Beware of the the ‘cult’ of entrepreneurship

[ I acknowledge my thanks to many ex-cult members who kindly shared their experience but for obvious reasons remains anonymous ]

After interacting with “entrepreneurs” ( those who do not call or do not like to call them petty or growing or established business owners, professionals, freelancers or by function – programmer, content writer, video editor)  for some three years, I have detected some orientation of mind which borders on cult psychology. A brief summary :

I. Never graduates, an open ended becoming into a vague, fog-filled territory 

Most of the entrepreneurs cannot say what or what measurements will be considered ‘graduation’, ‘success’, ‘finish line’ for their journey. The journey remains open-ended.  I have seen the same with entrepreneurs running businesses from the range of INR 5 Lac to INR 25 crore.

Consider many cults : new entrants find near impossible but not clearly defined or verifiable goals – nirvana, freedom, eternal joy, zero exploitation system, eternal peace – an Utopia. The leaders constantly urge them to do more,  push more and a guilt pervades inside the entrant : I need to do more. How can I relax now ? So many things need to be achieved… so many impossibles to be made possible. 

II.  Post-Human icons, examples, leaders, role-models : change the world 

It is almost of the same probability to start a company and become like Steve Jobbs with that of landing into Bombay VT station and then becoming Shah Rukh Khan after a decade. But we always hear such talks – statistical miracles. Everyone is supposed to be now out in the morning to get the next great thing or that idea that will ‘change the world’

All hardcore cults, without exception drill into the recruit’s mind the overwhelming and urgent need to : change the world.  Some recommend chanting, some recommend some breathing exercise, some recommend armed or non-violent struggle, some say that becoming vegetarian is the key, some say greenhouse gases, some say the ice in polar regions, some opine that putting some RFID inside each individual and as such.  Without this motivation to ‘change the world’, human mind does not get sufficient traction.

III Environment control and closed social interactions – Us and They 

Entrepreneurs tend to live within a controlled group and since they are out to change the world, there is a sense of superiority and subsequent : us and them divide. The world is now divided into two parts : Solution-provider or saviour and solution-buyer and user. 

All cults create this divide : us and them. It is our duty to  make each one like us or we reject or ignore them and for some people – use them. This usage goes in subtle and gross way. Many cults keep attrition away by brainwashing their members that the world outside is ‘full of vices’, ‘under mensch species”, ‘nasty’, “filled with demons”, “full of low energy people”.

IV. Suppressing the inner voice and common signals – Delusion as heroism 

Reality still finds cracks and light shines into a world-view carefully created and sealed. Many entrepreneurs (as told by a blessed soul) are not happy doing what they do, they are neither motivated, they are irritated. General signals and their conclusions demand radical re-examination, even exit. But outside, the show goes on – the conditioned responses and actions and talks and the next great thing is just round the corner !

I know some ex-cult members whose mission was to make ‘the world a happier place”. Many after few years felt terribly unhappy inside and felt like running away. But they could not and in their closed group and with outsiders, they faked a ‘happy face’ with a crying heart inside. This kind of dissociation of personality will have attendant psychological disorders and dysfunction.

V. Sleep deprivation, Specific Food regiment, Sexual over (under) drive 

Most of the entrepreneurs I have interacted with suffer from minor to major sleep deprivation. They also eat in a regimented and mechanical manner.  Sexual life also gets affected. Now what these have to do with our subject ?It does. Read below.

Any influential cult, down the ages, will be observed to control three things of a biological person : sleep (wake up 4 am to do some work), food (eat some specific kind of food ), sexual abstinence or wanton indulgence. Why ? Because, controlling these things, a person becomes ready for brain-washing. In more direct way : his mind – the autonomy of the mind can be manipulated by more powerful group-mind. The result : doing away with all the autonomy and its attendant complexities of an individual person.

V. Learning, Learning, Learning …. the robotic urge to be programmed more and more

Entrepreneurs have a favourite word : learning. But it appears to me that many develop an insatiable appetite to learn (a kind of eating disorder for mind) – from conferences (paid), speakers (paid), seminars (paid), webinars (paid), talkathon (paid) and it goes on. They ask each other whether they did attend the last conference or not ? Most are paid ones and considerable learning-tax is paid. But just like lust feeds on its own appetite , learning hunger seems to increase and does not show any sign of waning.

