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Saturday, 16 May 2020


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 REAL-TIME SUCCESS                                                                                                                                     N. JAYARAMAN

Much to my chagrin, I have often come across instances when some  people interacting with me choose to subconsciously place me at an elevated level, absolutely not  commensurate  with  my present worth, intellectual or physical,  if any. I guess, by virtue of  the position  I might have occupied, once upon a time,  by default,  in one or two  organizations,  for a certain time, people tend to do so, which does not, ipso facto, contribute anything to my inner worth or IQ. That would have remained stagnant at a particular point or rather declined with advancing age, medical side effects or God knows what.  

It is also not necessary that all those people, who have something to do or not to do with me, have to be compared with me, on one parameter or the other, every now and then. But on certain occasions, consciously or otherwise, this practice is resorted to by people, whether it serves them any purpose or not. Perhaps, it has something to do with some psychological issues, which I am not sure of. It is not of much concern to me though it might be to some others, presumably.

I sometimes think that irrespective of the inherent merit or worth of individuals, people in the middle-class bracket particularly; pursue different activities or vocations just to eke out their living with comfort and happiness. Some choose a particular field, by default, which suits them and some pursue a course which neither suits them nor do they like it and keep changing till they find themselves in a quandary, to start again from square one. There are plenty of examples. Like for instance, someone succeeds as a sportsperson, someone does not. Someone succeeds as a Lawyer, someone does not. So on and so forth.

What prompted me to write this piece is that the other day, I sent a small mail to an old friend of mine, remembering and appreciating his long and old association with me and thanking him for being a good friend in good and bad times. He wrote back thanking me profusely and also stating that he was obliged to be in the company of a senior official   (he doesn’t know how stupid I was though somewhat improved now, with greying hairs, I believe !) being his friend, though he is pretty small, in comparison and all those things. In the heart of hearts, I know that both of us are more or less equally educated and probably have the same level of IQ, with a rider that if a competitive exam is conducted tomorrow, on a professional subject, probably he would beat me squarely in that without any doubt. Hope, no authority is listening, for if they really do it, I am pretty sure all those so-called Executives, occupying cozy corner cabins,   would be exposed beyond recognition, just like me, because the juniors in the field would knock them down in every single Department, e.g. batting, bowling or fielding, even umpiring.  But what prompted him to place me on a superior scale is just by virtue of my retiring at a somewhat better level than him, which might have happened due to multiple, inexplicable factors not related to merit alone, which I firmly affirm, I am far away from. The reason is not far to seek.  I might have made use of some opportunities or freebies for upward movement which he would have shrugged off due to some compelling reasons, if not by choice.  But people just do what their heart dictates without really knowing what is right and what is not. It is just providence that guides every individual to do what he does at a given point of time and for those who believe in Karma, it is what rules the roost.

Ending one’s career in a lower or higher rank is not all that counts in one’s life. Maybe it is an ego satisfying tool and gives a sense of accomplishment in the materialistic world, which is a transitory phenomenon. The appreciation and the accolades received from friends and society may add to the aura of the individual undoubtedly, but where it will end up no one can predict. At this point, it may be relevant to draw upon Peter Principle, an accepted concept in Management which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their ‘level of incompetence’. An employee is promoted based on his success in previous jobs until he reaches a level at which he no longer remains competent, as skills in one job do not translate to another. The theory further explains that an Executive keeps on moving upwards up to a level, where he stops growing, and maybe his productivity tends to decline or the quality of output declines. Though this cannot be generalized, nevertheless the theory works in a large number of targets based Corporates and is a part of the curriculum. In our country, it is not uncommon to find cases where CMDs and EDs have had to vacate offices or given the pink slips due to omissions or commissions or both. In some cases, Investigative Agencies run the extra mile to prove or investigate allegations, even when they don’t smell a rat. And the whole country is agog with fabricated stories, duly compounded by the exuberant media, the anchors of some of which keep howling, 24/7: ‘the country wants to know….’

On the other hand, when we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs like Food, Shelter, etc. Self-Actualization comes at the end, which one can achieve at a point when one can put a cap on one’s needs and wants or can crystallize where to put a full stop.  Self-Actualization enhances the well-being of the individual which is the sine qua non for a satisfied and meaningful life. That varies from person to person. I would like to mention the instance of a friend who was a Supervisor in an MNC.  But his children were gems of students who excelled as Gold Medalists in MBBS and Engineering and later became Research Scholars in Ivy League Colleges in the US.  I also know of the son of another retired GM of a Bank, whose son was after his father’s money after his retirement. So it all depends. No one-size-fits-all formula applies.

