Monday, 18 June 2018

Yours Fearfully ....

"So, how was your last day at work? " I asked Amish , who had left his previous organization and was supposed to join another company next week. 

He was quiet for a few seconds and said "Well, it was good but ..." he gave a significant pause . 

I waited. 

"You know what , ? Sushil, one of my peers, actually came till the exit gate to see me off in the evening and he said a very unusual thing ... "

"Hmm ... what ? "

"He said that he had learnt many things from me and  he valued my contribution to the organization and that he found me very professional and rational ... !"

"Thats good Amish ! But this is not unusual though !"

"But it is !" Amish cried out, "In fact , I told him that if he had articulated this even once to the MD during my stint in the organization, things might have been different ! Everybody fears thie MD and his whims. He does not like to hear anyone negate his views. And me being me, there would be sparks while working with him. It was clear that he did not like me and the rest of the people who matter, never spoke up !" 

Classic case of  Leading with Fear. And as I hear from Amish, most of the good people have left the organization and the company is at the lowest point 
The traditional notion in many organization is that fear is a good thing and benefits the organization.  I remember when I had joined an organization, the first thing that my boss had told me was - "Ananya, be strict with your team or else they will not work !"

Well, fear is a good motivator, but if the environment reflects respect, care and love , it becomes much more effective than people mindlessly following orders. A fear-based organization loses its best people and the knowledge they take with them. Just like Amish !

If the organization is being led with fear, it creates an avoidance behaviour in the people , because no one wants to make a mistake and this inhibits growth and change.  People will not take any risk because they will fear that failure will not be tolerated. The employees will always follow status quo and will not be able to perform upto their real capability and potential. 

If the leaders bind the people with care, compassion, listening and connecting on a personal level, the people will be attracted to work harder, take risks, learn and the the organization will grow and go to the next level !

If the senior leadership show respect and trust , it not only makes the employee work better, they get emotionally connected to their work. On the contrary, if there is fear at work, it will slowly destroy the people's spirit and ultimately, the organization will face a slow death . When there is an atmosphere of fear , the opportunity for getting genuine feedback is throttled. The leaders remain blinded to the ground reality, denying them the chance to take the right decision and change damaging behaviour. 

Though competitiveness and ambition are hailed in organizations, love, respect and genuineness are very powerful tools. I remember a sequence in a Hindi Film named "Munnabhai MBBS" , where a medical intern did an experiment with love. There was an old  sweeper , who was forever cribbing . He wiped the floors , cleaned the dustbins , sweeped the corridors.  No one had ever seen him smiling. Munnabhai, the intern applied his "Jaadu ki Jhappi " (Magic of the hug) on him. One day, when the sweeper was cleaning and cribbing that no one cared about  cleanliness and people just littered everywhere, Munnabhai went and stood in front of him. The sweeper scowled and started shouting expletives. Munnabhai did not say anything but hugged him tightly. For a few seconds, the sweeper did not know what was happening. No one had hugged him ever ! And while hugging him, Munnabhai said "I know that you work so hard but no one ever says thank you to you. Everybody  is grateful and showers thanks profusely on the doctors , nurses etc, but you, who keep the hospital spic and span , no one notices you ! I am saying thank you on behalf of everybody ! Thank you for all you do ! Please understand that your work is as important as ours!"  And then he addressed the sweeper by his name. 

And it was really magic . The sweeper was transformed. He smiled ! From that day onwards , he never cribbed. And of course, Munnabhai was a hero for him . When the intern left the hospital, people wept ! Such is the power of love !

Fear based motivation says " You give me a job and I will give you just enough to keep it "

But a love and respect based motivation says " I will give ALL that I have to offer " ! I feel this the real motivator which makes you feel alive, connected and energized. It meets the unspoken needs , respect and affirmation for the employees. 

A fine balance needs to be maintained by the leaders. Sometimes and in some situations, fear is definitely needed . Yes, I agree that  rational thinking is important but if it is balanced with love, it builds trust, creativity, a culture of innovation , initiative and enthusiasm. 

That one response from Amish's colleague told volumes about the culture of the organization. I sincerely wish that the leaders change their attitude there , else , just like me, can you too not foresee it's future ?


