The news of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka claiming to be a fighter as he was born a ‘Kshatriya’ on an issue of corporate governance has been a revelation . It’s unfortunate when a leader makes such statements, since already as a society we are suffering sufficiently under the misinformed definitions of the caste system. Clearly the Indian corporate world itself hasn’t given up on its ‘roots’. The number of times I’ve been asked this question be it an interview or a team dinner. “But who are you? What are Chandras? They’re not from around here”. Really, we’re from the moon how much more explicit do we need to get earthling!
Here’s the thing, influenced by a radical thinking friend of my dad and after experimenting with using my moms surname, as a teen I decided to completely drop it altogether. Instead I took the second half of my father’s name because I liked it. My parents are non religious, non dogmatic but spiritual people who allowed us sizeable freedom when it came to not pandering to meaningless societal mores. As kids we weren’t taught about our race, but we were taught about Yoga, about food and Ayurveda, about morality and ethics, about Karma. We were tasked to read Emerson’s essays and Napoleon Hill. I learnt the concept of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas long before I heard anything about the Varnas. We were given philosophical books, we could have as many discussions about religion but were never asked to follow what my parents did. Though we had to meditate before sleeping but there were no rules, just sit and think about God. As much as we were grumpy about it back then, I’m grateful for that education, for that foundation, for discipline, for spirituality without religion, for knowledge without caveats. We’re still not on their path and we aren’t questioned. Ironically it was only after I took my first job at a multinational bank that I had to find this answer for who I was, caste-ly speaking. Not my education, not my work, not the person who stood there, but to “Who are you?”.
Not just the corporate world but these beliefs even spread, ironically, to supposed havens of spiritual learning. During a recent stay at a well renowned ashram in South India, I encountered people separated by nationalities by the management, creating mini-countries with-in the community and Karma Yoga duties assigned keeping up with the same bias. Westerners in white collar jobs, Iranians serving Tea and Indians cleaning toilets or sweeping. Whether it is allocation of work as per nationality or allocation of personality as per last name – the sense of entitlement based on geography is no different from this sense of pride based on birth, both are equally regressive.
In my journey as I’m getting exposed to the original teachings of Yoga which weave through a lot of ‘Indian Spirituality’ I realize they are highly ethical, intellectual as well as scientific – not an iota of dogma. I’m in awe of the wisdom that the ancients have left us with and the sheer simplicity with which we can start implementing it in our life-no matter who we are. But I see the true meaning of the Yoga Sutras being forgotten by modern materialism and Yoga being reduced to a purely physical practice. I can’t help but draw parallels that the true meaning of Varna system also has been misinterpreted. Because those who give us such wisdom on one had cannot leave us with such a narrow world view on the other. We as a lineage are perhaps truly lost in translation. After all it’s human nature that what’s easy and doesn’t require effort becomes more popular; that which requires energy or application of thought gets lost behind pointless shortcuts. It’s easier to donate some money and buy good morals in this ironic trade of karmic retribution. Its easier to oppress, boss around, manipulate than it is to work, serve and love. Because the return on investment of putting in the effort is not material credits but that you get closer to becoming a good person, more aware of yourself and those around you.
Today there’s more superstition than true practice. More rituals than wisdom. More words than action. More convenience than discipline. I wish next time people feel the urge to ask someone “Who are you?”, they’d just flip it around, sit on a folded blanket and ask themselves “Who am I?”. Because all our philosophy talks about is Oneness. Unity. Self realization so there’s no duality or multiplicity. There’s no you or I. No Kshatriya or Brahmin. No mine and yours. We’re all but one, cut from the same fabric, breathing the same air, surviving on the same Prana, just on different paths that lead to the same goal. Our path and our true purpose is not defined by which house or family we were born in, but what we make of ourselves. The fire we go through in our lives and where our efforts lead us. Else there will be many a hearts of steel (Kshatriya?) and many intellectuals (Brahmins?) born in the wrong houses with wrong last names.
I’m no expert because this subject of caste groups isn’t of any interest to me, but my very limited understanding was that the Kshatriyas were there to protect Dharma, not to fight for personal gains. And the intent to fight for your interests is very different from the intent to protect the universal good. And with the question here being on Corporate Governance, may this Kshatriya fight on the side of truth.
#VishalSikka #Infosys #Kshatriya #CorporateGovernance