An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan

Int. J. Indian Culture and Business Management, Vol. 2, No. 3, 2009

Management lessons from the epics is now commonplace — hello, Devdutt Patnaik. This paper analyses Kannadasan’s song from Aandavan Kattalai for lessons on leadership.

“…the purpose of this article is to explore the leadership perspective from Indian literature works such as from the re-known works of Poet Kannadasan. His literary work contains essential planks for leadership development in the Indian (Tamilan) context.”

It uses Indian and Tamilian interchangeably. It argues that Kannadasan’s approach is in line with eastern philosophy as ‘against’ modern western philosophy. And it references Arindam Chaudhuri for good measure.

PDF available on Research Gate, if you are into it

Hiring a woman

In all my grand 5 years of employment, I’ve heard several appaling things about women in paid jobs from men and women alike. Some of them startlingly prejudicial and some understandably. While I’ve had at least a few tens of arguments about such casually (also assumed to be harmlessly) prejudicial remarks against women, I’ve hardly written about it before. Listing some conversations I’ve had in the past (of course they are my recollections from memory and give it as much weightage as you will when you hear an anecdote). Now, you tell me what you think, yes?

Women are just not good enough for our company

This is one of the most common ones I hear (Is it simply a coincidence that I hear them more often in startups?). Some tend to be subtle about it – they talk of how few women there are or how their only woman employee is in HR or how they are all beer lovers or some such. But this one conversation I had with an enterprenuer I met was interesting.

The Enterprenuer (TE): Ha! The only woman we have here is the HR manager. All my other employees are men.

Ranjani K (RK): Why is that, you reckon?

TE: Oh, the women don’t even pass the interview here.

RK: Wow! Really, why?

TE: Oh we do some hardcore work here. Hardcore engineering work. Women don’t cut it. Also, we hire from the ‘big wigs’ of the world and there are really very few good women to choose from.

RK: Oh, are you saying, even the women from the ‘big wigs’ aren’t good enough?

TE: Yes. Sort of. Even the ‘big wigs’ hire women because they are mandated by law to do so. And when we become big enough, we’ll hire women to deal with the law. For now, I need people who can get work done.

RK: Women don’t get work done?

TE: In fact, we work a six-day week here. And most women don’t even call back when they hear it. We have no time for emotional issues here. Just pure work.

RK: Aha!

Are you married?

Every time I go for an interview, I am asked if I am married. I often snap and try to evade that question. But sometimes I also do play along. Here are two conversations I had about marriage with an interviewer.

Interviewer1: Are you planning to get married?

RK: What in my CV tells you I am not already married?

I1: Oh, you recently passed out from college and I assumed you wouldn’t be married. I’m so sorry. Are you?

RK: Is that relevant to the position you are hiring me for?

I1: Often, women join our company and leave in a few months saying they are marrying someone who lives in another city. I can’t go through this process again. So, if you are planning to do that, you’d better tell us know.

RK: I see.

I1: So, are you married? Do you have plans?

RK: I’m sorry. I am not going to talk about it. I presume I’ve given you enough already to make a hiring decision. I’ll wait for you to call.

Now, the second one is far more interesting. At least in the interview above, I was asked questions about my work and this came at the fag end. In the interview that follows, this is the 2nd or the 3rd question I had to answer.

Interviewer2: Are you from Bangalore?

RK: Yes, I am.

I2: Are you married?

RK: Haha, why do you ask?

I2: No no. Please don’t mistake me. It is not that I won’t hire you if you are married. We have plenty of married women working here. But you see, married women tend to take too much leave and I need someone who can do good work here. That is why I asked. Even if you are married, it is fine. But I just need to know.

RK: (deciding to play along/ or just wanting to get it over with/ by now lost hope of evading that question) No. I am not married.

I2: I see. So, you live with your parents? Are they looking for a man for you to marry?

RK: (That is it. I am not coming back even if they paid me the moon and then some)

Women are a hassle

While in all the instances I am quoting here, the underlying logic is that women are a hassle to work with, this one is special in a few ways. This is a friend of mine from a company that is known for its female-friendly initiatives.