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Rani Decides

Rani Decides

8th March 2018, 10 am

There was a stony silence in the top floor conference room.

The lights were dimmed and a blank excel sheet was projected on the newly acquired big high end screen on the wall . The final appraisal list had been collated from all the managers by the secretary of the CEO.  All the five senior managers sat with their laptops , looking at the comments that they had given for the promotion list. They revised their justification for the promotions and increments to be given.  They knew that it needed quite an effort to convince the CEO.

Shh… the Boss is coming “ , Nitin, the secretary announced and all the people in the room stiffened. It. was exactly 10 am and everybody knew that the boss is never ever late for meetings. The CEO came inside the room and sat on the designated chair at the head of the table.

“Nitin, start the meeting and make sure that as planned , we end exactly in a hour and a half  “.

Nitin stood up and started .

“All of us know about the Appraisal Normalization meeting which has been started by our CEO last year.  But I will explain it again as a refresher. All of you have submitted the list of senior members of your teams with their appraisal rating data .  You have also indicated whom you wish to promote along with your comments, explaining the rationality of your choice.  In this meeting, we will look at the employees across different teams and normalize the ratings. For example, if there is a person A in Sanjay’s team who has 7 years of experience and has performed consistently well throughout the year  has given a rating of 4.5 to the team member, another employee having the same no of years of experience and also working at the same performance level has been given rating of 4 by a Rajesh, then the ratings will be normalized after discussion in this meeting.  The promotion cases will  be discussed.  In case of any deadlock, the CEO’s decision will be final “

Nitin paused. The CEO nodded.  Nitin projected the collated excel sheet on the screen.

“I have reviewed the data and have some questions. Let us start with the promotion cases. Sanjay, can you please justify why you have promoted Rahul ? I see that he met all his goals in the first quarter but he has been faltering in the last two quarters. ”. The CEO asked.

Sanjay fidgeted with his hands.

“Boss, Rahul got married in July and maybe due to his added responsibilities and er.. distractions he did not do so well in the last two quarters.  But in the last one month, I have seen him working hard. He has in fact taken initiative and created a wonderful project monitoring dashboard and it is helping a lot in project execution.  I think that if we give him promotion, he will be motivated and will add value to the organization".

“Hmm … Mark this as a re review case and we will decide in the final meeting next week .”

“Phew …” , Sanjay panted and was visibly relieved.

“The next case I want  to discuss is about Shripad. I do not see his name in the list, but I know that he has done exceptionally well in the last 3 quarters but in this quarter you have not given him a good rating. Can you explain Mahesh ? “

Mahesh stood up like a spring.  He had joined only a year back and this was his first rationalization meeting with the CEO.  Last year he was a silent spectator in the meeting, learning from other managers.

“You can sit down and explain Mahesh “ the CEO said softly.

“I do agree that Shripad is a good performer and has performed well throughout the year. But he is not a good team player. A few weeks back , I had asked him to talk to a customer regarding a few upcoming needs and make the necessary changes in the application.  He was  late in delivering by 7 days ! And when I asked him about the reason for the delay, he said that he had unearthed a few issues with the existing system and had to rectify them first before making the new changes.  We missed the deadline and the customer was unhappy.  That is why I did not give a very good rating to him and I think that his promotion can be delayed by another year .”

“Hmm… well , did Shripad keep you updated about the reason for his delay before it happened ?”

“Yes, he did “

“Did you go into the details of the reason why he was delayed ? What issues was he talking about , were they valid ? “

“Well .. uh … I asked another team member about it and he confirmed that there were a few issues . But he also said that Shripad spends a lot of time in documentation and process .. “

“I think that is how we should do our work ! “ The CEO retorted. “When we do a job, it should be complete, bug free and done right the first time ! We should not waste our time in fixing bugs later ! what do you all think  ? “

The managers nodded .

“Mahesh,  we should do justice when we give ratings.  In this case ,you yourself should have gone into the depth of the problem rather than getting second hand information from a person from the same team ! And also, just because of one lapse, you are denying a well deserved promotion?  Just to salvage your ego ? That is not at all correct . I propose to promote Shripad . “

Mahesh’s face became red.  He had heard about the CEO being blunt and to the point, but this was his first experience .

