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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Irony of Contradictions

The other day, i was looking at one of my friend's honeymoon album (outdoor only) on FB. It was indeed beautiful, the location, the photography and his wife of course(with due regard)!.Other than all this beauty,i made one more observation. It was my friend's wife's attire. She was wearing shorts and a sleeveless tee shirt. This was a good combination which was getting along with her personality well. But,one thing that caught my eye was her hand which was covered with bangles from wrist to elbow. Although this was not the first time i had seen this attire, i have never been able to digest it. I sometimes consider it to be the effect of a mixed economy on our lives. I consider shorts and tee shirt to be symbols of liberation and physical comfort while bangles in the hand reflect the bounds of being a wife.We happen to mix everything and live in total contradiction.Ironically,or luckily, not even recognizing the contradiction!

Somewhat similar confusion exists in our business world as well. I very well remember the time when i used to prepare stories in order to save myself from a gang bang by bosses for having been unable to force in favorable specifications in the tender document issued by the customer. All stories used to be of no use because,mostly,it is only the best of the story tellers who rise up the ranks in sales management and have all the logic for negating your stories,the best story teller being your CEO. In professional words, as put in by my CEO, "a successful sales professional fights for his company in front of the customer and fights for his customer in front of his company". In practical terms, he has to be an adept story teller on both the fronts! Other than storytelling, our companies also expect us to possess unyielding integrity. Here,my logic fails me. How can one be an adept story teller(storyteller here is a person who covers his lies by telling interesting stories) and a man of integrity at the same time? Here also people fail to recognize the contradictions!

Let me put forth a case.All sales professionals(respectful address to salesmen), especially those who have handled government business, will easily recall the following statement of their bosses which comes soon after a tender which does not carry favorable specifications is advertised(only advertised not decided,all professionals will agree that deals are won and lost long before the tender is advertised). Tera account pe kya hold hai(as if customers were reporting to me)? This statement clearly asks the salesman to tell about the lobby that he has in that specific government department. Going by these words, every company expects its sales professionals to have a lobby in the government. As every company has a sales team for handling government accounts, we can imagine the level of lobbying that exists in the government.

If we agree with the above logic, we will have to appreciate the salesman(woman) ship of Niira Radia! Her lobby was so strong that she could lobby for the portfolios of ministers in the union government(choosing dumbest among the dumb so that she could get her work done). This is what a company expects out of its sales force. And, salesmen with such strong lobbying skills and powerful contacts are designated as CEO's and business partners of companies. 

Now comes the million dollar question. How is lobbying done? How can a salesman lobby? From the company's perspective,It is expected for a salesman to be a resourceful person for the customer.Resourceful such that he is a consultant for the customer and works towards mutual growth and benefit of the company as well as the customer. This is a statement which most of us would have read in the "vision" and "mission" statements of most organizations. But mostly, the level of resourcefulness lies in the ability of story telling. In any case, objective of all these"vision" and "mission" statements is dependent on the intent of the organization or the person who is representing the organization in front of the customer. Thus, Resourceful is a dangerous adjective. It has many meanings and when the prime intent of the organization as well as the person representing the organization is profit, being resourceful becomes even more dangerous.

Anyways, I would like to leave it for the reader to define" a resourceful salesman" considering their own experiences with salesmen and keeping in view the fact that the prime objective of this resource is to earn money. What i want to convey here is that we all are a part of this system. We get into an offensive mode when something like a Niira radia tape comes out. But, ironically,we aspire to become the same(minus controversy). We continue to live in the extreme contradiction like the woman wearing shorts and bangles, not even realising the contradictions of the situation. One factor, i can attribute for these contradictions could be compromises me make due compulsions. Compulsions of meeting our aspirations,aspirations which we develop looking at the world around! I would leave it open for readers to look for other factors. I hope we will someday come out of these compulsions and contradictions.If not come out,we will at least start recognizing them soon!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Story of an Alcoholic