Most of the famous cults have developed their wealth by either selling a mantra, book, literature, workshops, lectures, ideas, lifestyle (including sexual reticence or abandon), drugs,  physio-mental experiences et el. This wealth is created by the army of salesmen (and women) who are members of the cult. An ex-cult member told me that when he had joined the cult with the objective of doing some service for the world. However, a few years down the lane, the objective of  doing service gets shorted with selling the cult’s offerings to earn money. And – he was not clear whether the money such earned was spent in what manner !

An entrepreneur first goes to the first workshop / conference to learn something for the new journey. He listens to and then more hunger comes for advanced learning. Few years down the lane, he becomes a regular in all such ‘learning spaces’ and spends money and mixes with same group of regulars. His learning to apply and outgrow that part of learning seems to be shorted with the urge of learning more and more (and paying more and more) into an infinite open ended loop. See Point 1 above.

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De-programming 

  1. I am not an entrepreneur – I am a business owner. I have started a business which I own – legally and emotionally but I am not a prisoner of it.
  2. The business needs to be run while respecting the laws of business and not by some fancy words and its attendant lifestyles.
  3. Big Idea is dangerous : it can kill you !
  4. All your iconic entrepreneurs did not care to become an entrepreneur or not. It is your (and group-mind’s) projection.
  5. Your life has a worth and autonomy independent of your achievements (or non-achievements) as an ‘entrepreneur.
  6. Penetrate through statistical miracles.
  7. Any life-destroying thing does not appear first with red flags but with an overabundance of good intentions, great ideals, super-human call to achievements and changing the world.
  8. Sleep well, enjoy your food, exchange human warmth and closeness.  Your achievement is in the future – a kind of post-dated cheque but a good meal is realized cash ! Enjoy the grace and be thankful
  9. All movements, great or small, forces of history are programs or design – large and small and do not make them holy or glorious. Your icons may be a worse person – headed man to man with you.
  10. Do not ignore sho0ts of doubt in your mind : this may save you from greatest of catastrophes.

[Monsoon – 2015 – Calcutta / Kolkata ] Entrepreneurs de Bengal

My friend and colleague Sushobhan records a meeting of 20+ entrepreneurs of Bengal with a vision to start a lasting and blooming association. Not the chandimantap  variety but something noble. The land has long lost the idea of true nobility. However, without this sense of nobility, there is no culture or no civilization.

ENTREPRENEURS DE BENGAL

(Do not miss the poem he penned and also the translation. This invocation by poetry gives an insight into a Bengali mind : Heart has a reason which Reason will never comprehend)

1880 / Calcutta, India : Powerhouse of ideas, enterprise and confidence. High Renaissance of Bengal – fractured or not.

1930 / Calcutta, India  : Independence. National Mission Accomplished. Bengal like France in Europe has enriched India with the miraculous fertility of her womb.  Lethargy and Convalescence. Bengal has spent her last refined fuel.

1990 / Calcutta / India :  Crisis of the Cadre state – inception.

2005 / Kolkata : Almost no entrepreneurs, no dreamers, no lovers – only workers, cadres, deal-makers, operators and managers.  Three things went for sale : land, labour and women by the irrevocable law of history as a rich family descends into poverty.

Still, there were some who were keeping alight with their heart’s blood as fuel a spirit of entrepreneurship in the land. They were like lighthouses in the massive darkness. We do not know their names, most of them at least.

This monsoon, the spirits of those lovers of Bengal watched as a team of Bengali entrepreneurs assembled in East Kolkata with a noble purpose, generally absent in the land. The purpose is to consult notes of each other’s dreams.

