Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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Mind Without Fear: The wisdom from a white collar convict

It can’t be defamatory or slanderous if one calls a person convicted for a white collar crime, a criminal. But, as the saying goes, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

As Rajat Gupta, former McKinsey & Co chief, who worked in the Board of Goldman Sachs and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Advisory Board and served as the advisor to the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Economic Forum, shares his wisdom in his book “Mind Without Fear” (Released on March 24, 2019), one can possibly get convinced that only a sinner can be a successful preacher.

Victim of prejudice?

Rajat Gupta is back this week in Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad, which he co-founded and led for many years, to tell the budding business leaders about the goodwill he generated and ultimately lost, which resulted in his exile for almost a decade for ‘no fault of his’.  There could be several eyebrows raised on the message his audience comprising mostly the future business leaders would derive from his futile defense, having served the full term of conviction for the crime. Irrespective of what his words are – in his speech or in the book, there could be a certain inference that the same would be perceived as a message of decriminalizing a white collar offence. Based on his words of rationalization, would the young minds conclude that white collar crimes are products of circumstances rather than outcomes of criminal minds? Based on his narration of how unfair he was treated after the charge, would there be an apprehension that white collar crime trials are marred by primordial prejudices and therefore unfair?

Victim of circumstances?

Though Gupta’s book, as he admits, is neither aimed at defending himself nor an instrument to to redeem himself of the unpleasant past, its purpose is to demonstrate his innocence.  Gupta tells the readers that he was a victim of circumstances. Here, one would get reminded of the  famous “Fraud Triangle” theorist Donald Cressey who identified ‘rationalization’ as one of the key elements of fraud behavior as perceived by the fraudster. Gupta is grieved by the way someone whom he trusted cheated him and put his entire career and the long lived reputation into jeopardy.  He is also saddened not only by the trial which he thinks was prejudicial, but also how McKinsey with which he had long relationship with uncompromising commitment and hard work, reacted to his insider trading case.

Rajat Gupta, was charged by the prosecution of insider trading on Wall Street with hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. After 4 years of investigation, as against the prosecution’s demand of 10 years of imprisonment, the Senior District Judge for the Southern District of New York imposed a sentence of 2 years. Court appreciated the past good work of Rajat Gupta and found it to be a mitigating sentencing factor. He was imprisoned in June 2014 and was staying in Federal Medical Centre Devens, a federal correctional facility in Massachusetts. Around 5 months before completing the prison term, he was allowed to spend the rest of the sentence at home after receiving credit for good behavior.

Redeeming the moral credits

When Rajat Gupta, who was already extremely financially affluent played a crucial role in aiding Rajarathinam, the motive may not be money. While conducting the trial, the Judge Rakkoff was puzzled why a successful businessman, a philanthropist  and a mentor for many senior leaders in the industry committed such an offence? Mr. Gupta had catalogued all his philanthropic activities to demonstrate that he was always a good person. He submitted character certificates from several famous persons including Bill Gates, Deepak Chopra and Kofi Annan. It is reported that he had filed letters from his own family members about his acts of kindness! As Todd Haugh, a scholar of white collar crimes, rightly observed, there was an attempt to apply the “metaphor-of-the-ledger neutralization” technique originally propounded by the criminologist Mark M. Lanier. The attempt was to project the good deeds as a mitigating factor.

Questions to the business schools

Image: poetsandquantsforexecs 
A few questions emerge from the above discussion for further pondering: When several good deeds overshadow one bad deed, can that be condoned? When a person demonstrates his inherent goodness and states that a momentary aberration was seen as a serious crime because of certain prejudices, is it amounts to decriminalization of an offence? Will the above position would influence the young business minds to trivialize the need for uncompromising adherence to the standards of corporate governance and business ethics? May be, the professors and mentors in the area of business management, are the right persons to answer the above questions and decide whether the experiences shared by people like Rajat Gupta are warning signs or justifications for white collar crimes. But, one can't write off Rajat Gupta - a person with exceptional managerial competence and leadership skills! His life and achievements are inspirational too!

