Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Monday, November 21, 2011

152. Wrong Corner

Very rarely we agreed, and it was one of those occasions.

By ‘we’ I mean me and my organization. We always had different perspectives and hence different priorities. What I thought most important was neglected by my organization and what my organization thought of prime importance was almost always very insignificant to me.

Still we co-existed and did rather well together – I have never understood the mystery of why and how.

The organization was celebrating its 40th year of consistent existence. There was a gala function arranged. Employees coming from all the corners of the country were engrossed in thematic review, sharing experiences, documenting learning, strategic planning etc.

The agreement I had talked about earlier was: Gender Integration is an important topic to be discussed in this historic meeting. 

Somehow the responsibility of discussing Gender Integration came to me. I was not very high up on the ladder – for obvious reasons – but still I was given the responsibility. Maybe there were two reasons, there was no one else who had enough experience of working on this theme with strong field perspective and I was the self-declared champion for the cause. It was kind of TINA situation – There Is No Alternative. So, I was there – chosen one!

Boss A told me to prepare a power point presentation. I asked him about the objective of the presentation. He was clueless – as all Bosses are. He said, “B has suggested your name. Maybe you should talk to him.” Naturally, B was A’s boss.

I spoke to B. First of all, B did not understand what I was asking. Secondly, he did not remember. Third, he was not ready to take any responsibility of such a sensitive topic.  B politely requested me (he was always polite with me), “Why don’t you discuss with C?”

Yes, you go it right. C was B’s boss.

C was out of town. I called. He diplomatically said, “Ah! You are the expert on the topic. You know everything about it. Why do you want to test me?” Then he added, “You know the best, so go ahead with whatever you feel would be right for the occasion.” C had always given me such freedom – he knew that when left free, I gave my best.

Taking into consideration the importance of the event I prepared a power point presentation. I prepared well giving a lot of thought on what to include, what to emphasize and what to exclude. I took pains to elaborate basic concepts, evolution of the theme in the organization (historical journey), milestones, strengths, challenges, possible areas of integration, programmatic and structural actions required, desired changes at personal, institutional and methodological levels etc. I had ample examples from the field and knowing the audience I had kept the language very simple - avoiding technical terms as far as possible. Instead of focusing on weaknesses, I also focused on strengths – kind of ‘we can do it’ message – which was right for the occasion.

I was aiming to reach out to my colleagues working in remote corners of the country, who were actually spending more time with communities than in meetings. I knew that if I could sensitize them; if I could appeal to them; if I could motivate them - half of my work would be done. Dignitaries including senior officials and board of trustee members were present but they were not my target audience. I had interacted with them earlier too on different platforms. I knew them well enough and was aware that they won’t be affected by my speech. Institutional Change many times comes from bottom up – building from below is the right strategy. Especially, when building from top is more challenging.

As most of my colleagues were more comfortable with Hindi rather than English – I had my slides in English but I spoke in Hindi. I spoke for about half an hour. When it was over, everybody clapped. People appreciated. Some came near me and congratulated. Some patted. Some said, “We knew you would do well” .. ……. .. So many responses.

One of my colleagues, whom I did not know so well, came to me. A group of four to five people joined him on the way. Another group joined. It was as if a crowd was attacking me from all sides. They came from different corners.

One very senior colleague said, “Your speech was excellent.”

I politely said “Thank You” – feeling happy that I have at last reached their heart.

“A real good speech”, added another. Many nodded.

When appreciation pours in, I always know there is some problem. I was waiting to have debate at any moment.

“You know what I liked most about your speech?” another one.

How could I know? I smiled.

“You delivered the speech in perfect Hindi. You never spoke a single English word. That was so beautiful. You have such a command on Hindi – I never knew……”

And they all started praising me for my language skills. 

I was completely baffled.  I did not know whether to be happy for this unexpected impact or to be sad for having failed in generating expected results.

I had reached no doubt but reached at a wrong corner. 


  1. जंगलातली सभा असली
    कि प्रत्येकजण
    नीट लक्ष देतो,
    कारण त्यांचं जग मारामारीचं असतं,
    आणि जगण्याचा प्रश्न असतो ....
    सुधारलेले मेंदूवाले
    हुशार मानव ,
    सिंहाला खूष करण्यासाठी
    सभेला येतात,
    आणि जगण्या बद्दलचे दोन शब्द
    उडत उडत
    त्यांच्या डोक्यावरून दूर जातात.
    त्यांना दिसत ही नसतं
    आणि ऐकू ही येत नसतं .
    तरी आम्ही हुशार !

  2. hmmm.... well am sure it must been cause of all what you mentioned, and these days, not many can speak in good hindi, so thy myt have been shocked initially :)

  3. But your target group, those persons who work in communities, what did they say? May be they were shy to express themselves but they have heard you!

  4. सुरंगाताई, ब-याच गोष्टी वरवर करण्याकडे आपला कल असतो खरा!

  5. Menachery, yes, they too had 'unexpected'result I guess!

  6. Suniljee, maybe I reached some of them .. some time later!

  7. :)
    I think you did reach the right corner.... but it was you "way" of reaching out that took applause...
    Applause comes only when you "reach" them....
    And "People from Corners" never get up and applaud just because you speak well....its the first row that claps for everyone!

  8. Anu, I would love to think that I reached .. but alas, I know I have not! Does not matter. There is always another time and another place!

  9. I will say an applause is an applause... no matter the deeper logic behind it!

    But yes I can understand how one would feel unsettled when such a sort of thing would happen... well, better luck next time ehh!


    PS: A lot of grammatical and spelling errors in the post... quite unlike you!!!

  10. Aashish, thanks for your feedback on grammar .. will look into it and correct the mistakes soon! Give me a few days as presently I am traveling and have a limited net access.

  11. Aashish, I consulted a friend and made some minor corrections. Beyond that if you have anything more to suggest about grammar, kindly write to me at aativas@gmail.com. I would like to make any other corrections that are required.


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