Academician and author Debashis Chatterjee culls out 18 sutras from The Gita for modern-day professionals
Debashis Chatterjee seeks to blur the seemingly antithetic. Strict compartments can soften to embrace the other freely, whether managerial and artistic, material and spiritual, socialist and capitalist, or arts and science. “A tree is a marvellous act of engineering yet a thing of beauty,” he says.
Debashis himself is a specimen of these contradictions at ease. He went to a medical school before pursuing his masters in English from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Then he sprinted across streams and temperament for a research fellowship from the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, before leaving for Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Now, as the director of an artistically built Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, in his expansive room upon a hill looking over pristine greenery, Debashis moulds young men and women for business and marks The Gita as the touchstone for business professionals.Dualities in his world are feeble. He dribbles with numbers one moment and views processes as a whole at another. India will be the economic superpower to beat by 2050, says Debashis. “Look at the world. The United States is talking protectionism, Europe is moving towards socialism and Soviet Russia has turned capitalist.”
Timeless Leadership — 18 Leadership Sutras from The Bhagavad Gita from Wiley India is Debashis’s latest work. His earlier books Break Free and The Other 99% were voices of an insider picking out the frailties of the corporate world, but Timeless Leadership marks an evolution, an attempt to correct and start afresh. Through books, he says, he attempts to understand himself and also find others who are trying to find themselves.
The connections between business studies, management and The Gita do not appear far-fetched to Debashis. Those who work for companies in today’s world are no less than warriors, he says. To him, they deserve to be warriors when they war over market share and mind space equipped with a vital ingredient — truth.
An active player
Debashis remains a player in the rings. He is not going to give it all up for the Himalayas, he jokes. “I sit on the board of several multinational companies and also run a prominent business school.”
Yet when he banks on The Gita, a text which he says should be the book of life rather than the book of death, to lay down 18 sutras that make a good leader, he is redefining the ways of running business. “In The Mahabharatha the battle is between dharma and adharma,” he says, drawing parallels to similar battles raging in the corporate sector. “Episodes like Satyam and Enron are effects of corporate disorder, and disorder is largely in perception,” he says. Duryodhana, for him, is quite the land grabber, like the corporate houses which reap billions from the land while cutting out its original trustees and giving back nothing to the Earth.
“The disorder is set right in the mind. To find a solution we should move towards our natural self rather than our acquired self that focuses on greed,” he says. For Debashis it is about doing business with a conscience. “We have to realign, create a new paradigm,” he adds, advocating a move away from increments, immediate praise, and peanuts for monkeys approach.
Banking on truth
A business based on wrong building material will hit road blocks quickly, he says adding there are very few endeavours here that have survived for over three generations. If he constantly uses the term “leadership” in his discourse, he says, “It is a metaphor for bringing out the best in people, to reach the highest point of natural order, and it is the opposite to dealership.”
“I am not quarrelling against the ethos of business,” says Debashis, “but no ideology when it quarrels with truth can survive.”