Sunday, 26 December 2010

Super Hit?

Last week, I had written about corruption and how recent studies on organization behaviour can be used to tackle this menace. And it was pure coincidence that the only Kannada movie that I happened to watch during my month’s stay in Bangalore happened to be on corruption. I was really amazed by the way the movie had been made. If you understand Kannada or have even a little affinity and time to watch a movie, then I suggest that you watch this movie. Everything about the movie is well thought of and well made. I agree that it is overly done in parts and some parts are hard to follow if you haven’t followed the lead protagonist’s earlier movies. But even with all these, the movie still wins because of the style, presentation and the ultimate message it gives out.

Let us start from the title of the movie. Here is the title of the movie as it appears:

Confused? Interested? Amused? Well, you should be. Who makes movies with a title like this? Is this some sort of gimmick? Yes, it is. The movie marks the return of Upendra as director after a gap of 11 years and stars himself in the lead role. Upendra or Uppi as he is popularly called by his fans, has always used titles like these to arouse audience interest right from the word “go” and this movie is no different. In the past, the movies which he has directed have had single letter /single syllable titles like “A”, “OM”, “SHH”, etc and the last movie he directed had his name, ie, “Upendra” as the title. So, his return to direction after a long gap demanded yet another landmark title and he dint disappoint. He just gave the above symbol and asked his fans or the audience to name it. So, what do we call this movie as? A mudra in pranayama? Brilliant? nice? Good? In the censor board’s certificate the movie title is recorded as “Super” and let us stick with that as of now.

Next, we move on to the screenplay and direction of the movie. Uppi is known for his mix up style of narration and use of flashback and fast forwards very notoriously in his movies. In fact, the movie “A” in which he starred himself as an hero had such complex flashbacks that people had to watch it almost 3-4 times to understand. It had the tagline “Srtictly for clever people only”. One more marketing gimmick, you’d say. But it worked to great effect. And he is also popular for shooting movies realistically. His movie “om” used real underworld dons from Bangalore and runs to packed houses in BengLoor theatres even today. So, the screenplay and direction of the movie Super too is on expected lines with story starting from ancient India, moving to 2030 and moving back and forth thereafter. Also famous in Uppi’s movies are his dialogues which are delivered breathlessly. I was left completely speechless by the way some of the dialogues and lyrics were written and delivered. Though people usually criticise him of using too many vulgar and double meaning dialogues, the smartness with which he does so has to be applauded. For instance, he calls the citizens of India “satprajas”. Now, satpraja in Sanskrit is a combination of two words “Sat”, meaning good and “praja” meaning “citizens”. In Kannada, the word “Sath” is also a verb which means “dead”. In a scene where he praises the citizens of the country sarcastically for being uncaring, he calls them “sath praja” with a clear gap between sath and praja (dead citizens). For an ardent admirer of usage of language, this was a treat.

The best part of the movie is the way in which Uppi links two concepts together. There is a story of India on one hand and there is the story of the female lead called Indira(for obvious reasons) on the other. The screenplay is so marvelous that the story of India and the story of Indira go hand in hand and have similar climaxes. In a scene where Indira is attempted to be raped, there is the parallel scene of politicians auctioning off the nation which is nothing but siphoning off all its dignity. In a scene where Indira blames the hero for everything wrong in her life, the people of India are shown to be blaming the politicians for everything wrong in their country and so on. The similarities are striking.

There are boring moments in the movie and places where Uppi’s trademark mannerisms come in to play. It might be too much to take for the class audience but this is just for the frontbenchers. If you haven’t watched a single Uppi movie till now, then there will be few moments where you can just sit back and keep munching pop corn without missing anything, but the first few moments and the last few moments are really worth a watch. Some of the parts give sadistic pleasure when the Whites are shown to do all menial jobs in India and the Indian rupee fetches 80 pounds. The India of 2030 with all super fast trains, excellent roads, world-class airports, etc makes you want to be there right away.