Wordsmith Team welcomes this initiative. This is the stirring of a new life and as an obscure but passionate lover of Bengal and I welcome this :

প্রিয়তমা, সুন্দরীতমারে আমার – যে আমা উজ্জ্বল উদ্ধার

অমৃতের দিব্য প্রতিমারে – অমৃতেরে করি নমস্কার

[First published work by Priyam] Interesting Science Experiments

Our eldest son Priyam had attended a science camp in his school. I had asked him to write a summary of his experience in the science camp. He wrote the first draft and then we sat with this draft and aided by wiki and Google, he was introduced to the heritage of modern science. The excitement of being published made the young author attentively read and study many things which a normal coursework would not have done. Parent’s learning from the experiment : Make study feel like something completely different – like earning glory :)

Interesting Science Experiments

On 8th of March, we had a science camp in our school, DPS Newtown, Kolkata.  It was conducted by Sam Gibbs, who came from Australia with his team. Sam Gibbs is a renowned science educator and he has been interacting with students of South East Asia since 2003.

He conducted a number of experiments and explained about these interesting science experiments.  A few of them are explained below:

  1. He took a four bladed helicopter which flew over our heads and made back flips and front flips.

Explanation: This experiment is based on the principle called Bernoulli’s principle. According to Bernoulli’s principle, when an object moves in a fluid (e.g: air, water) it creates pressure difference. This states that total energy – kinetic energy, potential energy and internal energy is always constant and when one energy increases, other one decreases.

  1. Gibbs took a bicycle wheel and tried to balance the wheel with a

string but he failed as the wheel would fall in the ground. So he spun the wheel and the spinning wheel was found to be balanced.

Explanation: This can be explained by Newton’s laws of motion. When the wheel was at rest, there was gravity only acting on it. Hence it was not balanced and was falling down. However, when the wheel was rotating, the centrifugal force balanced the force of gravity. Hence the rotating wheel was balanced.

  1. We went to the field and saw a water rocket which would fly with the help of water. We saw a launch pad, a bicycle pump and a small button. Mr. Gibbs took a bottle of water and poured it inside the rocket. At the first try, he pumped 25 times. Then he asked us to press the button and when he counted 3, I pressed the button and the rocket flew in the sky and went some distance. Then he had asked to pump 50 times and to press the button and the water rocket went higher than where it went during the first try.

Explanation:  This can be explained by two laws of physics. One is Bernoulli’s principle and another is Newton’s third law of motion. When pressure was built with water, and then suddenly released, the internal energy got converted into kinetic energy. This made the rocket fly. The direction of the flight was governed by Newton’s third law of motion which says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  When the force drives the rocket upward and the force of gravity moving downward, the two opposing forces are balanced and at that point, the rocket was pulled down by gravity.

  1. One of our teachers took us to our activity room and asked to make groups and make a strong building with plastic rods that would not break if it is thrown from a low height.

Explanation: We built structures of various sizes and we had found that a dome shaped structure is more stable than other forms of structure. It was explained to us that for such a structure, loads are most balanced. This is the reason we find many building with dome shape.

5.Mr.  Gibbs took a thrust machine and a plastic foot ball. He turned on the thrust machine and threw the ball in the air and the ball floated in the air and rotated.

Explanation:  The thrust machine was pushing a steady stream of air and this force was balancing the force of gravity. Hence the ball was floating. This is the same principle which keeps an airplane flying in the air.

  1. We again went to the field in the afternoon and it was sunny outside. Our teacher brought a sun spotter which showed the sunspots on the sun which are also called the cooler regions on the sun. Then we saw the sun with a telescope. The sun looked like a red ball with sunspots as tiny black dots.

Explanation: The sun has many cooler regions and these are darker and called sunspots. These sunspots are observed by astronomers to know about the sun. It is dangerous to look at the sun with naked eyes as it may damage the eyes.

  1. Mr. Gibbs brought an optical fibre connected with a laser at the end of the optical fibre. As he turned on the laser, the whole optical fibre was glowing like a neon light. We also learnt about Morse codes which were used to send telegrams in previous times.

Explanation: An optical fibre uses the principle of total internal reflection when light passing through a medium does not refract but gets totally reflected inside the medium.

2 examples of Morse code are as follows:

A:   * —

B:   — * * *

At the end, we learnt about the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) and learnt about radio waves, gamma waves and other things of this. We also learnt that even our bodies radiate electromagnetic rays which are infra-red or heat rays.

Conclusion

The whole day was full of fun and we were lucky that someone from a foreign country had come in our school to educate us and to do many exciting things. I came to know many things about physics. I have written this article to share my experience with other people where they will come to know of many important principles of science.