The meeting went on . Several cases were discussed . Decisions were taken . A few cases were marked to be re reviewed in the next meeting.

All cases were almost done when the CEO said “I am OK with the rest of the promotion cases, just one last one I want to discuss.  Nitin, can you please navigate to the last page … yes… the third row … yes. … this one is your team lead , right Prasad ? “

The CEO looked at the middle aged , slightly plump manager.

“Yes Boss !”  Prasad said.

“Well , she has performed well in all the quarters, but  you have not given her promotion. Can you please explain ? “

“Well , yes. I have actually put a lot of thought into this.  She has performed well throughout the year, but she has been taking leaves on and off since the last four months.  To be fair to her, I would say that even during her absence, she has been working from home and been constantly in touch with her team , customer and me . In fact , she is the one on whom I can rely to communicate with the customer. Having worked with the SBI account for so long, she has built up trust and rapport with the clients.  “

“So ? Why no promotion ? I see that you have promoted her peer … “

“Here is my reason “, Prasad looked confident, “She is on a family way and is expecting a baby after 3 months. That is the reason , she has been taking offs and work from home , sometimes check up, sometimes the doctor asked her for rest, etc. etc… And now with the new Government directive, she will go on 6 months maternity leave and …“

“And .. ?”

“Even after that , she will take another month from her accumulated paid leaves, sick leave and after that too … I know she will have divided attention ...  I have been just to her and proposed an increment of 8%  for all the good work she has done.  Instead of her, I have promoted Jeetu.  Jeetu has been doing quite well and will surely pick up and once he gets motivated  with the promotion and the 15% hike which comes along with the promotion. There are so many projects in the pipeline and  I have taken this decision keeping the organization in mind .. we need motivated people who will work hard!“ 

The CEO seemed to be far away … thinking … could see snippets from the past …

“Boss … I hope you are convinced and OK with the decision “ Prasad quipped.

“And we have finished on time ! “ He looked at his watch.

“Hmm. .. Oh yes !  I have a client meeting lined up. Let us have the follow up meeting day after tomorrow , instead of next week “.

“But … “  there was a faint murmur in the room .

“Day after tomorrow is a Saturday …  “ Nitin whispered.

“We will all meet on Saturday, 11.30 am. Make yourself available”

The CEO walked out of the room.

*
7th April 2006, 6.30 am.

Rani did not want to leave her bed.  She snoozed her alarm clock , put the pillow on her face and kept lying down.  It was a bad night yesterday.  She had tossed and turned but the heaviness of her stomach and the bloated feeling kept on bothering her.  She looked beside her and smiled. Shekhar was fast asleep.  She felt bad for him. Her continuous tossing and turning and frequent visits to the loo at night disturbs Shekhar too.

“Ow !!!” She put her hand on her womb and  talked softly to the one inside her .


 “Wait till you get out badmash ! For each kick, I will take 100 kisses from you  ! I am keeping a record …  mind you !” She grinned.

Rani took her time to sit up and carefully put on her slippers and waddled inside the bathroom.  She looked at herself in the mirror and checked her bloated face.  She will have to visit the doctor tomorrow. 

But tomorrow is later.  Today is very important .  The day she has been waiting for so long !

Rani quickly brushed her teeth and went to the kitchen and prepared tea for herself and Shekhar. She peered inside the fridge to check what all vegetables were there and remembered that it was Friday today and the refrigerator was almost empty.  She took out the bread, eggs and butter from the  fridge.  

The maid will come in any moment now and stand on her head  and ask “Aj kya banega ? “ .

Uff , how she hated that sentence.  Today both she and Shekhar will have to make do with sandwiches.  And then in the evening they will buy the provisions for next week. 

4 months back when her mother-in-law had decided to visit her elder son’s place in Bombay, Rani had complained to Shekhar.

“It is now that I need her help the most !  This is my second trimester and you know about the project that I am handling ! It is a US based company and the very first engagement with our company. They are very demanding and you know my workload.  Can’t she stay here till my delivery ? After that when I will be on leave, she can go to Bombay .”

Shekhar did not say anything to his parents and Rani knew that he did not want to create any scene with them again.  When Rani conceived, the first thing that her mother-in-law told her was to quit her job.