--> © Sibichen K Mathew    Views are personal. -->


When you SPIT on your (their) wall

Image: adweek. com

Imagine, you have a big white painted compound wall for your house. And you express your sub-human level intellectual views emanating from your ‘cultural’ consciousness in the obscenest, violent, hateful and filthy forms in thick black font! You also spit (comment) venomously on other compound walls in your vicinity. Whether you blame it on the inebriation triggered by dangerous stimulants (in solid, liquid or vaporous form) or on a momentary blood-boiling moment, everyone who passes beside your wall would see your nauseating literary acumen immediately. By the time you realize your folly, people would have captured them and circulated. You erase your wall in vain!

A Malayalam film director, well respected by me for his outstanding creations, recently quite unfortunately, jotted something of above genre in his wall! He was given a cow-dung bath by someone who is of equal or worse ‘cultural’ sentiments as a response to the inebriated FB post!

Similar excretions in vernacular language by a large number fellow mallus could be observed since the days of internet chat rooms more than a decade back. The paradoxical Malayalis were quick to indulge in infotainments of all sorts much ahead of several linguistic collectivities. They also make their unique ideological impression on such activities in their own typical way. The moment we logged into these rooms, some of us used to immediately keep the voice chat in the off position. Otherwise one would hear all sorts of highest degree abuses in Malayalam between anonymous chatters. In the comfort of a mysterious obscurity provided by the dubious user name and misleading disingenuous profile, they conversed crossing the boarders to vulgarity and offence. The moment a lady user name (not necessarily a lady, as many fake their gender for reasons known to them) appears, entire desperate crowd frantically pounce over that user with very intimate questions. If the gender of the victim is genuine, she would disappear from the clutches of the ‘empathizing’ counterparts and their filthy conversations. Obsession to external cleanliness is often marred by pseudo morality. 

In the age of Facebook, where every other person has either a real or fake (or both) account, fights in cyberspace with the aid of obscene and nasty verbal weaponry is common. Most admins are  either irresponsive or inactive. Reporting to FB is rarely fruitful. Even the groups created for laudable purposes and for decent conversations are infiltrated by such sub-standard commentators and ‘impostors’. But, what is more disturbing, is the unbecoming posts of so called day light “cultured gentlemen”!

© Sibichen K Mathew     Views are personal 


Dear Cameraman, Beauty is only Skin-deep!

I have seen still cameras, especially those attached to the smart phones, with auto option which clicks on its own when the person photographed is smiling. I find that there are many video cameras doing such ‘great’ jobs by continuously focusing on “pretty’ faces. We can see this in the video clippings aired by the news channels and in the TV shows and also in the videos of marriages and other functions.

Why do the video cameras focus only on the fair, “pretty” ones? We can be charitable to the underemployed neighborhood video guy who has been chartered to cover the marriage function focusing only on those who are naturally gifted to be of wheatish complexion or those who looked pretty in his eyes or those who are attired well!  But even mainstream media when they air entertainment programs or functions, one can see the camera suddenly stopping to capture when it sees a fair skinned person in the audience!

Live coverage of matches
This is obvious when we watch live matches. The cameras in charge of capturing matches live, zoom more on the “attractive” skins and curves in the audience than even the players, bats and the balls! Of course, people love to go in their most attractive attire, sometimes with a passion for rigorous ‘reductivism’ or clothe minimalism. This is fine and nothing wrong in it. But why those cameras have a momentary bias towards the whitish surfaces?

The White Obsession
The skin-color obsession of the world has promoted a multi-billion-dollar cosmetic industry. Media look for fair skinned presenters. Airlines look down upon dark skinned candidates as crew even when they are well natured and qualified. Matrimonial advertisements solicit grooms and brides with fair complexion. My dermatologist wife vouches the frantic attempts of people - young and old - to become fairer by experimenting all latest skin procedures. Professional treatments like peeling, lasers, facials etc. are not bad if that are tried to remove the scars, acne, sun burns, skin tags etc. and not exclusively aimed at whitening the skin.

Whenever I was invited for long TV interviews, I was subjected to a rigorous makeup prior to the program in the in-house beauty parlour at the studio. I felt embarrassed to see myself when the program got aired. I do apply moisturizer or mild cream to cover up dryness or the under eye darkness mostly after a sleep deficit night due to late night work and not because I am ashamed of my natural colour. 

