‘Once bitten, twice shy,' goes a proverb. Sometimes, extreme caution results in inaction with disastrous consequences. You might have come across several instances in everyday life when a delayed decision has been the cause of irretrievable loss.

The doctor's dilemma in the administration of medicine or performance of a surgery is a case in point. The pilot's indecision to make a landing or divert can result in an aircrash. The field commander's reluctance to give timely orders may wipe out his platoon under enemy fire. The batsmen's hesitation in deciding a run may leave them stranded. “Justice delayed, is justice denied, isn't it?”

In the days of yore, the kings were firm and forthright in rendering justice without fear or favour. The legendary Manuneedhi Cholan, the Chola king, ran the chariot over his son to offset the killing of a calf and rendered justice to its mother. Never did he waver from his duty. Unfortunately, these days those in authority who have to be decisive dilly dally and delay the decision resulting in a calamity.

I happened to work in a public sector under a chief executive who was never sure of himself. Steeped in self-doubt, he would procrastinate in giving the nod for proposals put across to him. Being the regional head, his official sanction was mandatory. In an industry where every passing minute was sacrosanct, his indecisiveness and rethink negated the purpose and frustrated his subordinates no end.

In the latter part of his tenure, he found an escape route. All the proposals should be first routed through his second in command, Mr. Mohandas. Only after his clearance would he give his concurrence, subsequently. This scheme of things was introduced not as a matter of protocol but to safeguard himself from future consequences.

When we used to brief him on the developments from time to time he would pose, “has it been okayed by Mr. Mohandas?” spontaneously. Over time, it became a part of his personality. His wife and other family members too were aware of this trait. He preferred to be a ‘de jure than a de facto', in short. Like “the burnt child that dreads the fire”, he despised giving directions suo moto. Subordinates, fearing his acid tongue and transfer threats, chose to keep a distance from him. His acts of omission were more conspicuous than commission.

Superannuating at 58, he preferred a quiet life with his family. Eager to help his wife on the domestic chores, he offered to prepare the breakfast on day one after retirement. He said, “Dear, you have been at the kitchen all these years and I was busy all along. Now let me at least prepare breakfast for you to begin with.” His wife was little amused at this benevolent offer. Giving a cursory and indifferent glance, she continued to read the newspaper. Our ex-chief continued, “Ok, besides the toast, Shall I prepare omelette or boiled eggs, honey?”

Not lifting her eyes from the newspaper, she curtly replied, “Did you ask Mohandas on that?”

The ‘service return' was too hot to handle I suppose. The eggs, bread and butter dropped to the floor. He was bowled, “lock, stock and barrel.”

(The writer's email ID is manohar757@gmail.com)

Keywords: human interest

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