We have also witnessed that success of an individual is different from the success of a family. For instance, a person might have reached the pinnacle of success or glory, but his ward might be languishing to find a foothold in the corporate corridor or in any other field, even after several attempts.  At the same time, it is not uncommon to find that the son or daughter of a vegetable vendor or an Auto driver has qualified as an IAS and getting posted as DM.  I know one Doctorate in Economics who retired as a Scale One Officer from a nationalized bank, but his son was a celebrated IFS Officer. Therefore, can it be said that his knowledge or IQ was any lesser than the super bosses he was reporting to from time to time for over three decades. It is altogether another matter that his articles used to be published in leading world magazines. There are some qualified Officers like CAs, Cost Accountants and Engineers from prestigious Colleges, who retire from relatively lower ranks in comparison with simple graduates in Humanities who make it to the top positions, which does not guarantee extraordinary caliber, to the best of my understanding.

Now, reverting to the original issue, merely on the basis of an individual reaching a particular rank in the management echelon does not necessarily add any intrinsic value to his faculty, which remains almost constant at a level at which he would have finished his  education or joined the organization, in a junior or senior capacity, leave aside the experience part.  What happens afterward is just a matter of chance or accident or opportunity or destiny or all of them combined, including some more invisible factors.

The same way, we have often seen highly capable and qualified people, retiring in relatively lower ranks. But I am sure, they know their priorities. They focus on better health, steady income, peace of mind, better family dispensation, concentrate on education of their children and become successful in their own ways.  

The fundamental issue  is  how to attain  Self Actualization which is the most important factor and once one can find it at whatever stage of life, satisfaction ensues, which cannot be evaluated in terms of status or height or weight or complexion or any such mundane matter or influenced by any external force.

Again, just because someone is not in the rat race cannot be interpreted as a case of ineligibility or incompetence or even negligence. Similarly, it cannot be assumed that all people reaching the top Executive positions reach there solely on the basis of proven competence or excellence in their previous career path, without any exception. While the    Mountaineers, who scale mighty peaks, make and break records, nobody remembers the Sherpas, let alone hail them. Nevertheless, they prefer remaining calm and quiet as the untiring navigators of the treacherous mountains. They are also loved, perhaps, in some folklore poems….!    In those hills……!!


N. JAYARAMAN / 10.05.2020 / KOLKATA

98314-12836 /

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Italy's Floating City

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Vienna to Venice

On the last day of our stay at Vienna, we had moved to an apartment closer to Wien Meidling Railway station. This was because we had to catch a train for Venice, early the next morning. The beauty of the ‘La Petit’ apartment was that our window opened out to the rail station, a tram terminus, metro, and a bus stop. After breakfast and a little shopping at the supermarket next to the metro station, we rode a tram to Karlsplatz. From there we walked down towards the famous Kunsthistorishes Museum (Art History Museum). In short – Kuntz Museum. A refreshingly pleasant walk in this beautiful European city with the mesmerizing sight of imposing buildings on both sides of the road glistening under the clear daylight.

Built in 1891, near the Imperial Palace, the imposing fa├žade of the museum is a treat to watch. The museum houses extensive collections of the Imperial Family ranging from Artworks of Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque era. Works of great artists of the Renaissance period were on display in the museum, like Raphael, Veneers, Tintoretto, Rembrandt, Rubens to name a few. But to me, the collection of Peter Paul Rubens’ oil paintings appeared to dominate the exhibits in the vast interior. Some of his oil paintings were huge, colossal, covering the walls from floor skirting up to the ceiling (height must be above 20 feet).  Peter Paul Rubens, the early seventeenth-century painter, was deeply influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Although his paintings varied from religious, hunting to landscape themes, he earned fame by painting nude images of full-figured middle-aged women of his time. That was his forte, which gave rise to terms like ‘Rubensian’ or ‘Rubenesque’.