The No-Make up Movement
‘No Makeup’ hash tags are becoming popular these days among some enlightened women who post photos in social media, especially Instagram. Many got inspired by Alicia Keys, an American singer-songwriter and musician, who started the No Make-up movement. She said that she does not want to cover up:  "Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing,".

Alicia Keys

Fathima Lodhi, a Pakistani woman started an anti-colourism movement named “Dark is Divine”. She wrote: “I never got a chance to become a fairy in my school plays because fairies are supposed to be fair-skinned!”

The First Step
Hope our video cameramen of the TV channels and the live matches will take the first step not to focus only on the ‘pretty’ and the fair skinned people in the audience, but zoom on people irrespective of their skin colour or their physical appearances. We would also like to see more of people who are good natured rather than fair and pretty among airhostesses too!

Let us remember the words of Martin Luther King (Jr) that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“Good, is a fairer attribute than White,
Tis the mindes beautie keepes the other sweet:
That's not still one, nor mortall with the light,
Nor glasse, nor painting can it counterfet,
Nor doth it raise desires, which euer tend
At once, to their perfection, and their end”

(Sir Thomas Overbury, “A Wife”, Originally written in 1614 –Old English)

© Sibichen K Mathew      Views are personal

"HNY": Take it or Leave it!

Even if 364 days we were not in touch with someone, we would definitely wish that person around new year. That is the magic of the ‘New Year’, though there is nothing sacrosanct about the date January 1st. There are many cultures in the world where people celebrate new year on dates other than the January 1 fixation of the Gregorian, Roman and Julian calendars. New Year is definitely an occasion to remember all those who were kind and considerate to you in the last one year and earlier years by sending them thoughtful best wishes.

New Year wishing has become easy in an age of WhatsApp. I fondly remember my student days when I exhausted all my pocket money to print customized greetings cards with my own words of wishes and sent to all dear and near ones. Later in life, it was e-Mails.

The Messages
WhatsApp greetings are cheap, instant and amenable to easy copy-paste. We get plenty of messages without specifically addressing us. Nevertheless, we get wished on time by friends. I devote about one hour each for about ten days around the new year to send personal wishes to my near and dear ones, in batches. Perhaps, due to inevitable preoccupations, that might be the only time in a year, I might have re-connected to cherish some valuable interactions of the past.

The trend now is to forward video messages. There will be hundreds of forwarded video messages in our inbox wishing happy new year and to open each of those messages and play the video would eat away too much of our time. So, the best option is to assume that they have forwarded a beautiful new year wish made by someone and then to acknowledge it without ever opening them. Another set of messages come with instructions like “Touch here to see a magic”! As there are many cyber punks during mischiefs with messages that can compromise on the cyber security, many decide not to touch those touchy forwards. I am sure we all prefer original text messages even if it contained only three words - Happy New Year - rather that those sparkling  forwards! Those busy doctorate holders in ‘texting’ will send you “HNY”. You take it or leave it!

The Replies
Most wise people are those who send a reply message to your long, original message (not a forward) by sending just three key words: “Wish you the same”. There are some one-way traffic wishes, which just say “Thank you for the wishes” without ever wanting to reciprocate the wish to you, assuming that the new year is limited only to the place he lives. A few are more frugal with words and reply, “Thanks”.  Some busy people never acknowledge a new year wish since they think that the sender is not privileged to get a reply. Some VVIPs think on those lines.

There are some people who would like to maintain consistency and tradition. They will send the same customized message every year. There are a few who promptly wish you back writing “Wish you a happy birthday”, obviously misled by the auto-complete option.

But, you might have noticed one fact. It is the busy people who are the fastest to respond for a new year wish. It is said that, busy people always have spare time than others!

The Losers and the ‘Fussers’
With all above innovations and idiosyncrasies, New Year time is fun as millions of wishes crisscross the ‘free’ telecom space all over the world. The real losers are the postal departments and the greeting card sellers.  And there are a few conservative innocent beings who still consider that sending them a message instead of wishing them over phone is an insult!

Happy New Year to all once again!

© Sibichen K Mathew      Views are personal.


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