 “Now Shekhar is earning enough to take care of the family and there is no need for you to work anymore .” She said. “ Now  your first priority should be the baby and the family “.

Rani was upset and called up her mother. 

“Ma ! Why should I quit my job ? I am doing so well and I am enjoying it . I was the star performer last year and that is why this year I am handling a prestigious project . I am expecting a promotion and this will be a big leap in my career.  I need my own identity . I want my financial freedom !” Rani had cried. 

Her mother had consoled her and tried to make her see reason.

“I know beta . You are a gem ! Always so passionate about anything that you do.  But don’t you think that in a way your sasu ma is right ?  It is the female who has to look after the household and the kids. Yes, definitely you can continue with your job, but you will always have to see what is best for your baby and the family. Think about it and take a good decision, looking at your circumstances. And understand this, whenever you need me, I am just a call away. ”

Rani had taken the decision to continue with her job.  

Shekhar stood by her. She will always remain grateful to him for his support.  Her mother-in-law did not defy her son, but decided to visit her elder son  who stays in Bombay for a few months.  She wanted to spend some time with her grandson , she said. 

Shekhar did not request his mother to stay back for Rani. He did not want any unpleasant interactions.  They kept another maid for the morning chores and the regular maid continued to come in the evening.  Though Shekhar helped Rani with things like making the bed and cleaning up the table after dinner, Rani had to manage the full household.

But she did not mind so much.  She was a strong girl … that’s  what the doctor said .

“Just be careful . Do not overstrain yourself .  Keeping yourself busy will in fact help you. Keep moving. But avoid climbing up stairs .  Eat healthy . Be happy and you will have a bonny, happy, sweet baby !” Dr. Madhu, her gynecologist had advised her.

In her first trimester, when Rani started feeling giddy and had bouts of morning sickness, she could hardly concentrate on her work. Any slight smell of food would leave her nauseated.  

It was then that she told Ram, her boss, the Country  Manager, about her pregnancy.

“Sir,  I just wanted to inform you that I am on the family way and .. “

She had stopped short looking at the expression on ram’s face.

But Rani , you are handling the KJ account ! You know how important it is .. “ Ram blurted out and then quickly controlled himself “Oh.. I am sorry … Congratulations Rani !”

“Thank you sir ! But I am not resigning ! I have informed you about my state so that we can plan properly. The expected date of delivery is 5th June and I plan top continue working till mid May ! And as per the plan, the project will be over by 30th April . In case there are any spill overs, it will be done by the time I go on maternity leave .”

Though Ram did nor say anything , his face told volumes.

“Hmm.. But you will take leaves intermittently, na ? “

“I don’t plan to , but yes there might be a few bad spells … that’s what my doctor says …”

The conversation went on. It seemed to Rani that she was defending her pregnancy.  As if she was guilty of something. 

But Ram was right.  Rani did have to take leaves.  But even during her leaves , she was available on phone and emails.  The project was in a critical state and Rani’s intervention was crucial.  She was a very good communicator and could negotiate very well.  No one else in the team apart from Rani could convince the customer logically about the changes that were being proposed by them. Only Rani, the Project Manager could bring these to a logical conclusion which was a kind of win-win for both the customer and them.

One day , while lying in the hospital bed just after  her sonography,  Rani scurried out a long list of things to be done to her team lead .

“Complete all these tasks by the day end today , so that when I come tomorrow morning, I will collate everything and send the email to the KJ project Manager ”

Dr Madhu was amazed . “Oh my God ! It seems that your company will not run even for a day if you are away !”

Rani smiled .

She was proud of her work. It gave her a lot of job satisfaction to do things well and she knew that she was the best project manager in the company.  And not only that , important organizational activities like the Program on Innovation,  Knowledge Management Portal was always entrusted on Rani for smooth execution.  The CEO specially called for her whenever something like this was launched. Rani did these over and above her day job , not only  because she was being asked to do it, but she really enjoyed such work . She was expert in collaborating and getting things done.

“Everyone eyes my star performer !”  Ram complained sometimes.

