Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Sunday Posts

Sunday is the day which God spent on - reflecting. It is unusual for the God to rest, because he knew no fatigue. It is impossible for him to sleep, because then who will watch over the world. And, it is inconceivable for him to be lazy, because he is the creator and creation as a process, never stops. But, still, he took a break, as he must, and if I arrogate myself to presume God's intent, he was the world's first reflective practitioner, the first one to realize the need to pause and think, before he went back to work again.

My Sunday Posts were about emulating the practise of reflection, of my life, the world around me and various exciting and interesting people I come across during the course of the week, my joys and sorrows, and, yes, possibilities. I have long since broken the habit of confining my writing to Sundays, turning to it instead whenever I needed a release. Writing as an act of creation, as well as of soliloquy, allowed me to maintain my balance in the middle of a raging recession, difficulties and disappointments of my private life. Besides, writing kept a record as if my thoughts mattered, but at the least bore witness of my engagement with the world and my earnest desire to be involved, to make a difference.


I started writing the blog at an interesting point in my life. That time, I arrived in Britain as a migrant, but without a job. I had great hopes that the various things that I did in life and the various things I knew will make me a hot candidate for a top job. Few months in the country, however, I realized that I have read far too many books about globalization and the skill requirements of local businesses are indeed very local. For example, it did not matter if I learnt to deal with complex customers with different cultural backgrounds; it mattered whether I can make a phone call with proper public school accent. The fantasy world of globalization, where businesses sail out to remote countries overseas because they can, and hence, the most critical skills in the workplace is the ability to deal with the unknown, is still a fantasy, all businesses remain intensely local. My education in this International Business 101 course was hands on, through living in constant misery and doubt about myself, eating into my savings, and finally working in an warehouse shifting materials and counting days to salvation. This is the time when I signed up for blog writing. I thought writing is the only skill that I had which could be used to get me a job, a decent one, though my English was patchy and my vocabulary quite limited, a legacy of my background in vernacular schools in provincial India.


If I say writing liberates, I am talking from experience. It did liberate me. I did not write the posts to refine my craft, but primarily to overcome the writers' block and then to keep a record. I wrote with minimal editing, using a stream-of-consciousness sort of style, engaging, most of the time, in a conversation with myself. But, it still liberated me. The continuous conversation gave me not just the reflective space, it allowed me to reaffirm my life goals, step by step, with myself. It was a place to go back to, when I am down and everything around me seemed promiseless. It was the place of musings, to debate endlessly whether I should return back to India, to vent my anger at the greed and misdemeanour, variably of bankers and politicians, and occasionally, to reaffirm my faith and reach out for friendship.

The initial phases of Sunday Posts were a jumble of posts, privately published, which I later chose to remove when I opened it for public access, a decision I regretted later. But the last four years were no less of a wandering, as I tried to impose some thematic discipline, but could never stick to it successfully. It was always a trade-off between leaving a dated post online and not writing at all while I deal with another train of thought, or to appear all over the place, but living and conversational. I chose to adopt the second format, writing about everything, including my own life and woes at the workplace, in the hope that this will serve the triple purpose of reflection, record and writing practise quite effectively.


Anthony Giddens points out to the reflexive constitution of modern social activity, and that is no less true in an individual's life. Journal keeping such as this helps enormously to construct a system of ideas and ways of looking, and this has helped me answer questions, either self-initiated or those I was forced to face. I struggled, most of the time, with the concept of an ideal life: the choice of a life of a modern man, who reaches for material success based on techno-professional excellence in one area of life; and, alternately, a sort of renaissance life, deeply concerned with aggregate well-being, who is concerned with a broad range of disciplines but focused on certain key values keeping it all together. This is not an easy choice. Modern life offers many rewards to those focused in the pursuit, those who know what they are doing: In fact, this is the very essence of competence. However, such focus is difficult to achieve when one gets exposed to the joys and the possibilities of a travelling life, and also get involved in lives of others and feel enraged by the apparent unfairness of the world we live in. As I built my thoughts and plans through reflection, I swung between the desire to live a 'successful' by committing myself wholeheartedly to a profession, for which I variably chose Marketing and Learning and Development; and at other times, I talked about giving myself up for a purpose, of making the world a better place through creation of consciousness regarding the social processes and spreading of education. I talked about the possibilities and pitfalls of both; the appeal of the profession and the nobility of the purpose, as well as my lessons in the idea of success and how it is perceived.


I write all these because I have reached a point of inflection yet again. Two-thirds into my hundred day project, I have no option but to turn up my courage and choose. And, I chose the purpose over profession, so to say, and have commenced my journey since. It is of course not cut and dry, and one can possibly live an in-between life for a while. I have chosen to study leadership, in the context of organizational dynamics, and suddenly discovering the field full of transformational possibilities. I see leaders as the catalysts who can bring about deep social change, but the whole discipline of leadership studies constrained by managerial thinking, which is a pseudo-science designed to preserve the existing power relationships. I shall keep writing about my explorations in leadership, in the context of our emerging social structures and possibilities, and hopefully this will bring together the various things that I wish to achieve in life.








2 comments:

Saubhik said...

This writing is very interesting... The concept of leadership as catalysts is bit strange!!! I thought leaders takes active part in the chemical reaction and after a success or failure the identity/credibility of the leader or the team changes which does not happen with the so called catalyst ... MnO2... :)

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Thanks. I do get your point about the leader being an active part of the change and the outcome, rather than an uninvolved catalyst. I recognize this is about how we see a social process and compare it with a physical one, and all of us can adopt a slightly different point of view. I shall however talk about two aspects of this comparison - as pointers to further thinking and discussion.

First, the catalyst is not actually 'uninvolved' as I said, but very much a part of the process and the outcome. The outcome consists of the catalyst in a transformed state, and its usefulness is actually viewed in the context of its ability to bring about the transformed state.

Besides, the catalyst is different from all the other elements because it brings about the change. Without the catalyst, all things remaining equal, the change would not happen. This is precisely the role of leadership in a situation.

It is quite important to view the act of leadership from the persona of a leader. Often, s/he is a living, breathing person very much part of a team. Sometimes, leaders are also unremarkable [think Gandhi] and an usual person burdened by common frailities and failings. But the act of leadership, often brought about by external circumstances and sometimes, inner voices, as in case of Muhammad, is about inspiring changes in others. The process, as you say, can be self-involving; I did mention that reflective construction is a part of modern life. In essence, the transformation changes the leader too, and he becomes part of the outcome. But, I would still affirm, the act of leadership will still stand out - for being catalytic to the change.

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