keenly watching the movements of Raavana and was expecting the attack to come in the direction of his brother Rama or himself. When the first attack was directed at Vibheeshana, Lakshmana felt that it was his duty to protect Vibheeshana. He tried to repulse the attack with a weapon of his own but did not succeed. As he had moved between Vibheeshana and Raavana's weapon in the process, the Shakthi hurled by Raavana hit Lakshmana with all the force and felled him. Lakshmana was now floored and became unconscious. Hanuman swiftly lifted Lakshmana from the scene and moved him to safety away from the battlefield. Raavana was satisfied that one of his main enemies was killed and left to his fort to celebrate the victory. There was a temporary withdrawal of hostilities. Rama's camp was in deep sorrow and Raavana's camp was busy celebrating the success. 

Everyone thought that Lakshmana had indeed died and Rama was overcome with grief and deep sorrow. He recounted the devotion with which Lakshmana served him and was always available for anything he wanted. Senior Doctor Sushena was summoned to examine Lakshmana and find out the possibility of reviving him. Sushena examined Lakshmana in detail and said that Lakshmana was in deep trouble, but could be revived if some invaluable herbs were made available to him before sunrise. The only trouble was that these precious herbs were not available nearby. They were found only in a section of the Himalayas. The need now now for someone to fly to Himalayas, find the herbs and bring them before sunrise. Any delay would render the mission useless as the time for revival of Lakshmana would elapse by sunrise and it would not be possible to revive him after sunrise even with those herbs. From Lanka to Himalayas and back in a few hours. Lord Hanuman was the only one who could be entrusted with such a task. Hanuman was off on the mission even before others realized the enormity of the task. (This is how it happened and not when Lakshmana was hit by a weapon hurled by Meghanaada (Indrajeet), as popularly believed. Sarga (chapter) 101 of Yuddha Kaanda explains this particular episode). 

What was expected to be accomplished by Hanuman on this mission? He was required to bring these five herbs from the Himalayas:
    1. Vishalyakarani: Herb that helps in expelling an arrow or weapon from the body, heal the resultant wound and relieve the pain. (Shalya means a sharp object like a javelin)  
    2. Savarnakarani: Herb that helps in counteracting discoloration of the skin and restores its original color. 
    3. Sanjivakarani: Herb that brings an unconscious person to consciousness. 
    4. Sandhanakarani: Herb used for joining fractured bones.
(Experts also opine that there is another herb called Mrutasanjeevani that can bring a dead man to life within a defined period under certain circumstances. It may be recalled that there are instances when dead people are found alive after sometime. The recent example is of Pakistani cricketer Hanif Mohammad who was declared dead, but came back to life after a few hours. He died later on the same day). 

Hanuman accomplished his mission and arrived well before sunrise. However, instead of bringing the required herbs, he lifted a part of the mountain itself and placed it before Sushena. When asked as to why he did not bring the herbs alone, he said that he was unable to identify the herbs and hence brought the entire parvata (hill) to enable Sushena to identify them and use in required quantities. Having brought the herbs including Mrutasanjeevini, he is also known by the name "Sanjeeva Raaya".

Hanuman is considered as the most intelligent person of his time. It is also believed that he knew all the different branches of knowledge in entirety. Yet, he said he could not identify these herbs. Did he not know?  Really?

The young officer had just returned from a training program at the bank's training college. He was attending to his duties at his desk, outside the Branch Manager's cabin. He saw a customer enter the Manager's cabin and talking to him. He heard the words "DPG" (Deferred Payment Guarantee) being mentioned and became attentive. The customer was requesting for issue of a DPG. Branch Manager told him that he was not aware of the term and he had not handled that type of business earlier. The customer was disappointed and left the cabin.

The officer entered the Manager's cabin and told him that he was familiar with DPG as it was covered in the training program. He asked the manager whether he can call back the customer and explain about it. The manager smiled and said that he too knew about DPG and had handled such transactions in his earlier branches. The young officer was perplexed and asked him as to why he had told the prospective customer that he did not know about it.

"The person who came here and inquired about DPG is not a direct client but a middleman. His reputation is not good. My friends who entertained business through him are now facing trouble. It is not advisable to deal with such people. Instead of further discussing the issue I disposed off the case by saying I do not know about DPG. It is one way of dealing with undesirable parties and that is what I did in this case", he told the young officer. Mere knowledge of things is not enough and one should know how to handle issues without trouble, he added. the young officer learnt another important lesson; Knowledge and Wisdom were, indeed, two different things.


Hanuman knew that the valuable herbs were available only in the Himalayas. He also knew that there would be other people who need these herbs, in the times to come. He was aware that others could not reach there and get the herbs in time when required. There was a need to distribute these herbs for the welfare of the people at large. When he lifted the mountain and flew in the air to Lanka, the herbs fell in many places on the way. A part of the mountain itself reached south. Sushena later on used them to treat others who were affected in the war. Thus the treasure was distributed to help the needy. These herbs are even now used by skilled doctors to treat patients.