So , it was not a surprise when Rani was called on the stage during the Annual Day and awarded the Title of the Star Performer of the year, three years in a row. She had worked consistently well.  As a custom, the 1st floor conference room was named as Rani Conference Room.  Tears of pride had trickled down her cheeks  when she was called upon to inaugurate the renovated conference room.

She kept the tea on the side table and gently nudged Shekhar.  “Get up ! It is already 7.15 am and we will be late for office !”

Shekhar moved and without opening his eyes pulled Rani towards him. Rani bent on him and hugged him and Shekhar gently stroked her stomach  and opened his eyes and smiled at her .

“Just 5 weeks to go … and then we will have our bundle of joy !”

“Hmm , mister, you will have to hold the bundle quite a lot. I plan to rejoin after my three months of maternity leave  !”

“But you do have some paid leaves, na ? “

“Yeah … but I do not want to spend them if I can manage. Once the baby arrives then there will be many complexities , hindrances. I want to save the days for exigencies”.

“Hmmm … Ma will be there in two weeks and she will help you …”

“Really … ? “ Rani winked at Shekhar. “But anyways , now get ready, I can’t afford to be late today !”

“Oh , ho ! It is the D-day today ! You will be promoted. Well in the evening I want to celebrate with  Rani, the Senior Project Manager !” Shekhar embraced Rani.

Rani blushed.

“You had been pining to go to the new Chinese joint in the next block. Let us go there in the evening today. It will be my treat ! “ Rani laughed.

“Accha ! “  Shekhar pulled Rani towards him and planted a kiss on her forehead.  “Money talks, eh !”
*

7th April 2006, 3 pm

“Come on in Rani “ Ram beamed at her , “Sit down”.

Rani smiled brightly and him.  Ram’s cabin seemed unusually cold . He had this habit of keeping the AC at 22 degrees. Rani rubbed her hands for warmth.  Or was she nervous ?  Rani looked at the envelope with her name printed on top of it on Ram’s desk . 

Her appraisal letter.

“Rani, You have done very good work .  I am happy with you. The KJ project is stable , though the next 4 weeks are crucial since the User Acceptance testing is going on and I am keeping my fingers crossed”

“Things are in control sir, do not worry “ , Rani reassured him.

“I hope so. A lot depends on this project . You too know that we are expecting a huge project – almost three times as big as this from KJ.  The project will have 3 project Managers and a senior Project Manager , and about a hundred team members “.

“I know sir. I am confident that we will get it “ . Rani said earnestly. Her rapport with the KJ Project Manager was very good and she would be able to handle the big project along with three project Managers.

“So, when is your expected date ? “

“It is on 5th June , with a plus or minus of 7 days … that’s what my doctor says “
“All my best wishes to you and hope you are doing Knowledge Transfer to Krishnan so that he can take over from where you leave .”

“Yes. I have planned things such that he will be able to pick up seamlessly. I keep him updated and in the loop for everything.  I do not want any disruption in this project. It is also like my own baby !” Rani laughed and Ram joined her in her laughter.

“Good , good ! So here is your letter. You have been given a 10% increment for the great job done and hopefully you will continue with your great performance”. Ram gave her the appraisal letter. ”Please sign one copy as acceptance and the other one is your copy”.

Rani was a bit confused .  Promotion usually came with an increment more than 20% .. have they decreased it this year ? She opened the letter.

“Ram … Is there any mistake ? I see my increment letter, but not my promotion letter”.

“Er… there is no promotion letter” Ram muttered.

For a few seconds, Rani did not know what to say.  It took time to sink in.

“You mean to say that I have not been promoted ? “

“Rani, I am sorry, but this year we could not promote you …” Ram faltered.

“May I know the reason sir? I have performed consistently well, received accolades, praises both internally as well as from the customers …”. 
Rani’s voice choked with emotion.

“Rani, do not get upset. You have been appreciated . A conference room has been named after you and next year I myself will look into this and get you a promotion”. Ram tried to console.

Rani was livid.

“I have earned my promotion.  For three years I have been working as a project manager and you also know that I deserve the promotion to the Senior Project manager grade.  Then why? I want it spelt out ! “

“Rani, you are a mature person.  You should understand. As a country manager, I only have a limited no of promotions which I can award and there are some people who also are doing well and they are the next in line . They need to be motivated. You are a self motivated person and I am telling you that I will look into this next year … “

Rani stood up.

