Two And Two Does Not Always Make A Four

by | Mar 10, 2019

Many of you who are reading this blog must be puzzled with the title as why 2+2≠4. Our formal education taught us 2+2=4. I have always believed in this equation and it had worked fine. I always rejected the idea of 2+2≠4 in lack of the evidence. The academic exposure I got, reinforced the preexisting equation and after completing my formal education I was all set to apply the same that I have been conditioned to believe to be true.

I am a product of an education which a majority of Indian middle class receives and perhaps the lower middle class aspires for. I have done my masters in management (the ingredient deemed quite crucial for Indian job market – at least it was when i was studying!). My view has always been colored. I looked at the surroundings with my keyhole perspective and tried imposing my bookish knowledge wherever possible.

My thought process always had the element of If-Else conditions as if world is nothing more than a software program, where you give an input and get the desired output. Upon not getting the expected output, I started to crib about bugs in the software instead of looking at the program from white box perspective and understand the intricacies of the software. I couldn’t understand that the input I am giving could also be perhaps, wrong.

These days, as part of my fellowship with Shram Sarathi, i am living in a Salumber block of Udaipur district in south Rajasthan. A vital part of my job involves roaming around places to meet entrepreneurs running different trades. The conversations with them are mostly formal, with me carrying a four page document to gather all possible information that can help me understand their businesses. During the interviews I find myself subconsciously trapped into processing everything with the black and white perspective i am so conditioned with. It is just impossible to shed those lenses. My mind is pre-programmed in such a manner to focus and capture the required information, that I ignore other realities around the person. Even when they are as apparent as chalk and cheese to me.

For example, I do not attempt to understand the past of the person and his struggle to break the barriers of unemployment. My way of looking at his work comes from predefined framework of best business practices. In that process I derive conclusions and judge rationality of the entrepreneur’s business approach. The worst part is someone with zero experience of running business is drawing conclusions about the other who has truly faced the turbulence and survived. It is an irony, almost comical when i take a step back and look at what i am doing here on a day to day basis. Humbling as well …

At organisation, my approach had been to go by the rule book. I never understood the behavioral dynamics of individuals in the team and how do they operate individually and as a team. In a professional setup, I perceived people operated the way they were instructed. I never tried to look for the motivating factor which drives one to be convinced to do as instructed. Due to the mechanical perception towards work, which is perhaps pretty much how i led my work life pre-fellowship; I overlooked the factor that I need to now become the part of the team too. Such belief made me eliminate the humane element of the team and I could not manage to connect with people at emotional level.

Six months went by before i realized what has been amiss. Should someone had pointed it out earlier to me? Well i don’t know if i would have been able to see it. I can see it now. Why is it important to greet everyone at work every single day? Why is it important to know what is happening in my colleague’s personal life? Why do i need to make small talk when all i want is to get a survey form filled?

I think the long and short answer of it is that i forgot that my team here is also my community. Often when working in the development sector, i think there is this huge error of thinking as only your ‘beneficiaries’ as your community. Pretty much how i am not sure any corporate social responsibility program looks at its own housekeeping staff, contractual support team that help run the canteen, construction guys etc. as community.

Because of such disconnect, my team perceived me as an outsider, which is making my 2+2 fall short of 4. I know now, that i will have to reverse it. And it will take time, quite some time. There are times when my 2+2 overflows 4. Every time I hit rock bottom, the connections made so far reinstate the confidence in me to stay at it. On a blue day, a call with my close one to hear me out cheers me. The freedom and support I get from my mentors and fellowship team, to express, experiment, make mistakes, reiterate and reflect empowers me personally and professionally. Pretty much what perhaps my team also expects of me.

These days, I’m learning what no academic institution can teach. And unlearning has been challenging, but worthwhile. It has tinkered me to think and reflect over my pre-programmed notions.

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  1. adrijachaudhuri

    Wow Gautam. This is a really well thought out blog. I see a lot of these dynamics play out at my organisation too. Thanks for giving some clarity on this.

  2. M. Bhushan

    Great to learn about your deep insights about the facts beyond what seems obvious.


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