The final part of the movie is what inspired me to write this post as a sequel to the article on corruption. The solution presented is simple – give responsibility to the people rather than politicians. I don’t know if there is a system of governance in the world which does that but it could be called crude democracy. I am sure it has been thought of before. Along with giving responsibility to the people, the solution also emphasizes the point that everyone must know the value of their nation. In the movie, people come to know the exact value of their nation only when their areas are sold off for crores of rupees. It is only that everyone protest the auction and promise to take care of their surroundings themselves instead of the government. Instead of blaming the government, people start cleaning their roads regularly, water the plants on roadside, take up power projects, repair roads, etc. And when this happens, the India of our dreams automatically happens. Though the movie is really optimistic in predicting that this will happen by 2030, I feel this solution, if taken in its essence could be a powerful tool in bringing down the corruption in our nation. This is what the recent studies in organization behavior also indicate.

To summarise, I would say that the movie “super” is as good or if not better than any other movie in its genre like “Nayak”(Hindi), “Indian” (Tamil), “Anniyan”(Tamil), etc. The solution presented is also more realistic than some of the melodramatic Bollywood movies like “jadoo ki jhappi” and “gandhigiri” (I really wish this worked). It also portrays Uppi in a politically active mode which could be a part of his larger plan to enter active politics later. But, for the moment, if you want to enjoy a nice movie with a thought-provoking message, then “Super” is the movie for you. Do let me know your comments on this if you have watched it.

Further Reading:
About Upendra:
The movie Super

Monday, 20 December 2010

Corruption and Organizational Behavior

He had the life that most people only dream of – a post-graduate degree from a prestigious B-School, a high paying job in a famous public sector oil firm, all comforts of life and what not. With his expertise and experience, he could have easily switched his job when he found that conditions were not favorable for him to stay on. His principles did not allow him to do so. But little did he know what fate had in store for him. His unrelenting attitude and tough stance eventually led to the tragic day in the winter of 2005 when he was brutally murdered, sending shock waves across the nation.

This is the story of Shanmugan Manjunath, marketing manager at Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and a post graduate from IIM Lucknow. He had been recruited in the firm through campus placements and had observed the rampant corruption at the pump-stations very early in his job. He was a man of principles and chose to work according to the rule book. He had ordered the shutdown of fuel stations which sold adulterated fuel. Sadly, during one such surprise raid, he was killed by the petrol pump mafia which perceived him as a threat. The news had stayed in the headlines for most part of 2005-06 and there were large scale protests and demands for the petrol pumps selling adulterated fuel to be closed down. However, as most stories in India, even this has disappeared from the public memory.

Corruption in India has reached such overwhelming proportions that every one of us has started to accept it as a way of life here. One of the most troubling question that India as a nation faces during its march to being a world superpower is can it do something to improve this sorry state of affairs? Every day, a new scam is unearthed and new stories are exposed as breaking news and even these incidents have failed to evoke harsh public reaction anymore. India is now 87th among the 178 nations in the world corruption index which is a very ignominious situation to be in.

One reason for such public apathy to the prevalent corruption could be the tedious procedures in our bureaucratic setup. The “
license-raj” which existed during pre-liberalization made matters worse by giving incentives for people who bribed and stayed in close corridors of power. The liberalization of the economy improved things to certain degree but a large part of the nation’s setup still faces this problem. Even today, a motorist on a two-wheeler finds it easier to bribe a traffic policeman a petty amount and escape rather than go through all the procedures of keeping the required documents for his vehicle such as insurance, emission test, driving license, etc. It’s a pain to run from pillar to post in getting most of the government work done and people who are short of time choose to ignore them. This explains why many of the educated working class people in India still do not have voter’s Id cards or the poor turnout in the elections.

Major fallout of the menace of corruption is the growing crime rates. The corrupt politicians and officials will go to any extent to protect their self interests. Thus, there will be a large scale evasion of laws and policies which leads to a chain of criminal activities. One such example is the distribution of licenses for petrol bunks. Since huge bribes are paid to obtain the licenses, the people who obtain them will be forced to sell adulterated fuel or retort to unlawful activities. They will also want to protect their self interests and hence breed local
goondas to eliminate whistle blowers like Shanmugam. This could easily spiral into a huge maze of lawlessness as we has been witnessed in the Laloo ruled Bihar or the current Mayawati regime in Uttar Pradesh.