“Why don’t you complete the sentence Ram ? You will look into it next year when I will come back from my maternity leave … right ? You have promoted Krishnan as a Project Manager who will manage this account when I am on leave .   Just because I am expecting and you feel that I will take leave and after that too you are not sure how I will perform , you have very conveniently overlooked the hardwork I have put in for the last three years . All my  contribution to the organization is meaningless now ? “

Rani moved towards the door to step out of the room.

“Rani ! Take your letter ! “  Ram said.

“I will not accept this letter . Thank you !” said Rani and walked out of his room.

Her face was flushed. Her eyes smarted. She suddenly felt weak and heavy. She waddled towards the washroom  and locked herself up , sat on the commode and flushed so that her cries were muffled in the sound of the gurgling water.

Rani called up the Chinese Food joint and cancelled the dinner reservation.

She will talk to the CEO tomorrow and plead her case. 

Rani picked up her bag.

“Rani, We have a client call at 5 today , are you leaving ? “ Krishnan came running towards her.

“Huh ! Yeah ! I am not feeling well Krishnan, you can carry on with the call “ .

Rani looked at him and knew that he knew. All this thing about confidentiality of increments , promotion etc was farce. Somehow everybody knew everything.

For  the first time in the last three years, Rani left office at 4 pm without informing or pre planning.

*
10th March, 2018, 11.25 am

“Sanjay, where are you ? Come fast. You know the CEO gets upset if you are not on time for meetings”. Nitin knew his boss’s mindset. A stickler for time .

The CEO entered the room exactly at 11.30 am and looked around the table .

“Sanjay will be here in a minute boss ! We can start the meeting .”

Just at that moment Sanjay almost barged inside the room.  “I am sorry Boss ! Got stuck in a jam !”.

“Well, next time plan to reach 10 minutes early to take care of traffic jams “.

“Today, I will start the meeting. I want all of us to to go back to the basics and question ourselves before taking any decision “.   Everybody looked at the CEO. 

Rani stood up and went towards the wall where the poster of the Organization’s Values was written.

“Folks,  this poster is not supposed to a picture on the wall. We as senior members of the company have to follow this. This is our culture and the climate of the organization is  set by us with our behaviour, our attitude and our values which should reflect these.”

All the eyes were glued on her.  Rani knew she was a very good orator and took full advantage of her skill.

“Look here “ Rani pointed at the poster “Two of our values are Integrity and Equality and I will talk about these. Integrity means doing what you say an. Your action speaks volumes about morality , uprightness, truthfulness and honesty.  And Equality means that we will be impartial to everybody and do things which are right. We will value diversity and promote a sense of fairness. We will be have equity in opportunity, status and right “

Rani paused and had a sip of water. She knew that pauses in the conversation have a deep impact on the audience. It creates suspense.

“Having said that “ She continued , “you all know that I believe in performance and results. Those are the only criteria for increments and promotion. And that is exactly the reason why we have these normalizing meetings  - so that we are fair to all – as much as possible of course . Now coming back to today’s meeting. The agenda is to come to a final decision about the re review cases and this time , I want all of us to take responsibility of our decisions – so it will be us who will be taking decisions and not the CEO alone . Any questions ? “

“Everything is clear Ma’m !” the managers chorused.

“Again, before that , let me ask you some well … personal or irrelevant questions … with your permission … is that fine ?” Rani looked at the inquisitive faces. They did not know what is going on.

The audience nodded in affirmation.

“How many of you do household work ? For example cooking or washing utensils or teaching your child ? “

The managers laughed .

“I am not joking. How many of you , you can raise your hands “.

No hands went up.

“What about grocery and fridge management ? Managing the maids, planning the food, the vacation etc? . Well , no need to answer.  I understand that it also hurts the ego to admit it even  if you do these, because it is mainly the females in the house who do these and they are supposed to do it, right ?  ”. Rani spread her fingers and made a quote sign.

