On the contrary: Kiss up, Kick down

Vijay Mallya is by no means the only tycoon who has taken the banking system, neck-deep in NPA's, for an F-1 ride.

The Germans may have coined the phrase, "schadenfreude", meaning "the pleasure derived from the misery of others", but when it comes to relishing the practice, we Indians are gluttons compared to German nibblers. Vijay Mallya is by no means the only tycoon who has taken the banking system, neck-deep in NPA's, for an F-1 ride. There are several other high profile loan default cases, where promoters with larger liabilities and better political connections continue to merrily game the system. But somehow, thanks to his flamboyant lifestyle and the present political climate, Mallya has become the pinata, the whipping boy facing our collective outrage for loan defaults by unscrupulous promoters. This week's UK extradition farce, played out for hours on national TV, was a telling indictment of how gullible we are when it comes to tamasha. Mallya is represented by QC Clare Montgomery, described as, "the first silk solicitors turn to and the last one other barristers want to face…" With her formidable legal skills at his disposal, one may safely conclude that many moons will pass before VJM sits down to a dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan or enjoys free boarding and lodging at Parapanna Agrahara.

Mallya's travails remind me of this legendary tycoon, let's call him M, who had fallen on hard times. With expenditure way above income, he's facing "cash-flow problems"; his creditors are hounding him, his wife is threatening to leave him, he's up Ulsoor Lake without the proverbial paddle. One day he lands up in church in search of spiritual solace or a way out of his multi-million dollar cash crunch. As he kneels down and starts beseeching the Almighty to rescue him from the toils and snares his enemies have laid for him, he suddenly realises he is not alone. In the gloom, he spots a scrofulous, evil smelling tramp seeking divine intervention for a far more mundane purpose: the price of a hot meal.

M does his best to ignore the beggar but is driven to distraction by his insistent whining. Unable to bear the competition any longer he pulls out his wallet, snatches the first currency note that comes to hand and crumpling it into a ball, he hurls it at the tramp saying, "Take the #*&^ing money and go and have your meal." The terrified hobo scrabbles around on the floor for the cash and hotfoots it for the nearest eatery whereupon M goes back on his knees, clasps his hands with renewed fervour and says, "Ok God. Now can I have your undivided attention?"

As a people, we have a tendency to kiss up and kick down which is probably why some of our corporate honchos behave like rock stars: spoilt, petulant, ill-mannered oafs with a major attitude problem. But are they solely to blame? Or is it our collective gasp of awe, our "Omigod, there goes 10 billion", gush of adoration reflecting our inability to separate the man from the moolah that helps to fuel this false sense of entitlement? John Lennon memorably observed, "Man, when you're surrounded by an army of bootlickers, yes-men and blokes who are paid to be nice to you, who can you really trust?" Many otherwise sensible people preface their reports of encounters with the rich and famous with a breathless, "He didn't act like a big-shot at all. He never mentioned his private jet once during our conversation." Yeah right.

My friend J once planned a holiday with a former classmate who was the global head of a major soft drink manufacturer. Prior to her arrival he went to great lengths to sanitise his house. Not, as you may have fondly imagined, from dust and termites, but from the offending presence of the rival cola. Despite his best efforts, he was laid low by a forgotten empty bottle (bearing the competitor's logo) carelessly left under his car seat which shot forward with an audible thump when he braked hard at a traffic light. Apparently this caused a distinct chill in the relationship and thanks to his branding gaffe, a kingdom was lost. Attempting to cheer Jassi up, I reminded him what Steve Jobs said while attempting to lure John Sculley, then head of Pepsi to Apple: "Do you want to change the world or do you want to go on selling coloured water all your life?"

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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