The Man and the People

November 11, 2020

The evening betrayed the weather forecast. The overcast sky—a shroud of dark clouds—poured with rain. Thin trees kowtowed to the ferocity of the wild wind. Baby coconuts pitter-pattered on wet roads. The street lights wore a somber yellow and dabbed its mood on the serpentine traffic of Bengaluru, queued like ants to reach home. 

Sriram stepped out of the car, which had no choice but to not move, and walked towards the hotel so as not to arrive late for his appointment. 

In his expensive suit, he carted his expectations through the emotionally numb traffic jam. The unannounced arrival of the rain flooded his expectations, leaving not an inch of dry cloth on his suit. 

From the cafeteria of the hotel, I could see the creases on his forehead at war with his efforts to stay calm. His chest-wide, back-straight posture strived to conceal his frustration. 

He arrived earlier than time. The overly polite receptionist, like a nincompoop robot, smiled for few seconds before registering Sriram’s request to show him the washroom. 

Our last conversation had been sort of a satisfying climax to a difficult puzzle that demanded multiple discussions. To stay humble at the height of success is Sriram’s most prized value, in his “humble opinion.” Finally, we did identify his core value, after rigorously evaluating all possible options (=values) against a yardstick of “How does this make me feel as a human being—good? bad?” 

The climax had been worth it.

In his oversized shirt and loose trousers, he jolted me out of my musing.

“Luckily, on my way to the office I took my father’s delivery from the dry cleaner,” he said. The mysterious disappearance of the slick suit made sense. 

“How is your core value shaping your life since we last spoke?”

“I think I become too humble with my subordinates. I don’t think it is necessary.”

“You think—what? What do you mean?” That was an unnecessary question to a rhetorical premise. He would have continued his argument anyway. I sounded unlike me. 

“For example, I make efforts to wish my subordinates ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Afternoon’ every day, talk to them, etc. I don’t see much efforts from their side to strike a conversation with me or to greet me. I am their boss! It should be the other way around, shouldn’t it?” He presented his case straight from his heart—with a loud and clear question tag. 

“Why on earth do you need their approval to treat them well? Please continue wishing them, even if they don’t return your wishes. How they treat you is irrelevant. How you treat them is important and reflects your confidence.” I replied. 

A brief silence seeped in the conversation. It stayed with us. No one made any attempt to disturb it. 

Sriram understood. 

“Identify what you can control. It helps.” I closed the session. 

“Good Night,” he said.

I didn’t reply.

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