Friend1: (while talking about his project) We’ve finally decided not to hire any women in the team. That’ll solve half the problems.

RK: (taken aback) pray tell why.

F1: You see hiring a woman into a project like ours is a lot of hassle. If she works late evenings, the company has to arrange transport and ensure her safety. For her to work late, we’ll need to get permission from boss’s boss’s boss in writing every single day she works late. On top of all this, our project manager already has a (bogus, he insists) sexual harassment case from a woman who was earlier in the team. We can’t deal with anymore trouble. So, we’ve decided not to hire any women.

RK: You aren’t seeing any bias in that?

F1: What do you mean bias? I am doing what’s best for my project, that’s all!

Women don’t work nightshifts

This is extremely common among IT/ BPO companies where the entire team is expected to take turns and work nighshifts once a month or two. Stories of women first accepting to do nightshifts because they need the job/ project and later refusing is very common. When asked for reasons for refusing, the responses are almost always female-centric.

My mother-in-law doesn’t want me to work night shifts

I am looking to get pregnant and night shifts aren’t helping

I have a young child to take care of and so I can’t do night shifts

While the reasons here may be legitimate (and in fact one does not need to explain why they wouldn’t do something), it’s disheartening that there is an implicit intention to take advantage of female friendly policies by the women. If this led to the eventual firing of the female team member for going back on her contract, we have a legal (at least logical) issue to deal with. But what this often seems to lead to is the hiring managers not wanting to go through the trouble of accommodating women at all.

I am not including the clearly sexist “she must be screwing someone to get those promotions” or “she’s too pretty for her own good” because there is no gray area in them. We know sexism when we see that. But in each of the above cases, the issues a little more institutional. For instance,

Women are just not good enough for our company – If the talent pool of women is just not big enough (or deep enough with no pun intended), is it the responsibility of the individual organisations to hire (what’s seen as) less than competant women and train them?

Are you married? – If you see every woman you’ve hired leave your company on marriage and no man who does that, is your prejudice still wrong?

Women are a hassle – if the employees of a company see the female-friendly policies as hassle, should the company get rid of them to have a level playing field? If they do remove such policies, it is really a level playing field?

Women don’t work night shifts – A lot of women don’t like to work night shifts (in fact, a lot of men also don’t like to if they had a choice). But because few women find it in their benefit to take advantage of policies, can we allow the hiring managers to become biased? By being biased, are they just saving their own backs?

I’m in no way substantiating any bias here (please point out to me if anything I’ve said comes across as that) or blaming women for their own problems. In fact, I aim to do exactly the opposite. I am calling out to practices that I see as discriminatory, most of which don’t really come up in interview conversations unless you go out there and invite people to it. (A good friend of mine has her marital status, date of birth, place of birth etc. on the right hand top corner of her CV – you see she invites none of the questions I seem to have invited).

But most of these biases seem to come with an explanation of their own. People who ask these questions seem to think they are justified in asking them. I am not sure I can rubbish all of this without consideration. So, here I am considering it is all.

Feminist Masculinity

About Rituparno Ghosh’s passing away last week, someone I know joked about how she sent a condolence message to a ‘pansy’ friend she had. She thought it was apt that all ‘pansy’ men feel sorry for Ghosh. I however think we should all just stand around and feel sorry for ourselves, for patriarchy.

Before you jump at me for blaming everything on patriarchy because I am know.. feminist, here‘s a very interesting piece on what patriarchy has done to masculinity and how feminism can help change it. Read it, you won’t regret it.

Teachers of children see gender equality mostly in terms of ensuring that girls get to have the same privileges and rights as boys within the existing social structure; they do not see it in terms of granting boys the same rights as girls — for instance, the right to choose not to engage in aggressive or violent play, the right to play with dolls, to play dress up, to wear costumes of either gender, the right to choose.

A part of this is perhaps what men’s rights activists/ masculinists perhaps take up. I cannot imagine my son being asked to man up if he gets bullied in school, while it will be okay for my daughter to make noise about it. If my daughter dresses in boy’s clothes she is a tomboy and if my son dresses in frocks, he is gay or worse sissy. In creating a feminist ideal, what we should not create is a world of matriarchy but a world of equality.