A more dangerous trend is emerging out of all this – people have started to accept corruption as a way of life. Studies in Organization Behaviour such as the Cognitive dissonance seem to explain this fact. People perceive corruption as beneficial and hence try and rationalize that it is essential for their well-being. Also, studies in group behaviour have shown that there is a high probability that honest people succumb to the greed because of the rampant corruption that exists in the organizations. Maureen McNichols, Professor at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University has conducted extensive research in this area and concluded that even good people would turn bad under the influence of a large group or people. For example, a honest officer who is posted to a place where corruption is rampant has very high chances of turning corrupt himself. Even though, he can resign or expose the scams of others, the perceived risk in such activities is very high as has been shown in cases of Shanmugam and Satyendra Dubey. Thus the officer chooses to play along with the parties becoming involved himself sooner than later. Thus, the scourge of corruption has now grown into a all-engulfing giant which threatens to breakdown the entire administrative machinery of the nation. The recent exposure of Satyam in the multimillion dollar fraud case is all the more threatening as it has tarnished the image of the hitherto unblemished IT sector of India. This just is one more example of the cognitive dissonance where people at the echelons of power have justified their corrupt nature by rationalizing the benefits over the embarrassment of being caught in public.

One more reasoning for the rampant corruption is because of the social setup that exists in the nation. Usually, the bright children in the family get into high positions of fixed salaries or get the love and acceptance of their parents. The dull and illiterate kids usually end up in non main stream professions like party workers or politics. The constant pressure on them to go one-up against their intelligent siblings and earn the acceptance of their parents could be one of the important factors which encourages corruption amongst them. This has been clearly depicted in the yesteryear movies such as
Deewar where the anti-hero is proud of the fact that he has more money than his intelligent, honest brother. It has to be noted here that these are just one plausible sequence of events and need not be assumed to be the same all the time. And with more educated people choosing politics as a profession these days, we can expect a change in this trend.

So, how do we stop this menace or even think of controlling it to some extent? There is no doubt that harsh punishment meted out to the corrupt officers would scare the rest of the lot and thus they would abstain from getting involved. But since that seems far-fetched because of the delay in our judicial system, a more efficient and elegant solution is the need of the hour. There are already organizations which are started in memory of the innocent whistle blowers like Shanmugam and Satyendra which are fighting for the speedy justice and punishment to the guilty. Also, they are rewarding honest officials by numerous awards and thus promoting ethical behaviour. Apart from all these, the recent studies in organization behaviour could come to our aid. According to the Stanford Business Magazine, we can control corruption by taking into account Group power, organizational structure, rationalization and fear and confusion. By emphasizing the fact the whole group would turn against a person who goes corrupt, the organizations can cultivate en environment that is corruption free where people fear to tread in the wrong direction because of the fear of the other group members. This will only be possible if the policy makers are themselves honest and want such a healthy change in the organizations and in nation as a whole. With more and more affluent and educated people entering administrative services, we can expect better policy making and implementation of these measures in the mainstream politics soon.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Top 5 Patriotic Scenes in Bollywood

Patriotism is always a hidden emotion. We are good at expressing feelings like love, sadness, happiness, etc. Pre-independence, the feeling of nationality got expressed in many ways and many forms by our freedom fighters. But patriotism seldom gets a chance to be expressed these days. It is only during the national festivals like today that we see a sudden surge in the patriotic expression in our nation.