Priyam Bhattacharyya is a student of Class V in DPS, Newtown, Kolkata/Calcutta.

 

[2006-2015] Resident Alien of Calcutta, Wordsmith, Rennessiance Club

This is the concluding section of the auto-biographical post I have been commanded by my colleague and friend  Mr. Sushobhan Mukerjee  The first part of the series – Metropolitan Man, Muffsil, Train of Time  covered a long stretch. This part covers the period which I call, The Hibernating Decade  ———————————————————————————————- In 2002, I came to Calcutta as a man with some six years of working experience, bachelor but betrothed, working in a corporation and ready to start the process what in Calcutta is called : settling down. I did settle down, first into the chair of the office and then into the great confusion of the city. I frequented heritage house – not only for the attraction of the house but also for reasons I dare not speak now. I started to search for the Calcutta I have lost twenty years back (when the 2nd Howrah bridge had a gaping gap in the middle and Lighthouse Bar with its blue lights not extinct) but became a wanderer. Wandering into the great city like a lost soul, I have become like Jekyll and Hyde. During the day, I was a middle manager of a mediocre corporation and in the night – like Dickens, was trying to lose myself in the city’s bars, pleasure joints, boat-houses and underpass smoking joints. It continued for a year and like all my wanderings, I did alone and hence no witnesses. In 2005, I boarded a British Airways flight (now extinct) bound for London while coconut trees of Jessore Road seemed like close relatives waving and in the previous afternoon I read Madhu-kabi’s epitaph and then found that many leaders of young Bengal’s resting place now receive nitrogenous waste from young Bengal. I concluded that the dead poets (Derozio for example) now cannot get votes or investment and hence does not feature much in the schemes of things. Cut to 2006 – I returned back from England – now a father of a young boy of one year, no job, no house to stay and effectively –  completely un-settled. I was retired by that time and rented a flat in Salt Lake area and having settled the family in the flat, I had become a pure loafer in the city.  I frequented old haunts – Chota Bristol for example with the only difference being that I had the whole day to me. I remember once, in a summer day, I was asked by a young boy to keep the thread of his kite but I could not, my finger missed and the kite flew away. I apologized as being quite drunk, truthfully enough and he looked at me with eyes of innocence and wonder ! It was during this time, I read Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul  and in a moonless night, while I was crossing from Howrah to Armenian Ghat, a great desire to write something for Calcutta was born. My wife, showing no less patience and indulgence for her husband than Henrietta did for madhu-kabi and did not whip me to earn more money and think for the future etc as is the fate of most of married men of Bengal.  I was drifting and in this fatal period, she was the Lakshmi and Annapurna of our house. I was well aware of the fatal nature of the drift and it was all the more dangerous because of herself thinking this to be some kind of great hiatus for a great man. Poor soul! I read, translated and drifted and this was only broken while I received my CPF and gratuity from my previous employer and again felt to be a monarch of all I survey. I immediately started buying books, started to plan some summer trips to Bolpur and in short, lengthening the loafer life. 2008- in the next one year, due to our household Lakshmi’s understanding of Lakshmi in the form of money being restless, most of the money was used to buy a small flat all cash deal and then I was in trouble. An invitation in Oxford to present a paper and also to attend alumni meet (with some dakshina included) made me travel in Dickens’ London and Wordsmith Communication became more of a genuine business.  The whole story is documented here in a small book called Wordsmith Book of Business 

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My first business book and a good friend and earner

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This is in the same period of wandering – now in front of Oxford’s Bodliean Library after paying tribute to Nirad C Chauduri in Lathbury Street with Oxford blue plaque

In 2008, the business stabilized, I thought of keeping a mistress in  the tradition of previous Calcutta citizens of yester years. I figured out that this is not possible – legally and practically and launched an online magazine : http://www.pentasect.com. The mistress started demanding as all mistresses do, more time and effort. I kept her in good humour and then kept a distance. It was also the same time when the demon of writing a Cultural Glossary of Calcutta took hold of me. Till 201o, in these 4 years, I had no connection with Calcutta citizens except with their grandparents in National Library and old books and older authors. I did not care to read news-papers. My wife, now performed the role of an Annapurna and kept feeding me delicacies at times and took care of our child, leaving me enjoy the life of a sperm-donor father. She also did take care of the business in a considerable manner in my physical and mental absence.