And a crucial piece of dismantling patriarchy involves dismantling not only misogynistic conceptions of womanhood but also misogynistic conceptions of manhood.

Full article here.

Calling yourself feminist!

Abigail Rine, The Atlantic (May 2 2013)

Abigail Rine’s feminism is rooted as much in theory and study as in practice. With two advanced degrees in feminist studies and men a book on feminist literary criticism (coming out later this year), she still finds herself wondering if she must call herself a feminist publicly.

And yet, in my professional and personal life, I increasingly find myself talking about feminist ideas without actually using the word “feminism.” Why? It is exhausting to preface every conversation about combating misogyny with winsome, disarming anecdotes about how I actually do like men—enough to even marry one!—and how I actually haven’t burned any bras (and probably never will, because they are so expensive). I’m tired of doing this myth-debunking dance, and, weirdly enough, the conversation often goes more smoothly if I just avoid the “F-Word” entirely.

Full article here. A must read if you are going to walk into the world and call yourself a feminist (for the first time).

The scary F-word!

Laurie Penny, NewStatesman (16 March 2013)

This is the piece about Feminism where Laurie Penny steals my thoughts and writes them down eloquently.

It’s no wonder that “feminism” is still stereotyped as an aggressive movement, full of madwomen dedicated to the destruction of the male sex and who will not rest until they can breakfast on roasted testicles. It should be obvious that, as the feminist writer bell hooks puts it, “Most people learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.” As a result, most people remain confused about what the fight for gender liberation ultimately means.

Do read the full article here.

Do you watch what you’re saying?

Kafila | Feb 11, 2013

Feminists have always held that language plays a very important role perpetuating in gender-based oppression. In this piece on, Anupama Mohan writes about phallogocentrism and the impact of language on societal values.

In English, the word seminal, which means something important and path-breaking, derives from “semen” and in contrast, the word hysterical or hysteria, which is a word that has for long been associated with peculiarly female physical and mental disorders (and often used for recommending women’s confinement), derives from “hystera” or the womb.

From there, she goes on to talk about the phallogocentrism, patriarchy, matriarchy, mythology, history, political correctness etc. to elaborate her point on the role of languages in the society.

Full article here:


When a film is bad, I generally have a *lot* to say about it, this that and the other complaint I come up with. About Mugamoodi though, I have very little to say.

Where is the inspiration?

The most important aspect of a superhero film is (arguably) the inspiration. What makes one a superhero? Why does one choose to wear a mask? Why would one go through the trouble of solving crime? Why is one willing to take the risk that one does?

Bruce Lee (Anand his real name) starts wearing blue tights with red underwear on top of it to impress the female lead. He urinates in public, rolls down stairs, trips and falls. When this funny guy gets caught in a shoot out and loses his friend, he becomes Mugamoodi to avenge the killers and prove himself innocent in the eyes of the women he is wooing. Until this point, there is nothing that makes the audience hoot for a common man turning into a superhero. In fact, there is nothing even further from here.

Why stick to the clichéd?

The dhandasoru hero, ever-cursing father, the pretty heroine with a pepper spray, an emotion-less love story (dear heroine, he is a superhero and all fine, but who is going to put food once the villain is caught?), crime-buster Gaurav (a strange name for a man of Nasser’s age, without a last name or a real designation), the helpful grandfathers – one after the other, we see boat loads of clichés, awful ones at that.

What is with the villain?

The characterisation of Anguswamy (a memorable name, I must grant) is rather grainy. He is younger than the story suggests he must be, develops a mannerism that he did not have in the beginning of the film, wears a mask only to take it off quite often, fights (Kung Fu) in what seems like a really uncomfortable posture, kills himself without a real fight. Considering how Mugamoodi’s character isn’t very strongly portrayed, the villain needn’t be glorified either. But that only defeats the point of this encounter, doesn’t it?

Who is the heroine?