Our main film industry – Bollywood has not lagged behind in the display of this emotion. There have been numerous movies that have been made throughout in the course of Bollywood’s long history that have displayed patriotism and have compelled every Indian to think about what their nation means to them. Who can forget the ever-patriotic song “aye mere watan ke logon” by Lata Mangeshkar which brought tears into Nehru’s eyes… Or the “Vande Mataram” by A R Rahman which dominated the 50 years of India theme. There are so many songs and scenes like that. Below, I present five patriotic scenes from movies which have had a great impact on me in the recent days. It is to be noted that this list is in no way exhaustive and there could be many more scenes which could have made it here. This is just my individual opinion

Top 5:

At fifth place are the scenes from the movie
Rang De Basanti(2007). Though I cannot pick one scene from the movie and claim that to be “the” patriotic scene, there are quite a few scenes, especially the ones using the monochrome yellow background to show historical figures like Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Chandrashekar Azad and Bhagat Singh. The way the screenplay shifts between present and past heroes is brilliantly done and it definitely raises this question of relevance of yesterday’s revolutionaries in shaping the youth of today.

Top 4:

At fourth place is the scene from the movie
Lakshya(2004). Like any other confused Indian youth, Karan (Hrithik) is directionless and lives a lazy life. On an impulse, he decides to join army and can barely survive the rigorous training for a day. He comes back to his girl friend who doesn’t want to stay with him because he cannot respect his own decisions. Dejected and humiliated, Karan returns to the training camp with a renewed vigour. The way he goes on pursuing his training and makes a contribution to the nation is really inspiring and induces patriotism. As like the previous, even this doesn’t describe a particular scene but the scene where he says to his girlfriend what his goal in life can be considered as the defining moment of the movie.

Top 3:

At third place we have the famous and controversial scene from the movie
Roja(1992) – the “dousing the flame on flag” scene. Arvind Swamy who works for cryptology department of the Indian government is sent to Kashmir for some classified work for the armed forces. He is captured by some terror groups who demand the release of a notorious terrorist and an independent Kashmir. When in captivity, Rishi (Arvind) finds out about the activities of the people and their operations. When the Govt refuses to release the terrorist, one of the members in the kidnappers gang tries to provoke Rishi by burning the national flag. The way Rishi tries to douse the flames on the flag in spite of being handcuffed and attacked by so many people is a real inspiration.

Top 2:

At second place is the scene from “
Chak De India(2007)” where the coach (SRK) introduces himself and starts the training for the Indian Women’s hockey team. Each person in the team introduces herself by saying her name and the name of the state from where she comes from. Kabir Khan dismisses them from the team one after the other until the goalie Vidya says “Vidya Sharma, INDIA”. He makes her repeat the line again and again and then tells that each one of the team member is an Indian first and then whatever they want to. It has a message for all us – that we have to put our nation first in all our thinking. It has a lot of relevance for today’s situation where regional divide between people is used by the politicians to fuel tensions among the people. Every one of us is Indian first and then we can choose our identity based on our preferences.

The Top Scene:

The moving train full of people comes to a slow halt at a small station called “Ajite”. A boy runs along with the train carrying a kettle of water and shouts “paani lo paani” to the passengers. No one seems to hear him but he keeps on shouting “paani lo paani pachees paise mein ek glass”, pleading people to buy water from him. The reason no one buys water from him is that even they are poor themselves and cannot afford to spend on something like water. Looking through the train’s window, the boy notices the lead protagonist Mohan who is already feeling depressed about the state of his nation. He asks him to buy water to which the protagonist immediately obliges. And then, something wonderful happens – the NRI, rich man, one of the few privileged in the nation who has never drank anything other than bottled water all his life takes water in the mud-pot from the boy and drinks it. Tears fill his eyes when he is done. The scene sums up the ultimate divide and almost the entire state of the nation. Brilliant!