The Oxford Park - the green of the grass, I was told by a gardener there : it can happen only after 800 years of regular watering, care and scholarly walks

The Oxford Park – the green of the grass, I was told by a gardener there : it can happen only after 800 years of regular watering, care and scholarly walks

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Oxford College – Light and Shade – University of Vidya and University of Avidya

In 2009, in this field, a strange feeling to write a history of Bengal(which I used to  write to pass time ) seized me. I started taking notes and I felt as if the sunlight and the green are mixed up and entering through my eyes, nose, ears inside and creating a suffocating sense of being in-inseminated.

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Mayapur, Isckon – where this photo was shot by my sister-in-law Indrani.

I took notes in the bus to London and reached Hammersmith as if under some drug. I took the manuscript and started writing and within 3 days, with some bread, butter and gin-tonic and some 100+Mayfair cigarettes, the manuscript was more of less complete and published. Few Chapters of the book are available here in summary form Till 2012, I have continued my exile in Calcutta but Calcutta was also working its magic on me.

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Sankhadip Sengupta – the only poet of my generation whom I know , kindly gave a photo shot by him. He gave me two immortal lines for me while I was making my return to Calcutta – jobless and helpless : Calcutta has place for everyone. She will have have place for you. She did.

In the Intimate History of Bengal, I posited 2 thesis – a) Bengal is the Eastern Terminus of Europe of the living b) The only miracle in South Asia after the birth of Buddha in Nepal was the renaissance of Bengal in the high tide of 1860 – 1920. In 2012, the urge was born to publish the book I visualized on Calcutta and notes collected during my loafer days some six years back. The manuscript matured and with the 2nd boy child arrived a year back and Lakshmi and Annapurna needing help, I became a baby-sitting CEO. It is in those baby sitting sessions, spent mostly in the small park of 206, Salt Lake, I typed and retyped the first draft of Calcutta Culture Glossary. The book eventually got published and snippets are available in Pentasect.com.   An entry from the glossary with the illustrations  by Ms. Rupsha Bhadra for the illustration of the lady with the bicycle     product_thumbnail

The Young Girl in the Bi-Cycle Almost everyday, I see a young girl in a very nice-looking bi-cycle in the area where I commute. She must be between 16-17 years old but has the dignity of a lady. I had seen her in yellow, blue, sage green and crimson red dresses and she looked equally commanding in all these colours with her impeccably clean bi-cycle. She has an imperious look and reminded me of Estella of The Great Expectations by Dickens. One blessed morning, as I was crossing the KS Canal from the Saltlake side, a balding, middle-aged man as I am, I gave her way to pass with her trusted companion – the bi-cycle. She looked at me and gave a gracious smile. I became Pip and the last few immortal lines automatically sounded inside: Her indescribable freshness and radiance is gone but a mellow sweetness remained….

4In 2011, I also started teaching online – how to lead a time rich cash poor life and this resulted into Wordsmith University  – a tol of Internet age where teachers teach and students pay dakshina and it morphed slowly into People’s Business School. In 2013, after almost seven years being a resident alien of Calcutta, I was pulled into mainstream by Mr. Sushobhan Mukerjee, the same friend whose command made me write these posts while I am in my summer hiatus at heritage house. I was almost sucked into mainstream – a PhD student in IIT, Kharagpur, Mr. Gobinda Roy, another noble friend and colleague and also an alumni of the institution. It is only the extreme weather of Kharagpur that saved me almost the doorstep of being inducted. Mr.Mukherjee, a successful business owner and CEO himself, as if pulled me out of my self-imposed exile and I started to get acquainted with the polished society of Calcutta in person (previously I only met their grand-fathers in books and old histories). This resulted into my visitations and meet with business magnates, entrepreneurs, policy makers and many men and women of my generation based in Calcutta. It was like a Rip Van Winkle waking from the dream and as if I was asking them : ‘Tell me Sire, what are all these commotion here in the streets and why are they so anxious and angry mob-mob-like. I am, my noble Sire/Madame, a humble subject of Her Majesty” The collaboration with Mr. Mukherjee and many other noble planets in his orbit enriched me and provided me with contemporary and flesh and blood experience of Calcutta. Like Srikanta, I felt, Calcutta is Rajya-Lakshmi for me – she did not allow me to come close but did now allow to escape her orbit. I became like a satellite, trapped and charmed in the orbit of the City. The Collaboration gave birth to one object and one institution : a book and a Club. The book Mr. Mukherjee so kindly allowed me to co-author is Fool’s Walk – A journey of two fools and duly published on 1st April this year.
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Another one is founding of Renaissance Club which is a Club which is based on the idea of production first and then consumption of tasty delicacies. Every member has to read / write / present an original work, followed by consumption of quality eating material.  A complete session of Renaissance club is reproduced from the archive

