The Millionaire Coolies
“Narayan Rane has done it again” I told Lulu, my parrot, and said, “He is unhappy, very unhappy, but he will continue in Congress party; he is not quitting.”
“Sounds like you corporate managers.” Lulu responded as he fluttered his wings and picked up a chilly.
“What do you mean, Lulu?”
“Rane who was Chief Minister at one time, rose to that level from humble beginnings as a chicken shop owner. That’s quite an achievement. Now his net Worth is measured in crores, or hundreds of crores. He is deeply unhappy in his job as a minister. He is repeatedly saying so.”
“So? Where is link with corporate managers in this story?”
“Look at the number of managers in the corporate world who draw a fat pay. They have risen to a very high level in the ladder of hierarchy and success. They have everything like Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar – but they do not have happiness.”
“That is half of the story, my friend. But what if you find that you are a modern day slave? You HR folks call it ‘golden handcuffs!’ You are unhappy but you find it impossible to leave the organization you are working for.”
“There are so many factors….. you can’t give up a job in a huff, there is always family responsibility is one, children’s education…..”
“All humbug!” Lulu cut me short, “These managers at the top have talent as well as money. It is all in mind.”
“I know a maid servant who once got in an argument with her employer. She said, “Apna nahi jamata hai to mai chod deti hun ye kaam. Dusra dhoond loongi.” [We can’t get along so I quit. I will find work at some other house.] Isn’t it shocking that well qualified and talented people with fat bank balance and premier management institute qualification can’t say this? What’s the use of their education? A maid can throw away a job which she does not like, but not these managers.”
“Hmm… You are raising an interesting point. Let me think….. I think the real issue is the feeling of insecurity. There is an image to protect; there are financial commitments to keep. All want to be seen as successful. And the measure of success is money – so people think. We have to answer to ourselves is what is meant by success? Is it fat bank balance? Does success mean owning a Merc or BMW? What is it?”
“Perhaps you are right. Insecurity stalls people. Ability to lead a different life reduces with age. But I also feel that people do not think about two basic questions that they face and that is why they get in a quandary.”
“I think everybody must think what success means to him. He needs to make up his mind. When you define it in terms of hierarchy, you are sure to be unhappy. Remember your promotion is in the hands of somebody else. Rane’s appointment as Chief Minister is also not in his hands, but somebody else decides it.”
“I feel that success is, in ultimate analysis, leaving behind a legacy.” Lulu continued, “ This is why Rane could have been successful by my standard if he were to leave a legacy of good values and practices which would help his children or followers lead their life meaningfully.”
“That’s a tall order! His children are gun-toting and violence prone!!”
“Forget Rane and his sons. Please try and understand the point I am making – ‘What is success’ is a question to which we must find an answer – our own answer. And we must decide what cost we are willing to pay. As for me, paying it with self-respect is an absolute ‘no.’”
“I agree. What’s the other question you were referring to?”
“The other question is ‘How much is enough?’ No amount of money – immeasurable in Rane’s case and plenty in case of many corporate honchos – is thought adequate. And what is the use of the high level position or tons of money, if you feel humiliated working there, and have to compromise self-respect?”
“So what should people do?”
“I think one should follow his passion. And whatever he does, he should do with his heart and soul in it. He will then see deep appreciation in the eyes of others – that is the certificate of success. You may or may not get money, but you are sure to experience lasting happiness. That is priceless.”
“I see your point. Somebody has said ‘Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.’ I wish Narayan Rane had understood this….”
“Well, Sonia Gandhi has taught him that lesson now…..” Lulu, my parrot always has the last laugh!
Vivek S Patwardhan
Excellent narrative with a moral. The narrative style reminded me of the style I read in many of Elihayu Goldratt's books. What you have described is so very common in the Corporate world. So very true.
VSP, You have a way with narration and deliver VIMs( Very Important Messages) in simple terms. May I add, as usual.
The corporate life is surely a trap..its a 'chakravyu' where like Abhimanyu most people get in but don't know how to log out. The business schools (like Abhimanyu's mother Subadhra)… miss out of part II of the story..
Overall, IMHO its because of the following ..most of us run after 'success' & as Lord Krishna says: "Success is a measure as decided by others( Flat at Lodha, BMW…. Bangla, naukar, chakar,gaadi, driver etc in 'Deewar' terms ); Satisfaction is a measure as decided by you"
Sorry if the comments look like a blog in itself..This is a subject close to my heart..so long comment..
Lulu's sporting Political Feathers and that will spoil her camouflage. For some time advisable to fly up to a high perch where she can make such observations with elan and have us in splits with the spools of earthy wisdom she is spewing much to the annoyance of Political and HR Big Cats. Great Work Vivek.
Sir, I believe, it is a choice one makes based on circumstances.. Not everyone will have the risk taking ability for whatever reasons – personal, financial, social. Like they say, the ecosystem is connected – don't see the components in isolation.
While a lot may have fat bank balances, it comes after certain time and not at the start. And the concern of basic survival necessities, don't come cheap these days.
Also, society demands us to behave in a certain way, which will probably change as more and more people realise the trap.. but this is an evolution and not a revolution. Time toh lagega
Probably, only 2 categories of people can do what their heart says – either they have nothing to lose or they have a base that absorbs the loss. And most of us probably lie in the middle – like a "Dhobi ka Kutta, na ghar ka na ghat ka".
Truly defining success for ourselves and doing whatever we do with one's heart and soul in it really struck me.. thank you for the post..
Very insightful and true Sir. I think this happens because many of us derive our sense of identity purely from the jobs we do. A loss of job is equated to destruction of the essence of who I am and hence people wear golden handcuffs….I guess self preservation breeds slavery.