It’s a superhero film and there is no place for a female lead. In this film though there is one – eye candy, uses pepper spray to capture the most notorious Kung Fu fighter in the neighbourhood, hits the hero with what looks like a wooden tube while he falls in love with her…

For the cinema that has made Kandasamy and Muppozhudhum un karpanaigal, Mugamoodi is probably forgivable. But that doesn’t make Mugamoodi a good film at any rate.

Day four and thereafter!

I was working at a retail store in the UK as a sales person. My job was to sell computers (sometimes to people who didn’t think a brown woman knew electronics) and make customers happy about giving us the money they did. That is the time I learnt to dissociate myself from the product I was selling. Then on, what I do was never who I was.

After more than a year and a half, I decided to speak directly to my customers today at my current job. This again was solving problems with people’s electronics. Nothing fancy – clear cache, use a different browser, log out and log back in, restart your computer and such like. But I spoke to about 75 students/ parents (that is 5 more than an average call centre employee is expected to do in a day), not a single one of them hung up disgruntled. Speaking to a happy customer is the most delightful thing in a marketeer’s life. It is one of those days I didn’t need Twitter to cheer me up!

And it is also the day when I’ve started getting mails and texts about my disappearance. @rathna_k texted. I was running and I got his text. I was overwhelmed. It is strange how people who you expect to care for you miss out and people least expected find ways to reach out to know. 😀

And then of course, there is the person who thinks I’ve blocked him because he doesn’t see me on his timeline. Sir, that dappaangoothu I’ve been on about? Now playing for you!

<Dear @puneersoda, here is the DEI you asked for> 🙂

Day five

<@eml_a noticed. Whatte wow. I’m right here. Hiding. Watching you. Closely. More closely than I did when I was open about it>

Had a rough day folks. Not liking one bit.

<Thanks @vetti for the conversation and the weird company>

Day six

This is the day I feared. Celebrities looking for me on Twitter means I am conspicuously missing. @namefieldmt starts looking for me and the entire Team-Sornakka is having a conversation about it. Damn, I want to * slowly raise hand and say uLLen akka * But you see, now is probably not the right time. So, logs out sobbing.

To make matters worse, I (thought I) saw singer Devan on CHM Road today, with a thin girl looking for autos to get to somewhere. He was asking for autos dude. And the autodrivers were asking him to move on! Whatte wow, no, it is? I wanted to twitpic. So badly. Well, then again. You see. I mean.

On the TL though, I see so many sly tweets about the banana, the other banana, cheese being charming, someone being raped (I am assuming this is about being trolled and I do not want to start that argument about rape with the person who said this), someone being sweet-candy. Nalla velai. I am one of those paranoid people who thinks all sly tweets are about me. No need to pluck the nail. <logs out and goes back to the book she is reading>

Oh yes. And yesterday gtalk status had become the new Twitter. I contemplated posting some 20 different things as my status. By now of course, I know better than that. Tomorrow will be one week. That’s worthy of some kind of celebration, no?

Day seven

It is one of those lovely days where I had so much I could have Tweeted about. Women’s day and you know my obsession with HR activities. I had to resist so hard the fun Tweeting that came on days like these. Then of course, it was Holi. I got coloured twice, at work, during the working day. Ah! Never mind.

@degree_kaapi sent a wonderful text to let me know that he was missing me and the banter on Twitter. I really did not think someone who comes across as callous as he does will actually say such a sensitive thing! <lou is coming to me>

Then, I was at @psankar’s place for dinner tonight. His wife was among the nicest ladies I’ve met. She made a great dinner and was a lovely host.

@psankar on the other hand speaks more now (after marriage) than he did earlier. Beautiful conversations in Tamil – ah! Hadn’t I longed for speaking in Tamil to someone without being told ‘I don’t know of someone who speaks as much Tamil as you’.  Those conversations also make me realise that I think in English and I do not know what’s Tamil for ‘contemporary literature’.

Sankar, however, was very kind. He spoke such kind words about me and was saying such nice things about me. He gave my life’s sweetest compliment. He said to his wife that ‘if there was anyone whose life he wants to exchange for his, it would be mine’. I’m humbled. Really am.