He wakes up on the morning of 15th August cursing himself for having drunk the remaining half of the bottle which he should have actually saved for today. On 14th, he purchased a full bottle instead of his regular quota of half a bottle as 15th August is a dry day. This is not the first time that he has done so. It has been a regular feature of his life. Next, he starts looking for Disprins. He quickly gobbles up two tablets and swears in the name of god that he will never repeat such a blunder again! God is expected to understand his problem and cannot be rude to him! He gets out of the bed after another two hours of sleep. By now, the hangover has reduced. He goes to the market and has a cup of tea followed by two glasses of fruit Juice. He gets his lunch packed from a hotel and comes back home. Now, starts the toughest part of his Holiday! How should he pass the next 5 to 6 hours of the day? None of his good friends are in town, all the remaining are useless. They would suggest plans like going for a movie or roaming around in a mall which he considers as a sheer waste of time and money. His next worry is that, as he had finished the whole bottle yesterday, he will have to get his day’s quota by “Jugad”. He will not get his brand!
Above mentioned are sequence of events that “only an alcoholic” or a person who has lived with an alcoholic can relate to. Everybody cannot be called an alcoholic, to join this elite club one has to have some of these qualities:-
1)      All monetary calculations are in the multiples of the prices of quarters, halves and full bottles of Daru. For e.g. - Cost of a movie followed by food is equal to the price of a half and a quarter of Blenders Pride Whiskey (snacks and soda/cold drink excluded) and Cost of a 3BHK flat in NOIDA would be equal to the money that will be spent by this person on daru in the next 30 years (This is the best way known to him to invest money, after all its all about living in the present).
2)      There is no party without Daru. People who do not drink do not know how to enjoy!
3)      Vendors at all the nearby wine shops greet him whenever he goes to their shop, the nearby snack and soda vendors also greet him and know his menu.
4)      Best daru is that which comes free of cost, next is a party on pay for yourself basis and the final option is to drink alone at home. The first option is observed more in people who have taken a sabbatical from work to pursue further (not necessarily higher) studies. Remaining two are the most favoured options of decently earning, financially responsible alcoholics!
5)      The best way to spend on others, in case one has to, is to sit and drink with them. The best possible gift on earth is also a Bottle of Daru!
6)      Finishing half a bottle should not take him more than 5 pegs!
7)      He is never impartial in making pegs! His peg size is the standard, maximum also, others have the choice of making smaller pegs.
8)      He believes that it is better to have extra Daru than to fall short of it at the end of the party. But, on most occasions, he falls short of it because he, that day, enjoyed drinking more than any other day.
9)      He knows his limit (he can drink any amount). And, he becomes extra cautious once he is behind the steering wheel, although he might not remember the sequence events the following day!
10)   He has no idea of other available options to pass his time “constructively”, especially between 7 to 10 in the evening.
11)   Visiting a doctor is useless because he does not understand the problem, instead, advises to quit drinking. He might also threaten him with a LFT (Liver Function Test). Thus, wisdom is in avoiding doctors.

These are the qualities a person has to possess in order to join the elite club. There can be many other qualities as well. This elite club also has some outstanding members; these people have set benchmarks of achievement for club members. They have performed feats like:-
1)      They have bought Daru on credit from a wine shop. And,
2)      They have never said no to Daru in their life! Be it any challenge: early morning offer, office time offer, party after party offer etc, they have always honoured the offer without caring of the consequences.
Now, I believe, you are in a position to understand the amount of time, effort and investment that is required to join the elite club of alcoholics. But, most people do not understand this. They undermine the achievement of an alcoholic. These people do not understand that it is only because of this alcoholic that the state is able to execute development plans. He contributes the maximum amount to the state in the form of tax on liquor, only other tax revenue above this is revenue from petroleum. He contributes to that also because he daily drives a few miles extra to reach the wine shop! Leave aside the amount the government earns from taxes on his snacks and soda! Look at Kerala, the state with 100% literacy has started earning the maximum amount of tax revenue from liquor, tax collection from liquor this financial has exceeded tax collected from petroleum. That is why it is called “The god’s own country”!

Description of an alcoholic seems very funny! We see many alcoholics performing antics around us, this makes us believe that people around them must also be enjoying. But, for the near and dear ones of an alcoholic, it is always not that funny. All these qualities might have a different meaning for them and might remind them of traumatic experiences they have had with their alcoholic family member. Comparing the cost of liquor with a movie might be acceptable, not always though, but, its comparison with the schooling expenses of his child is never acceptable. One can only imagine the trauma of the family members who have to deal with such problems on a regular basis. Alcohol leads the household of an alcoholic to a complete mess. Thus, Alcoholism, since a long time, has been regarded as one of the worst and widely spread social evils of our society (The only challenge it faces today must be from terrorism). A lot has been written about it and it is accepted beyond doubt that people should abstain from alcohol. But, I am not writing this to criticize an alcoholic. I am here to present his side of the story.
If we look at the ‘qualities’, as described above, of an alcoholic we can make out that, at any particular point of time, irrespective of the alcoholic consuming alcohol or not his brain is always thinking about it! His brain is now programmed in such a way that his logic has a very strong element of ‘alcoholism’ in it. He cannot think out of the realm of alcohol. Another major issue is that his expression of joy as well as sorrow is associated with alcohol. To understand his plight, let us imagine of the one thing that we love to do when we are happy. Now, try to think of a life without that activity. Life will look like a void. Such is the idea about life of an alcoholic without alcohol. Thus, he never thinks about leaving alcohol.

Someone once rightly compared alcoholics with TB patients. He said, as TB cannot be cured without treatment, neither can one get rid of alcoholism without treatment(although exceptions exist). Thus, next time you ask an alcoholic to quit alcohol, think for yourself once, how can you leave something that you associate with happiness with life. Thus, we can reduce the problems in the life of an alcoholic(if we are not able to help him in treatment) by avoiding to give him regular "gyan"  to quit alcohol ! Also, an alcoholic, despite being a major contributor to the state exchequer, is the most neglected person of the society.