This is the scene from the movie “
Swades (2004)”. Not many would agree with me when I say this is a brilliantly made movie. For example, the scene which I described about just now could have easily been done away with. It was not required in the lengthy movie. But it is the scenes such as these which make the movie inspiring and patriotic. Mohan goes to a village to ask for money from a farmer Haridas who had taken loan from his maa samaan Kaveriamma. But when he hears about the plight of the farmers who suffer from injustice in his nation, he is deeply hurt. Instead of recovering money from Haridas, Mohan gives some money to him and returns. He keeps thinking about the sorry state of a nation which has everything in it for everyone but still only a few lucky ones enjoy it while others toil hard and suffer. It is during this juncture that we are presented with his awesome scene and I rate it as the “best patriotic scene in Hindi cinema”

Well, now you have read through my favourite scenes, what do you think? Do you think if there could be anything more? Do let me know. Once again, I wish you all a very happy independence day!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Kaun Jeeta Kaun Haara

The breaking news was being telecast just now on TV – the IPL has been moved out of AP because of security issues. So there will be no matches in Hyderabad this season, this inspite of the fact that the Deaccan team is the current title holder. If you thought this was an insult, just wait until you hear the venues to which it has been re-located to – Nagpur and Mumbai, the safest of all cities in India right now!

Coming to the issue of Mumbai, what has been happening over there in the past few days is pathetic to say the least. A few people who belong to a party which has lost the public vote very badly are holding the entire city to ransom in the name of protecting the Maratha pride. They welcome the general secretary of the ruling party with black flags, burn the posters of a national icon in front of his residence, and even abuse the chief minister of the state and even set him up on a date with the neighboring hostile nation on Valentines Day by calling him a ‘Pak lover’.

Ok, so the big news last week was not about the rising food prices or the question of whether to increase the petroleum prices or not. The issues at hand were not about whether you should eat a genetically modified brinjal or not. It was whether the movie “My name is Khan” would release in India’s entertainment capital or not. And the news channels were full of it – whether SRK would apologise to the Sena or not, whether the multiplexes would dare the Sena and release the movie or not – even the highest paid PR/publicity guys could not generate as much interest in the movie as the last week’s stand-off between SRK and Sena did.

The movie has finally opened. Mumbaikars have braved all odds and thronged multiplexes and theaters to catch a glimpse of their favorite on-screen Jodi after many years. The praise for the movie is everywhere. And I am sure it will go on to become one of the biggest grossing movie in recent times. The media are projecting it as a victory for the SRK clan and a defeat for the Sena. SRK says it is the people of Mumbai who won. So who actually won and who lost?

At the end of the day, it is just people who managed to make money who won. Emotions have no place in either politics or business. So, all the people out there in controversy were just seeing how to turn the situation to their advantage. Firstly, Shahrukh – he owned an IPL team himself. If he was really keen on giving representations to Pak players, he should have selected atleast one player in his team. We all now know that their team’s “Requirements” were already met. But, the truth is like everyone else, even KKR felt that investing in a Pak player would mean losing money because of uncertainty. And thus, they chose not to buy a player. But Shahrukh chose to make his agony public. And this gave his movie the publicity nothing could ever give. It is as simple as that – Neither naming the movie with his surname nor his pairing with Kajol after nearly a decade could have given the film as big an opening as it has got now. The Sena, on the other side, which has lost power in Maharashtra and Mumbai, wanted to assert its position and saw some gains in attacking Shahrukh. So, by abusing the country’s national icons and the chief-minister of the state, they claim even they too have won.

And who lost in all the drama? It was the brand of Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital. Businesses and entertainment industries already are thinking about moving to greener pastures because of the never-ending bashing by political parties which name their newspappers as "Forward" and take the nation in exactly the opposite direction. Non-Marathi people in Mumbai are living in fear of being attacked. The commoner in Mumbai still suffers because the mundane are issues are being pushed to the sidelines because of all the drama on the front pages. This incident has just re-inforced the fact that – at the expense of the common man, the politicians and the businessmen make merry.