Brought back a bunch of books and zero expectations about them. It’s going to be good fun reading, I think!

Then, @ramblinggeek (on gtalk) tells me “i was wishing you were not on one” about my Twitter break! Awww! 😀

Day eight

Dravid retired. My timeline went mad with dedications, DP changes and such like. Oh God! That must have been some event on Twitter today.

I had a pretty normal day. Did a lot of work, went for a long training session, did awful amounts of work and came back home. I’m working tomorrow too and I am so going to be tempted to waste time on Twitter. Hmmmm. Must put some plan.

Day Nine

It is officially the day I became a social media case study! This @degree_kaapi plugs my blog to @anjujaison and hell breaks loose. @namefieldmt finds my writing and tada! Overflow of mentions. People telling other people how awesome I am. This is where v0yerism hits its best. I sit back watching people talk about me and am glowing in pride. Now if this @namefieldmt goes off on a break, I will be less of a celebrity, no?

<Slowly the infamous dappangoothu playing in the background. Logs off and goes to sleep> Actually, can’t wait for @atlasdanced’s sly tweet to blow up! Yeay! This is so much fun!

And @purisabzi, was indeed a good read!

Happy birthday, Karthik. Kiddo! * runs *

Day Ten

Sunday again. Fib (I like calling him that but it’s @fibnazi I’m talking about) and I were to go shopping today. After the cleaning, cooking and eating, I picked him up from close by and we hit Commercial Street. Who wudda thunk that there is practically nothing in Commercial Street for men? No, really. So, then, this @fibnazi eats like a glutton. Every half an hour he wants to munch on something.

After all the sightseeing that he did, @degree_kaapi came over. Mother of God, how much that boy walks! He made us walk from Commercial Street to Brigade Road to Cubbon Park (and a walk within the park) and then back to Commercial Street where my bike was parked. Phew! Running for the day is well taken care of, isn’t it?

I have to mention here that this @degree_kaapi is an extremely chivalrous man. He carried my heavy items, picked groceries for me and patiently waited at the billing counter. I’d put up with all his ragging and some more for the nice guy (I think) he is. Yeah. He brought up @iRatzzz (Is that the right number of zs there?) name again. He’s been doing that every time I met him. Ah! #JustSaying

<Two days later, I return to Twitter. That story will follow.>

Commit to memory

Over the last couple of years, I’ve lost more things that I’ve gained. Here is a list of all my losses and the conspiracy theories around them.

Last week I sent out an SMS with the wrong text on behalf of my employer to a huge database. An SMS is all of 160 characters. What are the odds that one could go wrong with that? Well, I did.

I used to be known as what people now proudly call themselves – the grammar Nazi.  Now, I almost always write line for like and vice versa.

I used to know the telephone numbers of all my friends from memory. Now, I can hardly remember the password of my work computer that I changed just yesterday.

I used to remember the numbers of all channels on my TV. Now, the only button I remember the location of is the home button on my remote.

As a child, I recited Bharathiyaar’s Achamillai Achalimmai on stage in front of 500-odd people. Even in high school and college, I was much of a debater, orator etc. Now, I can hardly speak coherently to a friend without looking for the right word during a long pause.

I knew about 200 Thirukkural by heart my mom says. Ippollaam ‘Yen uchi mandaila surrungudhe’ paattoda adhutha vari kuda nyabagam illai.

I was known to be meticulously organised. I still am. I just don’t know where I put the item in the first place.

Well, that’s a lot lost. To put this in perspective, below are the major events that happened in the last couple of years. Pliss to match the following.

I dropped a few *habits*. Altogether.

I got myself a smartphone – in which – I saw time, set alarm, called people, mailed them, texted them, tweeted to them, liked their status on Facebook, took down notes, nailed tasks to the wall, made meaningless calculations and spent time fiddling with when I was nervous.

I got myself a Macbook – that has even my Internet password stored on stickies.

I got myself a job that takes 12 hours of my day, practically every single day. All my reading, learning, trying, thinking goes into work.

I also got myself a twitter account (and a 1000 odd followers) – self-explanatory.

I turned 25.