Hanuman knew what he was doing. Instead of explaining all these things, he simply said that he could not identify the herbs. That others believed those words and thought that he could not identify the herbs did not make any difference to him!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This Place, Without You…

The Yaksha was married only a few months ago. Those were the early days of his married life. He had everything he desired in life at that point in time. He was in the service of the Lord of Wealth, Kubera. He had a rewarding job and a beautiful house, with all other perks that came with serving the Lord of Wealth. He was fond of his beautiful bride and naturally wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. Days were flying and he was floating in a dreamy world.  

Yaksha’s job requirement was indeed simple. He had to collect all the different heavenly flowers of various colors and fragrance, and make a fine garland for the Lord. It should be delivered in the morning before the Lord gets ready to go out on his daily routine. The Lord would wear the garland on his body as if it was the final item of jewelry. The fragrance of the flowers always preceded him as he moved around and stayed behind even after he left. Yaksha spent considerable time in finding the right flowers and making an attractive garland out of them. But he never failed in his duty and promptly delivered the garland as per schedule, without fail.

The early days of marriage were indeed difficult as his desire to stay with his wife clashed with discharge of his duties. His preoccupation with home life put additional pressure on his time. He somehow managed to deliver the garland at the desired time. Having seen the beautiful garland, his wife wanted to try it once on her body. It was indeed difficult for him to avoid her doing so. But he stuck to his duties. He had to prevent her from trying to put on the garland day after day. One day she begged him and said that she would put it on only for a minute and return immediately so that he can quickly deliver it to his Lord. It happened so suddenly and he managed to reach the Lord’s palace and give the garland in the nick of time. The Lord picked it up and was about to put it on his body when he saw a long hair clinging to the garland. 

The Lord could surmise what had happened. He became furious. Yaksha’s dereliction of duty was due to his deep attachment to his new bride. Hence the punishment should be separation from his wife. Kubera banished Yaksha from the capital city, Alaka, for a period of one year. Yaksha had to bear the punishment and wandered away from there and finally reached “Ramagiri”, a hill to the north of present Nagpur.

Kalidasa’s "Meghadootam" begins with the Yaksha standing on the hill of Ramagiri and spotting a cloud on the first day of the “Aashada” month. Yaksha tries to send a message to his wife through this cloud. The poet beautifully describes the various places and scenery on the way to be seen by the cloud during its journey to Alaka Nagari. The reason for Yaksha's banishment from Alaka is not clear. The above is a story told to us by a teacher in school. It appears very reasonable when one considers the other aspects described in the epic. Another version of the reason for banishment is that the Yaksha was the caretaker of Kubera’s garden and due to his carelessness Indra’s elephant, Iravata, entered and destroyed the garden. Kubera realizes that the dereliction of the duty by the Yaksha was on account of his preoccupation with his new bride and banishment for one year is the punishment to keep him away from her.

Yaksha describes various places on the way to Alaka to guide the cloud to reach his house in Alaka Nagari. He explains the location of his house and its surroundings before giving details about identifying his wife and the message to be given to her. There was no Google Maps in those days and yet painters have been able to paint a series of pictures to bring the scenery before us. Yaksha mentions, among others, the direction of his house being to the north of Kubera's palace, which can be easily identified as a landmark of the city. He describes the beautiful water pool with its golden lotuses and intricately laid steps with precious stones. There are Swans in the pool having made it their permanent abode, ignoring their natural habitat of Manasa Sarovara. He describes the small hillock in the garden with golden banana plants. There is also a golden pole on which his brides's pet peacock stands and dances to the rhythm of her clapping. The young Mandaara tree is full of flowers that can be plucked while standing on the ground. The Red Ashoka and Kurabaka trees in the garden are very fond of his bride. They flower even in unseasonal days when she kicks one with her left leg and throws wine from her mouth on the other! The description of the house and its surroundings thus goes on......

The explanation for finding the right house ends with a wonderful symbol of identification. It is not anything precious that was or is there. It is something which is not there. Identification of a place is not just by what can be seen there, but also something that is truly missing. While concluding the description of house the poet says:
क्षामच्छायं भवनमधुना मद्वियोगॆन नूनम् |
सूर्यापाये नखलु कमलः पुष्यति स्वामभिख्याम्  ||

Kshamacchayam bhavanamadhunaa madviyogena noonam
Sooryapaaye na khalu kamalah pushyati swamabhikyaam

"The house now appears deserted despite all the above delightful things. My absence has rendered the house lose all its glitter. Just as the Lotus loses its existence when the sun is not there, the house has lost all its sheen. You can identify the house very easily due to this factor alone".


Mere fittings and decorations do not make a house or an office. It is the persons that occupy these precincts that mark and make their presence and existence. The absence of key individuals robs these places of all their glory. Their presence define their purpose and enhances their existence.

This truth is fully realized only when such persons are missing from the scene, even if temporarily, due to exigencies. All others in the vicinity will be longing for them to return and take their place. 

This place, without you, ......