And why did I bring up the “IPL snubbing Hyderabad” news at the beginning of this post? This is to again re-iterate the summary of the last paragraph. Whether or not a new state of Telangana is created, the maximum gainers in the whole episode will be the so-called leaders of the people and protectors of the Telugu pride and the losers ultimately will be the citizens of Hyderabad whose life comes to a standstill every second day because of the bandh, the poor cricket loving people in AP who will miss the all the IPL action this year and the aam-aadmis like you and me :-(

1. I feel IPL has a jinx in that no city which wins it will get to host matches in the coming year. Jaipur dint get it in 2009 and Hyderabad has missed it in 2010. If this is the case, it is best that Bangalore finish runners up this year too. Atleast we will get to see some matches over here :-)

2. I have assumed the meaning of "Saamna" to be "forward" for the sake of flow of thought. The actual meaning in Hindi is close to "in forefront" and I have no idea what it means in Marathi. Anyone who knows is welcome to comment and let me know

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Republic Day Post

A few days back there was this controversial issue in Belgaum between the MNS and pro-Kannada organizations. The MNS felt that since they held power in the Belgaum city council, the building should hoist the Maharashtra flag or the “Maratha” flag. The pro-Kannada organizations were dead against this. They argued that only Karnataka flag could be hoisted on top of the council since Belgaum was an integral part of Karnataka. Both the parties were relentless in their stand and this led to violence and unrest in the region. The battle was taken to many local courts, district level courts, Karnataka high court and finally to the supreme court of India. The Supreme Court’s verdict was outright, clean and clear – “if any flag was to be hoisted on top of a government office, it obviously had to be the flag of the union of India

For all the parties who were involved in heated debate against which flag was to be hoisted, the verdict was a tight slap in the face. But the summary of the verdict is even bigger. It is slap in the face for all the politicians across the nation who try continuously to divide the nation along regional, linguistic or caste based lines. It is big slap in the face for the clan of Thackerays who say people from other states are unwelcome in their city because the city belongs to them; a slap in the face for all those who say they need more states because that will help them get their own identity in a nation which is already flooded with an ocean of misguided identities.

The union of India was declared a republic state on the 26th of January 1950, exactly 60 years ago on this day. We all pledged that ours would be a nation where the governance was “by the people, for the people, and of the people”, we would be the largest democratic nation in the world with every citizen of the nation having a right to choose his/her leader. A verbose constitution or the rule of the land amounting to 90,000 words had already been penned down beautifully by the finest intellectuals of our land. It had the best parts from many countries and some features unique to itself. Inspite of our cultural, regional, linguistic differences we would demonstrate unity. All the other identities like our religion, race, caste, language would come a far second compared to the national identity.

But even after sixty years of being a republic nation, the very multiple identities continue to haunt us. People still demand a separate state because their region needs a different identity than others; native people in the country’s largest city consider few people “outsiders” who come to take away what belongs to them; religious fanatics still believe that government is acting against the interest of the majority community and indulge in large scale communal violence; river water that flows across states is constantly disputed as belonging to the state of origin leading to chaos in downstream states… the list goes on endlessly. We see new cases like these emerge almost everyday.

Our constitution was framed by borrowing the best from all the parts of the world. It is one of the finest written rule of law in the world with clear demarcation between the powers of legislature, executive and the judiciary. It also controls the power of the central and state governments clearly. In spite of having such a finely written constitution with us, the reason we are still lacking unity and development is because of the short-sightedness of our leaders. We have created a form of governance where it is easy for our political class to keep us divided and get votes without taking any steps towards betterment of the nation. The collective will of the rulers as well as the people towards a developed nation is missing today.

Putting national interest ahead of any other vested interest is one of the foremost requirement in today’s scenario. Especially the leaders who use the emotions of the people to trigger violence and spread unrest must realize this first – progress can happen only if we stand united in spite of all diversities and not by demanding segregated development of isolated communities. Be it the Thackerays of Maharashtra who want to deny taxi permits to non-marathas, the TRS who want to have a separate state for sake of a political identity – everyone should realize that true growth and development can happen only when it is inclusive, ie, each and every citizen in the country feels part of the whole and willfully participates in the nation-building process.

On this occasion of India’s 61st republic day, we all should introspect on the reasons that have hindered progress in the nation and give a nice, tight slap in the face to all those who are against the unity of whole nation. I wish that we reach reach our rightful place at the top of the world soon. I hope to write more on issue of nation-states in the coming days. But for now, I just wish you all a Happy republic day! Jai Hind

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Ma Phaleshu kadaachana !

