Building institutions vs promoting individuals!

Two things that have occupied the media attention in India now are reinforcing a major problem we are facing. One has given positive signs and the other negative signs. Cricket world cup and the Aam Aadmi Party. Strangely, Indians are fond of characterizing the western world as selfish and the eastern philosophy as spiritual. Not surprisingly, the selfist west has produced institutions when India ended up promoting individuals. When one individual disappears, we wait for another individual to rise to the occasion. Rarely are they produced in a system.

I must congratulate Team India for a fantastic show in the world cup until the semi-finals. It was unusual for an Indian team to have not many in the list of top batsmen and bowlers but have a 7-0 record. Dhoni has proved to be a great leader who kept emphasizing about the process being more important than results. Team is more important than individuals. Though, I would have loved to have seen him defending the world cup in Australia, my admiration for Dhoni has gone up.

One thing I have noted all over India. Most of the people are not comfortable standing and talking as equals. They are either on your head or at your feat. I have heard from a retired Professor who had done well in India. This story was unbelievable. All through his career, his adviser was active and he could never do anything on his own. If he wanted to try something new, he had to go to his boss and say: ‘Sir, do you remember, we were discussing this last week and you told me that I should try this experiment’. The boss would say: Did I? yeah I must have, go ahead and try!’. If he ever started telling the boss that he thought about an idea and wanted to try, the response would be ‘Don’t waste your time, do what I say’. Independence was not encouraged even in scientific pursuit!

We were used to glorifying individuals at the cost of teams. Though, one cannot fault Sachin Tendulkar for his brilliance as a batsman, I used to be annoyed listening to Gavaskar and Sastry from commentary box when Tendulkar was close to a century. ‘He should be given some time to score that 100’ was the standard remark. In the process, a crucial number of balls would be wasted and India might end up loosing the game.

I remember when Tendulkar became the first person to score a 200 in one-day cricket. Luckily for him and India, Dhoni was in the other end and he kept scoring at a brisk rate. From commentary box, I heard comments like ‘Dhoni should give the strike to Sachin’ as Dhoni was not giving as often as the commentator wanted. Of course Sachin was tired too and was enjoying Dhoni’s game from the other end. Dhoni ensured that Sachin got just enough balls for him to get a 200 and still India got 420+. India won the game hands down.

Once BCCI organized a special test match for Sachin to get his 100th hundred in Bombay and arranged for a flat pitch. Sachin got out in his 90s. Ashwin as a bowler was very unhappy with the pitch and commented: Anyone can score a 100 in this pitch. The next day he did. If only the nation and the enthusiastic supporters were not so keen on seeing the 100th hundred and kept talking about it, Sachin may have scored that much earlier and a few more 100s.

Aam Aadmi Party had raised the aspirations of the masses like never before in my experience. I am worried about the way the party is becoming centralized. One is not surprised by the way BJP is rallying behind Modi or most other political parties rallying behind their ‘supreme’ leaders. After all ‘India was Indira and Indira was India’. I am reminded of a cartoon in Dinamani, a Tamil Newspaper. Rahul Gandhi stands next to a board with marks written and the few eminent men read: UP 7 on 70, MP 4 on 40, Bihar 2 on 50 (these numbers are not accurate but they tell you the story). They conclude: brilliant boy, he must be asked to lead the parliament election!

Tamil Nadu saw a great movement which was called the ‘self-respect movement’. ‘No one should fall on any one’s feet’ was the mantra. The political parties borne out of this movement are unable to produce successive leaders. A party which came to power with slogans like ‘Why should a carpenter’s son become a carpenter’ seems thrilled with the possibility of having CM’s son as CM, and MLA’s son as MLA and so on. Another party has a leader who cannot stand another person sitting on the dais! The next leader either raises from the ash on their own or pushed by the parents. We cannot have a system in which the leaders of the future grow through the rank due to their merit!

AAP looked different from day one. Now we see individual aspirations affecting the functioning of this party. When two founder members are thrown out because of a significant majority vote, AAP cannot be accused of not being democratic! However something is clearly missing.

I have not watched cartoon movies from Hollywood much until our daughters grew up. One day I took them to Lion King! The first scene stays etched in mind. A monkey as midwife helps the lioness deliver a cub. Monkey brings the cub out and raises it from top of a rock! All the animals shout and scream and rejoice: ‘The King is born’. It seems to me that most of us have not evolved from that stage. There is still hope, as some feel cricket is a religion in India. Will we learn to put team ahead of individuals?

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