 After returning to our apartment in the evening, we decided to have our dinner at an authentic Wiener eatery. I longed for a bite on Wiener schnitzel, which is made of pounded veal meat dredged in egg and made super crunchy by coats of bread crumbs. I enjoyed this crispy, golden Austrian delicacy along with beer, while my wife opted for poached salmon with chips along with rose wine - a great eating experience. Early the next morning, we left the apartment and moved to Meidling rail station which was just across the road, for our onward journey to Venice. We were naturally excited, not only at the thought of visiting a new country but also at the thought of undertaking one of the most scenic railroad journeys in Europe. What followed was a fascinating seven hours journey through a breathtaking corridor created by the Austrian Alps.  The high-speed train glided through numerous tunnels and traversed numerous viaducts while crossing the valleys. I preferred to spend some moments in a well-laid restaurant car. Over cups of coffee, I enjoyed watching picturesque views rushing past the window.

Our hotel was in Mestre, a land extension of Venice. So we alighted at Venezia Mestre station which is ahead of Venezia Santa Lucia Station. Our hotel was at Via G. Parini, about 10 minutes’ walk from the station. What took us by surprise was that from the station to the hotel, we could hear more Bengali being spoken than Italian. Later we learned that many people from Bangladesh migrated to Italy over the last three decades. Their superior intelligence and skills helped them pick up different trades and gather fluency in the local language in a jiffy. With this forte and their great adaptability power, they have been able to establish their own enterprise including eateries and seamlessly fuse with the character of the country which was not theirs when they came in. Like the famous dictum ‘Veni Vidi Vici’ on  Julius Caesar. They have not only come and seen. They appeared to have conquered the hearts of Italians in such a short span. The next morning we strolled down to the main thoroughfare which was hardly a hundred meters from our hotel. Bought a one-day transport ticket from a Tabac shop run by a sweet young lady. The ticket was applicable for any number of bus rides as well as Vaporetto rides in Venice. Vaporetto is a public water bus in Venice. The bus ride from Mestre to Venice takes about 15/20 minutes. The road journey terminates and ends at the Vaporetto station. This is connected to Venice's Santa Maria Railway Station through arch bridges and pier like wooden platforms.

 Seen from the Vaporetti platform, the stunningly beautiful architectural marvels appeared to emerge out from the waters of the Adriatic Sea. Venice grew through centuries over a multitude of islands dotting the Venetian lagoon. The seawater at the entrance to Venice serves as the main arterial highway and is connected throughout to a maze of numerous canals. Venice, for long, was the citadel of financial activities and trades in Europe. It’s evident from Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’, written in the late sixteenth century. Although Venice is popular for Gondola rides, I never made any attempt to try a ride as I was scared of the choppy waters. Instead, we took a Vaporetto trip to the island of Murano. A tiny island that went on to become famous for glassmaking since its very inception about 1000 years back. After alighting at Murano we sauntered down a cobbled path, elated as we got snugly enshrouded in warm sunlight and a soft sea breeze, before arriving at the famous glass museum only a few meters away.  This unique museum, housed in a seventeenth-century palace was set up by the municipality of Murano in 1861 to archive the brilliant works of highly skilled glass artists of Venetian lagoon.   Cristallo (crystal glass), chandeliers, lattimo (milk glass), beads, mirrors were all contributions of highly skilled glassworkers concentrated in Murano since ages. MUSEO D EI VETRO (Murano Glass Museum) showcases the process and art of glassmaking, glassworks from the Egyptian era to the present day, some mirrors dating back to the fifth century still perfect and untarnished. Although glass making dates back to a period between 2000 BC and 1700 BC at Syria and Tigris- Euphrates rivers, glass blowing by Syrians in 100 BC, the secrets and recipes of modern glassmaking were unraveled and developed meticulously by the Venetians in Murano. Demand for art glass led to more and more innovations since the late thirteenth century in Murano. In fact, Italy earned the credit of yet another renaissance in glassmaking and art glass. A hall at the entrance keeps showing films related to processes involved in designing and creating different forms of glassworks. The films lucidly present the intricacies of glass making. On our way back we bought some decorative glass souvenirs.

From Murano, we took a boat to the island of Burano-great rhyming! Burano also is a tiny island and famous for lacework. All houses in Burano are of different colors, arising out of the fact that fishermen returning late in the dusk could identify their houses from a distance. In view of this unique law, the entire island looks very attractive and colourful. We were fortunate to watch a local wedding at Burano. At Burano, we had local gelato and some pasta preparation before boarding a boat for the return to the main Venice Vaporetto station.