The members in deliberation and production

The members in deliberation and production

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Consumption ( of the only true, authentic, first class, recession proof, elegant, sweet, heavenly product of Contemporary Bengal) and madhurena samapoyet

I think I have tried to execute the commission as entrusted by Mr. Mukhherjee and here, I take my leave as shadows linger here – in my summer home after a hot day which makes jack-fruit ripe and men listless, I take leave of my readers. Even though I have always admonished all talented men and women of Bengal to be un-Bengali but as I mature, I find a mellow tenderness for Bengal which for me is distilled as : green fields, blue sky, wide expanse of water, dark and doe-like eyes of a Bengali maiden and I again go back to one of the greatest and immortal but least understood by his countryman, the creator of Indranath and Srikanta  এতকাল জীবনটা কাটিল উপগ্রহের মতো – যাহাকে কেন্দ্র করিয়া ঘুরি, না পাইলাম তাহার কাছে যাইবার অধিকার, না দূরে যাইবার অনুমতি And also, a prayer for the City, where the City takes human form, almost a demi-goddess and Buddhadev Basu’s translation of a French poet echoes and let this be what I like to say to Calcutta, my city, by adoption : প্রিয়তমা, সুন্দরীতোমারে আমার, যে আমার উজ্জ্বল উদ্ধার অমৃতের দিব্য প্রতিমা্রে, অমৃতেরে করি নমস্কার

[1992-2015] Metropolitan Man, Muffsil Past, Train of Time

[This semi-autobiographical post was written at the insistence of Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee. ]

In September 1992, I left my home in South Assam, then a boy of 18 years,bound for a meet with Vasco-Da-Gamma’s landing beaches in Calicut, Kerala. It is exactly 500 years after the intrepid Portuguese sailor went in search of spices in the southern tip of India. My journey was to prepare myself to be an engineer in electronics and telecom.  The journey was some 4000+ kilometer long and train (and sleeper class) was the only option.  The journey used to take some 4 days and I still remember the first journey while I was eighteen years old and I was sitting in a train and my whole muffsil past was trailing behind.

The Heritage House – human habitation recorded since 1910

I felt a deep lump in my throat and the train started to cross the North Cachar Hills and towards further West.  It was like Pip of the Great Expectations who was leaving his country home in Kentish marshes for the city of London as expectations were to be attended. For the Pip in me, there was no great expectations but it eventually came.

As the train below slowly progressed, I was leaving my adolescent, my boyish innocence and was coming of age. The track was some 80 years old, a meter-gauze line, now extinct and was built by British Colonial Government to transport one of the products of my district that went to the cups of Boston to Brazil. I am taking of Cachar/Assam tea. I was alone and in those days of no mobile, sms, internet – I felt a tremendous sense of freedom  as well. I was thinking that soon I shall be back during holidays, having little idea that a great shift has already begun.

The Tunnel Effect

The Pahar Line metre gauze train entering a tunnel. This is a great symbol – of entering into an unknown – a mobile conscious being entering a dark cavern.

Then, the process of a nomadic life ensued. In terms of  taking bath in the Arabian waters in Calicut beaches and having a dalliance with an Iyer beauty, I was coming of age. I was also creating a world within and that world sometimes re-called, while looking at the blue expanse of Arabian waters, the same waters where Vasco met God’s own land some 500 years back, the taste of our own river Barak. My skin knew its taste since I was ten years old. It was the time when boys like me learnt swimming in ponds and rivers and not in swimming pools.

