Find your true North!!

June, 2021

Dear Friends

“Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction” said Ciara Neff. For some reason we always think change means doing something new, something not done in the past, changing the status quo. Is it true ? Isn’t going back to some good old habits a change too ? Don’t you think it is time we retraced our paths to find our true North ? Isn’t the pandemic indicating the same ? It isn’t just winds of change. It has turned into a storm of chaos sweeping away all that comes in its way including Dear Life. Despite our boastful claims of a better life, we are as vulnerable as our forefathers were, fighting pandemics that seem to be mirroring the past. Jimmy Dean said “When you cant change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails”. Now than ever before, humanity feels directionless, leaderless and helpless. Perhaps it is time each one of us take matters into our hands and adjust our sails, find the proverbial ‘wind beneath our sails’ to stand up, look up and live once again. It is ironical that even as a privileged few are looking ahead to breaking the last frontier to travel to space, a large populace is pushed to look back and reflect on what has gone wrong on Ground Zero, what can be done to “Reimagine, Recreate & Restore” the womb of Mother Earth. Well, while this is the theme of World Environment Day 2021 (5th June), I feel it is time we retrace our habits to “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” if we as a civilisation are to live, laugh and play once again !

The above thoughts take me back to a journey that I took with my family to Chitradurga (a historical city in Karnataka famous for its forts) more than 40 years ago. It was to meet my father’s side of the family, to see the ancient house where he grew up in a large joint family, to meet Dodanna (big brother in Kannada) his eldest maternal uncle and patriarch of the family. A strict disciplinarian, he was tall, lean and fit. Clad in a spotless white dhothi-kurta, at 85 his back was as straight as a ramrod. His authoritarian tone indicated clearly that he was still the Man of the House. He welcomed us warmly as he sat at the verandah at his writing table with lot of used envelopes, paper knives, scales and a box of green, red and black colour ball pens. As we sat down to chat with him, I saw what he was upto. He was very proud of his ‘productive activity’ borne out of his thrifty nature, so common to people of his times (a rarity today and almost looked down upon !). Dodanna was very conscious of not wasting a single paper, not even an envelope which he received (yes those were snail mail days when people wrote on post cards, inland letters and even sheets of papers). He would very neatly tear open the entire envelope using a sleek, sharp, special knife, lay it on the table and even out all the folds and corners so that it turns into a plain sheet of paper. He would turn it inside-out, fold it back into an envelope once again and write his ‘From’ address using the green colour pen. ‘To’ would be in red colour and left blank for future use. To make it attractive he would draw double lines in green and red along the length and breadth of the envelope, giving it life and importance. Some of the envelopes I saw were in their original avataars with no inside-out transformation. He slit open so carefully that it could be used once again as if it were new. These were the ‘reply envelopes’ where he would use the sender’s envelopes only with the ‘From’ and ‘To’ positions altered using green and red pens. At times just 2 arrows pointing to these positions would do the job. He was very proud of this activity (amongst so many other jugaad ones) and had piled up a stack on his low, work table. Back then it seemed silly and bizarre but today it seems significant and becoming ! Well, may not be the recycling of the envelope itself but the philosophy behind it – of reuse, reduce & recycle. It is perhaps time for us to retrace our path and discover the simplicity of the past so that we can find our direction to a sustainable, safe and happy future. After all, we are neither the creators nor the owners but merely the trustees of Mother Earth for the future generation !

Tracing the path of my profession, I am proud to share with all of you that exactly 33 years ago on this very day, 15th June, in 1988 the profession of “Practising Company Secretary” was born with the recognition granted to a CS to certify the Annual Return under the erstwhile Companies Act, 1956. To commemorate this, 15th June is celebrated as PCS Day by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, of which I am a proud and grateful alumna. Then to now, the journey has been long and tough, eventful and exciting, even as newer and greater opportunities are opening up for us to serve the country. The question I ask is not what the profession has done for us but what we have done to the profession ? Because it is our knowledge, our conduct, our service and our attitude that makes us the champions of corporate governance, the conscience-keepers of Corporate India !! Wishing all my PCS family a Happy PCS Day, as we pledge to continue to uphold our motto “Satyam vada, Dharmam chara” meaning “Speak the truth, abide by the law”.