Dance of Enchantress

Business, Indian Mythology 10 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, July 15, 2011

The word ‘Apsara’ is derived from the root ‘apsa’ which means water. Apsaras were nymphs who slipped away from the grasp of man, like water from a clenched fist. They were sent by the Devas to beguile and seduce Tapasvins, ascetics who sought to churn spiritual fire (tapa). The point of the seduction was to entrap the ascetics in the material world. Menaka was one such Apsara who seduced Kaushika, a king who was determined to become a sage, liberated from all things material.

Then there is Mohini, the enchanting female form of Vishnu. In appearance, she is just like an Apsara, beguiling and seductive. She enchants even Shiva, the greatest of Tapasvins. But her agenda is different: she seeks to draw attention to the essential role of material things in spiritual life. She facilitates the transformation of Shiva, the indifferent hermit, to Shankara, the benevolent householder.

Menaka and Mohini are the same in appearance. But while Menaka seeks to entrap the sage, Mohini seeks to enlighten the sage. Menaka is indifferent to the spiritual downfall of the Tapasvin, while Mohini balances material growth with spiritual growth.

When an organization is focused on its sales numbers alone, and not the benefit to the customer, they function as Menakas – seductive nymphs serving the shareholders alone. When sales numbers are a consequence of serving or helping a customer, the organization functions as a Mohini.

Suresh, a high net worth individual, was met by a wealth manager from a prestigious bank. Suresh tried avoiding the individual as he kept getting calls from many such ‘wealth managers’ but the persistence of this particular gentlemen impressed him greatly and he agreed to meet him one Friday afternoon.

Chandrahas was an amiable young man who impressed Suresh with his style and sincerity. He then proceeded to present his bank’s offerings to Suresh – how they would manage his assets and investments in various debt and equity funds. Suresh liked the approach and considered signing on. Then he asked Chandrahas the question, “Are you interested in managing my wealth or achieving your bank’s target?” Chandrahas was tongue-tied. What could he say? Weren’t the two objectives the same? They were supposed to be but he was not entirely sure.

While Suresh liked Chandrahas, the person, he knew the lad was but a cog in the banking wheel, a Menaka sent out to beguile and entice clients to achieve the bank’s goal. Once within the bank’s network, he would be subjected to standard banking processes and rules, like any other individual. All special attention given to him at the time of signing him on would disappear. Suddenly he would be reduced to a customer number and be subjected to the impersonal automated telephone responses. Chandrahas was merely doing his job – signing on the client. He was a tool in a larger game, a game that did not really care for Suresh; it cared only for his wealth.

What Suresh wanted was a Mohini. Someone who genuinely took care of his wealth and was not merely interested in meeting the sales targets of a particular bank or institution, someone who did not push his bank’s products in the name of wealth management, someone who did not shove an insurance policy down his throat with an eye on the commission alone.

The reference point for Menaka’s agenda is the Deva; she works to please her masters. The reference point of Mohini’s agenda is the Tapasvin himself; she cares for his growth. Chandrahas would like to be a Mohini, genuinely help the client grow his wealth, but his employers insist he serve as Menaka, bag the client with the sole intention of gaining access to his wealth.

  • Naveen Kumar

    Rightly said but at present very few companies focus on this Win-Win approach.

  • Chandan

    Chandrahas has made a choice , the consequences of which he has to live with . It is at tyhe time of taking up his job that he had to see what was coming ? But how do we know whether he actually had a choice when he took up the job ?
    In today’s world Suresh is no Shiva , then how could we expect a Mohini for him .

  • Wow..Amazing analogy. Sadly there were many Apasaras but only one Mohini..

  • ajay

    guruji ! FANTASTIC explanation…this thing as rampant in stock markets,mutual funds where crores of investors wealth is screwed by many menaka’s

  • Bopanna

    Perfect analogy. In today’s world of complex business problems and ever growing customer want’s, we must ensure that the problem we are trying to solve by providing our products and services will appreciate for itself, by playing the role of Mohini.


  • Sandeep

    The corporate sales training programs focus on creating Menekas rather than Mohinis.

    The logic being there will be ONLY 1 transaction. But in doing this they forget the power of “REFERRALS”.

    And it is Mohinis of the sales team that bring repeat business which is more secure, consistent and productive.

  • shiva karadi

    Always at your best !…Great Sir ji.

  • Mystical Sense

    Wish people could ‘see’ like you Devdutt.

  • Annchaks

    This reminds me of the ads of an insurance company max life where the Menaka in the sales rep is driving him to sell more but the Mohini makes him give the client the right advice.

  • R kumar

    Dear sir,
    As far i know Menaka seduced Rishi Vishvamitra,i don’t know if vishvamitra and kaushika are the same.