The North Cachar Hills

A small station in North Cachar Hills. The white over then mountains is not snow. Low altitude clouds brightened by an autumnal sun

 

The river Barak is the second largest river in North East India and is some 5 minutes walk from my home (heritage house). When we were young, the river used to flood the banks and those stories – of fishing, swimming and smelling the smell of decaying vegetation. It was the days of magical boyhood or the juncture when I used to be in rapture while reading Shelley or Tagore and in the next instant was dying to have a peep at the housemaid undressing. It was an age of boundless joy and it was also an age of excruciating pain.

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River side walks. On the other bank, 30 years back there was a timbre factory and we used to see elephants picking up logs.

 

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During rainy reason, the water used to kiss the curved and downwards branches of Sirish tree touching the water surface. Under a dark sky the green became dark in the coffee coloured water

 

 

After a decade, in 2002, after many rivers and women, colleagues and friends and oceans and journeys, I came back to Calcutta, to settle. Calcutta was, for me what was London for Pip. I fell in love with the great city while a boy and I still remember vividly while a boy of ten, mesmerized by the folio volume of Decline and Fall of Roman Empire in one of the dimly-lit stalls of College Street and then telebhaja in Kalika, one of the very few Calcutta institutions which remains as it is when I was a boy. I always used to come to my country home (heritage house) in May to escape Calcutta summer. This habit and further exposure to Calcutta made me realize that I am actually emulating the previous resident aliens of Calcutta – the British officers who served the Empire and in the summer retired to cooler climes, a few to Britain itself. This habit of escape to country home in summer and also to remain a private citizen of Calcutta (by that time, I had left my Federal Government turned private company job ) and like Voltaire, made the city, my city, by adoption. The process of double home-sickness that ensued in 1992 culminated into the strange but only possible option of myself looking at Calcutta, the great city and the activities of its natives. I remained, in accordance with the convention of residency and domicile – a resident alien of Calcutta.

In 2001, the car below – now immobile became a heritage car, became the first car of my life. It was a maruti 800, already 10 years old and was procured from Kalmassery, Cochin and then me and my colleague Pradeep went to Kanya-kumari (the souther tip of Indian peninsula which translates – Virgin Girl)

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This car bore a KL 01F/6655 number. Then it got a Manipur (MN) plate. Then it was sold. Then like a company’s buy-back policy, was brought back, with a ‘heritage premium’

 

and then we started driving this car towards North for nine days and after 4000 kilometer travel and crossing all the major rivers of Indian except the Sindh and the Narmada also averting many accidents, reached the Heritage Home. A bachelor then, I thought of keeping the car in the moss-covered garage for the next generation. The next generation (my sons 11 and 5 years old took passing interest and did not get much impressed). So much for keeping memory for the next generation.

The Heritage house, by that time became old and it was decided to have a new house, Around 1999, the new house, called Purbasha (Hope of the East) was built and heritage house, in hundred years or so became un-inhabited by a Bhattacharyya.

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The Purvasha – Hope of the East or Hope in the East. The building overlooks the Heritage house in the foreground. Richer and younger, this one hardly has the elegance and grace of the old one

 

The fund for the relatively larger house came from two means, I mean the contribution of mine : Vasco da Gama like travels in all the seas of the world in terms of laying optical fibre cable for telecom networks (which eventually caused the telecom meltdown) and also from the proliferation of IP networks which eventually caused voice minutes becoming

cheaper and eventually ‘skyped’.

The time-span of 23 years loosely told above is also the journey of a muffsil man. I remember another muffsil man who came to Calcutta, the  Delhi and then passed his life in exile in Oxford. After some 70 years of living outside muffsil and even Bengal, Mr. Nirad C Chaudhuri writes : I think, after all these years, I have remained a boy of East Bengal. 

nirad

Shot by me in a lonely summer evening in Lathbury Street , Oxford where the greatest crooked genius of Bengal – Nirad C Chaudhuri lived and worked. A foreign bird was singing and I felt that the song is coming with a Dopplerian sense of memory : Kishoreganj, Calcutta, Delhi, Oxford….

 

I think, in all these years, I have also remained a muffsil boy, a small town boy and in each May, for a month, I come back to have an appointment with my boyhood – an age which becomes larger as we grow older in age and experience.

