Thursday, May 21, 2009

WOULD YOU.......................?

Have you also felt that we Indians are very negatively biased towards systems that we have in India? In our personal life too, we are very demanding of our own; be it our cricket team or our children; we always tend to compare our own with the best. We tend to believe that irrespective of the circumstances, we have to compare favorably with the best, and tend to become critical of our own if this does not happen.

Whatever be the system, we always tend to denounce/ denigrate it - whether it is our democracy, our politicians, our government or any thing that we have created over the years. It is difficult to fathom the reason why this is so. Do you have any idea?

The recent elections and the posts and comments on various blogs bring out so many negative things about our democracy and politics, and makes one wonder, "we must be doing at least somethings well to continue growing and prospering in spite of the many handicaps and challenges that are unique to our country". Why do we always tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive? Does any one have an answer to this question? Is it a mind set problem? How can we change this mind set?

This dilemma reminded me of a situation where a majority of the young officers in my squadron had major grouses against our system of annual appraisal. Every officer felt that extraneous factors played a major role in the annual appraisal and that the guidelines for appraisal are generally never followed.

The year was 1991 and the day was a Monday - maintenance/ training day. On this day, all my officers were invited to a seminar in the squadron, and were sitting in a semi-circle trying to explore the answer to a question, "Is our annual appraisal system fair"? In slang, it is variously called; the most common being 'number banana'. Nobody likes to belong to this category and thus most people would not do things that would even remotely bring them close to earning this epithet. This has very negative consequences for the individuals and the service. It is also felt that the whole appraisal exercise is farcical and that only people who 'number banao' get ahead in the service. Have you noticed this tendency else where too?

My experience has been totally opposite of the above statement and thus I wanted to separate the chaff from the wheat, as far as my squadron officer's were concerned. The seminar continued for a long time with every one expressing negative sentiments towards the appraisal system, and how only non deserving people get the benefits of the appraisal due to extraneous factors. I just sat as a mute witness to let my squadron officers resolve this very vital dichotomy on their own. This was not happening and I was slowly getting frustrated. After nearly two hours of seemingly endless discussion, T's voice asked an open question, "If you were the appraising officer would you base your appraisal on reality and performance, or would you base it on extraneous factors"? There was a hushed silence, and I was elated to have finally got my clincher. This question was then asked to each of the 25 odd officers in turn, and everyone replied that he would complete the appraisal as honestly as possible, without any consideration for extraneous factors.

This was heart warming for me, as also for the person who had asked this question. After this round, he finally summed it up by saying, "If each one of us sitting here would do the right thing when in the chair, then how do we feel that the people senior to us are not doing the right thing too. They have been through this same system a few years before us and have the same value system". This was the turning point that I had been waiting for and I waited for the message to sink in - it took some time for the effect of this message to sink in. It was also pointed out that the appraisal form had to assessed based on certain skill and attribute criteria, and if done honestly, like everyone finally believed, there was no way extraneous considerations could alter the assessment.

The IAF appraisal system is one of the finest - it has the best - numerical grading for skills and attributes that are vital for the IAF; it has a subjective pen picture; and a three consecutive level appraisal to rule out biases. Can it get better than this? but somehow the Indian mind does not perceive the system to be any good. We tend to over estimate our own, or we are not sure of ourselves, and feel let down when we do not measure up to the best. Does the answer lie in getting to know ourselves better?, or as far as our country is concerned - getting to know our country and its history, geography, handicaps and challenges better?

Majority of the individual Indians believe that they would do the right thing, but always believes that the others would not. Have you too noticed this? Why is it so? How can we get out of this mind set? I believe only positive thoughts about the state of our nation can change our nation because it is our collective thoughts that create our reality as a nation.


BK Chowla said...

Sure you have a point of view.My opinion and question is different.System does not make a babu accountable to any one.At best he can be tranferred,till he manages to come back to the premium posting.Every minister is in doubt of his being corrupt,he still manages to get a ticket from the national party.We are not negative,I think we are hurt seeing blatent misuse of power.The list is too long.

J P Joshi said...

BK Chowla: Thank you for your comment. I agree with what you have said about our perceptions of babus and ministers. Are all of them bad? I have met many good ones too. We rarely highlight the good. The bad is trumpeted.

The system is bad and it is as bad as we want it to be, which implies that we are happy with it being bad. Nothing will change unless each one of us initiates the change in our selves; in our thoughts, then words and finally deeds. We need to start with our thoughts. Let us start looking at the good as all our systems are not all that bad, although they are not the best too. Good thoughts will encourage good words and finally good deeds, is what I believe. I believe that if we continue to have negative thoughts - I am certain nothing will improve.

Kislay said...

Inspiring story Sir .

Nagesh said...

it is very true that we don't trust others and we think we are the best!
when I drive my bike, i feel i'm safer, when it is my cousin, I keep advising him, I know it is not a good Idea to suggest/advice, But it has become natural,trying to come out of this :)