 From there we took another boat to the heart of the historic city of Venice. The Grand Canal is flanked by the architectural splendours of Venice. We got down at the station from where one can walk up to the Piazza San Marco, a sprawling square where St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace (Venice was governed by Doge or ‘Duke’) are located. Since no vehicles ply on the narrow lanes and arch type short bridges over the canals, we had to walk down to the square. Most of the pathways are cobbled and along with the bridges are going strong for centuries. For centuries these pathways have experienced innumerable footfalls. I have a hunch that Shakespeare might have trodden the paths about five hundred years back while penning ‘Merchant of Venice’. The backstreets and waterways of this fascinating city are truly wrapped in history. They might have also been frequented by Byzantine Emperors, Sultan Mehmet, symphonic and operatic musician Antonio Vivaldi, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and his soldiers. True or untrue, I get an added pleasure imagining myself on a time machine. Streets are crowded as everyone walks. We walked through bustling markets, small squares and arch type bridges. On our way, we came across a few old churches. When we finally made to the San Marco Plaza, the vastness of the square was transcendentally captivating and at the same time baffling. Baffling because the square looked like a land oasis in a city surrounded by water and floating on water. It was of rectangular shape, where Doge’s Palace grandiosely occupied most of the length of the rectangle and St. Mark’s Basilica stood with all its majestic architectural grandeur on the breadth of the rectangle. On the other corner of the basilica was a large plaza, something like a promenade from where we got a full view of the Adriatic Sea and the ships. When we started walking into the historic city we faced mild drizzles, but by the time we reached the promenade the sky had cleared and we were fortunate to see the sunset over the sea. From one of the arch bridges, we saw the Bridge of Sighs. A bridge made of limestone, enclosed with grilled windows connecting the new prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. The name was derived from the fact that the condemned prisoners sighed when they saw the outside world for the last time from the windowpane. By the time we returned to our boat station, dusk had already set in. Our station was close to Rialto Bridge, another beautiful stone bridge spanning the Grand Canal at its narrowest point. This sixteenth-century bridge is a stone arch bridge. It remains crowded all the time with tourists as well as locals. We, too, relaxed over there, enjoying the sights of Grand Canal, the illuminated city on the other side of the canal, the Vaporetto and the gondolas sailing, the lively cafes, before boarding the Vaporetto. In the night the canal water glitters with the reflections from some majestic hotels lining up the Grand Canal on either side.

Photographs by:   Arundhati Sengupta 

Kuntz Museum, Vienna

Ruben's massive oil painting

Ruben's massive oil painting

Paintings of nude women by Rubens

Gallery of Rubens

Self-portrait of Peter Paul Rubens

Interior of Kuntz Museum

Painting of Hans von Aachen, an early seventeenth-century artist. The painting depicts the seduction attempt and rape of Lucretia by Sextus Tarquinius, son of the Etruscan King. Lucretia was famous for her beauty and virtues. Unable to bear this she committed suicide soon after.

On the bank of Danube, Vienna

Train passes through Italian Alps
The scenic rail route from Vienna to Venice

The choppy waterway of the Adriatic Sea in Venice

The tranquil island of Murano

Images of some exhibits in the Glass Museum

Venice in the thirteenth century

Exhibits of century-old glass chandeliers and vases

Approaching Burano

A cobbled lane in Burano

Laceworks on display in Burano

A canal in Burano


Some images of colourful Burano

A newlywed bride crossing a bridge in Burano

Vapporeti and Santa Maria Railway stations

A view of the Grand Canal

Rialto Bridge

San Marco Plaza & Doge's Palace 

St. Mark's Basilica

From the promenade


Bridge of Sigh

Vaporetti, which is the main transport system in Venice, It is also referred to as the water bus.

How to go from Mestre to Venice:

Mestre is road-friendly since it is a convenient land portion of Venice. From Mestre Rail Station to Piazzale Roma in Venice is only 9 km by road. There are frequent buses from Mestre to Venice. It is economical to buy a one day pass, which covers multiple rides by bus as well as vaporetti (water bus). These passes are available at the station as well as Tabac shops in other areas in Mestre.Train services are also available from Mestre to Venice. Maps and time tables are available at