7 Dec, 2007, 0408 hrs IST,TNN

Marriage is the most important rite of passage in a family, second only to the funerary rituals because it brings with it the hope of children, the next generation, of continuity and renewal.

Organisations are no different from families – people are constantly leaving – either at the end of their term, or in between, for better prospects.

The only way to ensure the organisation survives is to get new people in. The process of integrating new people into the organisation is uncannily similar to the process of integrating a new bride into the household. Here, the groom is the organisation , the new recruit is the bride. Just as in Vedic times, without a bride by their side, no man was given access to worldly wealth, today without good people within, no organisation can hope for growth or success.

The Shastras refer to eight different ways of getting a bride. In the way of Prajapati, the ideal form of marriage, the groom’s father requests a man to grant his daughter’s hand in marriage to his son. In the way of Brahma, the bride’s father had to pay a dowry. In the way of the Devas, the bride was a fee for services rendered .

In the way of the Rishis, she was offered as a ritual gift. These four ways gave rise to what we call ‘arranged’ marriage today. In the way of the Gandharvas, the bride chose the groom, what is today called ‘love’ marriage . In the way of the Asuras, the bride was purchased. In the way of the Rakshasas, she was abducted. In the way of Pisachas, she was forced into marriage by rape.

Today the process of recruitment is as varied . Some ‘grooms’ , like the government, who offer the promise of stability and lifetime employment , are so attractive that ‘brides’ prove their worthiness by sitting for exams, and some are even willing to pay a bribe (the dowry) to get in. But in the new world order, as new organisations are formed, the number of grooms are rising and good brides are in short supply. Companies have to brand and position themselves to attract talent.

The ancients were well aware that marriage was a sensitive samskara. It marked the shift of power in the household. Would the new bride be like Sita and blend into the household ? Or would she be like Draupadi and divide the household?

When a new bride enters, the old brides of the household have to make room. The elder sisters-in-law , mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law wonder if she will be able to adjust to the family way or will the family have to adjust to her way. To an astute observer, organisational politics are no different from household politics. This tussle for power, which can sometimes turn distasteful, is natural as the old and new forces interact with each other to generate a new equilibrium. It is not just about power — it is also about culture.

Every organisation, domestic or corporate, has a culture. This manifests in the way the organisation functions. Some organisations are hierarchical with cabins for seniors only. Others have flat structures, with no cabins, only workstations, for all. Some companies are idea driven. Others are number driven. Some companies celebrate your strengths. Others keep a close eye on your weaknesses.

Every time a person shifts from one job to another, he is essentially a new bride. He knows he has to adapt to a new culture. In the vivah samksara, there was an implicit acceptance that the young bride is moving from a familiar to an unfamiliar zone, hence elaborate rituals were established to make her comfortable .

Wedding games were devised so that through play she became familiar with her husband and his family. There were also elaborate rituals to present her to the women of the household. They had to look at her, praise her and give her gifts so that she felt adored and less nervous.

Unfortunately, in the corporate world, despite the best of intentions of the human resource department (the matchmaker and the priest), not much is done to consciously integrate the new recruit into the organisation. The integration process is often reduced to a mere formality.

One hears of a young executive who is fresh out of college and who joins a pharma company and does not have a workstation for a week, a computer for a fortnight, a boss for a month and a clear role for three months. If a bride feels like an outsider, she will resist integration into the household. But once she feels like a daughter not a daughter-in-law , she will contribute maximally, which is in everyone’s best interests.

How to make this happen depends on the attitude of the matriarch, the leader, towards the new bride. Her attitude has a profound impact on the rest of the family. She has to include the new bride without threatening the older brides. She has to retain the old, while encouraging the new.

Smart organisations know that it is not only about teaching the bride the organisation’s old ways, it is also about learning new things from her. If every new recruit adapts to the organisational way, there will never be any new ideas, hence there never will be new solutions or new insights and hence there will be no growth. In the vivah samskara, the bride was encouraged to bring with her many things from her father’s house – grains, vegetables, spices, livestock. At a very practical level, this was meant to improve diversity in the kitchen, the field and in the livestock of her husband’s house. At a symbolic level, it represented the values and knowledge she brought with her.

Ultimately, as the vivah samksara says, marriage is about give and take. The couple has to walk the path together, enriching and empowering each other. Hence the ritual of saptapadi, taking seven steps together holding hands, the steps representing: time, strength, pleasure, wealth, children, happiness and friendship.