Then, objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are !

 

Dilli ka laddu : Ironies of desires materialized

Dilli ka laddu – literally a sweet from Delhi and a kind of mythical one.  It is that laddu which is told to be as such that the person who has not tasted regrets and so does the person who has tasted. Many people consider marriage as dilli ka laddu !

But this can be extended below :

1.  A film star spends some 10-15 years to make sure that everyone recognizes his /her face (by viewing the films acted in) and once he/she becomes really the star he/she wanted, she / he needs private entrances and exits, makes sure that he/she is not recognized and complains of privacy violation

2. A small business owner at the start of the business explores all options without discrimination. Every new client is an achievement. No opportunity is to be left behind. Then once these all are achieved, the business owner complains of ‘transnational friction’ and ‘too much demanding customer.’

3. A young man falls in love with a woman and then the cycle starts : wooing, courting, marriage and consummation.  After all this, as per a Calcutta philosopher : A man needs a woman only to understand that he does not need woman.

4. A young doctor starts his career and waits for patients in his mint-condition chamber. A patient seems like bright sunshine in a cold morning : a ray of hope. He works diligently and becomes successful. Very successful that it takes 2 months to receive his appointment. Money, status, fame, authority all come in due course and measure. Then, he complains of not getting proper secretary who will enforce his daily quota of patients and envies a time rich cash poor man like me !

5. A young working couple living in a metropolis, in a small flat dreams of a large home with front yard and back yard. Working hard for at least 20 years, they achieve the dream and the house becomes their own. Now they are past 50 and their children have gone to other geographies to pursue their destiny. The big house now needs maintenance and afflictions like arthritis, osteoporosis, local stick-up artists – all make the couple rethink : This large house has become cause of a headache !

6. A father who was a self-made man and made a fortune from zero mellows in his old age. He vows that his children should not be in the group of ‘have nots’. He looks at his teenage son and showers more than what is needed because when he was of such age, he struggled so hard to get bare necessities. His son gets accustomed to these privileges and considers these not as a grace but an entitlement. He gets satisfaction that his son did not need to struggle as he did. He did achieve something.  The teenage boy becomes a spoiled and entitled kid and complains that he is not given more power. He forgets that he is not qualified to handle the power. With the noble intention of making life comfortable for the son, the father, with all the good intention actually denies him the greatest gift  of being alive : to become self-reliant and to become a self-made man.

All our desires have this aspect : a man needs something until he gets it !

Satyam Computers – revisited

Today, I read in my newspaper that Mr. Ramlinga Raju, Satyam Computers Founder Chairman had been sentenced to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of INR 5.5 crore.

While working on a book on Business Ethics, I had the opportunity of studying the case. What struck me and generally goes unreported is that Satyam used to get deals at 2-3% of margin. This meant that with such a thin margin, Satyam in its peak was able to outbid competitors but it was having much less real cash at hand compared to its size.

The low-margin is an addiction. It gets into your nerves as you find your more ‘elite’ competitors defeated and there comes a temporary adrenalin rush. The reverse effect happens in spectrum auctions where the winner very soon finds itself in existential crisis. Call it by whatever name : overstretch, lack of prudence, flaw in judgment, this is an addiction. This is generally not seen as an addiction because it comes dressed up in a very holy garb : cost effective.

The psychology of a business operating at a very thin margin for growth remains very tense because of lack of buffers. Nature and any system will go into an unstable equilibrium unless there are buffers. A family which has brought the dream home by overstretching itself that it may find little left for relaxed living that the house, family or both may implode.

A business will be psychologically tense because the weapon of cost effectiveness is very potent but the venom while overused will weaken the corporate body itself. There are certain insects which die once they sting once. The sting does its job but demands a heavy price for the entity that exercised the lethal option.

A business might start its first foray into unethical and grey areas when it neither knows how to increase margin or addicted to growth while using price as the only differential.

Satyam’s Chairman Mr. Raju, in spite of all the later events was a historical man in India’s IT campaign. He was a first generation enterprise builder and he was partially responsible for bringing Hyderabad into global IT map, if not in the global map itself.

However, low margin proved to be one of the significant factors in designing the fatal course the organization took.