Monday, 24 December 2007


Ganesha says (TOI, December 23, 2007):
Aries: You will find that neither work nor recreation attracts or fulfills you. New values and concerns are far more vital. They will range from social and environmental causes to prayer and religion, to philosophy and idealism. All the gains you wish to make are in these spheres.

I generally do not take such prognostication seriously; I read it out of pure curiosity. However, I have noticed that more often than not, the auspicated messages are partly true if not in entirety. It is quite possible however, that this could at times, be the result of the “Confirmation Bias”. The very fact that there has been some prediction regarding one’s behavior could lead to forced cognition, and thereby the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions about a particular way of thinking or being. is called Confirmation Bias. Well, that is beside the point.

It is interesting to note the coincidence (some might prefer to call it the vindication of the power of astrology) in the veracity of the predictions. We happened to have an interesting discussion in the class on Indian Philosophy for Leadership Excellence. We had a visiting professor from the University of Hawaii, who, true to his engineering background, has spent time and effort in making managerial models out of the Bhagavad Gita.

As per the Gita, Karma is determined by the actions of a person. Both good and bad deeds are stored like a balance sheet and determine the events in one’s future lives. One is born time and time again to face the consequences of one’s actions in previous lives. The Gita’s teachings reflect on how to stop this chain and free oneself from the cycle of birth and death.

“I am not well versed with the true meaning of Karma” would be an understatement. Nevertheless, I believe in Karma. However, I do not concur with the basic premise that the accumulation of good deeds is necessary to free oneself from the mundane cycle of existence. It seems to be that the attitude towards the very concept of life is riddled with negativism. The concept of God’s intervention in this is widely held to be an artificial construct of Hindu theism, which is a different ball game all together.

I would like to believe that Karma should function without external control. I love life; why would I want to accumulate good Karma and leave Earth? What will one do with the limitless possibilities of human talent if one does not walk the Earth? I am a workaholic of sorts and I cannot imagine not being occupied! What after Moksha?

I know this is a classic example of what students of Psychology call “Framing” (an inevitable process of selective influence over the individual's perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases); but thanks to the innumerable episodes of Mahabharata and Ramayana that all of us have seen as children; I can picture myself dressed in glittering jewels and a hundred handmaids around me at my service. Of course, not to forget that people in the Heavens do not play basketball and do not watch Numbers and all the other wonderful things that we do as a part of the journey called “Life”.

I have never viewed Dharma and Karma differently, but I discovered how wrong I was. It was this “Cognitive Dissonance” (the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one's beliefs) that led to the recital of this Holy Scripture to awake Arjun from his lull.

I can’t help but notice that the Bhagavad Gita is an El Dorado for those interested in the science of human behavior, as is obvious from my writing laden with terms from psychology.

It was also surprising to note how the teachings of the Gita stand in direct contradiction to the theories of Motivation that we learn as a part of our courses. There exists two kinds of Karma, Nishkama Karma and Sakama Karma. The former is where actions are performed as duties, without expecting any “fruit of labour” and the latter is where one is desirous of a result out of the Karma.

Most theories of motivation, ERG, Expectancy, Goal Setting, all focus on the rewards driving a particular action. In my opinion, all actions will result in Sakama Karma, directly or indirectly. In fact, Indian mythology is loaded with such examples. Most “tapases” were undertaken with the goal of seeing a particular God. Even the process of keeping a mental note of Karma is in effect Sakama, as one seeks to attain Moksha, which is the fruit of doing good karma. I wonder how a person can perform an action with no motive. This would translate to faith. There again – the paradox. The very word “faith” means that you know that there will be a good result out of performing a particular action based on some personal attachment to the object or person that drives the faith. So theoretically, I think Nishkama Karma can never exist.

I am aware that I am in no position to judge the Gita, but I just couldn’t resist the flow of thoughts! :P

Thursday, 20 December 2007

PPO : comPlete Personality makeOver

“PPO !!!” – the much awaited clarion call of any final year B School student. Embedded in these letters is a world of freedom – freedom from the mundane procedure of attending class, freedom from DCP, freedom from the gruel of the placement process, the welcome whiff of worry free FRAX… the list could go on.

However, my PPO has brought in its wake, something more than the relief factor – it is the desire to “actually” learn. It has been just one class into the sixth term of my course and its effect is so evident. For the first time, I sat in class, unperturbed about Lag Indicators (see, I am already using jargon that I learnt!!!) like division of marks, CQ, attendance, CP etc. Disappointed at an empty class, the professor requested a few of us to move to the much detested “first few benches” of class, and I hurriedly gathered my belongings to do so, till I was tugged back to my “roots” by a rather amused friend.

I am surprised at the spontaneity and innateness of the complete makeover of my learning orientations. For every single concept that the professor talked of today, I subconsciously mapped it with millions of examples that I have come across, my internship experience and other related concepts. The intense activity in my brain made me go dizzy. Rather than mentally making a note of the deadlines for assignment submissions, I made a note of the books that I had to read before I got out of XL. I know for a fact that no newspaper will go unread to the raddiwala this term. I have to get back to gymming and I have to learn a language in the next two months here.

As I reflect on this nebulous reincarnation of myself, I wonder – is this not supposed to be the essence of any learning system? The much harangued topic of discussion on the faulty system of Indian education flashed across my mind. For the first time, I actually knew what the word “learning value” meant. Was I not supposed to internalize this at the very beginning of my tryst with MBA? I remember the steely (seldom empty) resolves that I took in my initial euphoria of being admitted into the “Best School in Asia Pacific for HR”. I would not say they have all melted away, some of them have just been… well… redefined.

Varying interests, the discovery that actual outcomes of courses do not match expectations, the inherent human tendency to normalize one’s behavior with respect to environmental variables - all play their part.

Another eye opening incident was my recent participation in an inter B School event. I was appalled at the way some of the “top” B Schools in the country made their presentations - unprofessional would be an understatement. It was then that I realized how the courses that I arrogantly dismissed as “gassy” or “no learning value” contribute to the making of a well honed professional. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner rung in my ears, and I felt an albatross around my neck.

I know I am at the potential threat of being christened a Ghissu, nevertheless, no one can run away from the truth of the situation!