“How many of you have daughters ?  I know Prasad and Manish, you have lovely daughters  and I am sure they have big career plans . Prasad, just put your daughter in Anjali’s position and then decide . Are we being fair ? Are we in tandem with our value of Equality ? Again , I deliberately called all of you on Saturday. I know that all of you have planned work to do and you had had to re plan and reschedule things for the meeting. Just think about the married female employees. They are forever adjusting and balancing and they have become experts at it … “

Rani paused again.

“See, I don’t want to sermonize, but I want you to take the correct decision.  Rakesh and Prasad, both of you wrote so well in our magazine about Women’s day and I hope you believe what you have written and act accordingly. That is what the value written over there says – Integrity “ Rani pointed at the poster again.

There was pin drop silence in the room and Rani did not break it. For a minute or so, no one spoke.

Then Rakesh said “ If we are promoting Rahul and overlooking the fact that he has not been upto the mark because of distraction due to his marriage , then in that case,  Anjali deserves a double promotion! Because she has performed in spite of  her situation and balanced her worked in such a good way”.

“Right “ , Sanjay said “And we should not overlook the fact that Anjali has been a great performer for the last two and a half years . Just because she will take leave , we are depriving her of the promotion? That is not at all fair , Prasad … is it ? “

All eyes were towards  Prasad. He did not say anything.

“Prasad , Anjali is your team member and I would like you to take the final call!  Whatever you decide, we will take it as final and we will leave the room with consensus and agreement “  Rani spoke softly.

Prasad looked up. His eyes were moist.

“Ma’m, when you asked me to imagine my daughter in Anjali’s place, I really did that and that made me realize.  I was making a mistake .  I think we should promote Anjali ! She deserves it ! She has earned it ”.

Is that final Prasad ? If you still want to revert to your earlier decision, I am OK.  Because you are the main owner of the account and you will have to manage … “

“I am certain !”

Everyone clapped .

Rani smiled. 

Some things have not changed .  The mindset of our society for one and the subordinates being swayed by the principles of the boss !

But some things have definitely changed.  Like the decision Rani’s CEO had taken when she went to him about the injustice drawn on her.  “My hands are tied Rani !” he had said. I know you deserve it, but my principle is to go by what the manager says and Ram … “ . The CEO had shrugged his shoulders. And as she started to get out of the CEO’s cabin, he had called her back and said  “Remember one thing Rani, Life is not always fair.. you will have to deal with this truth !”

Today, after 12 years, Rani has taken a decision, just like what she had wanted for herself.  And yes, she too has gone by what her manager has decided, just that she has facilitated his decision making. 

She grinned to herself . She felt good.

Yes, life is not always fair.  But sometimes life gives you an opportunity to give back !

Rani got into her Mercedes and Vedji, her chauffeur , started the car to take her home, he was surprised to see the expression on his Madam’s face.  It was rare to see her grinning to herself.

Rani’s cell phone rang and she grinned even more .

“Yes Minti , I will be back in 20 minutes and tell you all about it ! And yes, ask your father to book a table for three in Mainland China for dinner. Tonight, it will be my treat !”

***

31st May, 2018, Belvedere , Alipore, Calcutta


Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Blind Girl on an Elephant

In this blog post, I am going o talk about an extraordinary person named Caroline Casey.  


When she was a just a kid, she wanted to become Mowgli and ride an elephant thru the dense jungle in India. As she grew up, in her teens, it was her dream to become a motorcycle racer. She imagined herself with her helmet on , riding a shining black motorcycle , her hair streaming on her face. 

On her seventeenth birthday, she accompanied her younger sister to the ophthalmologist to get her sister's eye tested because she had an eye problem and she wanted to become a pilot.  As usual , the doctor checked Caroline's eyes too. Caroline believed that all these years , the doctor just  did a fake eye test. The doctor noticed that it was her birthday and asked her "What are you doing today to celebrate the day , Caroline ? " . She replied excitedly "I am going to take my first driving lesson today - you see , I want to become a motorbike and car racer !". 

It was then that the doctor looked at her parents and said "You have not told her yet ?" . As her mother sobbed silently, Caroline heard the devastating truth.

She was "legally blind". She had ocular albinism, a genetic condition which happens once in 7000 births. In her own words, she could see just till where her hands extended to and beyond that it was "black vaseline" ! She could never drive !

So, how did she grow up till 17 and not know that she was blind ? 