The field is ready for a great battle. The people on the other side are all your kith and kin. And yet, you need to fight them for the sake of your own dharma, to reclaim what is rightfully yours. But the champion warrior in your team is reluctant. He is filled with deep emotion at the thought of slaying his own grandpa in whose lap he played as a child, his own guru who taught him how to hold weapons, his own brothers with whom he grew up. He is toying with the idea of leaving everything else and running away to do penance. What do you do?

It is exactly at this point of time, the lord of the universe comes in the form of your friend and charioteer and guides you with lessons so powerful, so true that the whole world admires even to this day. It is during one of such lessons, he comes up with these magical lines:

Karmanyeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadachana |
Maa karma phale hEturbhoo maa te saMgostvakarmani ||
{Bhagavad-Gita 2.47}

Yes, these lines are taken from the holy Bhagavad-Gita given to us from the lord himself. When Arjuna was in a dilemma whteher to fight his own kin or flee from the battlefield, Lord Krishna gave him these words of wisdom. The Bhagavad-Gita is a treasure house of knowledge. Each and every shloka in it is truly a masterpiece and its teachings are valid even to this day. But sadly, most of the teachings are often misinterpreted either because of utter ignorance or failing to see the larger scheme of things.

For instance, let us consider the above shloka itself. It is literally translated thus – “You have rights to perform your karma (duty) but not entitled to its results. Never consider you are the cause of the results, and never wrest from doing what is your true duty”. It is very easy to interpret this as “You are not entitled to the fruits of your action” and many people actually do so. They fail to perform their actions in full faith and blame it on fate/almighty when things don’t bear expected results. A student does not study well for the exam and then says after the exam that he has no control over the result. A team does not give its full commitment to a project and then say they are not really responsible for anything going wrong.

This is actually only half truth and not the real meaning of the verse. In this world where everyone thinks “what’s in it for me?” it is impossible not to think of the results of your actions. And it is imperative that we should always be concerned about our actions and even be responsible for it. What we should not be thinking is about how the verdict is delivered. This is a little complex to understand. So let me make it clear with few examples.

A student’s action is to study hard for the examination and put in his best effort. He should always aim for the highest rank while preparing for the exam. He cannot give up preparation thinking that external factors (like erratic evaluation, competition, etc) might influence his result. But at the same time, he should not be too dejected if he does not get the rank that he aimed for due to some external factors. The preparation and the efforts that he has put in will definitely help him in some way or the other. Similarly, a cricket team must always enter the playing arena hoping for a win. They cannot be thinking of their tough opposition, weaknesses, past records, pitch conditions, etc which will influence the result. If they give their 100% and still lose the game, the effort that they put in will definitely help the team in the long term. At work, you should always give your best in delivering a project on time, regardless of whether the client will ultimately take it or not. The efforts you put in will definitely be recognized and help you in your career. In short, the result of your actions will come in ways that you might not expect. And yet, you will always be rewarded for your efforts.

Now that we know a better interpretation of the shloka, let us try and understand the context in which the shloka was delivered. While asking Arjuna to concentrate only on his duty and not on the results, the lord was referring to the results with regard to “moksha”, i.e., liberation of the soul. Not even for one moment did Arjuna or the lord think that they were going to lose the war. They were surely confident of a win in the war. Not even for a moment did Arjuna doubt whether the arrows shot from his bow would kill the target or not. He was concerned only about the long-term result of his actions, i.e., whether the killing of his own kin would grant him moksha or not. So, the actual result which the lord asks us to be ignorant about is not the results of our short term actions. It is the ultimate result in life for which we all crave for – the truth of life or salvation when we become free from the happenings of the world.

So, the next time you say that you are not responsible for your actions because the Gita says so, please be forewarned - The Gita never said it. It was your interpretation which made you think so.

1. The example of a student is taken to be that of a boy just for ease of explanation. It could as well be a girl.
2. The vast amount of knowledge contained in the Gita has been hotly debated/criticised/praised due to its various connotations. This explanation reflects the author's simple understanding of the lines. There can always be better interpretations.