Life Is At The Intersection Of Self And The Other

Life Is At The Intersection Of Self And The Other

“Hello, congratulations! Awards are raining for you. In June NHRDN, South Gujarat Chapter, Surat gave you ‘Lifetime Service Award’ and now Fostiima Institute gave one of its ‘Margdarshak Awards’ – ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. Well, two big awards in a span of four months!” Lulu, my parrot, pointed to the award trophy on my cupboard.

“Thanks Lulu” Lulu rarely appreciates me or my work, so this was a surprise for me.

“I should examine your horoscope to find out what star configuration leads to raining awards.”


“Ha, ha, Lulu. It is nice to receive these awards, but I am seventy-one now, and at this age comes some equanimity.”

“Equanimity! That’s a big word. You mean the recognition fails to excite you?”

“Kind of ….”

“You must have got it wrong. Don’t confuse between an award and a reward. You HR guys are so fixated on rewards that you forget the basic difference between the two ….”

“Like what?”

“Awards recognize past behavior – that’s appreciation; Rewards are usually given to influence future behavior.”

“True, Lulu.”

 “I want to talk to you about your work. You made a point in your acceptance speech that ‘the purpose of work, whether it is in corporate world, Government or NGO, and even at home, is to make a better society.’ That’s a big statement.”

Lulu, My Parrot

“Yes, I did. Many books convey this thought in different words. I was reading a Colin Wilson book. It mentioned, ‘A murder causes less harm to the society than a bad relationships in which the confidence and self-worth of people is eroded.’ Essentially, that’s the relationship between a strong and a weak. This insight made me examine and think about the relationships at work.”

“Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law, Boss and his junior, Teacher and student – there will be innumerable such relationships. And you have often blogged about it.”

“True, Lulu. Any relationship can fast degenerate in one which is destructive. That is why we have to focus on making all relationships productive, and for that purpose, we should consciously craft our response to any communication or action.”

“And of course, to any situation. Empathetic, I suppose. How does that relate to making a better society?”

A society is a web of relations, as Sociologists say. We are building a better society when we play our role as parent, entrepreneur, manager or any role for that matter in a manner which is productive and ‘life-assertive’, one which builds positivity and confidence.”

“Like what?”

“Take for instance the practices developed at certain organizations. An Entrepreneur in SME segment has implemented ‘Just-In-Time’ practices, and lean manufacturing. It changes the role of employee at the lowest level too; it is not the traditional role of ‘do-as-I-say.’ The culture and interactions in that organization are to be seen to be believed; those are so positive and different.”

My Acceptance Speech. Hon’ble Minister Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia presided over the function.

“That highlights what a method or a work system can do. How can an individual implement this thought well?”

“In many ways. I was influenced by Dr. Anil Awchat’s work, mainly his books. He shook the conscience of a reader by placing stories of people’s plight in his hands. Unknown but true stories. I was fortunate to meet him many times in person later. His work inspired me to cover labour issues in my blogs.”

“Work practices like JIT, Lean manufacturing and the like is one thing and individual response is another thing.”

“True, Lulu. The question is do we think about the task or work in hand. I was once travelling in an auto with my friend and his pregnant wife. The auto driver plied his vehicle carefully, ensuring there was no bump when his auto rode over speed breakers. Nobody asked him to drive cautiously; he just knew it was the right thing to do; and did it. People ought to think about the right thing to do, the right response, as I mentioned, before they commence work or respond in any manner.”

“That clarifies the meaning of your question ‘do we think about the task or work in hand.’ We must not work like automatons or move as if we are sleep-walking. Where did you gain these insights?”

“There were some people at work whose deep insights influenced me, conversations with a few friends, many books have influenced me. People who believe that ‘purpose of work is to build better Society’ take well-thought-out decisions which may be counter intuitive and yet very life-assertive. A young student’s laptop was stolen by his friend and it took long time to recover it. The parents of the young student got it back engaging the delinquent boy in conversation in such a way that he does not get labelled a ‘thief’. Police complaint would have solved the problem in a jiffy, but they chose not to resort to it.”

“Very often the easiest solution to a problem is not the right solution.”

“Oh, you said it. We have to let people know two things ….”


“People should know what we stand for and they should also know what we do NOT stand for. And our life is at the intersection of self and the other.”

“‘Life! Life is at the intersection of self and the other’, that’s a deep one. Isn’t it from Devdutt Pattanaik?” Lulu, my parrot, nudged me and had the final laugh.

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”