Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Helmsman

A few weeks ago an unpretentious, diminutive man in his early seventies, a French and born to Jewish parents passed away in his adopted city, New Delhi, India. I understand that the obituary was in the Times of India and the Hindustan Times. A memorial was held in New Delhi and a requiem performed by the Opera that he co-founded, which is co- managed by his daughter.

“The Neemrana Music Foundation is a registered, national nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organisation in the field of classical music and they believe in the mandate to build bridges of understanding between different cultures. We have been pioneers in introducing the genre of Opera in India. We started with the production of the Indo-French Opera "The Fakir of Benares" in 2002 (Delhi) and 2003 (Mumbai).” (Quote)

Now the idea behind this post is not culture integrating art, Opera or for that matter the innovative hospitality Industry branded the Neemrana Heritage Hotels & Resorts or the highly reliable and professional fashion apparel sourcing business he founded since landing in Indian shores as a French diplomat and deciding to settle down in Mumbai in the 1970s.

Having had the privilege to briefly speak and chit chat with him on a few occasions, having had the opportunity to associate with a segment of his business empire and having been privy to many good words spoken about him, what struck me the most was the faith he reposed in people he picked to work with him and entrust his business empire. That uncanny knack of finding and trusting the right person has paid rich dividends and even after his passing the enterprises he developed, are I believe, in genuine and worthy hands. What probably prompted him to trust must be his unselfish attitude and the willingness to share the dividends of labour. He certainly gave a sense, a feeling of ownership to his top lieutenants and they may have probably percolated the notion down the pyramid.

Why do I mention this story? It is because I have been trying to compare human relationships and how they can prosper into equitable and strong ways and how avarice, grift and selfishness coupled with mediocrity, substandard education and fostering can threaten to pulverise and deracinate relationships, family and businesses.

Once, I asked a gentleman what was the secret story of the success behind their fairly big business which was well into through the second generation. He said. “It was the ability of the helmsman to carry every one along .He would not mind much if one oarsman is a tad slow, his effort will be substituted by the rest and that, seldom is an effort.” Certainly he did not refer to acquiescing inefficiency , remember it was a figure of speech. 

A stark contrast to these two let me call them allegories and the metaphor of the helmsman is a study in human greed, selfishness and absence of values- a concoction that is caustic and erodes the foundation itself. Sand Castles how so ever high are nevertheless buildings of sand build on sand.


KParthasarathi said...

two things stand out in the examples you had given.It is the French diplomat's remarkable ability to identify the right candidate and his willingness to entrust full responsibilities.
Building trusting relationship was his forte and the reason for his success.
The other one is about the helmsman who carried the team with him and the shortfall of the slow and halting were made up by the efforts of others.
Both are admirable though in the first case right choice should be made and in the second the slow should not become complacent without improving.

Happy Kitten said...

Does not absence of values alone contribute to greed and selfishness? The greed to make money by any means and the selfishness in not rewarding the worker who may have toiled hard for you.

Meera Sundararajan said...

He had a unique aspect about him that probably marked him out as a leader - the ability to carry others along with him. Few leaders are like that in today's world

Renu said...

succesful people always..ok not always but most of the time have certain qualities..recognising the talent, keeping them together and happy..

rudraprayaga said...

Here the leaders steer clear off all the hurdles on their way to earn power and penny whatever may be the procedure the adopt.Selfishness and self-centred motives leave room for only dynasty.

Here and there some gems may glitter.

Sand castles mixed with ample mud remain static if the base is strong.

Nice topic and vividly portrayed the content.

Ashwini C N said...

It always pays to trust the right person, but we all know that is not easy. It is one hell of a task to trust someone and pick the right person and another to ensure that they stay challenged and committed.

Tracy Terry said...

How refreshing and especially in a world when so may are in it for themselves, when they are all too ready to place all the blame on others when things aren't going to plan no matter what part they played and yet at the same time are all too quick to take all the credit for themselves.

Usha Menon said...

He was truly a great Man! He treated his subordinates with respect and made them feel important. This is a quality which we rarely find in people who are on top. Your tribute to this great personality is very well crafted.

Shilpa Garg said...

Pretty inspiring! Hallmark of a successful leader and we need more such people with great vision and compassion too.