It was due to her incredible parents ! They wanted her to have a childhood as free from labeling and prejudices as possible. So they invented an elaborate game.  Her sister, who’s three-and-a-half years younger than her, was born with vision impairment even worse than hers. Throughout her childhood visits to the eye doctor were designed to be a game to her to accompany her sister, not knowing that the play-acting where she got her eyes checked was real treatment.

Caroline grew up believing that she was normal. She played, learnt, had her crushes, did everything with the belief that she was just like any other kid ! The belief and the faith that her father and mother had instilled in her made her do everything . She went to a business school, he was trained as an archaeologist and started working with one of the best consultancy firms.

She decided that her "disability" will not hinder her doing anything - just like how she went abut her life till 17. But it was not easy. She says "The physical limitations of low vision are that I can't drive or cycle. I walk into doors. I start talking to strangers. I go to the gent’s toilet. I can't see the clothes I am putting on. I can't see the cutlery or my plate while sitting down to eat. When I am reading, I have to hold the book up to my nose. I can't read the signs at an airport. Sometimes I come across as rude because I am trying so hard to focus with my eyes that I end up ignoring people. The biggest challenge for me is exhaustion. I am always trying to see. The worst thing low vision has given me is extreme chronic back pain".  She is wobbly and falls very often and due to that she had a damaged back. 

But that did not stop her from dreaming. 


Since she could not take up biking, she did the next best things. She had been trained in archaeology and loved travelling, she went on traveling the world and went to Asia, Mexico, Australia and America. She could not do scuba diving but she did snorkeling ! She did varied things like being  landscape gardener and masseuse. Finally she joined Accenture and was doing a great job, till in 2000, to her dismay, she could feel that her vision was getting weaker and weaker and she had no other option to tell the HR about her condition and seek help. 

She was sent to a doctor who told her that she will stay like this and will not get better , ever.  That was the first time that Caroline broke down. She took time to process the bad news. It was catastrophic. 

After a few days, Caroline mulled over the point which the doctor had said . "What did you want to do when you were  child ? Nothing has been able to stop you till now and in future too nothing can stop you to achieve anything. You just have to believe in yourself. If YOU think you can , you will !"

That day she went back to her dream which she had dreamt as a child - to become Mowgli ! She says "I made a decision that day that I would go to India, become a mahout and travel across the country on elephant back.”. According to her, making the decision was the hardest part. Once you believe in something, the universe comes together to make it true  . The Law of attraction !

Caroline came to India in January 2001. Then she met her "Kanchi" - her elephant,  in Calicut . It was not a film. She had created her reality ! 

"As I walked up to her, we were both silent and looking at each other. I started crying because this was everything I had ever dreamed of. I touched my forehead to her trunk. I smelled bananas and muck and poo. The heat of her skin seeped into mine and I gave her my heart immediately "

Caroline trained and became a Mahaout ! 

"My mahout trainer was on the ground giving signals and speaking in Malayalam, not a world of which I could understand. I couldn't see his signals. Another problem was that I was a western woman riding bareback on an elephant, who is an embodiment of Ganesha. A lot of people had problems with that. Navigating situations like this was tricky. Trying to convince my trainers that I was capable, to break the stereotype of this weak-disabled person was the hardest thing I had to deal with".

She traveled from Kerela through Karnataka  and Tamilnadu. The blind girl on the elephant. In that trip she raised money for 6000 cataract operations. When she returned to Ireland, she chucked her job in Accenture and became a social entrepreneur and set up Kanchi . 

"I set up Kanchi  because my organization was always going to be named after my elephant, because disability is like the elephant in the room. And I wanted to make you see it in a positive way -- no charity, no pity. But I wanted to work only and truly with business and media leadership to totally reframe disability in a way that was exciting and possible."

What an amazing journey !  The grit, determination, passion and faith in oneself can move mountains. Caroline Casey is an example to the world. 

Hats off to her parents and her   who seeded the grains of hope in her with their bewildering game of making her believe that she was normal and the doctor , who revived and rekindled the hope in her again when she was overwhelmed and distressed. 

Let us all live life to the fullest and believe that we can achieve just anything - provided we have faith in ourselves and the determination to overcome all the odds !

I salute Caroline Casey !